1) In preparation for grocery shopping, clean and organize your refrigerator. Do a little happy dance because you find no spoiled or wasted food! YAY! In true nerd fashion, stand back and admire the neatness and order. Take a picture for your blog, because your readers are the only ones who can possibly understand how weirdly happy a clean refrigerator makes you.
2) Consider an almost-empty jar of cinnamon applesauce, which must be used up soon.
3) Go to your trusty AllRecipes ingredient search, and type in “applesauce.” Sort results by rating, and search the top-rated recipes for something that sounds appealing to you. Settle on a recipe for Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread.
4) Cream together butter and sugar as directed. Scrape every last bit of applesauce out of the jar. The recipe calls for 1 cup of plain, chunky applesauce, but yours is not plain or chunky, and you have about 1 1/4 cups. Decide this will probably be fine, and stir it in.
5) Recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Reduce this to 1 teaspoon, because the oatmeal and applesauce both contain cinnamon.
6) Recipe calls for 2 packets of instant, apple cinnamon oatmeal, but you used those packets when you made modified oatmeal crumb cake, to use up some leftover apple butter. Settle on “cinnamon roll” flavor instead. Add one packet to the batter.
7) Mix in remaining ingredients, and pour finished batter into greased 9×5 loaf pan. Recipe says to sprinkle the other oatmeal packet on top. Decide that children will probably object to oats on top of their bread, and will try to pick them off, and this will annoy you.
8) Taste instant oatmeal, which is fairly sweet. Pour packet into measuring cup. It contains about a half cup. Decide to make it into streusel topping instead.
9) Dig out favorite apple crisp recipe and survey ingredients for crumb topping. Combine oats with 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 cup melted butter. Reduce sugar from 1/2 to 1/4 cup, to account for the sweetness of the oatmeal. Sprinkle streusel evenly on top of batter.
10) Bake as directed. After 60 minutes, the bread is still not quite set in the center. Return it to the oven for 15 more minutes.
11) The finished bread is moist and delicious, and everyone loves it. Congratulate yourself on your success!
And there you have it. This is basically how I approach meal planning every day. I look in the fridge to see what needs to be used up, and then I figure out what to do with it. This works much better for me than long-range menu planning because it insures that absolutely no food is wasted.
Also, making something great out of a bunch of odds and ends does require a bit of a magic touch, so it gives me a real feeling of accomplishment. It reminds me of this awesome quote from Elsa Schiaperelli,
“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.”