Recently, Rhonda from Down to Earth talked about the simplicity and ease of creating a list of meals you cook on rotation while tailoring your shopping to ensure you have the ingredients ready to hand to cook any recipe on that list. A link to that post is here.
Rhonda’s post hit a chord with me, as I intuitively cook from a list and have done so for many years. It is about as involved as I get towards meal planning. I have previously attempted a more sophisticated approach to meal planning, assigning meals to a particular day and scheduling preparation tasks. But, I am a changeable creature and find it hard to commit to a plan so rigid.
Cooking from a list allows infinite flexibility and, providing your list is based on recipes you keep returning to, you will instinctively shop accordingly. There is a real sense of security knowing that you can readily cook your family a nourishing and welcomed meal without having to rush to the shops first. Ideally, your list will reflect your family’s tastes, budget, dietary requirements, schedule and, as Rhonda points out, it is an opportunity to teach your children these essential life skills.
I have an extensive collection of recipe books that I love both for the sake of reading and inspiring me in the kitchen. But, it can also be a trap. Cooking from a recipe book is time-consuming both in the planning and execution of a recipe. It can also be expensive as you are continually heading to the shops to procure the ingredients and equipment called for in a recipe. This situation is not great for the environment (i.e. overconsumption, fuel-dependent transport, food wastage etc.), and the hip pocket. It also doesn’t provide your family and your children the joy of creating a food culture or history, one based on heritage and tradition, building memories that we often cling to in our adult years.
While I will always enjoy trying something new, it is sensible to keep the experiments now and then and not become the norm.
I am not sure how long my list would be if I wrote it in its entirety. Often, when writing my lists, I focus on the fortnight ahead. Initially, I take a look at what I have in the freezer, fridge and pantry, and I consider our schedule, the weather, what’s in season, how we are feeling and so on. I don’t make this a big deal. It can be something you consider in the course of your day, not a specific exercise. I then choose a selection of 12 or so recipes that I think are suitable. Often I will include a few desserts and treats to make throughout the fortnight as they contribute to my time at the shops and in the kitchen.
I prepare my shopping list accordingly. As said before, shopping and cooking from a list works best when you are familiar with the recipes and return to them repeatedly. The whole process of planning, shopping and cooking will flow as you rely more on instinct and habit than diligently following a list of ingredients and instructions. Your list will grow over the years as your circumstances and tastes change and as you slowly build on your repertoire.
Rhonda shared her top 40 list, and I thought it would be fun to share something similar as I love to know what other people are cooking for dinner. Far from being nosey, I think discussing what’s for dinner has been a conversation topic between family, friends and neighbours for eons, and I am all too willing to continue that legacy. It is this sharing that keeps recipes and food traditions alive.
So here is my list, not written in any particular order. Some of these meals I cook more than others, while others come and go.
- tuna and tomato risotto
- spaghetti bolognese
- tuna, capers and lemon with pasta
- spaghetti alla puttanesca
- tuna, bean and cooked tomato and potato salad
- sausage and bacon rigatoni
- bacon, peas and cream with pasta
- sausage and radicchio with pasta
- sausage, mushrooms and zucchini with pasta
- roast chicken and vegetables
- star anise chicken, rice, ginger red cabbage pickles and greens
- buttermilk roast chicken and salad
- marinated chicken wings or legs with rice and greens (or salad and bread roll)
- oven-fried chicken, coleslaw and bread roll
- slow-cooked lamb shoulder with sweet potato and red cabbage slaw and salsa verde
- all-in-one tray-baked chicken thigh cutlets (or sausages, pork chops etc.) with onion, apple and potato
- roast leg of lamb with apple mint gelee, roast veggies and greens
- piccadillo, rice and greens
- sloppy joes with brown rice and greens
- sticky chicken stew
- Hainanese style chicken with rice and bok choy
- Balinese style sweet soy pork, rice and greens
- tarts made with seasonal veggies and goats cheese
- silverbeet and feta filo pastries
- one-pan sauteed eggs and potatoes with greens
- latin-style scrambled eggs
- corned beef, veggies and dilled sour cream sauce
- grilled ginger and soy chicken cutlets, rice and greens
- chicken casserole with dumplings
- rolled beef braised in stock and beer
- chicken and pork ragu with pappardelle
- pepper or mustard crusted beef roast and veggies
- sage and rosemary salted roast pork, with marmalade glaze, and lettuce and potatoes
- spanish omelette
- fish coconut curry
- lamb, tomato and bean casserole
- silverbeet and ricotta tortelli
- leftover chicken gratin
- pan fried meat, sauteed potatoes and veggies
- burgers and oven cooked chips
As you can see, we eat a lot of pasta and roasted dishes. They are substantial and deeply nourishing for our growing children (perhaps a little too hearty for me, as I can only grow outwards!).
It will be fun and practical to extend this exercise to creating lists for afternoon teas, lunchbox fillers, Easter and Christmas celebrations, picnics etc. Perhaps you would like to see these lists too? I will attempt to share some of these lists throughout the remainder of the year. With Christmas fast approaching, I will be turning my attention towards those special treats and meals that we enjoy during this season. So keep an eye out, and I will share our favourites here soon!
I hope you have found something of interest in this post. Until next time, take care!