Leftovers vs. Planning

That cartoon has been used before, but since this is a post about leftovers, it’s entirely appropriate!

A reader has posed a great question. She lives alone, but she purposefully “over cooks” so she has leftovers for eating later in the week. Her dilemma is that she might create a fantastic soup on Monday night, but by Wednesday night, she’s over it. The soup gets poured down the disposal. What to do?

We used to be the same way! A fridge FULL of food, but nothing to eat. (Nothing we want to eat.) For the first time in a long time, we aren’t having that problem, because we meal plan for the week. It used to be an arduous task, but as with anything new, practice improves performance.

At K2.0, we don’t cook in bulk, but we prepare in bulk, to cook. Shopping occurs on the weekend, after we have searched out some interesting new recipes and we know what we need to purchase. Then, we prep all the raw produce on Sunday. Onions, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and radishes get chopped and sliced, and placed in glass containers in the fridge so we can see how much is there. (Tip: Cut both leaf and root end off your radishes, and store in a tall mason jar filled to the top with water.) Asparagus is snapped and placed in various containers with the tops exposed and the stems sitting in 2″ of water. Everything is ready to go for the week ahead.

The menu is also set for the week, but we have the flexibility to mix around the days if Taco Tuesday doesn’t suit our mood on Tuesday. (Who are we kidding? We could eat tacos every day of the week!)

A meal planning book is easy to use, but you don’t have to be as anal as we are at K2.0. Just make sure you are cooking from your prepared supplies each week, instead of cooking something to have as leftovers for a whole week. Follow me? Cook fresh food each night from the prepared raw produce you have on hand. Our pantry is sparse; spices, no-sodium tomato paste, oils and vinegars. A few bags of quinoa and farro. My husband hasn’t warmed up to brown rice or pasta, so we go without those.

If we want soup on Wednesday, all we have to do is defrost some broth and the soup veggies are ready and waiting to toss into the pot on Wednesday after work. If we want tacos, we defrost the (protein) in the late afternoon and blacken it in the cast iron pan. Veggies are already chopped and ready to go. We can make extra protein the night before, and toss it in a salad for the next day, or we can make the salad with legumes or tofu and have a vegetarian salad for lunch.

The refrigerator should work for YOU, not the other way around. We should only have what we will consume in one week in the fridge. At K2.0, the condiments live on the door shelves. (If you have 12 kinds of mustard, but you always go to the same 2 jars over and over, toss the rest & recycle the jars, or give them to neighbors/friends.) The main shelves and drawers of the fridge are for the prepped produce, limes/lemons, yogurt, freshly squeezed orange juice and real creamer. (Our Whole Foods just got a fresh orange juice machine… we are in LOVE! Press the lever, the oranges get sliced and squeezed, and the juice flows into your jug. We are never going back to processed juice! We don’t drink a lot of it, but taking vitamins in the morning goes down much easier with a swig of OJ than water!)

Sunday afternoon – stocked full of goodness.

Our freezer is lined with baskets that hold individual portions of fish and poultry, containers of homemade stock and homemade sauces, frozen into small, labeled mason jars or in ice cube trays with lids. Why the small containers? Because we want to thaw what we need for one meal. One meal in your house might be 5 servings, or just one. Adjust the amount to your situation.

Mid-week … starting to show some emptiness …

We purchased some amazing OXO Herb Keeper containers. We aren’t fans of plastic storage containers at K2.0, but we bent the rules because we were losing copious amounts of parsley etc. each week. We have both the small (mint) and large (cilantro) sizes, and they are incredible! The water in the bottom keeps the herbs fresh, and the humidity can circulate around the herbs consistently. No more weepy parsley! Yay! Can’t wait to plant the herb garden in a few weeks, because then we can just go out and snip off what we need for each meal!

Mojitos with fresh mint, anyone?

And now that farmers market season has arrived again, we can stop purchasing produce in those nasty plastic clamshell containers and can use our produce bags at the point of purchase. Yay!!

On Sundays, the fridge is packed with nature’s goodness. By Saturday morning, the shelves are almost empty, and it’s easy to wipe away the stray chives. Saturday night is always homemade vegetarian pizza, with the last of the onions and peppers on the pizza. On Sunday, we start fresh again!

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