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May 29 / suzanne

My First Attempt at Meal Planning (Eh, Good Luck to Me!)

My goal has always been to NOT be the woman pushing this. Times have changed.

Following last week’s edition of Mortifying Disclosures, here’s my latest embarrassing revelation: I go to the supermarket 29.3 times per month.

I know this because yesterday, in a long-overdue attempt to get a handle on our runaway household spending, I hunkered down for six agonizing hours with Mint. This amazing free website tracks your spending and, if you let it, tells you all kinds of horrifying things about yourself, like how much you spend monthly on lattes.

Here’s what Mint revealed about the number of our monthly credit-card charges at Safeway, Costco, Trader Joe’s and our local grocer, the Newport Avenue Market.

March: 27 charges
April: 25 charges
May: 36 charges

You read that right: May isn’t even over, and I’ve already been to the supermarket more times than there are days in the month.

This is not because I love supermarket shopping. Ironically, I go to the supermarket every day because I loathe going to the supermarket.

Until I had kids, I’d never even pushed a shopping cart down the aisles. I’d grab a basket, dart around the store popping in few apples here and a quart of milk there and sail through the express line. Whew — outta there!

Now that I have a family of four, I’m usually forced to push a cart; you can’t fit two 3-year-olds in a hand-held basket, and neither can you let them run loose. (I tried it once; never again). But even now, my worst nightmare, grocery-wise, is getting trapped in a checkout line behind one of those moms whose shopping carts are piled so high that ringing them up takes the better part of an afternoon. You know: the women who appear to be marketing for the 57 members of their polygamist compound.

Of course, now I get it: Sure, these women are eating up an afternoon at the store, but at least they’re not, I presume, going to the supermarket TWENTY NINE TIME POINT THREE TIMES A MONTH. These are the smart moms, the organized ones, the people who aren’t on a first-name basis with about six different checkers at the Newport Avenue Market.

Besides the fear of a four-hour shopping trip, one reason I end up at the store so often is that I’m so scatterbrained that we’re constantly running out of milk, bananas, yogurt and other staples. And when you “just run in” for bananas and milk, you tend to come out with beets, jicama, eggplant, fresh dill and all manner of other items that look gorgeous and may be on “special” but do not fit into anybody’s idea of a meal plan and do not prevent your husband from ordering Chinese takeout three nights a week.

And if you repeat this insanity 29.3 times a month, well, it’s no wonder your family spends more on food than Newt Gingrich spends on Callista’s jewelry. (OK, I exaggerate, by about half a million dollars.)

So, I’m making a Memorial Day resolution: I’m going to start meal planning, using Brenda Thompson of Meal Planning Magic as my guru.

This happens to be a perfect week to start because I have two “good neighbor” occasions to cook for and will need to be extra organized. On Friday I’m bringing a dessert to celebrate the 93rd birthday of Ceil Hermann, a remarkable member of our synagogue who at age 92 learned to read Hebrew and became a Bat Mitzvah. I’ve also signed up via mealtrain.com to bring dinner next Monday night to a family, the Goldmans, who just had a baby.

I’m setting multiple goals. I’m attempting to 1.) plan our dinners from Monday to Monday, including dessert for Ceil and dinner for the Goldman family 2.) plan to have enough food in the house for breakfast and most lunches 3.) slash our number of supermarket trips to 12 for June.

I’ve made two mega-supermarket lists and today am sending my husband to Costco with one kid while I go to Safeway with the other. Granted, it’s Memorial Day, so we’re not working and have extra time to shop, so that’s sort of cheating. But I’ve got to start somewhere.

By the way, Brenda  told me she plans her meals on Sunday nights while watching “Desperate Housewives.” I tried to emulate her, planning our week while watching a rerun of “Friday Night Lights,” but it took me so long that I ended up watching FNL and “The Killing” and still had not finished.

Below is the list of dinners and lunches I’ve planned. I limited myself to dishes I’m familiar with and that would use up the impulse-buy produce sitting in my fridge that is quickly approaching the “use it or lose it” stage. This includes beets, eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, fresh dill, celery, broccoli, carrots and an avocado. I also have leftover enchilada sauce that needs to be used up ASAP.

This plan may be way too ambitious for me (especially finding the time to make the lunch salads), but I’ll just lay it out there. Expect more Mortifying Disclosures!

Monday: Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole
(One of my favorites from my vegan experiment, though I’m adding cheese.)
Tuesday: leftovers
Wednesday: Crockpot Eggplant Stew with Garbanzo Beans
Thursday: Whole-wheat rotini with organic ground beef, chopped veggies and marinara sauce
Friday: leftovers, plus I’ll make Olive Oil and Cornmeal Cake for Ceil
Saturday: Red Lentil Stew with naan
Sunday:  Out for pizza (make double batch of tomorrow’s Tagine)
Monday: Moroccan Tagine for us and for the Goldmans

Stuff to have in the fridge for lunch:

Whit’s Balsamic Beet and Carrot Salad
Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Dill
Quinoa salad with celery, apples, raisins and toasted pecans

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