The theory of menu planning is to design your family menus around what’s in season or what’s on sale, and plan the arrangement so to make the most effective use of what you have available. The goal is that the amount of food that needs to be purchased to feed your family is reduced and your grocery bill will reflect that.

What happens if a menu plan, or at least a list of favorite foods, no longer fits your family’s needs?

You might need to make some changes.

We’ve noticed that in our home, and here are those circumstances explained by a pot of chili:

There are only two adults at home now, not an adult and a teen. My daughter lives too far away to visit very often. That means the family-sized recipes and dinners that I served when she was in high school, and lately have saved for when she is home, are increasingly irrelevant.

And while leftovers have long been the darling of many a home economist, they are impractical for us.

Case in point: I wanted to make a pot of chili for dinner yesterday. My recipe makes 6 to 7 heaping bowls: 1 pound ground beef, two cans diced tomatoes, two cans beans with chili sauce, season to taste.

I would normally take any chili leftovers and put them in freezer tubbies. That way, all I need to do is thaw out and heat up the food and it is ready to serve.

I didn’t do that Saturday, and here’s why:

A further complication in my menu planning efforts happened about a year ago when my work hours shifted a bit. I used to get home about 4:30 p.m., which is plenty of time to cook just about anything I want for dinner even if there is frozen food involved.

I now get home about 5:30 p.m.

I can’t cheat on dinner with quick fixes such as a combination of salad, soup or sandwich very often. My husband wants a hearty meal that includes meat. The reason is his lunch at work is limited to whatever is practical for a lunch box.

Based on experience, those frozen bricks of chili get passed over for dinner options that don’t need constant inspection on the thaw cycle of a microwave. I’m leaning very heavily on stovetop, George Foreman griddle, or oven-ready foods.

So this is what I did Saturday:

I cooked up one pound of ground beef, as usual. But a half a pound immediately went into a very small freezer tubby.

The other half pound went into my smaller slow cooker with one can of beans and one can of tomatoes. We each had our heaping bowls of chili with cheese and taco chips, and plates of freshly made corn bread.

One bowl of chili remains in the refrigerator that will likely be my lunch today or tomorrow.

The next time I want to make chili, I need only to get the frozen meat out and prepare the ingredients for another half pot. It won’t take more than a couple of minutes to thaw out a half a pound of ground beef. In a pinch, it could be prepared with stovetop simmering rather than slow cooker simmering.

To be fair, I haven’t figured out how to half the recipe for corn bread. But at least that’s something my husband happily puts in his lunch box.

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