A list of flexible recipe categories is very helpful to me today. Each week, I use these six categories to guide my meal planning + grocery list making. On the seventh day of the week, we might order pizza (+ recycle the box), go out to eat (somewhere with real plates) or eat leftovers. Food almost never goes to waste this way.
So...the first category we'll dive into is soup or salad. In the summer, we are more likely to eat salad...in the winter, it is almost always soup. We like hearty soups + salads that really count as meals...so I make sure there are in-season vegetables, protein + grains involved. Soups + salads are very simple + forgiving, so this can be a great fridge-clean-out meal to eat just before grocery day.
When I first started cooking, I wasn't exactly sure how to get soup to taste like soup rather than stuff floating around in water. Here's what works for me now:
-heat some olive oil over medium heat + add some chopped onion (I use about 1/6 of a big red onion) + cook until translucent
-add water, vegetables, protein, spices, grain + a spoonful of bouillon (I like this brand) + bring to a boil
-reduce heat + simmer until vegetables are tender + grain is cooked
-adding a squeeze of lime, small glug of vinegar, coconut milk or cream after removing from heat often adds a great hit of flavor or creaminess
The soup above was the one we ate last week. It started with the olive oil + onion, had a broth of bouillon, water + tomato sauce (a chopped tomato works well too), and also included carrots, broccoli, chickpeas (cooked + frozen), rice (extra cooked earlier in the week), salt, cayenne + cilantro. It might sound like there are lots of ingredients to gather, but one of the reasons that we ended up with this combination is that I already had rice in a jar and tomato sauce + chickpeas in the freezer when I made my grocery list. We already had onion + bouillon + spices. I wanted broccoli + cilantro for different meals this week, so used what I knew would be leftover in this meal. The only thing that went on the grocery list for this soup was carrots. I want my meals to fit together like puzzle pieces. That way we save money + eat everything we buy.
Zero-waste salads are simple enough to put together with seasonal ingredients. Homegrown herbs, nuts, seeds + cheeses are tasty additions. My favorite dressings are simple combinations of olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, mustard, salt + pepper. I also like a mixture of yogurt + salsa as a dressing.
Soup + salad are easily adjustable for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free or other dietary needs or preferences. Since I cook for a family of four, we usually eat all of what I make. If I were cooking for one or two, I would put some into jars for dinners or lunches later in the week.
More soup + salad inspiration here. :)