Monday, September 9, 2013

Great Dinner Experiment

Friends, I've shimmied my way up to a whole new level of kitchen crazy. I tried to warn you.
Some people stress eat. I stress cook.

Look, we all have our gig.

Silas marched around for two solid years like a tiny, stick-legged Asian tyrant, bossing everyone around and screaming in our faces.  I choose to exert control over my unpredictable and oft-chaotic world by forcing pints of grape tomatoes, raw slabs of beef, and  half-cabbages into my culinary regime.

And though I'm not here to point fingers, I've gotta say, my way might be superior to Siley's.

With mine, we all win.
Even our muffin tops win.

I know you remember the Grocery Store Confessionals of yore. Well, don't be too attached, because they're never coming back. I thought they might. I missed them, too.

But the Littles are larger now and we have a 19 year old up in our digs.

I spent $200 in one day last week and I swear to you, my eyes teared up in the Kroger check-out as I fished 4 fiddies and a ten out of my much-maligned cash envelopes.

So just nevermind the GCC, okay? Seasons change. Feelings change. It's been so long since I found you yet it seems like yesterday. Eee-ay.

Complicating the issue (in the very best way) my Mama sent me home last night with easily $200 worth of toilet paper and mac 'n cheese, and canned beans, and frozen beef.

So I have no idea what my food is costing me right now. I don't know my way out of this budgetary maze. I only know that God keeps providing.

The end!

Okay, no. I'm not done.

See, I found yet another way to scratch my food-obsessed itch. No longer will I be detailing every dime I spend at the grocery.

Instead, I have enacted a one-month dinnertime experiment in which I planned our dinners for the entire month of September. Not too crazy, except 1) I've never done this before 2) The plan required many rogue stacks of loose-leaf magazine tear sheets placed haphazardly around the house in categories no one but I could interpret  3) I may have screamed "Don't touch the stacks!" a time or two and 4) All of the recipes for this month? Brand new to me. (Except for one, but who's counting?)

Exhibit A:

The Meals
(shot in very low light, my apologies)

Exhibit B:

One of several analog spreadsheets.
Digital is so 2013.

Why live for today when you could be rocking 1998? That's what I always say.

Be honest, how are you feeling about this experiment? It might mean a lot of food talk and recipe sharing. Are you good with that?

In closing, I'd like to share the first page of this beloved yellow legal pad.
I was so happy to find it.

It's Ruby's original brain-child, her first short story, written last December, with no help:

 Allow me to transcribe:

Shannan Cory Calvin Silas Ruby. I love my family. This is my brother he is kind of weird to me. He is! He is! I wonder why he does that cause he does! Why he does. He does. He does. Stop said sister. I told you to stop you to stop right there. I don't want you to do that. Yes that. That yes. I want that is mine. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes I am your mother.

Hilarious? Terrifying?
I say both.



  1. I use to be so good about menu planning weekly/ monthly but have gotten away from it.I think it's a great idea you never have to think what's for dinner there it is all ready for you.Plus it saves on the grocery bill to I think as less goes to waste.
    Hope you share some recipes with us all!

  2. Question: Do you plan every single day or do you work in days for eating out/leftovers? I can't wait to hear more and hopefully get some good recipes, too.

    Also, Ruby's first story is awesome. I'm impressed.

    1. Yes! We need to know about the leftover???!!!!! It's Important! :)

      Love ya forever FPFG.

    2. Left-over? LEFT-OVERS?????
      We used to always have a left-over night.
      And then Robert moved in.
      And now there are no more left-overs.

      (If there are we scarf 'em for lunch!)

  3. I see a thriller in Ruby's future. In mine, I see a time when I might try to plan meals more than one day in advance. Maybe. Probably not.

  4. oh! this IS exciting...
    goodbye GCC, hello MMP (monthly meal plan).
    you had me at orecchiette.

  5. I'm looking forward to hearing about food. I have this hatred for cooking and love for recipes. Still haven't figured it out, but my family does occasionally get fed so it all works out.

  6. You should try planning 2 months in advance! during the current month you have your menue for the next month and you can hit up the sales on the canned/boxed goods to go with your meals. I've found that it's cheaper that way. You just have to have the time to sit down and do 2 months at a time and then the next month you are planning for the month after. I'm rambling but it works for me!

  7. ALL new recipes?! Girl, you are CRAZY. I would be tied in knots if I had to wade through something new every night! Instead, I spend all my time thinking about churrascos (grilled meat) or chili (the local hot sauce), figuring out how to make it, watching and asking, sourcing ingredients, and then doing it several times and STILL not knowing if I'm doing it right. And in the meantime I make enormous peanut butter chocolate cakes just because, you know, CAKE.

    But I'm totally fine with a month of food talk. Dish it, sistah!

  8. 1- I stress cook too. I'm going to call it "normal" now that I know there is one other person who does it.

    2- bring on the new recipes!

    3- I insist upon keeping everything on real paper- calendar, menus, you name it. I rather liked 1998- why mess with a good thing?

  9. I plan two weeks at a time since we get paid every two weeks. What makes it easy, is i have three daughters who do not eat alot of food. Unfortunately, they also do not like to experiment with dinner which makes it very boring at times to cook.

  10. Oh those 19 year olds can put away the chow, yes? Fortunately the days of $400 weekly Costco trips are in our past, but the memory still lingers.
    Can't wait to hear all the recipe taste buds are coming back and I'm ready to use them.
    You're going to have yourself a foodie blog yet, Farmgirl!

  11. Actually laughing out loud at Ruby's story...I love terrifyingly mysterious sibling rivalry stories. My favorite genre.

  12. I SO need to do the monthly menu! I wish I could even cook it the night BEFORE, so I could have it ready before practices, classes, Bible study, and meetings!!!

  13. Uhm, I just posted my weekly meal plan. I'd love to sneak a peek at yours! (just wrote that sneek a peak...) Bring it, sister!

  14. I plan mine out a month at a time. It helps me be sane. I don't always stick to this, but one thing that I do that helps me figure out what to cook when is to do Mexican on Monday, a "family favorite" on Thursday, pasta on Tuesday. A little structure to the plan. It will get easier. I have lots of sheets of paper like yours but don't have to use them so much anymore.

  15. Careful planning and shopping are the best ways to save money!! Stick to your list when you "run in" to the grocery store. My husband laughs everytime I tell him we are having and "experiment" because I try new recipes a lot. Most of them have turned out pretty well, but we have had some great laughs and had to drop back to PB and J.

    I also LOVE my crock pot. I sometimes have 2 going. One for the main dish and one for the side!

  16. I'm very impressed.
    I also have growing children, who seem hungrier for some ding-dong reason.
    Just you wait until they bring their friends home with them...more boys. They EAT ME OUT OF THE HOUSE.
    truth be told, i wouldn't have it any other way, but dang oh's hard on the wallet.

    follow up with us and let us know how this works. surely, you'll have to go back for fruits, milk, etc???

    1. Just spent $36 on fruit, milk, and Santitas. And cheese. And a few odds and ends for the weekly meals.

      Sidenote: Tonight's meal was the BIZ.

      Sidenote 2: I definitely still plan to shop weekly, though it helps to sort of group meals together when they share ingredients. If that makes sense. Then I'm not buying cilantro twice, etc...

  17. I only stress eat- I say your way is better!

    LOVE Ruby's story! Reminds me of Emerson! He also uses legal pads. His most amazing one a few years back? A huge story about racism and Obama. It was so sad and good.

    Unrelated: book alert!

    The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry!

  18. Can't wait to hear about your meal plan! I only cook for 2 and I just said to my husband we should plan weekly. haha

  19. I do mine weekly. But this past week.. took it to a whole new level. Got some sales ads from several stores and price compared, made list according to store, and even estimated costs per item I was buying. Had my entire grocery shopping down to almost the dime. It was worth it! Saved $30 in one weeks worth of groceries! And when you're income is cut by over $500.. and you've got to start being WAY more careful about every penny going out.. its definitely way worth it to loose your brain for a day or two to plan it out!

  20. I have been so afraid to plan a whole month of meals. I can only manage one week at a time. What if we change our mind? When I make a plan, I like to stick with it. I love your paper list. I keep a steno pad going at all times for my lists. I am the queen of list-makers, but I refuse to do it electronically. Long live 1998!

    I have to be honest and say that I've been missing your food posts so I am looking forward to the promise of more food posts to come.

    Love Ruby's story! Save that!

  21. i just want to say that i miss you. you are bits of normal and weird all at once in my weeks of (new) normal and weird.

    also you should come visit me, because you would love it here, or at least i would love you to be here.

    and also i am going to email you. once i start finding more than thirty second pockets to email people.

    much love to you.

    1. G-friend, I have been emailing you in my head for weeks now. What? You haven't gotten them? I'm a woeful email friend at the moment but I promise you, not a day has gone by that you haven't crossed my mind.(And not just because of the Great Tan Hope). We're all rallying and praying for you. I wish I could sit with you in your digs.


  22. i just want to say that i miss you. you are bits of normal and weird all at once in my weeks of (new) normal and weird.

    also you should come visit me, because you would love it here, or at least i would love you to be here.

    and also i am going to email you. once i start finding more than thirty second pockets to email people.

    much love to you.

  23. Ruby is a gem of a girl (and I'm not trying to be punny). Love the creativity and individuality that she seems to exude. Her story is wonderful and strangely complex-- love it!

    And so excited for your upcoming cooking adventures. Sounds like fun! Be sure to report in with any "keeper" recipes. Always on the lookout for tried and true dinnertime meals.

    1. "strangely complex" Hahahah! That describes her to a T!

  24. i'm looking forward to hearing your cheers and jeers on all those new recipes! and Ruby's story is fantastic.

  25. Cooking is the opposite of therapy for me. Please teach me your ways. I get high anxiety just planning one week. Maybe I can buy some Xanex and be brave like you.

    Also! Not only am I waiting for your book, but Ruby's now too.

  26. I have been meal planning a month at a time for years now. I find that it saves a lot of time and stress when I have a plan. Sometimes I swap a meal with one planned for later in the week if what I planned doesn't sound good that day. Not having to think about meals constantly helps keep me sane with 4 kids in the house! Good luck on your own meal planning adventure!

  27. I grew up on a farm where we canned and preserved, and didn't just buy a pound of hamburger but put a side of beef into the freezer once a year. I think because of that I keep more food in the house than is needed. So once a year or so, I have a little bit of a fit declaring that we are food wasters and degenerate snackers, and put a moratorium on food shopping for a month (other than the basics: milk, bread, eggs, and fresh veggies if I see signs of scurvy). For that month I cook with what's available - that can of hominy that went into that recipe I never made....the spice cake mix I was going to take to that picnic we didn't go too....the funny shaped noodles for that pasta dish that nobody all gets used. Granted there are meals that are starch heavy or protein deprived, but no one has died yet and it cleans out the pantry, and makes us feel that we're a few steps further away from becoming fat, wasteful Americans. We don't always last a month, and sometimes there is not as much going to waste supplies as I think there are, but it's a good feeling to re-stock the cabinets with the normally shaped pasta, the chocolate cake mix, and forget the hominy all together!

    1. We do the SAME thing.
      It's amazing what comes out of the woodwork!

  28. I am a monthly meal planning club member. But it's because my teenagers begin showing up at the kitchen entry come 4pm asking the same question. Every night. Every one of them. Six kids. Six different times. "What's for dinner?" I one upped them and hung my month long menu in the kitchen entryway. #winner

    Also. Ruby. Oh Ruby. She's going to need a weird husband. I would like to offer my Samuel. My argument in support of my offer is the following conversation:
    Sam: can we go IN to 7-11 with the kids?
    Me: yes
    Sam: mommy. I love you so much.
    Me: Sam. I know what you're doing.
    Sam: what?
    Me: kissing up so I'll buy you a donut.
    Sam: what? (Whispers hoarsely into his shirt collar to an unseen "person") she's reading our mind!!

  29. I feel like I change up our meal planning attempts every few months. 2 weeks, one week, spontaneous, monthly. Different seasons of life call for different strategies I suppose. We are currently in a oh it's almost dinner time I guess we need to eat phase. :)