What's for Dinner Wednesday

Another year, another attempt at menu planning and blogging. In another lifetime I might have been a food blogger. In another lifetime I might be a food blogger. Who knows? After all, I did start off as a foodie online. And as usual I seem to be starting of What's for Dinner Wednesdays with a long-winded post. Words are yummy. I like them.

Seeing as we actually sat down and made a budget (sadly necessary if that country house is going to be anything other than a dream) and we not only eat cheaper but we eat better when we plan our meals, menu-planning is once again a priority at Chez Sassymonkey.

We  try plan our meals knowing that we will be flexible. What's for dinner on Wednesday may move to Thursday and vice versa. Maybe an event will pop up that takes out out of the house. I know people who plan every day and others that plan only five days a week. We try to plan as close to a full week as possible, so that we can avoid going to the store more than once a week, but keep one day blank. It allows us to keep our plan while maintaining some flexibility for meeting up with friends or just caving to a craving. We had originally thought that we'd plan up to and including next Tuesday and leave Monday as our blank day but it turns out we're meeting up with friends that night so we won't be cooking. We moved Tuesday meal to Monday. See! We're already being flexible!

We also have to take into account that Lee is regularly out two evenings a week. One night a week he does a volunteer shift at a soup kitchen, after which he may or may not going out for a bite to eat with some of the other volunteers. He also does a regular card night with his friends and they prepare dinner together. Essentially I'm on my own one night a week, maybe two. It is both awesome (uninterrupted reading time!) and very annoying. As someone who cooked for one for many years it can be a pain in the ass - particularly if I'm feeling lazy (the frequency of which I refuse to divulge).

We also like to try new recipes. New recipes often (though not always) mean buying ingredients that we don't have keep stocked in our pantry. When we meal plan we try make best use of those ingredients by pairing them up next to recipes in our rotation that use similiar ingredients. Maybe they both use sweet potatoes. Or cilantro.

We are also sad, sad individuals who get a thrill from planning meals for which nothing is added to our list because we can pull from our pantry and freezer. We, perhaps, need to get out more.

Here's our plan for the next week (new recipes marked with *):

Today: Crockpot Hot & Sour Soup*
Thursday: Thai chicken curry with rice and green beans
Friday: Pork Tenderloin in a balsamic marinade and roasted sweet potatoes with red onion, rosemary and Parmesan*
Saturday: Mac & Cheese* with leftover pork
Sunday: Sloppy Joes and veggies
Monday: Chicken fingers with mashed potatoes and veggies

Three new recipes in a week is definitely above normal for us. We like to try a few new ones a month but it just happened that we wanted a bunch of things this week that were new. We've been meaning to try two out of the three for awhile. With our meals laid out we made our grocery list and hit the stores (yes, plural).

The hot and sour soup has been on our minds for awhile and I finally just decided that we were doing to do it. We had to buy the most ingredients for this - tofu, mushrooms, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. We had to go to three grocery stores to find bamboo shoots. (What is up with that Ottawa?) Normally we wouldn't do that but we already knew we were going to multiple stores.

We had everything we needed for the Thai chicken curry (we are cheating and using a bottle of Sharwood's in our pantry for the sauce) except the chicken. Chicken breasts were on sale so we stocked up and put the extras in the freezer. We even cooked extra rice Tuesday night so all we have to do is reheat the extra on Thursday. The green beans are frozen and were purchased for Christmas dinner but never made it to the table.

I really wanted sweet potatoes but I didn't want sweet potato fries. We had pretty much everything on hand for the sweet potato recipe so I figured I'd try it. Since sweet potatoes were already on my list so I just had to add red onions. We're pulling the pork tenderloin from our freezer meat stash. (We have many stashes in our place - books, cds, yarn, cheese, meat...we're stashy.)

The mac and cheese recipe is one in the Real Simple Meals Made Easy cookbook that we've been meaning to try for awhile. We picked up a box of macaroni on sale last week and trust me, there is never a shortage of cheese in our fridge (see above comment on stashes). We know we'll have leftover tenderloin. We had to buy nothing for this meal.*thrill*

The only purchase for the sloppy joes was the ground beef, which we ran out of a couple of weeks ago. I suppose we could have used the ground bison that's in the freezer but really, we have better plans for that. We have buns in the freezer and I'm just not in the mood for burgers right now. Ground beef is on sale so we stocked up.

We knew we'd be stocking up on chicken and last month we experimented with using this recipe for Chicken Parmesan for making chicken fingers (ok, fine - I'll confess that I skimp on the butter in the recipe). It got a thumbs up. We have to use up the rest of our potatoes before they grow eyes and get squishy so mashed potatoes made the list. Frozen veggies were on sale so we picked up a couple of bags and now we  a choice of green things to eat.

We eat leftovers for lunch most days and if we run out of leftovers we have supplies for sandwiches, frozen homemade soups in the freezer and supplies for salads. I'll probably make this broccoli salad recipe that I found thanks Alanna's BlogHer best 2008 recipes post seeing as I bought broccoli (it was also on sale). It doesn't hurt that the recipe has bacon in it...what's not good with bacon?

Did we stay within our budget this week? Not exactly. We bought things that weren't for this week exclusively - like stocking up on the chicken and ground beef that was on sale and replenished our dwindling supply of Puffs with Lotion (stupid winter colds). But if we spread out the costs of those items over the month and don't end up stocking up on other items we might be at the end of the month. So the answer on the budget thing is yeah, kinda, not really, maybe.

What's for dinner Wednesday at your house?