The October Meal Plan, and When Things Fall Apart

Last night was the last of the $3 per person dinner nights in our house, but I don’t have a photo to share with you.  Sorry, but I couldn’t photograph that meal…because it all fell apart.

Literally.  Our evening was sort of a train wreck, come to think of it, from start to finish.  J. and I got caught in such horrible traffic leaving work that it took us almost 30 minutes to drive just 3 miles.  Then we got out of the car into a torrential downpour.  By the time we’d collected the kids, gotten everyone (and their gear) into the car, drove home, and got everyone and everything from the (detached) garage through the backyard and into the house, we were all…wet does not cover it.  DRENCHED might be more apt.

L. was whiny.  P. was obstinate and hostile.  We were 20 minutes later reaching home than we should have been.  I was working as fast as I could to get dinner ready, and the kids were clamoring for everything under the sun — TV shows, toys, help with this, come-see-that.  They’re not ordinarily so clingy or so demanding, but yesterday was just one of those days.  I finally got our dinner put together — a vegetable frittata, mashed potato pancakes, and uncured bacon — only to discover that the frittata had stuck to the pan and promptly fell to pieces when I tried to turn it out; and the potato pancakes, which I tried to turn too soon in my haste and impatience, also disintegrated into piles of mush. 

Yep.  The whole darned dinner fell apart.  Instead of attractive slices of neat, colorful frittata, we had piles of scrambled-egg mess.  Instead of golden brown mashed potato pancakes, we had a mish-mash of somewhat browned, then white, then more browned, then white again, potato goo.  I put the plates down on the table and L. said “What’s THAT?”

“Eggs and veggies,” I said, inwardly fuming over my ridiculous kitchen errors.  “It’s a big egg and veggie MESS.”

“Okay,” he responded, and picked up his fork.  J. came to the table, saw the plates, and shrugged.  P. had eyes only for the bacon.  And it occurred to me that nobody cared.

We had gotten ourselves warm and dry and snuggled into PJs before we sat down to dinner, and there was hot food in front of us, and nobody cared if it looked like something from the bottom of the kids’ sandbox.  It TASTED delicious.  We were all together.  And dinner disasters may happen, but they don’t have to ruin the EXPERIENCE of dinner.

Now with that little bit of revelation in mind, I’ll share with you the budget for this $3 feast…and then on to the October meal plan.  It’s going to be a busy month.
Organic eggs: $2
Local zucchini: $1
Local tomatoes: $0.75
Onion: $0.25
Organic mushrooms: $1
Sharp cheddar: $0.50
Nitrate-free uncured bacon: $2
Mashed potato pancakes: $1.50 (approximate value — made from leftover mashed potatoes)
Oil, seasonings, etc.: $0.50 (approximate value)
TOTAL: $9.50

An amazing value, and super-healthy.  I can’t ask for better than that, even if it was hideously unattractive.  Now, for more attractive things: the dinners for October!

Saturday, 10/1: French onion soup and roasted vegetable salad
Sunday, 10/2: Our anniversary.  J. and I are eating dinner out at our favorite gourmet Indian restaurant, and the kids are having a fun dinner of whole-wheat pumpkin waffles (I’ll share the recipe next week).
Monday, 10/3: Farfalle with creamy mushroom sauce, salad
Tuesday, 10/4: Slow cooker — turkey and bean chili, tortilla chips, avocado
Wednesday, 10/5: Tomato-poached eggs, garlicky greens, and crusty bread
Thursday, 10/6: Fish supper with local veggies
Friday, 10/7: Fend night
Saturday, 10/8: J. and P. are eating dinner alone tonight; I’ll leave them broccoli pizza dough and roast chicken to make pizzas.
Sunday, 10/9: Roasted tomato soup and grilled cheese
Monday, 10/10: Slow cooker — chicken cacciatore and whole wheat pasta
Tuesday, 10/11: Quesadilla bar and fruit
Wednesday, 10/12: Mushroom-turkey burgers, veggie “fries”
Thursday, 10/13: Quick minestrone with breadsticks
Friday, 10/14: Fend night
Saturday, 10/15: Pizza ravioli, salad
Sunday, 10/16: Chicken tikka masala, baked samosas, basmati rice
Monday, 10/17: Whole wheat macaroni and cheese, roasted broccoli
Tuesday, 10/18: Slow cooker — French dip sandwiches, sweet potato fries, fruit
Wednesday, 10/19: Breakfast for dinner, fruit crumble
Thursday, 10/20: Chicken and bean fajitas
Friday, 10/21: Slow cooker — sausage and peppers, linguine, and salad
Saturday, 10/22: Homemade pizzas
Sunday, 10/23: Roast beef supper (My parents will be in town, and this is a favorite of theirs)
Monday, 10/24: Butternut squash and pear soup, salad, crackers and cheese
Tuesday, 10/25: Slow cooker — chicken pot pie with pumpkin biscuits
Wednesday, 10/26: Turkey tacos
Thursday, 10/27: Pasta poulet and salad
Friday, 10/28: Fend night
Saturday, 10/29: DIY Salad platter and homemade whole-wheat pita
Sunday, 10/30: Sunday Roast chicken dinner
Monday, 10/31: Happy Halloween!  Pumpkin Soup and Chicken Sausage “mummies”

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10 Responses to The October Meal Plan, and When Things Fall Apart

  1. Uly says:

    Now here’s a question. A monthly meal plan makes sense, but how would one organize that around weekly CSA pickups where we don’t know from one week to the next what we’re getting?

    • Interesting question, Uly! I’ll definitely continue to think on it, because there’s no perfect solution, but I think what I would do is:
      1) Be aware of what’s in season — is it root vegetables? Greens and herbs? — and if you can, get a sample schedule from your CSA. Often they’ll be happy to give a list of what the previous year’s share contained, so you have a rough guide. Know your produce well enough to know what you can substitute — parsnips or celeriac for carrots, chard for spinach, and the like.
      2) Then plan a rough sketch, not as detailed as mine, building off of ingredients you’ll buy and knowing that your CSA will help. For example, you could plan “pot roast” if you know there will be SOME root vegetables in your CSA at that time of year. You can plan a salad night at the height of greens season. You can always plan categorically — “Veggie Pasta,” “Frittata,” “Soup,” “Grilled Turkey and Vegetable Panini” etc. — without having to know just what vegetables will be in your basket.
      3) Until you’re pretty confident with the system, always have some frozen fruits and vegetables on hand that can be used to round out meals where the CSA has not provided what you need.
      4) Adjust your shopping to be done AFTER the CSA pickup, if at all possible; that will allow you to re-plan in case of any major disasters.

      Does that make sense? If you notice, I often don’t detail sides — I’ll just say “vegetables” or “roast veggies,” and then I wait to see what’s available. I believe in letting the produce inspire you!

      • Uly says:

        That does make sense, thank you 🙂

        Though I think I’ll stick to twice a month for a while anyway. (And for me it’s easier, I only have to make four dinners a week. Fridays the nieces go up to their dad’s and the rest of us subsist off of leftovers and fruit for the weekend, and usually one or more of the grown-ups goes visiting as well.)

      • Twice a month is where I started, many years ago, and for some households it does work better. Sounds like you have a busy household!

  2. Viki Worley says:

    oh and although I have subscribed to receive comments and posts, and the notice shows up in my inbox…nothing appears in the post itself. don’t know if it is AOL’s fault or what.

  3. Viki Worley says:

    chicken sausage mummies…cute food for Halloween! I used to make an Apple cake every Halloween.(warm cake after trick or treating so we could go through the candy before they dove into it because of allergies) I decorated the house but didn’t make much cute food for Halloween. I am remiss. LOL.

    Do you pretty much stick with the meal plan all month? What if something goes on sale? I ask because I have Never thought more than a week ahead and the whole idea mind boggles me.
    I admire you being so organized.

    • And I’m usually so ANTI cute food, too, that it’s funny to me — but I do think every once in a while, doing a little festivity with the food is just good fun. As long as it’s not done to make the kids eat it, but done for spirit, I think…that’s the trick. By the way, the idea of a warm apple cake waiting after trick-or-treating is just too good. I love the mental “smell” image I’m getting. 🙂

      I do pretty much stick with the meal plan all month. The only variations might be switching the days within a week; if I suddenly run shorter of time on a Monday than I thought I would, I might look ahead and think “Oh, Wednesday’s meal is faster, I’ll do that tonight and tonight’s dinner on Wednesday.” If something goes on sale, then I evaluate it on three criteria:
      1) Am I going to use that item any time within this month’s plans?
      2) If not, is it something I know I could use next month?
      3) Do I have the space to store it until it can be used?

      For example, today I was at Whole Foods, and I saw that boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale. I didn’t need them right away, but knew that I’d use them, and that I had space in the freezer, so I bought some. Ground turkey was also on sale, and even though I was buying it for this week, I knew I might as well get extras and freeze, because I will use ground turkey later this month. Ditto pantry items; if it’s a staple, like olive oil or canned tomatoes (yeah, I know, BPA…), I will always buy some when I see it at a great sale price.

      There’s comfort in planning this far ahead, because I deal with it ONCE and then it’s just done. I don’t have to think about it at all again until three weeks or so later. Plus, it’s actually eliminated a lot of back-of-the-freezer, back-of-the-pantry waste from buying TOO many sale items and then not planning accurately to use them. Having the plan and working from that has made me more frugal and allowed us to eat totally organic, sustainable, etc. with under $200 a week for a family of four — which, here in New England, is not easy.

  4. food4five says:

    Wow! I can’t believe that you have a plan for the entire month! Glad I found your blog – and am looking forward to hearing about your adventures in eating.

    • Wow, thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog as well. Believe me, the montly plan just evolved over time as I realized I was more apt to have 20 minutes to concentrate on it ONCE than 10 or 15 minutes multiple times throughout the month to concentrate on a weekly thing. It’s been about 5 years now, and I can’t remember doing it any other way!

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