Meals at the Treehouse have changed a lot over the years. This past year or two, we've simplified a lot: maybe making the same main dish we used to, but with less fuss about sìde dishes, and hardly any on-purpose desserts unless there's a special reason. Simplifying wasn't a philosophical or even a health-related decision, just a practical one. If you cook it or bake it, somebody has to eat it, and somebody also has to do the cleanup; and with fewer people here to both eat and do dishes, it makes sense to give everyone a break. I've even learned a few new tricks, such as cooking a pot of rice (any kind), freezing half of it, and then microwaving the leftovers for almost-instant rice another night. The toaster oven also gets lots of use.
I started making a cupboard/freezer inventory this weekend, and I was almost embarrassed to see how long the list was. It's definitely time to do some eating from the pantry. What makes it harder to plan that out, these days, is that with more informal or spur-of-the-moment meals, I'm not "feeding" people so much as just making the food available. (Keeping English muffins, eggs, and cheese in the fridge, for instance, so that Lydia can make her favourite fast meal.)
So here are some tentative plans for this week's dinners. Lunch is often leftovers, and breakfast is up to each person (unless maybe we make hot cereal).
1. On hand: whole chicken, some barbecue sauce, ingredients pre-mixed for whole wheat bread, salad greens. Menu: chicken in the slow cooker, bread in the machine, salad. Bonus: Leftover chicken for sandwiches or pasta (see #4), and some of the bread in the freezer.
2. On hand: frozen cranberries, sugar, jar of chili sauce, ground pork, other ingredients for meatballs, rice, frozen broccoli. Premake: homemade cranberry sauce. Menu: pork meat balls with sauce made from chili sauce and some of the cranberry sauce; rice, broccoli.
3. On hand: bacon, homemade syrup, blueberries, eggs, other ingredients for pancakes. Menu: pancakes and accompaniments.
4. On hand: cooked chicken, spaghetti, parsley, Parmesan cheese, a jar of Alfredo sauce, salad greens. Menu: Chicken Alfredo and salad. There's also a bit of pizza dough in the freezer, so I might thaw that and turn it into breadsticks.
5. On hand: stew beef, and vegetables for stew; frozen whole wheat bread. Menu: Slow cooker stew, carrot sticks, bread, cheese. Bonus: probably some leftovers.
6. Bonus stew meal.
7. On hand: vegetables, rice, canned beans, canned tomato sauce, salsa, and I think some chicken broth. Menu: either homemade vegetable soup, or some kind of a rice and beans meal, with salad or whatever.
Extra things to make: banana muffins, with the two that are in the freezer; and maybe some granola with Christmas-baking extra coconut.