I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Something Comes From Nothing

For a whole bunch of reasons, we meal plan for our family three weeks in advance - something I've mentioned here before, and something which makes most of my IRL friends smirk at me (secretly, they teem with jealousy over my awesome-ness). The basic premise is that we have a laminated menu sheet on our fridge, and we fill it out once every three weeks (in theory as a family but in reality me and whichever kid is interested in helping). Then once a week, we go shopping for the items we need for the upcoming menu.

This past Sunday, I looked in our totally barren pantry and told DH that we needed to head for the supermarket...to which DH replied, "Umm, let me just check that we CAN go to the supermarket," and through the magic of internet banking, determined that we were in fact flat broke.

As in, there was $5 (almost exactly) in our bank account, and it was 4 days until payday, and we had a whole lot of not much food in the house. Which meant no grocery shopping for us, sadly.

Heston, we have a problem. (NB: Foodie reference, and a hilarious pun. Bonus points if you get it.)

The pantry was SO bare we didn't even have things like tinned corn. Or pasta shapes. Or jam. Or really any of the basics of life (and I'm not talking about luxury items. I'm talking actual FOOD.) The fridge was so bare that I looked at the empty glass shelves and thought, "Hmm, must really clean those. Bit grotty!"This is of course because I could SEE the shelves clearly because there was no items in there blocking the view.

Before I go any further - Dear Mom and IL's who are reading this: Your grandchildren were not going to starve. I promise. I know you are reading this and shaking your heads at me and my insistence on extreme independence (extreme stupidity?!) but we are okay. REALLY. I promise I would tell you if we were not okay. The lack of funds is not a usual thing for us. Okay, it is, but not in that extreme way - that was just the money planets being misaligned.

Anyway - so here is what this week's menu was meant to be:

Monday - Osso Bucco served with wet polenta, green bean salad a la DS
Tuesday - Lemon chicken with roasted baby beetroot
Wednesday - Pumpkin risotto with garlic bread
Thursday - Devilled sausages, mashed potato, and "interesting veg" (clearly we were not too inspired when we wrote this menu.)
Friday - Sabbath meal with all the usual trimmings

For the record, that's a normal menu week for us. We eat well, we eat healthy, we eat interesting - and yes, my kids will happily eat all of those items. Week before had things like chicken & leek pot pie, lamb kebabs, thai chicken cakes, grilled fish and so on. Yes, we're awesome like that.

ANYWAY, I had absolutely no way of affording a single item on that list. And here, kids, is the important message of this post - if you keep your fridge and freezer well stocked in the first place, you will never starve. I even wrote about the importance of this here.

But, I know you're thinking...I just told you that my fridge, freezer and pantry were bare. I knew that, which is why I called DH on Monday and said, "So, sweetheart, tell me. How does one cook dinner when one has no idea what to cook with NO ingredients *and* one has no money with which to acquire ingredients?"(yes, I really talk like that..) to which the smart arse replied, "You're a chef. Use those skills and figure it out! Oh, and I think a kilo of mince is hiding down the back of the freezer."

OMG! We had mince? MIRACLE!

Well, with a kilo of mince I can make almost anything...and so, armed with my coveted scrap of protein, I made dinner. Monday was lasagna. Possible because I had pasta sheets, canned tomatoes, the mince, minced garlic, milk, butter, flour, a half a sad wedge of parmesan, and a whole cupboard of dried herbs. Easy. In fact I made a MASSIVE tray of lasagna (admittedly, a bit lean on the meat sauce part) and then DH and I had lunches for several days as well.

Tuesday - there was no miracle mince to be had, and also no money magicked into my account so I was still screwed, culinarily speaking. I went freezer diving, and found a massive container of chicken soup left from Passover. I also found a mostly stale multi-grain baguette, and in the cupboard we had half a box of couscous. The fridge had butter and minced garlic. Voila, dinner for Tuesday, solved. Chicken soup with couscous in it, served with garlic bread baguette.

Today is Wednesday, and I must tell you that I am feeling pretty bereft here. What little pantry stock I have is dwindling, there is no protein anywhere to be had (not even a tin of tuna, another staple which had been decimated for kids' sandwiches purposes.) I pretty much decided we were eating lasagna for dinner again (leftovers)...when I thought I'd give the pantry one more try. Tucked up the back I found two ancient packets of falafel mix. Then in the potato box I found 5 red potatoes that had sprouted. In the fridge I found a heart of cos lettuce (note, it has great keeping qualities which is why I like it) and a small block of feta left over from a late week menu item. So tonight's dinner - falafel, herb roasted potato wedges, and salad of cos and feta with a balsamic dressing.

The point of all this is just to show you - in a very real life sort of way - that you can actually feed your family on next to nothing. If you are prepared with a reasonably stocked fridge, freezer and pantry - or even only halfway prepared as I was this week - you can actually make something out of nothing. Admittedly, for tomorrow's dinner I am down to a can of cannelloni beans, a can of apricot nectar, a couple of apples and some breadcrumbs and I have no earthly idea what the hell culinary creation I can pull out of my arse this time (although I don't think there will be any takers for arse-flavoured dinner anyway.) We might not be eating like kings this week, but I'd argue that we are eating pretty well. In fact, if I were to write a menu right now, I'd happily put ANY of the items from this week on it and be happy about it.

So, while this week has been (for me at least) just that tiny bit depressing, it's also shown me that a bit of kitchen nous, a few 'in stock' items, and a bit of mental effort can result in some pretty fabulous family meals. The added bonus? My fridge shelves are sparkly clean.
(But thank god pay day is tomorrow.)

1 comment:

Catherine55 said...

WOW! I am seriously impressed by your resourcefulness, and loved this post! So glad you put a note on my blog (agh.. I keep doing that to S!) since it brought me to yours. Looking forward to reading more. :)