I don’t want to be a self-help type—or perhaps I do—but I think everyone should do an exercise where they think about the flavors they love most, their nonnegotiable condiments, the meals they never mind repeating, and write it all down. This will form the basis of one’s pantry and fridge, and thus it will determine the weeknight eating strategy.
What I really love, if I break it down, is salt—from salt itself, from adobo and sazón, from olives. I also really love briny stuff, like pickled peppers, capers. I love heat and have a whole shelf in the fridge dedicated to hot sauces, like a bro in the year 2010. I can’t go without Dijon mustard or harissa or gochujang. We grow basil, oregano brujo, parsley, arugula, and hopefully soon cilantro in the garden; these and dill are my staple fresh herbs and arugula is our go-to salad green. I need beans and I need tofu, lemon, tahini, plantains, and brown rice. Tomato paste and canned whole peeled tomatoes are essential. I love ordering a locally made garbanzo bean tempeh on occasion. A big sourdough loaf from a local bakery is always in the freezer. There is no life without olive oil and coconut oil; no joy without some all-purpose flour as well as garbanzo flour. These staples are usually purchased at various shops, as outlined in my essay “On Moving,” though I have to order flour, because a 5-pound bag of non-organic King Arthur all-purpose sells locally for $12.99.
The farmers’ market haul varies weekly but we tend to rely on it for kale, bok choy, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, and a host of other fresh stuff (aforementioned plantains, bananas). I’ve learned not to go too wild there, though, and usually only buy one thing I’ve never cooked with per week, if that, so nothing goes to waste. My meal planning is really about minimal visits to the store and little waste.
As I’ve written before, for breakfast, I usually eat oatmeal. For lunch, we eat dinner leftovers or just a salad with sourdough bread toasted in olive oil. I always make a big batch of salad dressing once per week, either a basic Dijon vinaigrette or a Balsamic vinaigrette, depending on the muse, by just adding ingredients to old jars and shaking really hard.
When it comes to dinners, we have a rotation that depends on mood but are basically “concepts” that lend themselves, always, to what we have available in the house. I built the concepts around what we like to eat most, and so we always have the stuff available to make them. I think it’s a really good way to go about weekday dinners, when you don’t want to think. You can throw out one of the concepts to your significant other or family or housemates and see which sticks.
These are what we do: