One of the things I'm determined to do as the Head Household Chef, or HHC (not to be confused with Head Husband In Charge, or HHIC), is to avoid repetitiveness with my meals. Anybody can do spaghetti every Thursday and tacos on Tuesday, but I've always fancied myself an above average cook, so this will be one area where I separate myself from the pack.
What I've started to compile are some of the recipes that I try out at home, and that my wife and I generally enjoy. We typically get recipes from magazines like Cooking Light or Food and Wine, as well as from The Food Network's various TV shows. There are a few prerequisites for anything I make, guidelines that not only increase our likelihood of enjoying the meal, but that also help us stay within our budget.
The first step in my weekly meal plan is to look in our freezer and scope out the meat situation. It may sound odd to plan the meals this way, but I save a lot of money at the grocery store by buying what's on sale or marked down and then deciding what to do with it later. Then, with the freezer stocked I'll flip through a stack of "recipes of interest" to see what my options are. I generally shop on Monday or Tuesday, then wait until Thursday or Friday to plan meals. This allows me to plan a few meals based on what's currently on hand, and the rest I plan for after my shopping trip. This forces me to not only use items that may be close to the end of their shelf life, but to generally run the inventory down.
Another advantage to this method is that it allows me to choose recipes that have ingredients in common, which helps control waste. If I sound like a restaurant nerd, well, that's because I am. But that background comes in handy. I generally won't choose a recipe if I have to purchase more than 2 ingredients specifically for it, unless they're staples that I'm just out of at the time.
The result of this is that we generally, for a family of 4 who eat at home about 98% of the time, average between $50 and $75 per week in grocery costs. And we're generally not on the Dave Ramsey "rice and beans, beans and rice" diet . . this week's meal plan calls for chicken stuffed with leeks, shitakes, and mozzerella, steak with peanut sauce and broccoli, and cajun shrimp orecchiette.
I am putting together an easy-to-access list of many of our favorite recipes, just hoping that other HHC's out there (whether they're dads or moms) can enhance their families' menus. I'd love to hear from anyone who wants to share some of their favorite family recipes with the rest of us, as well. I'll keep you all posted and provide a link when the recipe list is up and running.