So, my momma didn’t raise no fool. I have taken the lessons that I learned from Meal Planning Round One, and I have applied them. Meal planning, I will soooo make you my bitch.
But not this week.
Here’s the deal about meal planning: it means that you’re going to be cooking a lot. And when I’m going to be cooking a lot, I decide what to make by flipping through my stacks of flagged recipes that are piled up in a folder in my kitchen. When grocery shopping on a regular, non-planned week, I would basically just go to the grocery store and buy whatever struck my fancy that day. (This is an especially difficult task when I am suffering from my occasional bouts of Zero Appetite, because no food looks good and all I want to do is drink red wine and/or margaritas. [Or sleep. Usually the Zero Appetite stages are closely related to Sleep 18 Hours A Day stages. But that's neither here nor there.]) Anyway, the point that I’m trying to make here is that when you’re free-form grocery shopping, you tend to buy the ingredients for the same 3 or 4 meals over and over again. It’s a twee bit monotonous. But with the meal planning approach, you get to avoid the monotony by purposefully selecting meals that you haven’t made before! Such a novel concept, right?
Well, as it turns out, most of the meals that are in my recipe folder have weird ingredients in them. Polenta. Gorgonzola cheese. Fresh Oregano. Buttermilk. These types of items are not carried in the grocery section of my local Target, so I’m forced to branch out to the fancier grocery stores when I’m doing my meal-planning shopping. I’ve been buying my fancy-ass groceries at Central Market.
And while Central Market is, in fact, a magical foster-store where all happy produce goes to live until it can be placed in a permanent home, it has its pitfalls, too. Central Market’s #1 pitfall is that everything is so damn fresh.
The freshness, admittedly, is also one of the store’s selling points. They are stocked with fresh meats, all of which came from grass-fed cows and teeny little lambs that hippie farmers fed with sanitized antibiotic-free bottles each morning until they were old enough to be sent to the slaughter house. Those cows and little lambs are delicious, sure. But without all of those hormones and preservatives and without being pre-packaged, individually-frozen, and ice-glazed, that meat goes bad in your fridge really quick. And then what did those farmers work so hard for? For you to have a very expensive odor coming from your outside trash cans until the next trash day.
The quick answer to this problem is simply to not buy all of your meat at one time. If you know that every single meat product you get from the butcher in the white-with-pink-stains apron behind the counter is going to go bad in the next 24-72 hours, don’t by the meat that you’re not going to use in that time frame. That answer is awesome until you consider that the whole freaking point of MEAL PLANNING is NOT HAVING TO GO TO THE DAMN GROCERY STORE EVERY DAY.
So instead of going to the grocery store twice or three times in a week (or [the other solution:] going to two grocery stores, one to get all the produce and weird crap I need for all of my weirdo recipes, and then going to another store to get all of the products I can’t live without that contain preservatives such as frozen meats or packaged cheeses) I have instead taken to the obvious (and dumb) solution of COOKING EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE. I can’t be bothered with the time it takes to stop into the store, so instead, I spend hours and hours of my life frantically cooking all of the food that I bought for the entire the week. Food that I bought even though I knew FULL WELL that it would all go bad by Wednesday (Thursday at the latest, says the man in the apron) if I didn’t cook it before then. But I laugh in the face of The Butcher’s knowledge, logic, and expiration dates! Bah! Those mundane rules of science do not apply to me, I say! I am bursting at the seams with confidence when I am at Central Market.
But then, when I get home, as I am unloading my very expensive, very fancy paper bags of groceries, I become aware of various truths I had been previously denying. 1.) The butcher knows what he’s talking about. 2.) I am not exempt from expiration dates. 3.) I have not mastered meal planning yet. And 4.) I have a lot of cooking to do tonight.