Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Key to eating Locally and Seasonally . . . . . .

Is a Local and Seasonal Meal Plan.

I have a Menu Plan up in the corner, but I'll confess now, I don't use that much anymore. It was a good start, and I think that it is a good idea in general to have a menu plan. If you go to the store/farmer's market without a menu plan, then you end up buying stuff, but not having a plan of how/when you are going to use it, and too often, then food goes to waste. Also, when I don't have a menu plan, WAY too often, it gets to be 6:30 at night and I'm still scrambling around trying to figure out what to fix for dinner that night.

One of the things that I really like about Local/Seasonal meal plans is that it ensures that you use items that are available during that season. It also helps so that you select recipes that use those kind of items instead of using recipes that use items that aren't available at that time of year.

I talked about the idea of setting up Seasonal Notebooks and one of the main things that I was planning on doing was including a Seasonal Meal plan and the recipes for the different meals. Uh, I haven't had time to do it yet. But I still feel like it is a great idea. I need to break up the job into small chunks so that I can get it done. I need to remember to do that with lots of things - too often, I get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing.

Anyway, here are some general tips for local/seasonal menu planning.

1. Check your refrigerator (focus on things that you need to use up before they go bad) and freezer to see what you have.

2. Check your pantry/food storage to see what you have. It is helpful if you use inventory sheets, especially when you are starting out. Now I pretty much have the list of what we have in memorized and it just takes me a quick glance to see how many we have used. And the beauty of canning (and freezing and drying) is that it lets you eat local food that isn't in season without having to BUY it out of season.

3. Look at a list of what foods are available in your area for that month. (Again, here is where preserving food is helpful in say, WINTER. There is very little that is growing in Illinois from December through March, so if you don't preserve food, your menu would probably have to lean heavy on food that is available locally year round like beef, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, and cheese.)

4. Create a menu. I find it easiest to plan for a month, and buy most things once a month, but I also create a weekly shopping list for produce and dairy. Focus on meals that use the items that are available that month and the food that you have in your fridge/freezer/pantry/food storage.

5. Find recipes for your meals. Focus on recipes that use the items that are available that month and the food that you have in your fridge/freezer/pantry/food storage.

6. Check your spices/cupboards, etc. to make sure you have the items necessary for your recipes.

6. Make a shopping list. Like I said in step #4, I make two shopping lists - a monthly shopping list and a weekly shopping list.

I would like to get a Summer menu plan done in the next week or so before the bulk of fruits and vegetables are ready for harvesting. When I finish, I'll probably post it here, but please just use it as an example. What my family eats and your family eats is probably different. And if you don't live in Illinois, what you have available is probably different.

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