Thursday, 13 August 2015

Menu Planning

I've recently been watching The Box on BBC1. It's a cooking show where contestants are given a box of ingredients and challenged to cook a meal. On a recent episode one contestant was given a box marked "leftovers". In it was some cooked pasta, boiled potatoes, half a bell pepper, cooked salmon and the stalk from a floret of broccoli.

The contestant visibly groaned when he saw those ingredients. I felt a thrill of excitement. I can make a meal out of that! One of my greatest culinary achievements to date was learning from my housemate how to make leftover broccoli stalks tasty! No gourmet food in our house, but nothing ever goes in the bin.

I love cooking. I find it relaxing to prepare food, I love trying a new recipe or idea out in the kitchen. I love opening the fridge, seeing what we've got, and coming up with a bizarre concoction out of leftovers. My husband is a capable cook, but he is not the king of leftovers. He needs a recipe, and all the ingredients laid out in front of him. If he's not got something on the list he begins to panic.

Recently I've been all but banished from the kitchen. I get numbness in my limbs which means I can't tell if I get hurt, and my arms will spasm out of my control, causing me to drop or throw things (like pans of boiling water, or knives). My legs hurt if I stand for long periods of time. I manage to cook maybe one simple meal a week, and even then I probably shouldn't. So the burden of food preparation has fallen on my husband.

Suddenly, we found we never had the right food in the fridge. We were reaching for the takeaway menu more often than was reasonable (or affordable!). And we found ourselves arguing about food, about the cost, on a fairly regular basis.

So we sat down and planned a menu.

At the beginning of the week we write down 7 meals we want to eat. Then, based on that menu, we write a shopping list. We include one meal I can safely cook for a day when I'm feeling well, and one "easy" meal for a night we just can't be bothered, so something like a frozen pizza. If my husband hasn't cooked it before I will write out a simple recipe for him, or find him a simple recipe online.

We then ensure that we buy all the ingredients needed to make those meals, and not more (so there aren't any leftovers for me to fret about throwing away!). We don't designate a meal to a given night because my condition is so changeable. We never know when I'm going to have a good day.

We're three weeks into this new plan, and we've not yet had a meal out or a takeaway, which is a big step for us, and a huge saving financially!

It's been hard to let go of the control of the kitchen, but my husband is so much happier for it being arranged in a way he feels comfortable to cook. Not only has he started to feel comfortable with preparing our meals; this morning I was woken with pancakes for breakfast.

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