Being mindful in the kitchen

Having moved to Vietnam almost 2 months ago, I discovered that my main challenge for a ‘normal’ lifestyle was food. Namely access to food. The nearest properly stocked supermarket is 3 hours drive. Big C Supermarket in Vinh City has shopping trolleys, more than one type of soap and various imported cheeses. My new equivalent of paradise. We are simplifying our life, but we still gotta eat.

My first trip to Big C on my second week of being in Vietnam was a joy. I made a day trip out of it (with packed snacks and water and reading material for the road), made a shopping list (which I completely ignored once I set foot in the store) and browsed every section with tremendous pleasure. I found chocolate chip cookies, blue cheese and even grapes. I shopped with my eyes and stomach more than with rationale. And exactly 6 days later, my supplies finished. That caught me by surprise, as I was convinced that we can live off them for 2 weeks. I tried: cooking by instinct (that is every morning when I woke up I decided what I felt like eating), cooking by diet (that usually stops at having a healthy breakfast followed by numerous snacks in between – not a winner) or cooking by supplies (this is how we had pasta with ready made sauce 3 days/week). It was not working out, so I came up with the only solution for our situation: meal planning.

I decided to make a list for pantry items that I would buy a bit more of. Thanks to Stone Soup and the simplified lists of Jules Clancy I did not have to overbuy or over-think at this stage.

That was just the beginning and I knew that I had to make a weekly menu in order to be efficient, mindful and not hungry.

This takes a bit of research and an honest assessment of your cooking talents. Mine are almost nonexistent and I am also lacking in the patience department. The answer came by itself: easy and quick, minimum chopping and least time in the kitchen.

Assign one morning a week for heavy cooking. In my case, I chose to prepare all my ingredients for the following week Saturday morning. As per my menu, I had 4 chicken dishes. So i prepared 4 portions of chicken and froze them.

I also prepared the stir fry beef with veggies and froze it. I cleaned and chopped all vegetables that I needed and froze it. When Tuesday comes, I know I only have to take the chicken out of the freeze together with the beans, a little bit of water and condiments, and 30 min in the oven and that is my meal.

Use the leftovers I had quite a lot of bread leftover, so I made a bread pudding. Easy, fast and an instant hit with my husband. Whatever you have left in your fridge,  type in the search engine of your favorite cooking website. You might be surprised to find easy recipes that you will do over and over again. Also, if you have leftover fruits, make a fruit salad Рa great breakfast, snack or dessert.

Explore and find your style When I was a child, I remember the classic meal that we had over and over again: meat with potatoes. They could come in different styles: baked, fried, boiled, steamed or poached. In the end they were still meat with potatoes. As I started cooking, I found myself repeating the same recipes my mom made for us. It took effort and training for my taste buds to break from the vicious cycle and start making more fun dishes like curries, sushi, stir fries and spicy sauces. I am still exploring…

If you want to get some inspiration from my weekly meal plans, send me an email at squiko.o@gmail.com and I will send them to you every Saturday.

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