Saturday, February 6, 2010

The other nut....

I am Josie. I am the friend with the food allergy family. I am joining Erica in this quest. Actually we have been working on it together for a few years now. I always know what Erica has eaten, will eat, is wanting to try to eat and will never eat again. And at any moment she could tell you the same about me. I enjoy cooking, eating, reading cookbooks and planning meals, but in moderation. I tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. a lot. My least favorite part is from 3:30 until 6 when I don't have a plan. I spend much needed mental energy contemplating what to feed this family. Each hour that passes, crosses undecided upon options off the list. This drives my husband INSANE. "We have a pantry full of food. How is this an issue?" he asks. "We have a pantry full of ingredients," I politely correct.

I have tried many forms of organizing my menu plan to avoid this situation. I have made a very detailed weekly menu, down the specifics for each snack. It was ridgid and confining, but the week or two I was able to do it was great. I knew what to make for 3 meals and 2 snacks everyday without thinking. I have been unable to do this since. I sit down on the couch with my cookbooks and a blank sheet of paper and I simply cannot think of anything I have made for this family in the past 8 years. So I fritter away an hour looking through the cookbooks, asking the kids what they like to eat (cake and candy) and end up playing Word Twist on Facebook. So then I found a few other ideas for looser but still structured menu planning here and here. I just can't commit to them either. My new plan is to make a cheat sheet. Much like this one for recipes, except for meals my family enjoys.


  1. Hi Josie,
    Thanks for suggesting the *cheat sheet* idea and sharing your travails with menu planning. My children have lots of food allergies, so I know how much time you spend cooking/preparing. Almost everything is scratch at our house. It's our normal at this point. And I never leave the house carefree. There's always a food bag to pack with meals, snacks, & contingencies. And our food budget is outrageous between the wheat-free bread and mixes & the goat & sheep dairy products. I've seriously considered having a goat. My husband and I try to avoid eating the boys' chevre, etc. in favor of cheaper cow cheeses, but redundancy in meal prep is not always possible. It's funny when I think about it with some distance. Perhaps we can trade some allergy sensitive cooking tips/strategies. My kiddos are wheat-, soy-, corn-, & cow dairy-free.
    I have to say that while I do indeed struggle with food waste, I'm usually making dinner on the fly from our well-stocked pantry & fridge. Despite working in the grocery industry and being a merchandiser, I fall for all the tricks when I shop. Preparing a list in advance that takes into account pantry and fridge priorities and meal planning would certainly help.
    One of my strategies to reduce food waste was to post a *shrink* list on my fridge door. Everytime I had to comppost something, I noted the value of it (our perishable departments do this at the co-op where I worked). There was a dramatic drop in loss from the first month to the second after tracking that. In the industry, you track shrink (quarterly in the co-op's case) to adjust your margins and price the produce, e.g., to allow for that loss.
    I use a cheat sheet for travel. Travel for us involves planning out all the kids meals in advance and organizing dishes that can be assembled/cooked in our rice cooker in the hotel. Conversely, the diet that is so expensive day to day, saves us money when we travel as we don't eat out much.

  2. The above comment is from Alison.

  3. Josie and Alison, I am absolutely in awe of both of you. I get overwhelmed with the whole kitchen situation so often, and my family doesn't even have allergies to contend with. I want both of you to make cheat sheets, please, and post them. Josie, people all around town would be clamoring for yours, you are such an efficient and amazing cook, though I enjoyed your humorous description. Alison, I think you need to write a blog.

  4. Hey, Alison,
    You totally do understand how much time and planning it takes! And budgeting, Goat cheeses and yogurts are muy pricey so I really have to cut corners in other area's, too. I end up not really eating with the family, but slightly after so I can gauge the leftover situation and then eat accordingly. Maybe I have something different (and cheaper) altogether. Runny yolked eggs over rice with avocados and hot sauce is my go to. I would love to see your cheat sheet, as well.

  5. Alison said:
    I'm working on a master trip cheat sheet & regular cheat sheet, but in the meantime ...
    our menu for our recent trip to Ottawa (in general, I find less use of vegetable oil with soy in Canada). Everything is packed in a small suitcase (except cooler stuff) so we don't feel too much like the Clampetts when we check in:

    granola, wf cereal, seeds, nuts & currants with oat milk.
    steel cut oats with bananas, maple syrup, seeds, nuts, & currants.

    egg salad*, chicken*/chicken salad* sandwiches, tuna sandwiches w avocado made during the trip. I pre cut celery and peppers and we have baby carrots, too.

    Dinners from the rice cooker
    Risotto w saffron, cauliflower & chicken* and sheep romano (I just cook the arborio rice with saffron & chicken stock and turn the rice cooker on ... it's pretty good and easy). Go for a walk and return and it's down. Just add romano & chicken.
    Rice, refried beans, goat cheddar, sauteed veggies (zuch/peppers/onions)*, & optional chicken* Go for a walk while rice cooks, then add add'l ingredients and heat up in rice cooker.
    Rice pasta w cannelini, cauliflower, marinara and some ital spiced goat cheese for a salsa rosa, & some romano. You need to baby sit this one.
    For snacks, I made blueberry muffins and packed a variety of fruit, cucumbers, cheese, & crackers. We get these energy chunks from the co-op as "natural candy bars" for the kids. Kind of pricey so I'd like to try making them.
    We did eat out and the boys shared an appetizer plate with salmon filets on a stick with herb & wine sauce and raw veggies & fruit. They had some sweet potato and regular fries out and about, too.
    * means I prepared it the day before or morning of the trip.