Dear readers,

Summers are in and how! Getting into the kitchen has become a nightmare in this hot humid weather; and we are trying our best to keep it short and simple to avoid long and elaborate cooking charades. Encouraged by some ‘organise your week’ online tips by larger than life home goddesses, I have just about started to my weekly grocery shopping and menu planning.

I’ve started writing down what’s on hand that I want to finish before buying ‘more food on impulse and then not having enough space to store them; storage is especially a concern in this hot and humid weather, this will be followed by monsoons which would of course be worse. I noticed writing available stock in pantry in the order of their age and in the order I want to get rid of them gainfully, helps a mighty lot. Was basically never a planner at home as I was at work, but in essence I am now actually following the same ‘organising’ ritual I have been using at work to get my job done with minimal financial losses.

Using up my pantry:

Here are a couple of examples of stuff I’ve been waiting to finish –

I have a pack of cornmeal that I can use up in:

  • Cornmeal pancakes
  • Eggy polenta with tomato mushrooms
  • Grits with sausage/bacon and mushrooms/spinach

I have some dates which will fit easily into:
– a Mediterranean salads with millet, dates and almonds

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I picked up some Raw mango which am using up for summery Bengali delights such as:

  • Raw mango daal (toker daal)
  • Raw mango and turmeric chutney
  • Fish curry with raw mango (Maacher kacha aam diye jhol)
  • Sour fish chutney (maacher tok)
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Fish in a summery peppery curry with vegetables

There is a pack of foxtail millet lying around and I have bookmarked the following I can do with it:

  • Millet carrot rice (with cashews)
  • Millet lemon rice
  • Curd rice
  • Millet upma
  • Millet porridge
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Millet as a rice substitute – served here with coffee cream chicken
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Hainanese chicken with millet

A large batch of spicy peppery Ratlami sev came with another free pack; this could practically go on anything starting from:

  • Aloo chaat
  • Cucumber tomato chaat
  • Mango and onion salsa
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Fish in a summery peppery curry with vegetables

Likewise with the half a pack of ragi flour, am thinking of making something I had and loved in Nepal:
Kodo ko roti ( a roti made with ghee and sugar)

Easing up weekly menu planning

Since rushing back home and almost immediately into the kitchen leaves little room to stop, think and ideate on what can be made, I finally succumbed to a Sheldon Cooper type food days. For example;

  • Mon-veg day – roti sabzi/wraps day
  • Tuesday- grilled/stir-fried meat and salad
  • Wed-pasta and herbed toast day
  • Thurs-soup and grilled meat day
  • Fri-momos/bruschettas for movie nite
  • Sat-bong detox – fresh fish day
  • Sun-bong special food – meat/fish

Please note the weekend is dedicated to bong food – reason being a full fledged Bong meal is our ultimate favorite and while weekdays I am battling for time in the kitchen, weekends are the only time I can let myself go at cooking, serving and taking the time to sit and savour the meal together. While the planning takes away the fun of cooking for impromptu cravings, it eliminates the drudgery of applying ones mind and battling with too many choices/options/opinions and helps zero in on a shorter list. These are lined up based on our usual eating trends over the years, and this will obviously vary from one family to another, depending on their favorites. This also sets the tone for the next stage of planning which is to prepare a handy list of staple orders.

Saving time on grocery shopping

a) Shopping lists

On this, I have evolved. From scratching wishlists on a torn corner of a newspaper just before I embark on a visit to the market, I now do it online in a stratified manner. It flows down from the seasonal menu plan – requirements – existing stock to use up.

There is a list of staples such as:

Items I always want in my freezer –

  • Bacon rolls
  • Sausages
  • Mince meat
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen fruit packs

The rest of the fridge is stuffed with seasonal veggies and fruits. In summer, for example, I like to stock up on cool salad essentials such as:

  • Cucumber, lettuce, french beans and similar crunchy greens
  • Fruits such as melons, grapes, apples
  • Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds
  • Cheese such as bocconcini, mozarella, feta, parmesan
  • Lime, lemon, oranges/citrus fruits and olive oil – for salad dressings

Other staples:

Grains and pulses – replenished monthly
Spices are bought on a need-basis

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b) Going online– Online grocery stores have made my job simple with their scratch list and readymade list of essentials and of course, the ability to order in without venturing out into the sun. I had started with Grofers, tried out Freshdely and a few other local options before settling down for Bigbasket which is my current favorite for the expansive stock and timely delivery options.

A lot of people use mobile-based apps for menu planning and shopping organisers; I am yet to get there since most of them are online and I prefer something offline that I can refer to, on the go. Like say, the memory.

 

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