The Menu Project

Sharon January 29th, 2009

Food storage pushes us in the direction, often, of eating new foods.  We may be choosing them because we’re trying to shift our diet to a lower impact, more ecologically sound one, because we’re trying to develop a truly local food culture and cuisine, because we can’t afford more expensive foods or because we want to eat what we store.  Getting started with new foods can seem overwhelming, particularly if you are looking at a 50lb sack of wheat berries for the first time.

 A simple way to get started is simply to start asking – what do we eat that is compatible with food storage, and with the food we can preserve or get from our gardens (I’m assuming for the purpose of this discussion that I’m at the worst garden season of the year – which, actually, I am now ;-) ).  What home-based meals will we enjoy?  How can we adapt the menus we eat now to work with our pantries?  What new foods might we integrate  into our diets that our family members would actually eat?

Then we put together a week’s worth of menus, and look at the ingredients list.  Do we need anything we don’t have?  If you can store ingredients for this, you’ll have a solid, if somewhat repetetive diet set up.  You can start by trying this one meal at a time, first one a week, then two or three.  Then do another day or week’s worth to add variety.

When I started to write my own menus out, I was tempted to embellish them a bit.  Hey, I can make the people who read this think that my kids eat apple-cranberry muffins for breakfast – and that Mommy rises before dawn to make them (yeah, right, I rise before dawn, but only because the kids make me and let’s just say that my eyes aren’t usually wide enough open to safely mix food). 

Probably like many people, we eat the same stuff a lot here ;-) .  Breakfast is particuarly unimaginative at my place – that is, my kids already eat either oatmeal or toast with jam or peanut butter for 90% of their breakfasts.  The other 10% they might get eggs, or rice pudding, and three or four times a year, they get muffins.  I mention this because sometimes I think we go around making menus and think that we have to be really imaginative with them – and yes, imagination is great in food.  But there’s something to be said for “we all like it and it gets to the table” meals that my family, at least, relies on – we’re content to eat these more than once a week. Oh, we might prefer something new, but it is food, it is good.  So don’t make yourself nuts, unless you already live in household where elaborate and complex meals are made new three times a day.

 Here’s my family menu

7 breakfasts: toast or oatmeal, eggs (occasional) real tea for me, herb tea with honey for kids. 

Storage ingredients: wheat, yeast, molasses, salt, brown sugar, rolled oats or groats, earl grey, peanut butter, chicken feed.

Home produced ingredients: Homemade jams, lemon-mint herb tea.

Snacks: Dried fruit, nuts, homemade fruit leather, cheerios, carrot sticks, yogurt, applesauce, lollipops, wheat pretzels, bread and jam (see above), cheese, apple cider.

Storage ingredients: Dum dum pops (these are cheap little bulk industrial lollipops – did I say we weren’t perfect yet?), dried cranberries and raisins, cheerios, organic dry milk, pretzels, rennet and cheese cultures, cider.

Homemade: Dried strawberries, dried cherries, dried apples, dried peaches, dried plums, fruit leather, carrots, applesauce, nuts.

Lunches (we drink only water with meals anyway):1. Roasted root vegetable wraps, garden or cabbage-carrot salad depending on the season  2. Baked potatoes with greens and chipotle sauce (adults) or salsa (kids)  3. 3 bean chili, cornbread, and stir fried greens or cabbage.  4. Pumpkin Pancakes with applesauce and fruit (fresh or home canned), 5. Vegetable Soup, bread and dried cranberry and sprout salad. 6. Sandwiches of herbed yogurt cheese with onions, pickles and sprouts, carrot sticks and apple slices 7. Dal and Curried Rice with greens and stir fried vegetables.

Stored ingredients (does not include items listed already): balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, canned chipotles in adobo, dried beans, tvp, dried corn, buttermilk powder, canned pumpkin, sprouting seeds, lentils, brown rice, mango pickle, tamarind paste, spices, mushroom “oyster” sauce, kecap manis, coconut milk,

Home preserved ingredients: mint chutney, root cellared vegetables including most roots, cabbage, apples, pears, daikon, etc…, greens (garden or season extended), chicken broth, homemade salsa, applesauce, home canned fruit, dried sweet peppers and mushrooms, herbs, pickles, parsley in a pot.

Dinners: 1. Drunken Noodles 2. Laotian chicken soup with greens or stir fried sprouts and rice.  3. Salmon cakes and beet-carrot salad 4. Onion Soup, Crusty Bread and greens with lemon dressing 5. Spaghetti and “Wheat Balls” (much better than it sounds, btw), cabbage, carrot and sesame salad 6. Pita bread, falafel, labneh, beets with tahini and parsley- quinoa salad. 7. Lamb stew, Challah, applesauce and lemon-pepper cabbage

Stored ingredients: Tahini, honey, lemon-pepper, quinoa, fava beans, sesame seeds, bulghur, parmesan cheese, fair trade, wild caught canned salmon, matzah meal, canned pineapple, soybeans (or shelf-stable tofu), dried rice noodles.

Home preserved: Basil plant, keffir lime, lemongrass plant in a sunny window, Lamb Stew base, garlic, onions, canned lemon juice.

 Now some of this may look like a lot, or a lot of work – but that’s simply because I’ve chosen the meals we like best, not the easiest ones.  Were I starting from scratch, I’d probably choose more peanut butter and jelly (we eat that too) and less Lamb stew.

 How about you?  What’s on your routine food storage menu?


25 Responses to “The Menu Project”

  1. TJ says:

    with full time computer job and spouse cooking what she will (that’s already much better than eating out :)
    I do this in reverse and only/mostly to myself:
    for instance :
    wheat is wonderfully storable (Sharon says so) – buy a pound – try to eat it – 1 cup wheat 2 cups water – cook forever :) , eat …. ok… with butter – delicious, buy 50lbs bag
    ditto barley (not pearled),
    buckwheat groats(toasted and raw – very different taste)

    not very organized and time consuming, but healthy (eat a lot of whole grains as side dish now) .

    now learning fishing from the beach – that will take time and time I don’t have.

    As a side note our 2year old loves cooked wheat berries – perfect finger food – could not be healthier and easy to pick up from wood floors :)


  2. kathy says:

    Granola- rolled oats, dried cranberries, walnuts, sesame seeds, honey, wheat germ
    yogurt and yogurt cheese
    Chicken and dumplings with canned chicken and canned vegetables-ican them in the spring and summer
    pot roast with potaoes and roasted roots-I can the beef as well
    salmon or crab cakes
    rice and beans
    muffins of all sorts
    fruit crisps with my canned fruit and a kind of granola topping with a little extra butter
    I can butter too
    we drink a lot of grape juice that I can from wild grapes
    quiche with eggs, 1/2 and 1/2, cheese, canned ham, wild mushrooms I dry those),onions and frozen fiddleheads
    onion soup with canned stock

  3. There are very few people in blogland that I really, really wished I could sit down and listen for hours on end to their wisdom.

    You are one of them. :)

  4. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » The Menu Project Food storage pushes us in the direction, often, of eating new foods. We may be choosing them because we’re trying to shift our diet to a lower impact, more ecologically sound one, because we’re trying to develop a truly local food culture and cuisine, because we can’t afford more expensive foods or because we want to eat what we store. Getting started with new foods can seem overwhelming, particularly if you are looking at a 50lb sack of wheat berries for the first time. [...]

  5. Emily says:

    Naan. Take your standard bread dough (a wet, no-knead recipe is perfect) and roll it out pretty thin. Cook in a sizzling hot frying pan with a little oil or butter, covered, for 2 minutes, then flip and do another 2 minutes (also covered). Eat it with beans, daal, or wrapped around sandwich fillings.

  6. Mary Campbell says:

    We have two breakfasts. 1) 1 part whole oats, 1 part brown rice, 1 part barley. 3.5 cups water to each cup grain. Bring to high in pressure cooker at bedtime. Turn off burner. In the morning I microwave a cup for each of us and stow the rest in the fridge. I serve with pintos and yoghurt or squash and salsa or leftover greens. I favor this in summer because I don’t heat up the kitchen but once every couple weeks. 2) oatmeal cooked with apples and served with milk. Raisins are a fabulous treat at our house–when reporting on what we ate in France decades ago, Bill gushed that we had had raisins in our oatmeal every morning. Keeping the bar low, I am.
    I make waffles or pancakes a couple times a year.

    Lunch–leftovers from dinner.
    Dinner. 1) Stir fried vegetables with garbonzos or pintos on rice.
    2) Squash stuffed with vegetables and beans.
    3) Vegetables with pasta and beans.
    4) Potato salad. Spuds and green beans dressed with mustard, olive oil and crushed garlic. The dressing was from our favorite pasta dish, which took several nonlocal ingredients. Moving the spices to another dish lets us enjoy the flavor. Hard-boiled egg on top.
    5) Soups. Barbara Kafka’s book on soup has fabulous soups with not very many ingredients. And she was a gardener, so the spring soups don’t call for sweet corn.
    I’m not big on salads, but Bill loves restaurants that serve things “on a bed of”. So I garnish most every meal with some form of leafy greens. Having grown up with five sibs, I don’t seem able to cook less that eight portions. But that’s just two dinners and two lunches apiece.
    I buy rice, oats, oatmeal, barley, brown rice, pintos, black beans, garbonzos, and lentils in fifty pound bags. I only have to shop every nine months for staples, but I get anxious as everything gets low. I have lots of olive oil, canola oil, vinegars (I’m thinking this was the standby for acidic zip before citrus started being shipped). Usually 3-4 boxes of salt, 40 pounds of pasta. I buy 3 nine pound vats of Maille mustard each spring. The dogs eat forty pounds of kibble in seven months. I try to have a full bag in the basement as well as the one they’re eating from. Dating things as you start using them yields good info on how long something lasts.
    I was getting enthused about a grain grinder, until I realized we eat very little flour. I marvelled at how much sugar you have–I use less than ten pounds a year.
    I was asked to be responsible for cleaning out the refrigerator at church. People overbuy for potlucks and other events and then refuse to take leftovers home. So things die in the fridge. This weekend I’ll take in a bread pudding made from bread, eggs, and milk I rescued last week. We eat leftovers.
    When I started my residency, I knew I’d be busy, so I decided to buy toiletries for four years at once. Toothpaste, brushes, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, and diaphragm jelly. I waaaay overestimated the amount of spermicide I’d be using (divorce), and started giving anyone in clinic who got a diaphragm a free tube.

  7. Sarah says:

    There’s something to be said about the perfect simplicity of having a warm bowl of oatmeal every single morning. My morning oatmeal routine grounds me and prepares me for the day. Read more about how much I love oatmeal at my blog Prose and Potatoes .

    I’m slowing starting out on this food storage journey. But I’m trying hard to buy lots of beans, rices, grains, and of course oatmeal. Just this week I (finally) found an Indian grocery story (about 27 miles from my house) so I could purchase rice and lentils in bulk. What I need to work on most is cooking a meal entirely from storage. As it is now, I still rely heavily on fresh vegetables to compliment all those beans and grains.

  8. annette says:

    recipes please! (drunken noodles?)

  9. robin says:

    Breakfast: 6 mornings oatmeal with dried or fresh fruit, jam or honey and milk, 1 morning with pancakes and maple syrup

    storage: rolled oats, flour, baking soda, salt, dried fruit, fresh apples, maple syrup

    home-produced: milk, jam, honey

    Lunch: 2 or 3 days of leftovers from dinner the day before, the rest peanut butter and jelly or tuna sandwiches.

    storage: wheat, rye and yeast for bread, danned tuna, peanut butter

    Dinner: 1) Pasta with tomato sauce and green salad 2) Potato-vegetable casserole with gravy 3) Slow-cooked meat and potatoes with seasonal vegetable 4) Rice and stir-fried vegetables 5) Stew with meat and bean, legume or whole grain 6) Rice and stir-fried vegetables 7) Pizza or soup and cornbread.

    storage: Pasta, potatoes, seasonal roots or cabbage family vegetables, rice, beans, lentils, cornmeal

    home-produced: meat (goat, chicken), tomato sauce, cheese, broth

    In summer slow-cooked means slow cooker, in winter it’s done on the woodstove.
    By mid-summer I aim to stop relying on store-bought stored vegetables.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Breakfast: weekdays are more complicated — dh gets a fried egg sandwich in his lunchbox; dd#1 gets yogurt and a muffin if I made some; dd#2 eats at daycare; some days I have a fried egg sandwich, too – others, I eat breakfast at work (we have a full kitchen and someone cooks breakfast almost every day). Weekends are easier — grits, and eggs for those of us who eat them, OR pancakes with whatever fruit I have available thrown in.

    storage: flour, yeast, powdered milk, salt, oatmeal, sugar, grits, jarred applesauce, frozen or canned pumpkin, frozen bananas

    Lunch: dh takes sandwiches with lunchmeats & deli cheese, fruit, and pretzels (and sometimes a cookie), plus tea from home; dd#1 takes either leftovers from the night before, or a pb&j, plus some combination of fruit, a homemade cookie, or pretzels, and tea from home; dd#2 eats at daycare; I bring leftovers.

    storage: peanut butter, homemade jelly, bags of generic pretzels bought on sale, tea bags for iced tea, stevia

    Dinners: Fiesta Casserole (a black bean dish), baby carrots; chili with tortilla chips; spaghetti w/ meat sauce and steamed green beans; dirty rice with peas; shepherd’s pie

    storage: dried beans, salsa, various spices, canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, etc.), pasta, rice, potatoes, a variety of frozen veggies

    Snacks consist of homemade bread, cookies, and muffins; storebought crackers; cheese and yogurt; and fresh fruits.

  11. Breakfast

    Toast and jam/peanut butter or oatmeal. If I’m feeling special, crepes or pancakes with jam. I’ve been having yogurt with homemade applesauce a lot this week because I bought yogurt for a recipe, but we don’t actually have a source of milk that would make homemade yogurt a sensible plan.
    Storage: wheat/flour, yeast, sugar/honey, salt, homemade jam, peanut butter, oatmeal, baking powder


    Noodles or rice with tofu or TVP and veggies, PB&Js
    Storage: noodles, rice, shelf-stable tofu, TVP, wheat/flour, yeast, sugar/honey, salt, peanut butter, homemade jam, dried vegetables (usually we use home-frozen, but for a storage-central meal we know what to do with the dried ones, too), olive oil, soy sauce, spices


    Red lentil mush, brown lentil soup, potato-leek soup, tofu curry (or smoked fish if we’re feeling special), roasted root veggies, dried vegetable soup with orzo (yes, I like soup, especially at this time of the year), risotto
    Storage: lentils, rice, pasta, shelf-stable tofu, TVP, smoked fish (canned), root vegetables, dried vegetables, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, spices, honey, salt

    I discovered a while back that soaked sprouted wheat makes a pretty decent substitute for short-grain brown rice when stir-fried.

  12. grace says:

    Emily… the Naan cooked in frying pan…
    “standard recipe, wet, no-knead” would you be more specific?
    N Mexico

  13. Emily says:


    Mix 3 c. water, 1.5 Tbl yeast, 1.5 Tbl salt, and 6.5 c flour (any combination) in a big bowl. I start stirring with a spoon but usually have to mix the last bit together with my wet hands. Just get all the flour damp – no need to knead. Cover and let rise 2 hours. Then keep this dough in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. When you want naan, tear off a chunk and fry it up. If you want bread, tear off a chunk, shape into a loaf, let sit 40 minutes, slash the top (very important!!) and bake at 450 or 500 for 30-45 mins (depends on loaf size). This is all from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, which has tons of variations on this basic formula.


  14. I don’t get a lot of time to cook. I’m home with the baby all day and working nights so I try to cook up a storm on Sunday for the week. Also, the baby is not ready to eat what we eat (we offer, she refuses) so we have to make some accommodations there with frozen pasta and some organic instant foods that she likes. Also we mostly follow a low carb diet for medical reasons.

    Breakfast is either a fried egg or cottage cheese. The baby might have an egg or yogurt followed by prunes (to fight constipation) and some other kind of fruit.

    Lunch is g-d knows what. Depends. If I’m pressed for time and don’t have leftovers I might toast some low carb bread in the oven and make toast pizza for myself. Or eat cottage cheese or just a slice of cheese. Sometimes I don’t get to eat at all! The baby gets some kind of protein, veggie, and fruit.

    Dinner is kind of the same as lunch.

    Our favorite recipes are:

    Cegadinsky goulash which is pork and sauerkraut in a cream sauce (Baby loves this one! Who would’ve thought she would be a fan of sauerkraut?)

    Chicken paprikash sometimes with dumplings. This can also morph into chicken and dumplings (the baby likes dumplings which is why I bother to make them.)

    I make calzones for my husband to take to work–easy and cheap and tasty.

    Homemade pizza on the weekend for the hubby too–easy and cheap and tasty and healthier than takeout.

    Turkey feta cheese casserole with is ground turkey and tomato paste with spices topped with a ricotta-feta cheese mixture and baked.

    Unstuffed cabbage in the slow cooker (very easy and not labor intensive like making actual stuffed rolls).

    BBQ pork in the slow cooker.

    Chicken and rice (For the hubby and baby) in the slow cooker.

    Roast with turnips, onions and carrots in the slow cooker.

    Sauerkraut kielbasa soup.Chicken soup. Split pea ham soup. Bean and bacon soup.

    Lately our guilty pleasure has been green bean casserole with those fried onion frankenfood things mixed with some kind of protein like chicken or turkey.

    ANYWAY… I wanted to add (and this is the important point!) re: stocking the pantry, what was helpful for me was to list every recipe I routinely made and then break out the ingredients. Then calculate how often I made a particular recipe to figure out how many ingredients I needed to keep on hand for a 3, 6, or 9 month supply.

    Granted we are not as natural as you or some of your readers but we are in an urban area and will not be able to escape some kind of external supply chain no matter how much food we grow or store ourselves.



  15. grace says:

    Emily THANKS! This is even better than I’d hoped. There is only one of me here and the Naan in a pan will be perfect..esp. keeping dough in frig up to 2 wks. I don’t use a whole
    loaf of bread when I make it.
    Will try this on the weekend.
    Thank you very much for quick reply *1*
    grace, NM

  16. Matriarchy says:

    I’m doing oatmeal 5 mornings, other stuff on weekends. I put dried and seasonal fruit in my oatmeal, and homemade yogurt. The other breakfasts include the spelt waffles that DD12 makes (on batch for us, one for the freezer), egg sandwiches, grits and gravy, french toast, occasional creamed chipped beef. But this morning I ate leftover bread pudding, so nothing is set in stone. DD12 is allowed to open one box of stored cereal per week – Wheaties, Cheerios, etc. She is our picky eater, and would live on cereal if permitted.

    Lunch is “on your own” among 2 adults and one teen at my house – DD12 packs or gets lunch at school. I try to keep reheatables on hand, like soup, crockpot beans, leftover pasta, burrito filling, etc. We are fond of sandwiches, too – tuna, leftover roast meat, cheese, occasional commercial lunchmeat like Lebanon Bologna. If I experiment with cooking it is often for lunch, like my biscuit trials.

    Dinner is variable and later than many families (8 PM), as we have busy work, meeting, and marital arts schedules. Sometimes it is leftovers. But our winter go-to meals are curries, fried rice, pasta, or German-style meals with sausage or schnitzel accompanying mashed potatoes and braised cabbage. We try to rotate through the stored starches: rice, pasta, potatoes, and beans. Dinners typically come from the freezer and pantry. I crockpot one or two things each week, to make one dinner and some lunch leftovers – soup, beans, or pulled pork or chicken.

    Snacks: toast and homemade jam, sweet potato biscuits, whole grain quick breads and cookies, hot chocolate, local pretzels, cracker and cheese, chutney on bites of leftover meat and cheese, homemade granola, dried fruit and nuts, bread pudding, pumpkin custard, yogurt with fruit or a spoon of jam.

    To make things less predictable, about once a week I tell DD12 to go to the freezer and “pick out some meat.” We make dinner the next night from whatever she brings up.

    We don’t eat completely from storage, yet. I make a weekly trip to the farmers market, but could skip a week or two without much trouble. I buy pastured eggs and local milk, cheese, kale and spinach. My onion and potato storage didn’t last, so I periodically buy those, too. Our local source for greens is too far away now that the summer marker closed. I watch for meat on sale for the freezer. I also buy pork and chicken bones to make stock. There is a local produce guy with a box of apple seconds under the counter, that I buy for applesauce.

    We are obviously still carnivores, but we eat less meat. We try to use no more than a pound of meat in a meal for 4. We used to eat meat with a side of grain and veg; now we eat a lot of whole grain and beans, with a side of meat. We eat far less packaged food than a year ago, far less fast food, no bottled drinks, much more scratch food. We cook our potatoes, grits, rice, and soup with homemade stock that adds protein to some otherwise meatless meals.

    We do still eat out sometimes, usually at the market while shopping (great Cajun lunch counter). We order pizza from a local place about once a month, since I have not perfected pizza crust. We permit each person one fast food meal per week, but we often don’t use them all. DH and I have a date night once a month, and try to choose a local non-chain eatery we have not tried before, to get new food ideas.

    Most often used stored goods: oats, flour, sugar, dried beans, rice, canned tomatoes, canned refried beans, boxed cereal, raisins, prunes. From the freezer: chicken parts, sausage, ham hocks, butter, bacon, I stored far more oil than I use in a year. and also I over-estimated my need for flour – bread baking has not become routine yet, and I still buy bread or rolls at 2-3 local bakeries.

    I worked hard on menu plans at first, and got frustrated when they seldom worked out. I thawed too much at a time. Now, I make list of what needs to be *used* next, and cook from that, with side-trips into recipes I find on blogs or food TV. It works better for our casual eating style.

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