The Supper Log

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My kids love to make fun of my supper log. Because I have a blog, they’ve dubbed it the slog. I let them laugh. Indeed, I laugh along with them, reveling in the genius which I pull off every week.

The idea was hatched many years ago . . .

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“I don’t know what to make for supper.”

The frustration fell from her mouth. The defeat was displayed on her face. The I’m-just-a-hamster-in-a-wheel-and-I-am-doomed-to-being-trapped-forever attitude emanated from her entire being.

My mom was as fine a person as one would find at keeping a house—spotless, despite five kids—making sure our clothes were clean—laundry day was every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—and feeding us—we sat down to supper five minutes after Dad arrived home from work. She looked out for our spiritual care—we were in church every Sunday, and in religion class all the way through high school—that we would grow to be respectable people—she answered every bad act of ours with the lesson we needed to learn—and saw to our physical health—our doctor and dentist and eye doctor could set their calendars by us.

Yet, for all of her organizational skills and concern to do things right and well, she never figured out the supper thing, how to keep herself from those moments when she didn’t know what to make for the evening meal.

I got married and, sure enough, my first wife experienced the same thing. I once suggested she keep track of our evening meals. Write them down, I said, and then you can look at the list and achieve two things: You can see how long ago we had a particular dish and then not make things either too close together or too far apart, and it could serve as inspiration, as in, “I completely forgot about that spiffy Spam loaf I made three months ago, and we loved it so much!”

She never did log our suppers. Suggesting the same to Julie, neither did she. As Julie took on regular work hours and lots of overtime, I took over more of the meals. I did not take my own advice.

And then I retired. And became the full time cook. And decided that I would not be defeated.

I began the supper log.

Every Monday through Thursday, it saves my hide.

Here’s how I use it. I do the grocery shopping on the weekend. Before I go, I sit down at my computer. I bring up the supper log. My stack of recipes is within my grasp, on the shelf next to me.

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I scan the list of meals I’ve recently made, looking for the popular ones for any that it’s time I repeat them. These are things like chili and tacos—if I don’t make tacos every couple of weeks, there’s trouble brewing for me. If it is time for a popular item, I plug it in first.

As I continue to scan the list, I want to build variety into the week. Meals featuring chicken or ground beef are weekly items. Should a week have two of the same meat—say, tacos and hamburger casserole—I will split them up. In this case, I might place tacos on Monday—Julie loves the leftover taco meat for lunches at work—and hamburger casserole on Thursday.

I only have four days to address because on Fridays we always have pizza, and on Saturday we either dine at a restaurant or get take-out, and then Sunday suppers for me are popcorn, made the old-fashioned way on the stove, with Julie usually finishing off leftovers.

When I find myself stuck, with only three days filled in and finding other meals uninspiring, I like to find new recipes. Often, during the week, I had been searching for something new and am ready to plug into the supper log. Sometimes, I specifically am looking for a new chicken dish, or to find other ways to use vegetables—a recent cauliflower casserole was a nice catch—and do internet searches on these.

Doing this, new dishes which have added to our supper rotation are Chicken Bruschetta, Enchilada Pie (of which I have created my own version, and it is preferred by my family), and Corn Muffin Taco Pie.

Once I have suppers planned for each of the four days, I find the recipes, take them to the kitchen, and grab the grocery list off the refrigerator. I go through each recipe, look to see if I have what I need, and put on the list what I don’t. After covering the recipes, I scan the entire kitchen for whatever we need and envision the contents of the downstairs freezer, and fill out my list.

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When Monday arrives, I am ready. More than ready, I am free from frustration, and I am excited for the day. I look at the supper log and figure out what time I need to begin cooking. For complex things, I plan which thing needs to come first. If something requires extra prep time, or needs to simmer for awhile, I don’t get caught off guard. If it seems that more than one thing needs to happen at a time, I ready everything I can beforehand, such as peeling potatoes, or getting all of the ingredients together for an involved recipe, or starting something that can be left midway while I go to something else.

I know, I know, many of you are busy at work and don’t have this prep time. All the more reason to keep the supper log. Planning your meals will allow you to be ready for your quick turnaround time, and keep you from the easy opt-out, yet another fast food meal, less than healthy and more bucks out of your wallet.

Lots of meals can be prepared ahead of time, and slow-cooker recipes abound. Other recipes take little time—tacos—not too much time—chili—but you have to be sure to have the ingredients on hand and a plan for that short window of time between arriving home from work and sitting down to eat.

It all begins with the supper log.  The slog.

Come, slog with me!

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