Keeping food on the table
July 30, 2009 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Tired of lame meals and fast food. Help me stock the larder...

Here's the scenario:

My wife works full time. I work at home, and I'm dad here too. We share the cooking, but frequenty bomb out completely with nothing in the cupboard and no energy/time to go to the store.

I've heard thru the grapevine that there are people out there who have well stocked larders, who can almost always whip up a meal, who eat healthier than we do. That's what I want to accomplish.

Do you have tips on:

1. Staples that I can stock up on, so we don't get stuck evenings with no meal options (other than running out for fast food again)
2. Recipe genres that would enable me (not the most enthusiastic of chefs) to come up with some variety of "30 minute meals". eg. If you stock X and Y and Z, you can always make A and B and C.
3. How you manage to feed the family healthily and well on a regular basis.

posted by ecorrocio to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
Getting a good representation of spices is important. They can make the basic staples become even more versatile. They can change even a plain piece of chicken into something delicious with very little effort.

Thyme, rosemary, sage, cumin, pepper, salt, sugar, parsley, oregano, garlic, ginger. (bulk spices are often cheaper than ones that are sold in individual bottles/jars).

Staples for me include pasta, rice, eggs, milk, flour, and some frozen meats (chicken and beef).
posted by silkygreenbelly at 8:23 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

My favorite quick meal, is to boil some noodles (bow-tie, spiral or med. penne), toss with small can of chopped black olives*, cherry tomatoes*, green/red peppers*, cooked chicken pieces*, and Italian dressing.

*optional (substitute whatever you have on hand that sounds good) I just used corn the other day and it was delicious.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 8:27 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

A fantastic idea to save you time in the kitchen is to make extra rice, barley, quinoa, or whatever your favorite cereal grains are, and freeze portions in plastic ziplock bags. Just fill up bags, press them flat, and stack them up in your freezer. When you're ready to cook, you microwave a bag in 7 minutes, rather than wait 10 minutes for water to boil and 20-50 minutes for your grains cook.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:30 PM on July 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Just a couple additions to what others have said:

frozen ginger root (it's a lot easier to grate when it's frozen!)

I really couldn't live without onions and lemons though. Powder and lemon juice do not compare.
posted by sunshinesky at 8:36 PM on July 30, 2009

1. Rice and whatever pasta you like best.
2. Some kind of red sauce in a jar, preferably one that does not contain high fructose corn syrup.
3. Fresh veggies, like broccoli, green beans, carrots, etc.
4. Protein, such as boneless chicken, tofu, or beef, depending on what you like.
5. Milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. . .dairy.
6. Olive oil and peanut oil.
7. Onions and garlic.
8. Other stuff as indicated by recipes.

By trial and error, you will learn how to cook. The first happy accidents, in which you make something they like, will encourage you. Get a few cookbooks, or, easier, remember what you like in restaurants, and it's likely you can find a simple recipe.

I consider myself a pretty good cook, and I have a disorganized stack of about 75 internet printouts with recipes.

I have no idea about your tastes, so I do not want to link any recipes. Trial and error are the key, though.
posted by Danf at 8:38 PM on July 30, 2009

I keep dry beans (pinto, black, lentils, split pea, northern, navy, garbonzo, etc), rice (organic brown, basmati, jasmine), barley, frozen vegetables (mixed and stir fry), frozen fish and chicken, simple spices (curry powder, chili powder, garlic powder, whole black pepper, kosher/sea salt) and bouillon. It helps to cook the beans on a moment's notice if you have a good pressure cooker in the pantry (other than the lentils, they cook up like rice).
posted by torquemaniac at 8:38 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

brown beans, black beans, rice, corn, salsa, and a few types of noodles. All can be put cooked and mixed together in just about any combination to make for a quick, tasty meal. Not to mention they can all be stored in cans which helps you buy in bulk, stuff them in the back of the pantry, and only use them when need be.
posted by gocubbies at 8:43 PM on July 30, 2009

Saw this in the NYT the other day - maybe something in here will appeal?

101 Simple Meals in 10 Minutes or Less
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:43 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just thought of another time saving idea. Whenever I start thinking of cooking dinner, I fill up a pot and start it boiling, even if I have no idea what I'm going to make yet. If you need it, it will be ready for you. If you don't, you can dump it. I usually find I need to boil something whenever I make dinner.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:47 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should watch some Rachael Ray, as grating as she is, to learn some tricks to speed up the time it takes to prep food. Robin Miller also has good ideas for how to save time in the kitchen and how you can turn leftovers into entirely new meals. And if you really want to be lazy and masochistic and can stomach her tweeness, Sandra Lee's 75% store bought/25% homemade philosophy can save you a lot of time, too. The more you cook, the more you'll be able to imagine how ingredients will look, taste, and "go" together with some degree of accuracy. Once that happens, you can begin experimenting and you won't need to be wedded to a cookbook for every meal. That's when you can really start saving time in the kitchen.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:55 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. Commit to cooking a big meal on your day off and make leftovers. Put leftovers in freezer.
2. Do one weekly shopping trip and plan meals ahead.
3. Fresh vegetables are nice. However frozen vegetables are even better for quick stirfries, pastas, etc. Peas, green beans, asparagus tips are all good here.
4. Buy meat on sale and freeze it. If you are smart you will thaw some a day or two in advance. In a pinch, frozen shrimp and frozen scallops thaw in the sink under running water in no time.
5. Always have on hand canned tomatoes, olive oil, rice, and pasta, garlic, onions, soy sauce.
6. I have on hand always the following emergency meals:
- canned beans, tortillas in freezer, cheddar cheese, salsa for quesadillas (fiesta fish if I have fish fillets to fry too)
- frozen cheese ravioli + red sauce
- sausages, buns, and curly fries or veggie/salmon burgers, buns, curly fries
7. I cook in the following genres:
- pasta
- stir fry
- fake Mexican
- BBQ/grilling
- roast/comfort food (on the weekend)
Rotate through the genres as the week progresses for different tastes. Limit the number of ingredients used in one meal and vary flavours over the course of the week. If you have a very large batch of chicken and asparagus, you could stir-fry in black bean sauce one night and serve over pasta with cheese sauce another night and have two totally different meals. You can re-use ingredients cooked en masse on your big cooking night to have totally different meals throughout the week in this way.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:04 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

What standbys should I keep in my pantry?
What's a good basic grocery list?
What should be on my weekly grocery list and how do I use it up in time?
How do I keep it all from going bad?
How can I avoid waste in the kitchen?

(there are a bunch more such questions if you poke around in the tags like food, cooking, kitchen, etc)

My basics for a vegetarian kitchen are:
-olive oil (get the kind that says "pure" for regular cooking, and the kind that says "extra virgin" for non-heated applications like salad dressing)
-unsalted butter (you can always add salt; unsalted is more all-purpose)
-canned whole peeled tomatoes (it's easy to make a tomato sauce or chili with this, and healthier than corn syrup jarred pasta sauce)
-canned beans
-rice (sushi-style short grain; arborio for risotto)
-veggies (broccoli, spinach, peppers, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, whatever you like; fresh or frozen)
-cheeses (cheddar, feta, pecorino romano are my basics)
-some kind of multigrain bread
-hummus (this is easy to make yourself if you eat it a lot, but storebought is a good place to start)
-peanut butter
-bouillon cubes
-Potatoes or sweet potatoes
-often, fake ground beef or fake sausage
-spices (oregano for red pasta sauces; cumin, cayenne, chili powder for chili; basil;...)

These basics let me make chili with rice, pasta+sauce, omelets+bread and other eggy things, beans and rice, baked "french fries", hash, sandwiches... I always refill this basic set if I'm at the grocery store, and then I'm free to think about whether I want to make some specific dish that week and get the ingredients for it (eg if I'm making a risotto I'll get the mushrooms).
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:04 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Also, let's see...
-vinegar (there are many kinds, if you don't know what you like, get a cheap red wine vinegar and see if that works for you in salad dressing)
-lemon juice and lime juice (some packaged kinds are TERRIBLE; I find RealLemon isn't bad -- it's always better if you have an actual lemon, but it's nice to have the backup in case you're caught short and need a little juice for a recipe)
-all-purpose flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:08 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

And you asked for recipe genres, here are two:

1. Beans and rice
Start rice. (Usually rice takes around 20-30 minutes to make)
Chop 1 onion/2 people and garlic, a couple cloves
Drain and rinse canned black beans (I use 1 can/person because I like to have leftovers)

In a deep skillet on medium or medium-high heat, heat olive oil and saute the onions until translucent, adding garlic when the onion is almost translucent. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add a sprinkle of cayenne powder if you like it spicy. [Optional: add fake ground beef when you add the garlic; add more oil if you're doing this]

Add beans and mix thoroughly. Cover and let sit on medium heat for 10+ minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a bit of butter or water if you prefer a wetter/slipperier consistency.
Add spices as you like. (Black pepper, cayenne, cumin, sage, whatever)

Serve when the rice is done and the beans are heated through and you like their consistency.

This usually takes about 30 minutes for me to make and has been a hit with everyone I've served it to. Optional garnishes include avocado (you could make guacamole, which is basically mashed avocado with a few things mixed into it), ripe mango slices, cheddar cheese grated on top, hot sauce...

If you want to make simple chili, begin the recipe the same way: onion, garlic, oil, fake ground beef... then add a can of whole peeled tomatoes (1 can/2 people), poking the tomatoes with your spoon so they fall apart. Add beans, ground beef or fake ground beef, 2-3 tbsp chili powder, whatever other spices you like. Let simmer for as long as you can, I usually only make it about half an hour. I usually serve this over rice too, though cornbread is good.

2. Pasta and sauce
For a homemade tomato sauce, begin the same way, sauteeing onions and garlic in olive oil or butter. Chop and saute whatever veggies you want to add to the sauce - lots of good combos here, red peppers and broccoli, carrots, who knows. Try things you like. Then add canned whole tomatoes and poke them with your wooden spoon until they split open. Add basil and oregano and whatever else you like (red pepper flakes if you like it hot?) and let it simmer for a little while.
Make pasta.

3. Quesadillas (everyone can have their own preferred fillings)
Lay a tortilla in a skillet
Put (on one half of it) a thin layer of whatever you want - onions, cheese, beans, salsa, veggies etc
Cook on medium heat for a couple minutes until cheese is melty
Flop the thing closed and press down

*you'll have to handle conversion of these recipes to meat-including, but both are pretty simple -- add ground beef and be sure it's cooked through.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you stock X and Y and Z, you can always make A and B and C.

X = rice
Y = preferred frozen vegetables
Z = preferred frozen meats

A(x,y,z) = preferred meat with rice and veg on the side
B(x,y,z) = fried rice with preferred meat and veg
C(x,y,z) = soup with preferred meat veg and rice

leftover(A) -> B
leftover(B) -> C
posted by GPF at 9:39 PM on July 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

Crock Pots or "slow cookers" are great because you can toss in ingredients in the morning, and a meal is ready by the evening. A blog of crock pot recipes can be found here.

Pizzas are fun and easy to make with pre made crusts. Whole wheat thin crusts are the healthiest, but other types work too. (Thin crusts also cook faster). Besides "regular" pizza, you can make pesto and cheese pizza, as well as ricotta cheese and shrimp pizza.

"Different" things to put on pasta or rice are pesto and peanut satay sauces. (Not together). Trader Joes sells satay sauce more flavored for the "American palate."

Cooking tofu isn't hard, and will taste like what ever you put it in.

Try stir fry with the veggies you have on hand. Serve with rice or Asian style noodles.

If you can find fresh corn on the cob where you live, it's a fast and yummy food to boil or microwave.

You can also serve breakfast for dinner (eggs, omelets, pancakes, etc).

If you don't know how to do something in the kitchen, youtube is a fantastic resource. For example, this is one way to cut a pineapple. If you don't like that method, there are others.
posted by oceano at 10:50 PM on July 30, 2009

Try getting off the American dinner trinity of meat/starch/veg, where if there's no meat ready to hand it looks like there nothing to eat, even though your kitchen may be full of food.

Look instead at one-dish or one-pot meals that adapt to whatever you happen to have on hand. These dishes are awesome for using up odd bits of stuff from the fridge that's not enough to serve by itself but too good to throw away.

A couple things I make over and over again: what I call a fry-up, which is diced potatoes/sweet potatoes/rice/other grain, fried until brown and crispy in a cast-iron skillet with onions and/or garlic and/or leeks, plus random other vegetables, plus a handful of greens, with diced meat, a couple beaten eggs, or cheese optional.

Another regular is grain/bean salad: cooked rice/barley/quinoa/kasha/lentils/black beans/favas (or a combination), plus other diced raw vegetables (corn, red or green peppers, green beans, green onion, etc etc ad lib), plus optional meat or hard-boiled eggs, in a vinaigrette. Recently I've been hooked on a similar thing with red potatoes: a vinaigrette potato salad with add-ins.

The trick is not to use too many ingredients (three or four on top of the basic starch is enough, more and it can turn into a big flavor mush), and to balance them well in terms of color, crunch, flavor, saltiness, oiliness, etc. (Protip: Pickly things like capers, pepperoncini, artichoke hearts add a lot of yum.) Seasoning is important: these kinds of dishes can take quite a bit of salt and spice. Finally, plant yourself some fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, etc) and dump in a palmful at the last minute -- it makes a world of difference.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:07 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Take a look at the "365 Ways to Cook ..." series of books. They are great, you can find them at Amazon. The one on chicken is very good.

Also, casseroles are good. You can find tons of recipes online. You can make them ahead and freeze, then just cook it when you need.
posted by fifilaru at 11:26 PM on July 30, 2009

I usually try to plan out weekly menus, but keep extra staples on hand to allow for some flexibility. I know I can whip up a good meal if I have a few of these ingredients squirreled away.

Cans of black beans
Frozen veg, especially corn
Cans of enchilada sauce
Cans of "mexi style" diced tomatoes
Bread, in the freezer
Masa Harina (but I'm just the crazy white girl that makes her own tortillas sometimes)
Limes (can last a month in the fridge)
Eggs (also can last for a very long time)
Well stocked spices and condiments, like soy sauce and mayo.

Some pantry heavy recipes:

Black Bean Burgers
Bean and Cheese Enchiladas.
Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
Fried rice. Use freezer veg medley and clean out leftovers.
Refried bean and rice burritos
Breakfast tacos (scrambled egg and sautéed veg filling in a tortilla, or next to toast if you're without)
Deviled eggs.
Pasta with garlic, red pepper flake, olive oil, sauce.
posted by fontophilic at 1:47 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your local ethnic store is your friend. From mine I buy:

Jars of garlic paste and ginger/garlic paste
Jars or cans of black olives
Good canned tomatoes
Lots of different spices/seasonings - if you see a new one you've never tried, buy it and try it.

Always keep as staples supplies of:

Canned chickpeas/beans

If you like spicy food, look out for these Kohinoor Heat & Eat curries in your local Indian store, or buy them online. They're vacuum sealed, so keep in the pantry for ages, contain no artificial ingredients or chemicals and are vegetarian and vegan. I serve them with rice, pita and a side salad, with leftover chicken added sometimes. They're really delicious.

Although not strictly a larder answer, for the winter I'd really recommend getting a slow cooker/crock pot. You throw in frozen meat, some celery, carrots and onions, salt, pepper, dried herbs and a can of tomatoes before you go off to work - remember to switch the machine on to a low setting (there's nothing more annoying than getting home to find raw food and a not-plugged-in crockpot) - and then your dinner's ready when you get home. I'd be lost without my slow cooker.
posted by essexjan at 2:39 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can buy tons of potatoes or onions or lemons or any specific ingredient. But if you never use it, it gets tossed out and then you have nothing in the pantry. A not exciting way to go about it is learn to cook x number of dishes you enjoy and buy the ingredients for those. I don't know how many times I've looked in the kitchen and thought, "what can I make with pasta, a jar of mustard and a lime?" I still don't cook at home enough to have a full pantry and just whip something up. It can help to have a few meals planned before going shopping.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:07 AM on July 31, 2009

Pasta, beans, eggs, and risotto are the canvases.

Parmesan cheese, onions, tomatoes, whatever vegetables you buy weekly, olive oil, olives, lemon, garlic are the paints. When you have wine, store any leftover in a jar in the freezer so you always have it on hand for cooking.

From this you can get 90% of what I cook: basic risotto, risotto with your preferred vegetables, frittatas (erg, spelling), regular omeletes (erg, spelling again), and a bazillion pastas. Pasta with beans is a full protein, and with parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil, really nice looking and simple. You can always whip up a quick pasta sauce with a can of tomatoes, garlic, salt, basil and oregano. Beans can have a really nice surprising texture mixed with some chard or a vegetable and potatoes. Caramalized onions are terrific on pasta. (What's with my spelling this morning?)

All of these can be ready and actually quite healthy and elegant looking in about thirty minutes.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:40 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tinned tomatoes. Mixed with whatever herbs you have on hand, they can be turned into sauces for pasta, casseroles, stews and bakes.

Pasta and rice and beans are always good to have on hand: they can be a meal in themselves, or act as a filler when you've only got a small amount of meat for a dish.

The "cooking without recipes" posts at The Kitchn are good for getting the hang of making stuff up based on what you have available.
posted by harriet vane at 3:42 AM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's how I stock my kitchen:

dry goods: pasta, rice (brown and white), canned beans, lentils, flour (white, whole wheat and corn), sugar, cocoa and chocolate chips, oats, baking soda, baking powder, soy sauce, vinegar (cider, rice and balsamic), olive oil, canola oil, onions, potatoes, popcorn, cornstarch, raisins, honey, nuts

refrigerated goods: Earth Balance, peanut butter, jam, bread, pre-chopped garlic, pre-chopped ginger, soy milk, lemon juice, tofu, maple syrup, tomato sauce, vegan mayonnaise, dijon mustard, yeast

frozen goods: frozen peas, carrots, corn, spinach, and edamame, frozen raspberries and blueberries

fruits and veggies: these vary quite a lot through the seasons, but I'm usually most likely to have some kind of leafy green, broccoli, squash, corn, apples, oranges, bananas

spices: thyme, rosemary, oregano, cumin, tarragon, cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, kosher salt, black pepper, sage, fennel, ginger, vanilla and peppermint extracts

This way there's always something to eat!! Clearly this list is calibrated for vegans, but if you're not, it's super easy to just add eggs, cheese, milk and/or meat to this list.
posted by Cygnet at 5:19 AM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't try to do big weekly or bi weekly shoppings. Think about what you want to cook TODAY or the next two days by about 10 in the morning, and then pick up those perishables on your way home, plus one or two of the staples that are about to run out. You will spend less time shopping, you will always know what you want for dinner, and you'll spend less Here's your basic larder:

egg noodles
couple of different kinds of pasta (rotini, spaghetti, lasagna)
Canned tomatoes and tomato paste (NOT pre-made red sauce, totally unnecessary)
Milk and half-and-half
an Oily cheese like cheddar, a dry cheese like monteray jack,
Canola oil, olive oil
beer and wine

an occasional expensive cheese like gruyere
fresh produce (green peppers, carrots, celery)
frozen vegetables

I sent you a MeMail with the address of the cooking blog I keep for my kids-- basic recipes made from easily-obtainable non-exotic foods like those above,
posted by nax at 5:41 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

ack! Flour and sugar too. I'm undoubtedly forgetting other stuff, but you'll figure it out.
posted by nax at 5:44 AM on July 31, 2009

If you are after something on the fly I like to use the following by category:

Soups: Keep frozen veggies on hand. Different types. They can sit in the freezer for God knows how long. Keep cans of 3-4 different beans. Have barley, brown rice, tiny noodles on hand as well. After a meal where you had a chicken/roast/something meaty take the fat, bones, other stuff throw it all in a pot with onion, garlic, spices, water. Boil it until the water goes down some. This will make a basic stock. Take out all of the boiled stuff (bones/whatever else) Add your stuff above to it. Instant awesome soup.

Pasta: Keep a bunch of different noodles on hand. Keep olives, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, Italian dressing, basil, pasta sauce, can of stewed tomatoes, etc. You should be able to make a bunch of different pasta and sauces from those.

Always have on hand:

Canned beans
olive oil
canned or frozen veggies
canned or frozen corn
cream of something soup.
oatmeal (not the instant kind)
bread crumbs
Stuffing mix
Hamburger helper***
Salt N pepper
chick-peas (hummus is ridiculously easy to make)

Between this list and everyone elses I doubt we missed anything major.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:12 AM on July 31, 2009

Mark Bittman's Minimalist column is one of my favorites. He does 101 recipes a season and values your time. Here's the latest.

Another favorite is The Improvisational Cook and one of her appendices IS the answer to your question. I also have the appendix about which foods and flavors go with which cuisine posted inside a kitchen cabinet as a cheat sheet.
posted by mearls at 6:17 AM on July 31, 2009

Olives, anchovies, and capers can go a long way towards rounding out any dish. Throw a handful of olives into zucchini while you're sauteeing it, or capers into cooked beans. Or add a little each of all three to a plain tomato sauce and you have pasta puttanesca. (Easy on the anchovies, though -- a little goes a long way with them.)

A lot of the one-dish meals I make are based on the template of "[ ] with vegetables thrown in." The "[ ]" has been anything from polenta to rice to noodles to mashed potatoes; the vegetables have sometimes been just frozen. If you stock yourself up with a bag of cornmeal, a bag of rice, a collection of different noodles (not just pasta, get some Asian noodles as well) and potatoes, and then a couple different kinds of frozen vegetables, you can just throw things together ("Okay....let me try....adding peas to the noodles tonight. There we go.")

Asian noodle soups can also be made very easily with the formula "noodles + broth + handful of vegetables + handful of cooked meat." Plus, it's got the instant kid appeal because it looks like ramen (essentially, it IS Ramen, it's just the real deal the way ramen was ORIGINALLY made instead of the cheap crap you get with the seasoning packet and no meat or vegetables whatsoever). So if you have some asian noodles and broth on hand (you can cheat and use bouillon cubes for this), you can turn leftovers into soup (a handful of chopped-up chicken from the other night's leftover roast chicken in each bowl, add a handful of frozen peas, cook up enough noodles for each bowl, heat the broth, pour it in, done.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're grilling, consider throwing on some vegetables while you're waiting for the grill to come up to temperature. I often cut up bell peppers, zucchini and an onion or two and put 'em on aluminum foil, then drizzle olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Let 'em cook to your preferred level of grilled-ness. They're a quick, easy addition to pasta, pizzas, sandwiches, quesadillas, etc.

I also throw on extra chicken breasts so we've got something we can either reheat or chop and add to salads, soups, etc when we're in a hurry.
posted by Atom12 at 7:15 AM on July 31, 2009

I (usually) have on hand:
* pasta/rice/quinoa
* garlic/onions/lemons/ginger
* pancetta (freezer)
* olive oil/vinegar (balsamic, red wine, sherry, rice)
* dried herbs and spices
* curry paste (fridge)
* cans of beans (chick peas, black, pinto, cannelloni)
* canned diced tomatoes
* canned coconut milk
* dried lentils (red and, uh, whatever the regular Goya ones are)
* carrots/potatoes
* peas (freezer)
* parmasan and pecorino cheese
* misc other fruits and veggies
* soy/fish sauce, seasame oil

Then...go to town! Curries are curry paste in canned diced tomatoes and/or coconut milk, with sauted onion, garlic, and then whatever veggies you have. My simplest is curry paste, onions, tomatoes, and chick peas, over white rice. More complex could be curry paste, coconut milk, onions, garlic, cauliflower, string beans. Curried lentils, delicious! Stirfry is quick and healthy. I pick up the veggies on the way home from work, it's quick if you know EXACTLY what you need to buy.

Chicken sausage and veggies, quick. Pasta with pancetta, garlic, kale, pecorino or parmasan is quick. Black or pinto beans heated up with some onion, garlic, lime juice, and jalapenos if you have them or dried chili if you don't. Eat with rice, maybe veggies, maybe in tortillas, maybe not.

On Sunday make a big pot of brown rice, keep in the fridge for a week, use away.

One thing that could be interesting: email your buds and ask them each what their go-to meals is. Everyone thinks theirs is really straightforward and obvious, but they aren't.
posted by teragram at 8:37 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just a couple of things to add (the rest has been pretty much covered by everyone else) - instead of tinned beans I cook up a big pot of beans every three months or so, then freeze in small portions to throw into a recipe whenever necessary. I always have kidney beans, chickpeas and one of the white beans (haricot or soy) on hand this way.

Another tip when you know you're going to have a busy week is to make one big bucket of something on Monday and make it the basis of the your meals for the rest of the work week. Eg/ a big bucket (ice cream container) of Mediterranean salad (mint, parsley, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion) and adding falafel and pita one night, chickpeas cooked in tomato and garlic, and rice the next, etc etc - saving yourself the work of thinking of a whole new meal each night.
posted by goo at 1:23 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I learned how to make pad woon sen (WARNING: video starts without warning).

I use one package of frozen stir-fry vegetables and a package of frozen broccoli and a lot of fresh garlic. Also, the entire contents of the pink bag of mung bean noodles, so a bunch of string bundles in the pink bag. You can add or skip the can of chicken or the pound of frozen chicken breast. Last time, it was 3 scrambled eggs mixed in at the very end. If no meat, add another egg.

We make our own chicken broth and have access to asian markets for the fish sauce. A splash of soy sauce and of sesame oil are great in this.

I have to do this in shifts in the skillet and mix the end result in a big stock pot. The leftovers are really, really good.

Rooster sauce or hot chili oil to taste per person is the best part.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:12 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

We started doing this a year ago and have been amazed at how much time and aggrevation we have saved by not having to rush to the grocery store every day. Here is some advice:

1. Get foods that will last a year or longer for your larder (we call ours a "storehouse") If you keep a good larder, you will want some variety while making sure that none of your store goes to waste because it has expired. Canned foods and dried foods (pastas, rice, beans, etc..) are the way to go to get foods that can sit a while without going bad. ALWAYS CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATES ON CANS AND DRIED GOODS. If the dates are less than a year...absolutely not. Two year expirations are the best.

2. Get ingredients for foods that you already eat. You know the ingredients for the foods that you eat. And although everyone wants you to try THEIR recipes, you should attend to YOUR palate and that of your family. If you never ate water chestnuts in a can before starting your larder, do not get them now because they will go to waste. The kind people here are offering so many great websites with recipes, but make sure to try them a few times with your family before you start stocking your larder with ingredients for them. The safest bet is to stick with what you already know about your food styles now.

3. Don't feel as though you have to buy it all at once. Stocking a larder can be expensive in up front money. I have learned to find out what canned and dried goods are on sale. Pork and Beans are very cheap this week, so I picked up about 10 cans. The next time I go out, something else will be cheap and I will stock up on that. This makes the spending part of a larder a little less painful.

4. Rotate your store. Every month or so, go into your larder and see what you have and what you need. Make sure to move up all of the foods that have the closest expiration dates so that they get used first. Or even mark the cans with a month and year at the top to make it easier. A simple "8/12" with a Sharpie will do.

5. If you feel that you will not need something that you bought don't get depressed about it. It is an opportunity to donate it to a food charity program. Somebody, somewhere will want it.

6. Don't forget NON FOOD items!!!!!!!!!!!!! The easiest things to store are non-food items and they are a pain to go out and shop for as well as food. For example, nothing is worse than knowing that you are running late in the morning and you realize that you have run out of deodorant. You meant to get some yesterday and now you will be late for work because you will have to stop at a store and pick some up and then put it on in the car. If you had bought 10 deodorants in the first place, your problem would have been solved. Toothbrushes, diapers, light bulbs, etc... are all good ideas.

In summary, I cannot believe that we did not do this earlier in our lives. I guess the Boy Scouts motto "Be Prepared" is not just for kids. Best of luck and have fun.
posted by boots77 at 7:52 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older maps in the old style   |   Help me fertilize for the first time Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.