I've said before how difficult it is for me to menu plan before going to the grocery. I thought I'd explain a little more about why I have such a hard time. I do keep a list of items I really need from the grocery and I do go with a budget amount. Mostly though I'm a discount bin cook. I make meals around whatever I find in the discount bin or from items given to me by the food fairies. Let me show you a few examples from last Friday's shopping trip.
Barley. Good for making my own beef barley soup or adding to any other type of soup if I want. In a pinch I could cook some barley and use it in place of rice in a dish.
Jam. This does not have to be used only on toast although it's good that way. I can use it as a coating on a ham instead of pineapple. I can mix it in a cake mix then use more as the frosting. Jam can be used in many ways by substituting it for the sweet (sugar) part of any recipe.
Lime juice. Use it for marinades and for a bit of extra flavor in a smoothie.
Olive oil. Cook with it. Flavor a salad with it. Make soap with it. Use for removing eye makeup.
Beef stew. Not what I really like but good for a quick lunch. If it really tastes horrible..... let the furkid eat it.
Salsa. Use as is. No chips? Fry some potatoes and onions then pour this over top for a different type of potato dish. Add it to chili or put it on a pizza instead of the tomato sauce.
Sour cream. Ok, a question. What happens to sour cream that's past it's use by date? It's already sour so does it go good? Make sour cream muffins or cookies. Mix with a bit of miracle whip and some spices for a salad dressing over raw veggies.
Eggnog and milk. Use the eggnog for making custard or make a cake frosting from it. Freeze the milk in small containers to use a little at a time. Make a big batch of white sauce and put in the freezer. Make mozzarella cheese.
Meats. Use any recipe.
Vegetables. Put into the freezer for use in small batches.
Food fairy boxes. I never know what's going to be in them. I find lots of creative meal ideas in boxes like this.
I save things like this too. Good for adding just a little something extra to any recipe.
Ok, this is not food related but I wanted to show that I watch for bargains on other items in the discount bin too. Computer paper discounted because of a torn wrapper is good.
I've given you only a small sample of what I buy each shopping trip. It's very difficult to plan menus before going to the store when I don't know what I will find. I do my planning around what's in the pantry instead. I'm also not afraid of making substitutions in recipes. For example using jam instead of sugar or barley instead of rice. I do come up with some really strange combinations.... but that's not always a bad thing. Sometimes it results in a recipe I want to make more often.