Friday, January 09, 2009

Off-the-shelf cooking: menus for this week

I haven't posted on our food blog in over a month...that's partly because Mr. Fixit is still figuring out what he is and isn't allowed to eat, or what makes him feel good and makes him feel bad. Sometimes some food with salt actually seems to help. On New Year's Eve we went out for Chinese food for the first time since the summer--and he just stayed away from the fried rice and stuck to the things like lemon chicken that weren't too obviously loaded with sodium. And that worked out fine. We've also had take-out pizza a couple of times, and Mr. Fixit has allowed himself a couple of slices. For him, eating low-sodium seems to be less of a numbers thing and more by instinct.

Which is fine for him, but is sometimes confusing in the kitchen. We've tried to make a list of things that we all like--Honey-Mustard Chicken is still a family favourite, and most of us here like pasta with meat sauce--just not made with canned sauce. A lot of canned and boxed products are still off-limits or shouldn't be eaten too often (like reduced-sodium canned soups; they're better than the originals, but still too high in sodium; besides, canned soup has gotten really expensive this past year. Along with pasta, which has gone from being a cheap mainstay to something I'm only buying when it's a great sale).

As far as food shopping goes...we've changed our loyalties and patterns a lot over the past few months, not only because of diet concerns but because of scheduling changes, price issues and other things. Crayons goes dancing on Saturday mornings, and The Apprentice works most of the day Saturday at the hair salon, so we often do our big shop on Saturday afternoons at an independent supermarket close to the salon; then if The Apprentice gets done while we're there, she walks over to join us. The independent store has a very good meat section, a large deli, and carries a number of reasonable-sodium products that we like (some not marked as such, you have to hunt); it's not quite as good for produce, but it's workable.

Other weeks we go to Food Basics, a discount supermarket chain; they have great sales, but no deli. We've even shopped a bit at Giant Tiger again--Mama Squirrel found a great in-store deal there on canned pumpkin, back before Christmas.

Last Saturday we went to a different chain where we've sometimes done all right, depending on what we need--but on this trip we felt like we spent more, got less. Milk was a dollar more a bag than at Food Basics, and there were some other obvious price differences that left us without that nice "didn't we do well this time" feeling. I'm trying to make that up with this week's shopping.

At the minute I'm trying to use up things we have a lot of and some stuff left from Christmas. We have a lot of oatmeal (I forgot and bought more of it a couple of times); we have frozen french fries, some frozen meat, frozen apple juice, strawberries, cranberries. We have some baking supplies left from the holidays: chocolate chips, a whole package of dates, a package of trail mix someone gave us. We have grapefruit (also a gift), lots of flour, rice, dried beans, potatoes, yogurt, and eggs (our girls' Sunday School teacher has chickens and shares the eggs). We have kind of an average stash of most things right now--a couple of cans of this and that, a couple of things we're low on.

So these are the menu items I came up with, based on the shortest-possible mutually-agreed-upon grocery list. Here's the grocery list: cooking oil, brown sugar, celery, garlic, lettuce, green peppers if they're reasonable, sweet potatoes, any other vegetables that look all right, apples, bananas, unsweetened applesauce, orange juice, canned tuna or salmon, no-salt tomato sauce, tomato paste, a box of macaroni dinner for the kids, canned beans in sauce for the kids, low-salt Triscuits, frozen cheese ravioli (we found a low-in-salt brand), bread for sandwiches, cold cuts for sandwiches, milk, no-salt margarine, cream cheese, maybe some frozen fish, and some plastic zipper bags with decent zippers because the ones in the last box were useless. I'm not saying these are indispensable food items, because they're not; obviously Triscuits and cream cheese and cold cuts are things you can live without. But I have to keep people happy too.

Breakfasts: Cold and hot cereal including homemade granola and crockpot cereal; bran muffins, citrus-pineapple fruit salad, Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts (too sweet for everyday breakfasts, but okay for a treat), toast, juice etc. Some of us here can eat eggs straight up, others can't tolerate them, so they're not usually the focus of a Treehouse meal.

Lunch: Our public-school Squirrelings make their own lunches, usually sandwiches (for Ponytails) or frozen leftovers or frozen single meals (like lasagna) (for The Apprentice, who has access to a microwave and finds it easier to reheat frozen food than to keep other food cold or hot). The rest of us eat leftovers, homemade soup, sandwiches, eggs, yogurt, fruit, whatever.

Meat loaf with mashed potatoes and frozen peas
Cheese ravioli and sauce, salad with chickpeas and peppers
Rice-lentil tortillas and toppings
Baked fish or salmon patties, frozen fries, vegetables
Leftover night/ hot dogs
Chili and homemade rolls, carrot sticks
Baked chicken, corn fritters, sweet potatoes, salad
Waffles and reduced-sodium bacon

Desserts and snacks:
Frozen strawberry yogurt
Cran-apple crisp
Homemade pudding
Banana bread
Cookies made with things like oatmeal, dates, sunflower seeds
Popcorn, carrot sticks, crackers/peanut butter, raisins, apples
Peanut Butter Balls
Spiced Apple Juice
Hot chocolate


Sarah said...

...All the great food you posted about, healthy, balanced meals and what am I going to ask about? The baked pumpkin doughnuts, of course.

Have you shared this recipe before?

I always, always have lots of canned pumpkin on hand so my interest is piqued when I see "pumpkin anything."

To be guided by instinct regarding sodium: I wonder that many more people could be healthier by following their instincts?

Mama Squirrel said...

Sarah: I've added a post about them with a link to the Recipezaar recipe.

I like pumpkin recipes too!

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