The Monthly Menu

In the first months of retirement, it felt good to be able to shop every day or so, especially with the farmer’s markets in full swing. It was a luxury I hadn’t had in my working days.

But over this autumn, as my days of leisure become fuller with the work of my third, chosen, career, it’s becoming a nuisance. The markets are closed, except for the Saturday ones, and the roads are becoming icy, so last month we went back to the monthly menu.

Once a month, we sit down and plan meals. I create a four-column chart: Date, Meal, Prep on Day, Need to Buy. This goes on the fridge, and can be modified as needed – if I only use half a tin of chopped tomatoes in the curry, then a note is made on the next meal that needs them that they’re in the freezer. I use this chart to determine monthly and weekly shopping lists; I tend to buy meat monthly and freeze it, and everything else weekly, with a quick top-up shop half-way to buy milk or yoghurt or eggs, as our fridge isn’t big enough to keep large supplies of these on hand. It also reminds me what to thaw and what other prep is needed on the day.

This works because there are only two of us, and our lives are fairly predictable. If we decide to go out to a movie and dinner with friends, that’s ok -that meal either doesn’t get made, or, it gets moved to the next day, and that meal cancelled, whichever is easier. Meals can be moved around without too much difficulty, and left-overs always have a meal to be included in.

The other advantage is that in six weeks, when we leave for an extended vacation, we’re not leaving behind a freezer and fridge half-full of food. We left once for a two-week holiday over Christmas, only to have our area hit by a vicious ice-storm that meant our house was without power for eight days. All the freezer foods, all the fridge perishables, had to be discarded (luckily our cat sitter is very flexible on what tasks she’ll take on – oh, and the cats went to live with a friend for that time) as we kept in touch by text from England. I’d like not to put her in that situation again, so both fridge and freezer will be empty of anything that could go bad.

Will I keep this up in the summer, when the markets are open again and fresh local food abounds? Probably not….or I’ll modify it a bit…but for the winter months, it works for us.

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