"Wow, you're really organized," said my friend Fran, after I explained the process I had recently undertaken to clean up our "junk room." While I do like to complete things in a particular logical-to-me order, having a "junk room" in the first place makes me the opposite of "organized." I think I just like to make lists. I make lists to prepare for trips: clothes to take; restaurants in which to eat; subway directions to places I want to visit. I create a to-do list of goals at the beginning of every year. And in May of 2020, I started a spreadsheet for meal planning.
We'd been home in COVID lockdown mode for 2 months at that point, eating home cooking most nights. In the Before Times, Mr Minx and I went out to eat 2 or 3 times per week, sometimes more if there were media dinners planned. We had both been working outside the home, full-time, and were not in the habit of cooking very often. That had to change pretty quickly and we soon found it difficult to keep track of what food we had on hand, what we had recently eaten, and what we should eat the next day. So I started a dinner spreadsheet. Three years later, that spreadsheet is still an important part of our daily nutrition experience.
I try to plan a week at a time. On Sunday I usually make something substantial that creates leftovers for at least another dinner--pot roast, chili, black bean soup. Currently, we go out to dinner every Saturday. That leaves five weekday dinners to plot. In the early part of the pandemic, we'd order enough carry-out or delivery from our favorite Chinese or Indian restaurant to eat at least three times. We don't do that as much now because we feel safer going to the grocery store more regularly--masked, of course. There's always a cauliflower in the fridge, canned and dried beans in the pantry, various types of sausages in the freezer, and potatoes, for those nights when I don't want to think too hard. Normally that would be Monday - Wednesday, the days I am expected to show up at the office in person. When I get off the bus in the afternoon, I am not in the mood to do much more than bake a potato and heat up some sausages. With my spreadsheet, I know exactly what I will be doing when I get home, whether it's plopping Italian-style chicken sausage in a skillet with some onions, or heating up the leftover Kung Pao chicken and Sichuan string beans from Saturday.
We did Whole30 in February '23, so I attempted to plan most of the month at once. Restaurant choices become fairly limited on a diet that disallows grains and dairy, so our Saturday dinners tend to be at places that offer omelets and home fries, or barbecue. We buy more vegetables on our shopping trips so I have more green things to choose from, and we eat more baked potatoes and chicken sausages than usual. But we also add meatloaf and Swedish meatballs to the agenda, as we have favorite recipes for both. A meatloaf is also good for 3 dinners: with mashed potatoes; as a "sandwich" between Trader Joe's hash brown patties; as cottage pie, topped with the leftover mash. All with at least one healthy veg, of course.
If you've read all of the above, thanks for sticking with me. I know I'm weird, and I embrace my weirdness. Allow me to reward your patience now with some photos of food I've eaten in the past three years. Surprisingly, while I plan every dinner, I don't photograph them all. (Most aren't that photogenic.)
On Saturday, June 27th, 2020, I made pork chops with grapes and leeks, and mashed potatoes for dinner.
Saturday, September 5th, 2020, we had carry-out sushi from Yama Sushi. Love this place.
On September 11th, 16th, 25th, and 31st, October 14th and 23rd, and November 6th, we dined at La Cuchara. They had recently reopened for outdoor dining, ten concrete tables arranged a dozen feet apart in the parking lot. We wanted them to stay open, so we made sure we gave them our business. On several other occasions, we purchased their chef-prepared foods to heat at home or tuck into the freezer. Happily, La Cuchara survived the pandemic and is currently open for dinner 7 nights per week.
On Sunday March 14th, 2021, I made a vegetarian curry with white beans and kale. We ate the leftovers on March 19th.
On Friday, April 8, 2022, I pulled a Cajun Kate's "Brisket Baum" (roast beef and cheese in puff pastry) out of the freezer and served it with roasted brussels sprouts.
Uncle, you say? Ok. I won't torture you any more. I know I'm not as interesting as I like to think I am. But hey, in a world that's not as safe to navigate as it was just a few years ago, one needs to find one's joy where one can. And keeping a record of the meals I have eaten (and will eat in the next week) makes me happy.