It’s been a month since we started getting our farm share from Tangletown Gardens Farm. It’s also been about that long since I started to do more meal planning and cooking, using my new cookbook I’m completely obsessed with, The Minimalist Kitchen, written by a local Minneapolis foodie and blogger, The Faux Martha.
To help me get started in this process, I followed the process in The Minimalist Kitchen to really pare down my kitchen with a huge clean-out. Pretty much any time I start a new project, it begins the same way: with a massive clean-out and organizational overhaul. In order to create new habits and structures, we have to create the space for them to exist.
So I cleaned out and organized my pantry, but I also cleaned out and organized all of my cooking tools, including pots, pans, bakeware, and utensils. I didn’t get rid of anything, but I did shift some items into storage that I use very rarely, like the rolling pin I only ever use when baking Christmas cookies. This process created the feeling of less clutter, with everything that I do use regularly more accessible and easy to grab.
I also had the important realization that there aren’t really any real shortcuts if you are dedicated to feeding your family well on a regular basis. Meal planning, shopping, and cooking all take up some pretty serious time, and while I believe the benefits to our health and wellbeing are worth it, this is a big undertaking and theres’t not really any way around that.
I find that meal planning, especially in combination with using up whatever comes that week in our farm share, requires a lot of creative energy. I have to set aside some time, preferably on a weekend morning, when I’m feeling fresh, away from kids, and highly caffeinated.
I also can’t really stand cooking if my kids are in the kitchen. I’ve taken over the majority of cooking in our house, but only on the condition that I get to do it with an empty kitchen. If I have a plan in place of what to make and the ingredients ready to go when dinnertime rolls around, cooking feels less like a chore and more like some much-needed alone time.
Here are a few other takeaways a month into more serious meal planning and cooking with my CSA:
Using produce from the CSA has forced me to stray from my regular stand-by veggies and eat a much greater variety of produce. The only vegetable that I really don’t like are collards, and I find myself wanting to skip them or trade them in when they appear.
I also find myself feeling SUPER guilty if I let anything go bad before using it, and I think that's because I have such a bigger connection to this food than I do with food that I buy at the grocery store. It's always painful to throw away produce that went bad before you got a chance to use it, but when you have been to the farm and you've seen where it grows and who harvests it and all that work that goes into getting it to you, there is definitely an added level of motivation to use everything and use it well.
I’m finding that planning out recipes and cooking 3-4 nights a week is about my max right now. I'm usually gone at least one night per week teaching childbirth education classes, and then the other nights we just do leftovers, takeout, or something super simple.
One drawback is that it can be kind of depressing to slave away in the kitchen and then have your three-year-old take one look at what you've made and request something else. It's really important to me that my kids try new foods, but it's also challenging to think of a back-up meal for them that isn't Cheerios or pasta. Any tips for picky toddlers are much appreciated! My one-year-old will still pretty much eat anything that’s put in front of her, including legos.
That’s where I am right now. I find myself getting into much more of a routine now and also am seeing the ingredients that I use all the time, so I can start buying them in bulk. I’ve also checked out some additional local grocery stores (Minnesotans love their boutique grocery stores!) and will post soon about where I’ve been shopping for what.
Here’s to another month of fresh Minnesota-grown produce. I always think of my late grandmother in August, who just loved eating corn on the cob this time of year.