Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How We Cook From Scratch All Week With Minimal Effort


The world of meal making is always interesting to me as the keeper of the home. It is a very important part of a homemaker's day yet it certainly is one of many responsibilities we have in the home. Moving onto a homestead, I found that the time to prepare meals was threatened by the added work load of an old-fashioned farm. In order to keep the household running smoothly, I had to adopt certain measures to make cooking from scratch less time intensive. I don't do normal menu planning for a few reasons (shared here). Since I am always curious how other women do things, I thought to share our flexible and frugal system with you.


To begin, I prepare a large batch of a "foundation" food each week. The categories are usually pinto beans, quinoa, black beans, soup or whatever is harvested that week. We eat a lot of vegetarian meals and will break them up once a week or so with a nice "meaty" meal in the middle (to be explained further down)*. This is usually done on a Wednesday. Friday night is always pizza night for some extra weekend fun. On Sunday afternoon, if there is no fellowship, we enjoy potatoes and eggs as a family. If we are hosting fellowship, I prepare a large batch of soup.

* As we eat only the meat that we raise and slaughter ourselves, we try and make it stretch and appreciate every morsel! We raise chickens, sheep, goats and beef for food.



Now, back to the "foundation" food of the week. For instance, on Monday I will prepare a large batch of pinto beans. For the duration of the week, I will make meals based off of them. This would include menus like beans over rice, tostadas, chili cheese fries, eight layer bean dip, taco salad, bean burritos, etc. The "base" of the recipe is already made for me (the pinto beans) so this creates a simple system of food preparation with much flexibility during the week.

{For our pinto bean inspired menu, visit here.}


The following week, I will prepare a large batch of soup (though in the summer it would be large seasonal salads). What is wonderful about our recipe is that it works with whatever we have growing at the time. Flexibility is key when you live on a farm. To change up the daily meals with this soup, I will serve different side dishes to go with it. One day it will be hard boiled eggs and marinated vegetables, another day I will serve the soup with grilled cheese sandwiches while angeled eggs and a green salad would be another variation.

{For our "End of the Garden Soup" recipe, visit here.}


The third week rotation will bring us back to beans. But this time, I will prepare a large batch of black beans (see this post here). Some menu ideas will include black bean quesadillas, black bean salad, taco soup with cornbread, black bean burgers and taco casserole (to name a few).

{For our black bean inspired menu, visit here.}



Quinoa is rather new to our weekly rotation and I have yet to write a post on our favorite collection of recipes (but it is coming). However, for the sake of this article, I will include a few. My sister-in-law got us hooked on these quinoa patties. Served with ranch, they are out of this world and so flavorful (this is a great "get your feet wet" with quinoa recipe)! We also make a delicious quinoa casserole and a tasty cold quinoa salad. When we have had our fill of it, this decadent chocolate cake will use the excess and it is amazing (and freezes well in cupcake form)! You wouldn't know that it was a gluten-free and a quinoa-based cake! (And let me say, that says a lot around here!)


Our weekly rotation will often include the "famous" food of the week that is getting harvested like crazy in our garden. For instance, during the summer, there is zucchini season! We will make zucchini patties, quiche, stir fry, grilled zucchini, zucchini sauce for pasta, etc. You will find our zucchini meal making inspiration here. During the winter it might be using up our butternut squash surplus (some ideas are here). I think you get the idea! Whatever is growing in abundance becomes our meal focus!


Regarding the in-between "insert" meals"
  • On Wednesday nights, it is usually an old stand-by like tacos or some sort of "meat" meal featuring chicken, lamb or beef. Tacos don't require much planning (and tortilla shells freeze well) and I could usually come up with seasonal toppings depending on what is growing. For instance, it is either lettuce, spinach or cabbage that will get sprinkled on top depending on the garden. In the summer we have fresh tomatoes while in the colder months I will serve canned salsa with them. Shredded cheese is always in the freezer as we buy in bulk and bag it up in smaller amounts. Thus, tacos is an easy impromptu meal to keep the menu different.
  • When we prepare meat, we often make a large amount at once. For instance, my hubby will debone a batch of chickens, I will marinate them and he will grill them (as we sip some coffee together). Then, I bag them up in smaller amounts and freeze the excess. This way we can conveniently make chicken soft tacos, chicken sandwiches, chicken with grilled vegetables and so forth. 
  • Eggs are also an excellent standby as we always have dozens to work with. We make egg casseroles, angeled eggs, hash browns and eggs, popovers, quiches, etc. When in doubt, we usually serve eggs!
  • Friday night is always pizza night so there is not much planning to be done there. I usually make a large batch of dough, divide it and freeze the excess in bags for future Friday meals to make it easy.
  • If we are planning on having company on a weekend, my hubby will take the time to BBQ some meat (and add some seasonal veggies to the grill) and I will usually come up with some other garden goodies to go with it which makes it very easy. 

An alternative to this plan would be to create a large batch of pinto beans, black beans, quinoa and/or soup, etc., (choose one to do each week) and freeze them into smaller family-sized portions. This will give you a variety of part-made meals during the course of the month that can be prepared conveniently. Some husbands may prefer this. My husband isn't picky in this area as long as I vary the recipes. As his goal is for his garden to feed us, I find him quite flexible :)

Recap:

Monday ~ "foundation food of the week" meal (i.e., pinto beans, black beans, quinoa, soup, etc.)
Tuesday ~ "foundation food of the week" meal
Wednesday ~ "insert meat meal" such as tacos or something else with meat on the menu
Thursday ~ "foundation food of the week" meal
Friday ~ "pizza night" (we usually have prepared dough in the freezer for convenience)
Saturday ~ finish up the fridge "leftovers" or BBQ meat if having company
Sunday ~ "eggs and potatoes" if just our family, or Sabbath Soup if hosting a fellowship


This is just a basic idea of how we eat. Obviously, things change, cravings happen and so forth. This is simply a way to cook that keeps everything somewhat frugal, flexible and easy. Do you have some sort of meal making system? I would love to hear it!
All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The ScoopTitus 2 TuesdaysTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersThe Homesteader HopWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou Friday, and Shabbilicious Friday. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

29 comments:

  1. Great post with great easy ideas. I too am fascinated with how other keepers of the home handle meals.
    My children are grown and gone, but I did once a month cooking, made my own spreadsheets to track meals and prices, and shopping. It took a few years to iron out but it worked very well for us.
    Now I don't do once a month cooking. But, my kids come home on Sunday's for a big family dinner, and I love it.
    Now I have a pressure cooker (Instapot, available on Amazon) and I love it. I wish I had one when the kids were growing up. It makes even the toughest meat tender, and cook time is decreased. I also bake our bread and most things from scratch. I make our soap, laundry soap. We tried home made tooth paste, but it didn't work so well. I much prefer making my own of most things, make do with what I have. So many benefits and a feeling of accomplishment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing Amie! I have gotten into the pressure cooker the last few years also and LOVE it very much! Thanks for pointing that out :) And what a blessing to have the family over on Sundays!

      Delete
  2. I've never seen this method before. It's excellent. I've got to see if I can do something similar. I've only cooked quinoa once, and it came out watery. I'm not sure what I did wrong.
    Blessings,
    Laura

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably not! It is the JES method :) Anyways, with quinoa, I soak it for 8 hours with a splash of apple cider vinegar. Then I rinse and drain it (similar to beans) and simply cook it like you would white rice. I have tried many ways too and this seems to be the only no-fail method. Have a lovely week!

      Delete
    2. Quinoa is SO EASY! Just like rice: 2 parts liquid, 1 part quinoa. (I will usually use broth, or tomato based soup for at least 1/2 of the liquid, add in onions and garlic, and other veggies if I have any leftovers). put the quinoa and liquid and the other things in the pot, cook for about 20-30 minutes and then remove from heat (if the quinoa looks like it's cooking), and let sit with the lid on for a few more minutes.
      There is NO need to soak quinoa! I make a double batch so I can have a quinoa salad the next day.
      Carol L

      Delete
    3. Thanks for sharing your method Carol! :)

      Delete
  3. JES - Lovely post, and I am grateful for all you share. Reminds me of our life prior to moving - and oh I miss it. So encouraging! Have a wonderful blessed day and sunshine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thank you so much for the sweet comment Andi! Have a wonderful weekend! :)

      Delete
  4. This is a fabulous idea. I may have to try it out.
    And thank you for sharing in the second comment about how you cook the quinoa, now I know how!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This was a great post. Come over and link it and that Pumpkin Cake recipe and all your Fall posts at the party!
    http://mychristmasjourney.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-fabulous-fall-party.html
    Happy Fall! I linked some of my Favorite Fall recipes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the invitation! :)

      Delete
  6. I do menu planning. I tried a garden and found that my bee fear (go ahead and laugh!) made it too difficult. Instead, my husband built me a vertical rain gutter mini garden right outside the garage door (I can run inside FAST lol). I plant romaine, kale, and a couple of herbs. I can fit 2 tomato plants next to it.
    So, for that reason, menus work for me. There's just the two of us and dinner is also the next day's lunch. I try and shop monthly doing the Pantry Principle a la The Tightwad Gazette, buy only at the lowest prices, etc. Based on this, I can easily do a 2 week menu that repeats once. Then I do the same with a fresh menu the following month. I hope that makes sense!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like a wonderful system Debby! Thank you for sharing :)

      Delete
  7. Thanks for sharing how you meal plan. It's always interesting to see how others handle this! I often feel like I should have a more structured plan for each week. I do meal plan, but I feel I spend too long when I make each plan trying to decide what to eat. The only real guidelines I currently have are that we always have eggs for dinner on a Friday night, and I plan a slow cooker meal for any night we'll be out late in the afternoon or have other plans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Grace, thank you for sharing here today! I am not that structured myself but it feels good to know that I have a foundation food ready and can build off of that. The slow cooker on busy nights is excellent! :)

      Delete
  8. I love this post! I am having to rethink our menus to make them cheaper and easier as we will have less to spend starting next month, so this is perfect timing for me. Some bean ideas we have enjoyed include mollettes (Mexican toast), black bean soup, chili, and pasta fagioli soup (pasta and bean soup). Thanks for the helpful post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been wanting to try the pasta fagioli soup! I have a recipe in my binder. Thanks for the nudge :)

      Delete
  9. Hi Jes!

    These days, meal planning is rather flexible here! In the morning, we always love hot baked beans and egg on buttered toast! Beyond that, it all depends on priorities, and menu plans move around my head as contingency plans!! If nourishment is the biggest priority, then a slow cooked meat dish, cooked on the fireplace, is the choice. This can last us several days! The electric oven is used lightly. The fire gives freedom to pop on a billy of brown rice (which could even end up as rice pudding) or cook up a small meal of scrambled eggs or treacle dumplings (to serve with custard). Meals might revolve around produce on hand, or what needs using first. Yes, I am finding my menu contingencies quite enjoyable, and find that my husband makes great suggestions! After all, he works this way, too!!

    Regards,
    Rachel Holt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing Rachel! With an electric oven, I would be doing more outdoor cooking too! I also like to make up raw meals for those hot summer days so no kind of energy is getting used at all! And very refreshing! Your morning breakfast sounds very cozy and warming! Like you, we eat A LOT of eggs!!! :)

      Delete
  10. Hello,
    I am curious as to what you do for lunches, I believe you have a couple of children home with you that you homeschool,if I'm not mistaken. I also homeschool my children, and I often find myself in a rut for lunch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also have my husband home for lunch 50% of the time as he is a farmer... With that being said, I am making solid meals for both lunch and dinner which is why we are flexible in the mornings. We will try and prepare leftovers whenever possible or continue utilizing the "foundation food" concept and create fresh meals for lunch with it... I.E., whatever I have for beans on my bean list will be used to make our lunches too. We also do a lot of egg meals for lunch since we have chickens (egg salad sandwiches, eggs & potatoes, scrambled eggs). Quesadillas are an easy go to meal as you can put many things between a tortilla and cheese such as sautéed veggies, leftover meats, beans... You have me thinking... I may have to write down what we do serve and maybe I will do a post for it... Also, my daughter does one meal a day for me which is wonderful as she likes to experiment with new recipes and it gives her some home economics at the same time! :)

      Delete
    2. Yes, another post would be great. We often resort to sandwiches which really aren't too healthy or filling either. We usually don't have enough leftovers for lunch, and usually save up a few days worth for a leftovers meal. The last thing I want to do at lunch is think about what we're eating, which is why we usually end up with the sandwich option. I adore your blog by the way, thanks for responding.

      Delete
  11. This is a great idea! About once a month I make large batches of pinto beans in the crock pot, double batch of rice, boil potatoes, some sort of meat, whether its pork, chicken or beef and then freeze them up, so I have pre cooked items on hand for my main part of my dish. I do a lot of casseroles, soups and of course crock pot meals. I try really hard to prep my meals during the day (when we aren't super busy).
    Plus, its great for my boys for home ec. My youngest loves to cook with me.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Hugs, Amy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is similar to how we prepare meals Amy (except you do it monthly and I am doing it in increments weekly). It makes it much easier! Prepping during the day when my energy is higher is something I try and do also! :) Thanks for sharing!

      Delete
  12. Pinto beans are near and dear to my heart. My mom would prepare a crockpot full of those back in the 70's. We had cornbread and salad and felt as if we had a grand feast. Thanks for another wonderful post. Janis

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes! This is the kind of basic meals that we serve here. I also like using bone broth in our beans to give it that extra nutrition! :) Nice hearing from you Janis!

      Delete
  13. Jes, this is a great system, and in many ways, less daunting than traditional menu planning. I too, prep on Mondays for the entire week, and this includes making meat mixes like seasoned mince to use for meatballs or burgers or meatloaf, pre-cooking pantry staples like a batch of brown rice and one of quinoa, soaking and cooking beans as you do, baking for school lunches, and cutting up veges and salad ingredients, ready to cook or serve. When life is busy, this saves time, energy and money, and when life is calmer, it's just lovely to know ahead of time, what we're eating, not only for dinner but for other meals and snacks too. I love that your menu is forgiving, frugal, family oriented, and seasonal. That is something we can all strive to emulate. Great post. Love, Mimi xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A woman after my own heart! :) Thanks for sharing!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...