Hello after 4 Years – Thoughts on Everyday Cooking

Homemade cranberry orange cookie cobbler with ice cream

It’s been more than 4 years since I posted here and since then, so much life has happened. I got married and now have an almost two-year old who is rambunctious, adorable and opinionated. Since this cute creature needs to be provided sustenance at frequent intervals for the foreseeable future (note: at least a decade or longer), I’ve found myself both cooking more and more efficiently which has led me to meander back to this blog with some reflections on how I approach “everyday cooking”.

The craft and challenge of everyday cooking

As part of becoming a parent and becoming older (even less-invincible diet-wise), I feel more responsibility for ensuring that my family and me eat healthily . Rising to this challenge has mostly been fun. I enjoy the creativity in trying to meet all the constraints and priorities of so-called everyday cooking. For my family, priorities include deliciousness (to 3 not-always-aligned parties), healthiness, end-to-end time required (from ingredient prep all the way to washing every dish dirtied), variety, budget, waste minimization and overall impact to our ecosystem. It’s a lot to think about so we usually don’t. Instead we rely on loosely-held, frequently broken frameworks to make the problem space of feeding ourselves on a daily basis a little more manageab

Daily Themes for Meal Planning

I find it easier to grocery shop and minimize waste by planning out meals for the week. In the spreadsheet I use to plan our meals out, these themes to provide just enough of a frame to help me map out what we should eat every day:

  • Monday – Home-style Gujarati/Punjabi food
  • Tuesday – Italian/Mexican food
  • Wednesday – Mediterranean and/or another Indian dish
  • Thursday – Takeout!
  • Friday – Wildcard although the goal is to revive pizza night in 2024
  • Saturday – “Project”
  • Sunday – Easy and/or Fun Indian

Outside Food Twice A Week

The biggest variable cost in our monthly food bill is eating out. We enjoy going out. When it comes to managing our food budget, we focus on striking a balance between food from outside and homemade food rather than pinching at the grocery story. Sustainably grown, produced and served food isn’t the cheapest but supporting locally centered, responsibly produced food is important to us. Furthermore, we have so much less control over the quality and healthiness of food when we eat out. Taking all this into account, we target 2 outside meals (eaten out or take out) per week.

Creativity Source: Pantry/Refrigerator Busters

There is so much food wasted in this world (Project Drawdown estimates 8% of global emissions is from wasted food) and in the wealthy nations like the United States, consumer food waste is a major component.

At a personal level, I get a high from finishing up ingredients in my fridge and pantry. Consequently, I really enjoy concocting things with the intent of using up things I already have.

One dish that I concocted and I was especially proud of is a “cranberry orange cookie cobbler” that made use of some leftover cranberries I inherited from family member after Thanksgiving, some oranges I found in the fridge and sugar cookie dough scraps after a day of family Christmas cookies.

Next Year: End to End Prep Time

Cleaning up is the bane of my existence. With that in mind, I want to be even more focused on the end-to-end time it takes for meals from food prep to cleaning (dishes, cleaning the counter etc)

Next Year: Shifting the beginning of the cooking week to Sunday

This year, our cooking week tended to start on Mondays. Yet, I’ve heard from so many people a key way to stay sane with homemade cooking, kids and a full time job is with Sunday meal prep. The good thing is that with the Monday holidays, we have a little buffer to ease into it.

With this rhythm of more regular cooking, I’m hoping to share more of what I make (both of my own concoction or what I’ve learned from others). At the same time, I’d love to hear from you what you feed yourself and loved ones on a regular basis and the tips and tricks you use to stay sane.

Happy Holidays!