Friday, November 14, 2008

A Domestic Dilemma.

I need some advice.

Some honest to goodness, straight from your heart advice.

Here's the thing....

Every time I go to make something for supper, I NEVER have all the necessary ingredients. Ever. Even if I make a list before heading to the grocery store for the week, there is inevitably something that I leave out. And most times it's not just one thing - it's several.

And then there are the times I buy say, red peppers and green onions for recipes I intend on making, then something suddenly comes up, we end up grabbing dinner out and before you know it, my peppers and green onions are wilted and gross by the time I actually need them! Oh, it's frustrating.

One day I will have a vast garden, where I will grow tomatoes, onions, peppers, pickles (errr, I mean cucumbers), carrots and lettuce. I may even grow radishes, just because I can! I will never have to worry about my fresh produce dying before it expires because my supply will be limitless!

And I will have bundles of grapes and bushes of berries and trees of bananas and orchards of oranges, and, and, and....I may need to move to a sunnier state.

But for now, in my gardenless little existence, this is a very real problem in my quest for domesticity.

As is the problem for keeping the right foods in stock in my pantry and ice box.

Sigh.

It seems that I am always lacking just one "cream of" soup for that casserole, or out of noodles for my spaghetti, or tearing my pantry apart looking for that last box of rice-a-roni that I KNOW is hiding in there somewhere.

And then there are the obscure ingredients, like cream of tartar (which is actually powder...I swear they are out to confuse the naive ladies like myself. Is it honestly too hard to name it tartar powder? Hrmph...), or tarragon, or hungarian paprika. I mean seriously. Everyone I know would have to make a special trip to the store to buy any of these spices. They don't exactly rank up there in popularity with the season salt, pepper, garlic and chili powder.

My question is this....how do you pro's out there keep the proper foods stocked in your home so that you are not always running out the store? Tell me your secrets. Tell me now!

I am not the type of person to plan out every meal of the week because hey - what if I'm not in the mood for tacos on Tuesday or chicken tetrazzini on Thursday? This is probably why I have the problem that I do. I am a spur -of-the-moment "oh, that recipe looks great - let's have it tonight" type of girl.

And I will probably spend the rest of my life en route to Doc's Country Market.

Help! Please?

58 comments:

  1. you should try meal planning, but instead of saying "we are having this monday, and this tuesday..." Just plan out a month of menus, (I do a monthly grocery shopping trip... you can do weekly if thats better for you) Then buy all the ingredients you need for all those recipes. Then just post the list of meals on the fridge, and randomly pick from those on a nightly basis. then you dont have anything set in stone, but you have a variety of recipes and and all the ingredients. if you aren't in the mood for something one night, you just pick something else! It is also budget friendly. =)
    I totally do the same thing though. I buy stuff that goes bad, especially veggies. haha. Good luck!

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  2. Oh my I am the same way. I honestly don't think I have EVER made a recipe and following it 100%. I am ALWAYS mssing something. My hubby laughs at me all the time. I usually substitute what I don't have for something I do but let me caution you, this can turn into a disaster (not that this has happened to me or anything). So sorry girl I have no advice for you because I am the exact same way. Even when I plan meals and have a list and all of that, I am always still missing something.

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  3. i'm a huge fan of googling for substitutes. did you know if you're out of vanilla extract, you can use maple syrup instead? and a tsp of lemon juice can be added to milk to substitute for buttermilk? every time i have to search for a substitute, i write it onto a card i keep in the front of my recipe box so i don't have to go searching for it again.

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  4. Sounds like some good advice from your readers already....

    I have done the same thing many times, so my best piece of advice is to become a great cooking and ingredients "improviser." ;)

    Good luck to you!
    God Bless,
    Amy:)

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  5. I have the same problem. I am at the store almost everyday. So I have no answer for you. Just letting you know your not alone on this one. With three kids, even if I planned, they would change it.

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  6. I do what Katrina does... And I also have the same problem with fruits and veggies. I do have every intention of looking at them, and saying, oh hey, we need to eat those TODAY before they go bad..

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  7. Okay, I'm not just saying this--I usually have to go to the grocery store EVERY SINGLE DAY! I always want to be one of those that plans a menu, but like you, like spontaneity!

    My problem is, I get to the store (after forgetting my list) and will second guess what's in my cabinet. I'll have 90 chicken broths in my cabinet, need beef broth, and buy chicken broth again instead!

    I did buy some of those Rubbermaid Produce Saver containers and they really work!

    I wish I could offer advice, but I'm in the same boat! Ha!

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  8. One of my favorite food resources is savingdinner.com. I don't buy her menu mailers anymore (a week's worth of recipes with a shopping list) because I didn't always like what she suggests. If you get on her mailing list, she sends out free (yummy) recipes and lots of tips, like stocking your pantry. After several years of practice, I have finally realized that I do have to completely plan out my meals for the week. I don't do it necessarily by the day, but an overall plan is essential. I do have an occasional ingredient missing, but I try to just ask my neighbors (several are good friends of mine) and then replace it the next time I go to the store. As with most everything else domestic, self-discipline is key, unfortunately!

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  9. One more thing- I try to buy frozen produce whenever possible. It is essentially the same (sometimes better) healthwise, and then I don't have the problem of it going bad too quickly! Of course, I do have the occasional wilted lettuce and things like that...

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  10. Freeze the peppers and onions if you are going to be using them in a cooked dish. Cut them up after washing and freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. After an hour or so pour them into a freezer bag. They will stay loose so that you can use as many as you need at a time. You can freeze fresh herbs also, like cilantro. I try to keep my pantry organized by using bins and baskets that hold pasta or rice or crackers or seasoning packets and try to keep like items together. That way you can see at a glance if you have a can of diced tomatoes. I TRY, I said. I don't always do it. But it definitely makes life easier when I do it that way. Have three or four recipes that you ALWAYS have the ingredients for-like a favorite soup or casserole. That makes it good when you can't think. You just whip up an old favorite.

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  11. Well, as far as produce is concerned, 1 Saturday or Sunday, buy a bunch of green onions, red peppers, yellow peppers, etc. Chop them. Put them in little snack bags and FREEZE! You'll always have them on hand when you need them. Can't help you on the Fruits tho'! My arsenal of spices is HUGE! Once a year I go thru them, usually before Thanksgiving and I check them out for "freshness." I can usually go another year! ;-) It's "hit or miss" for me. I do have a handful of recipes that I always have supplies on hand, but I don't say anymore, "We're having this today, that tomorrow," etc. I have 2 teens! LOL You'll settle into a routine once "Lovie" gets here! ;-)

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  12. I am the same way too. I love to cook and bake but I always end up having to run to the store and by all the ingredients. And I even plan ahead each week.

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  13. I get around this by meal planning, so I have no advice for you Miss Free Spirit :)

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  14. now i'm convinced i need to start meal planning after reading your comments. with a baby on the way it might be useful. otherwise we may end up eating baby food. i'm always out of something, too, and hate having to run out to the grocery store. i threw away tons of veggies yesterday-- very sad.

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  15. I'm also with Katrina - I plan out my menus by the month. And if I set out some chicken to thaw I know I've got two days to cook it and if there's anything fresh or random I need for the recipe I can swing by the store after work to get it.

    My veggies often go bad too - it's awful! What's sad is our veggies go bad, but we never have a problem with stale chips or forgetting to eat the junk before its expiration date!

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  16. I'm a weekly meal planner. I only go to the grocery store once a week for the big trip then maybe a milk run during the week.

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  17. I always have good intentions when I meal-plan, but like you, I end up with wilted, gross veggies that were supposed to be in a dish I never got around to making. I have several "go-to" meals that I always keep stuff on hand for (and that usually calls for ground turkey, chicken, pasta or rice, and the veggies we love). I roughly sketch out the week's meals and go from there. When I cook "outside the box," I limit myself to 1 or 2 of those meals a week. And then we'll have nights when we just have rice and veggies, or sandwich night, or breakfast night (can we still do that after the kids are gone??!!) - those are great for when I'm feeling tired and uninspired. ;)

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  18. At the beginning of the week I decide what we will have each night. Then I pull my recipes and make my grocery list. It makes things so much easier because I don't have to make ten thousand trips to Harris Teeter. Plus, it saves us money because we don't go out to eat as much.

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  19. meal-planning doesn't have to be super strict and put you in a box. i usually sit down before big shopping trips (every two weeks-every paycheck) with my cookbooks and pick out the recipes i'll make. then i write down at least 7 meals that i'll make. i write down every ingredient that i need to buy, checking in the pantry or freezer to see what i already have. i don't plan a certain meal for a certain day, because, like you, some days meatloaf might not sound good. i just know i have the ingredients for all 7 meals so i can make them whenever i want. i'll leave some wiggle room for the weekends, knowing that we eat out more, and also leave room for those nights where i just need something fast, like spaghetti or grilled cheese and soup (that's when a well stocked pantry really comes in handy). when it comes to fresh produce, i do try to make the meals using them soon after the shopping trip so that they don't go bad (though freezing is also a good option). there's really no way of getting around shopping for some produce every week. hope you find a system that works for you, too!

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  20. I guess my advice is similar to those already mentioned - we plan out meals for a week (not necessarily what we will eat each day). I have also gotten better at just keeping some basics stocked up, especially when they go on sale at the store. During the summer, we actually grill out all of our meat every week on Sunday and then I just make different sides to go with it each night - it is a huge timesaver!

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  21. This happens to me all the time!! I've found that if I try a new recipe that calls for something I know I don't have--like Hungarian paprika, I take the recipe with me to the store (along with my list), so I don't forget anything I will need. Also, I buy a ton of "staples" whenver I go--like pasta, rice, frozen chicken, soup--things that don't spoil so that I'm almost always prepared. But, I have no help on the veggie thing--happens to me a lot. I currently have a squash and some peppers that need to be tossed...which makes me sad... I'm sorry I'm not much help on the veggie problem!!

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  22. I'm glad to know that I am not alone. I don't have any suggestions for you but I have enjoyed reading everybody elses suggestions!

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  23. I buy everything on my grocery list, but always a few extra things that I don't necessarily need right away.... like cream of type soups.... extra tomato sauce, etc. That way even though I don't need it that particular week, it will surprise me a few weeks down the road when I need something for a recipe and have a nice surprise when I go to the pantry and actually find that yes indeedy, I DO HAVE that ingredient. Saves extra trips to the store too.

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  24. At our home I do use a menu and go shopping once a week for the items that we will be eating for the week. Whenever I get an item out of the pantry to use I always write it down so that I can remember to buy it the next week so that I never run out. I always have pen and paper in the kitchen. I love your blog and have been reading for awhile now. Enjoying what you have been posting!

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  25. Oh you cute domesticated woman you! If you don't like meal planning I suggest that everytime you go to the grocery store, you pick up the essential ingredients that you usually use. For me this would be cream of something soups, onion soup mix, sour cream, meat, and cheese. You can use canned veggies instead of fresh however you won't get the same great taste! I think the only thing you will have to plan for is your fresh produce. I don't see a way around that!

    If you find out the secret, let me know too!

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  26. I never have the right stuff either..I am curious to read the others and how they do it? We will get better at this, I just know it :)

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  27. I recommend meal planning, even if you just pick out 4-5 meals you want to cook that week, have the ingredients on hand, and then pick what sounds good each night. I plan my meals and then make a list from the recipes.

    I actually use a comprehensive grocery list that is saved on my computer; it pretty much lists everything you could ever need at the store. When I'm making my list, I just highlight the things I need, and since everything is on the list, it's a good prompt to remember things I might have forgotten (I can email this list to you if you want).

    Lastly, when you notice veggies are about to go bad, chop them up, put them in baggies, adn pop them in the freezer. When you have a good "collection" of frozen veggies, throw 'em in a pot with a can of tomatoes and some broth, and you've got soup!

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  28. This happens to everyone at some point. You are going to have to start planning your meals, because once you have that little baby you are not going to be able to just run to the store very easily! My problem is not the planning--I will do that. But whenever I am making my list I get too lazy to get up and check if I have a particular ingredient. I always think, oh I know I have that and then I go to make it and lo and behold I am missing that one ingredient that I was too lazy to get up and check on! Can't wait to see what everyone says!

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  29. I substitute things. I made Mexican food one night then realized I didn't have any spanish rice so I made my own. I'll never go back to the boxed kind again!

    There are staples you should always have around - like diced tomatoes, rice, pasta, cheese, etc... I use AllRecipes.com constantly. If I don't have something I usually look up a recipe using ingredients I DO have...have you used the "Ingredients" search on AllRecipes? Try it - it rocks.

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  30. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I could have written a similar post. This happens to me all the time. I end up going by the store 2 or 3 times a week to get 1 thing!

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  31. I was the same exact way as you! Especially when I first got married. I would buy all this stuff and it would go bad because two people just can't eat that fast. Or I would get down to the last steps in a recipe, only to discover that my butter was salted, instead of unsalted. So frustrating!

    But, there are a few things I've learned that have helped me a little. First, you need a membership to a Costco or Sam's Club or BJ's or some other wholesale store. I only go once a month, but when I am there that's where I buy my "go-to" staples, like spaghetti noodles and sauce, case of cream of chicken soup, sodas, chicken broth cans, olive oil, etc. Don't buy anything random or strange there because you'll have enough for 10 years, but anything that you use at least once a week is worth stocking up on. I keep the extras in my basement and pull up what I need as I need them.

    Secondly, start adapting recipes. If something calls for an unusual spice, try substituting for something more normal that you already have. I've used yogurt instead of ricotta cheese, black pepper instead of chili pepper, cream of broccoli soup instead of cream of chicken. Usually, those rare spices and ingredients don't do anything that can't be altered. Plus, it gets expensive to buy all those weird spices you only use once in a while.

    And my last "helpful hint" is to freeze, freeze, freeze! I usually make one big casserole or hearty dish a week, which we eat for a night or two, and then I freeze what is left. Then, on those nights when I either don't have time or when I have run out of something, I still have a good homemade dinner in my freezer.

    Hope this helps! Don't worry - it gets much easier!!

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  32. Have you tried freezing your fresh produce? That way you can pull out your peppers or onions whenever you need.

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  33. I always try to buy meals for a couple weeks. that way we have a variety of things we can chose from and dont have to have this or that on a certain night. I often have the same problem with my produce. I also try to go thru my pantry and fridge before I go to the store.. just so what i have already is fresh on my mind!! glad you posted this.. I have also gotten some good advice from others.

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  34. I think lots of people have this very same problem. I'd say one improvise, you don't always need hungarian paprika for that recipe just use regular. If something calls for coconut milk just use regular, sure it might taste a little different but it'll still be good.
    Now about those green/red peppers. What I do is cut them into strips (or leave whole) put them in ziplock bags and toss in the freezer. Then whenever I need them I always have them onhand. I also do this with red onions. Its still tastes great.

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  35. Okay well I started reading the comments to make sure what I was going to say wasn't already said... but you are wayyy too popular and I gave up after about 4. ;)

    So... my suggestion is this... grab 3-4 recipes ideas for a week. Purchase all the pantry & freezer items needed for the recipes at the beginning of the week (when you do your other basic shopping: milk, bread, etc.). Then you have them on hand and if you don't use them (eat out, order take out), they collect and before you know if you have a pantry/freezer full of necessary ingredients for yummy dinners! (Or, that's what happens to me.) Or when you decide to cook one of the recipes, you can stop by the grocery store and pick up any produce/dairy you may need. :)

    Anyway... I also think over time you should just slowly collect those off ingredients because eventually you will need to use them again, and it's great to have a stocked pantry. :)

    And... I think you may have to give into meal-planning. By only purchasing the pantry/freezer items to prevent wasting the produce/dairy foods, it should still save you time & $$!

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  36. I HAVE THIS SAME DILEMMA. THANK YOU for posting about it today!!! i'm going to read all the comment answers verrrry carefully!!!

    one thing that helps me, when i actually THINK of it and .. you know.. follow through- i like to keep 'stock' items, like nonperishables in my pantry at all times. i ALWAYS have spaghetti, rice, noodles, cream of soups, chicken broth, canned veggies, etc... and i would recommend you buy a spice rack. you can get them pre-stocked you know. and they're cute!! they come in little shelves or spinny things.

    whenever herbs are on sale at the grocery store i'll buy the obscure ones i don't use often. which is why i happen to have cream of tartar and tarragon. i do not have hungarian paprika. i DO have a southwest cumin mix, tho.

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  37. i nominated you for an award blog buddy! you so deserve it for keeping me entertained!!!

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  38. I am the same way, I try to buy frozen veggies but I know its not the same as fresh..kudos to you for still cooking while your pregnant, as each time I was I either couldn't stomach it or I was too freaking tired.

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  39. I plan out my meals, but that doesn't mean everything goes off without a hitch. Things happen, I'm human, and I will enevitably forget to pick up something. Remember those honey glazed carrots from yesterday? Well, I was at the store, had my list mind you, and the cashier asked me if I had found everything I needed. Then it hit me....I FORGOT THE CARROTS!!! I had to run to the produce section and get the carrots while she finished scanning my items. I wish I could give you some wonderful advice, but I'm just as bad at forgetting things.

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  40. i think if i could solve your produce dilemma, i should be on the short list for the nobel prize. i, too, am sickened every trash day at all the produce i throw out. i HATE wasting food.

    as for other ingredients...i have found that buying two works. if you make a recipe using cream of mushroom soup or beef broth, etc...just buy two cans. it will keep and if you suddenly find you need it...it's there! another suggestion is to visit the spice rack on most every grocery store trip and meditate in front of it for a minute. ask yourself if there is anything...anything you remember being low on or think you might need.

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  41. First of all, I'm not a pro, but I still like to give my two cents worth when I can! Second, I have the same problem as you do at times. But what I'd like to suggest (for you and myself) is that you make a list of all the dishes you eat very often and list their main ingredients, always keeping them in your pantry. Purchase them about every time you go to the store, unless of course it's cream of tartar, which might take you awhile to get through. Always have a list handy in a kitchen drawer or possibly even more visible...perhaps on your fridge, so that when you run out of something, you run to the list and jot it down for the next trip to the market! If you have nice neighbors, just run to their house and ask to borrow something! They might enjoy returning the favor someday as well! :)

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  42. Mine veggies always seem to be bad when I need them most! A friend told me to look for the frozen 'pepper mix' bags the grocery store. They are already chopped green, red and yellow peppers with onions frozen... so you can add them to any recipe!! It would probably make Rachel Ray cry but it works for people that need a quick fix. Good Luck!

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  43. I think you have gotten some really good advice!

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  44. i can't wait to have my very own garden again. i hope you do grow radishes too - I love radishes - especially home grown radishes that you can just pluck up and wash off they taste sooo yummy!

    PS - I'm always missing something - and lately I've been the worst Domestic Diva ever - not even cooking at all - well, we hosted some guests the other night but nothin' fancy! too busy decoratin, school, and workin I guess - well thats just my excuse!

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  45. I do not plan (until about 20 minutes before dinner:) and sometimes I get stuck. But for the most part, I cook whatever I have. I use substitutions and take some chances. Some of the best recipes are made that way. I keep lots of frozen veggies in my freezer so I can decide at the last minute what is for dinner. But I am at the grocery store quite a bit but then again I love going there.

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  46. I usually go shopping each week & I clean my fridge, cabinets, etc. each week so I know exactly what I have & to get rid of leftovers that we never eat!, etc. We usually eat spaghetti, tacos, I have a few soups that are really good, & salads with all the fixin's, then the old standbys on the nights when I don't feel like cookin' - frozen pizza, frozen chinese, sandwich stuff & we like to eat out once a week, sometimes twice...Typically, the only item that goes bad in my fridge are the green onions cause I only use 3-4 & they come in a whole bunch. I also use AllRecipes.com & make a few newbies, but not every week. Usually it's once or twice every two weeks.

    Everyone's suggestions have been great, hope you have better luck!!

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  47. I am glad to know many of us do this =) There is a cook book at Bed Bath and Beyond for Newlyweds and it lists weird things you should have in your pantry like all kinds of canned beans and tomatoes, pastas and even things I have not heard of. So trying to a great cook I have loaded my pantry with these things and feel it is a good start - fresh foods are still tricky though.

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  48. I.Have.Tried.To.Leave.A.Comment.3x.Today. I am done with trying. Deepest apologies!

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  49. I keep a list of everything that we ever need at any given time - except for those really odd items that are just for special recipes.

    I have everything listed by pantry/fridge/kitchen area (for quick reference). Each item has a little box in front of it so that I can mark how many of that item I need. Anyone in my house can add to it if they use something up or they are in the mood for a particular recipe - but mostly, I just go through the list and check my cupboards and fridge each week, mark it against "the list" and head to the store.

    I keep it as an excel spreadsheet on my computer and print off a fresh list after every grocery store run.

    It took a couple months of adding and deleting before I figured out what our most often used items were, but now the only extra work involved is adding something special if there happens to be a 'special ' recipe that I plan to make.

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  50. Oh, Whitney, can I have some pickle seeds? You are too funny! Two things - I hardly cook these days because someone always brings us dinner or we use one of the gobs of gift cards to eat out or get food to go. One of the perks to having the Big-C. And, the pencil test. We did that nonstop in college! It was wrong for Maddox, though. It said she was a girl. Usually, I have found it to be accurate, though. Love you, friend :)

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  51. I could have typed this exact same post, for reals! Buno makes fun of me all the time because I always realize I'm missing an ingredient when I'm halfway through mixing everything and then buno hear's me say "oh crap" and he knows something's up! Good luck! I think I'll read some of your advice!

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  52. i buy canned things i use a lot in bulk. like cream of mushroom/chicken/celery soups. i go to caselot sales and buy a case at a time, then store most of it in a closet and keep a few in my pantry.

    i still haven't figured out how to handle the produce thing, though. mine always wilts, too.

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  53. I buy in bulk when it's on sale. Even then, I end up running to the store a lot! If I don't feel like it, I just find something to make with the ingredients on hand. You'll get into a dinner "rhythm" before you know it. Then, just as you do, the baby will come and then you'll have no time to even think for awhile! :)

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  54. I try to stock up on basic items, about once a month I buy a varity of cream soups , boxes of pasta, rice, mixes, tomato and tomato sauce, sour cream etc... hamburger, chicken to go in freezer...also buy a few pot pies, frozen shrimp, things I can fix in a pinch...I'm also bad about not having every spice, sometimes you just skip it... also, I've done the once a month cooking a couple of times and then you have meals in the freezer to use whenever, not necessarily that month...

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  55. My husband would be totally shocked if I made dinner and used all the ingredients called for and didn't change it. Veggies do get wasted a lot!

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  56. O.K.-Don't do what we do-we (I mean my husbad!) goes to the store every day! Terrible! I e-mail him with my list that goes to his phone...and then he comes home with it!
    I may need to read your other comments for myself!

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  57. Whitney..I have finally entered your little world with my own page, blog and everything!! It has been forever since I have seen you or talked to you!!! Congratulations on little Lovey!!! I bet Teri and Kevin are about to go crazy!!! Anyway, about your latest dilema!! Here is my 2 cents after being married 23 years and raising 2 teenagers!!! I try to go to the store once every 2 weeks!! I do live my menus...but what we do is we have a list of probably 20 dishes that are listed on our fridge, I try to keep the ingred for these things and then we pick off of this everyday by what sounds good to everyone!!! Of course this doesn't stop those spur of the moment runs to the store for milk, bread etc. But I too try to pick up two of everything, soups, tomatos, onion mix that sort of thing!!! As far as fresh veggies the same thing happens to me all of the time!!! But what I have tried with that is on a day when I am at work trying to figure out which meal we will have if I want fresh salad or fresh steamed vegies with it then I will run by the store after work and pick those things up!!! I loved some of the ideas others had such as freezing your peppers and things like that I had never thought of it!!!! Miss the drug store days and I miss you!!!! I love reading your blogs!!! Wendy
    Drop me a note and tell me whats going on with all of the family!!! Love ya sweetie!!!

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May the Lord bless you and keep you safe today! Thanks for the comment, friends! :)

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