Thursday, August 7, 2014

Plan and Adapt

Thursdays the plan is to make a fresh pot of beans along with cornbread and a vegetable. I like planning a weekly menu, especially since mine is based on what I have in the pantry as well as a master menu so I just plug in meals without having to think much about it.

However, I knew this week that the refrigerator held leftover whole beans from Tuesday as well as leftover beans from last Thursday that had been pureed and used in Friday's pupusas but were not completley used up. Neither container was enough for a meal by themselves, but together I would have enough for tacos.

(I am not especially squeamish about leftover beans, or leftovers in general. We don't eat meat, eggs, or dairy so none of my leftovers have those in them. We do try to eat leftovers in a timely manner, but week old beans are okay with me.)

I decided to make the cornbread anyway, to get started on using my storage popcorn. I knew I needed to find a great recipe that I can turn to again and again. I had a winner (I'll post on it later), and found that cornbread made with freshly ground corn has a sweetness that can't be beat.

For our main meal I combined the two kinds of beans (both were pinto, one was blended and one was whole) and then smashed them together in some hot oil. Cooking beans in oil is a treat around here; I did it to make them more tasty as leftover beans can taste old; I suspect this is why refried beans were invented.

Checking the vegetables, I realized that the Mexican squash had been purchased a week ago so I decided to use it today. I diced it small and sautéed it in oil with salt and pepper. It was a tiny bit bitter, but I knew it wouldn't be that noticeable when put into a taco with beans and other ingredients.

In searching through the leftovers I also found a pupusa from last Friday, so I heated that and gave it to T as part of his main meal.

I shredded some cabbage very finely; we like cabbage on tacos just as much as we like lettuce and it has the plus of being less expensive and longer keeping. Then I smashed an avocado and added a tablespoon of vegan mayo to stretch it just a bit. I put salsa on the table, heated our corn tortillas on a cast iron griddle, and then we sat down to eat.

Food waste is rampant in the United States; taking the time to search our refrigerators for leftovers and actually eating them is one thing we can do not to contribute to food waste. In a few more days I might have felt that I needed to toss the leftover beans and pupusa. Instead, I made a meal from them. I also saved money; it might not have been much, perhaps the cost of 1/2# of beans and 1/4# of masa, but that is still 52¢. But that really isn't my main reason for avoiding food waste; the reality is that food is a precious resource and that we should treat it as such and not waste it.

Food waste can be tackled from many angles. We can:

Not buy more food than we will use before it goes bad.
Have a plan to use the food we do buy before it goes bad.
Not cook more than we need so that our leftovers don't go to waste.
Use our leftovers.

Using leftovers takes remembering that they are there, and sometimes it takes ingenuity in coming up with a new way to eat them (no one in our family takes a lunch so we don't have that option, although we can shift leftovers to dinner). It also takes accepting that a meal might be good but not the best you've ever had. Papa prefers fresh beans but that doesn't mean he won't eat bean leftovers.

So the takeaway here is that it is good to have a plan, but it is even better to be flexible and to adapt the plan as necessary to make sure you eat all the food in your refrigerator!

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