Managing the inventory

Perhaps your husband leaves his dirty socks on the floor.  Maybe he leaves the toilet lid up.  I would do anything to trade dirty socks for my husband’s annoying habit:  he is a micro-manager of food.

He tells me that I need to be constantly “managing the inventory” of our refrigerator, and sometimes he helps me along by hiding things in the dark corners of our cooling machine so that I finish unused items first.

Sometimes I find cheerful post-its on the kitchen counter:

“Love you!  And don’t forget to cook those green beans today!  They are looking a little wilted!  Have a great day!”

I know.  It’s weird.

He micro-manages mainly on Saturday mornings.  You can always find him first thing, hair disheveled, unshaven, rearranging egg cartons and spinach bags. 

“Someone needs to eat up this romaine lettuce ASAP!”  he shouts, even though it is 7 a.m.  The boys all look to me, panic on their faces, scared to death that they will have to eat Caesar salad for breakfast.  (It is hard enough to get them to eat it at night on a full day’s worth of calorie-burning.)

“Ok.  Who is up for some leftover hot dogs cut up in a bowl of refried beans, all covered in questionably moldy cheese?  Anyone?”

The boys run and hide. I go back to bed.

MFP, bless his heart, means well.  He is trying to make sure nothing goes to waste.  Even when I reassure him that I haven’t thrown any food away since 1998, he persists with his inventory-monitoring.

And yes, I do wish he would leave dirty socks on the floor instead. 

Last night while I was driving Oldest down to work on a school project with a friend, the topic of food came up.

“You know, mom, I haven’t eaten any of the foods that my friends talk about at school.  You know, exotic things.  Like I didn’t know what Sriracha was when one of my teachers mentioned it in class today.”

“Seriously? But we have Sriracha in the cabinet.  But now that you mention it, I suppose we don’t really take you guys out to eat interesting foods very often.  We did when we just had you– you ate Indian food, falafels– all that stuff.  But then you had a little brother and suddenly there were two of you, and then not too long afterward three of you, all wiggling out of your chairs, and crawling underneath the tables, and it just didn’t seem worth it anymore.”

“Oh yeah, I remember you telling me that there were monsters under the table!”

“Did I?  Sorry.  I guess I was desperate to not have you peel off and eat underneath-the-table gum…”

To rectify my children’s spice-deprivation, and my husband’s refrigerator OCD, I have been planning my menus diligently each week, making sure that I include foreign flavors alongside the more American-inspired fare that Youngest prefers.

This week I served them Chicken Tikka Masala one night and crockpot vegetable soup another.

And so far the inventory situation is totally under control, not that it was ever out-of-control, but still.  By the end of the week, the fridge is nearly bare.  Which makes MFP so freaking happy!  And no more Caesar salad for breakfast!  Hooray.

One drawback, however,  is that I am only buying ingredients for meals, plus a few desserts and some basic snacks.

Which means that Middle, termite extraordinaire, is starving all the time.  He cannot get enough food to support his wiry, athletic frame.  .

And so a third benefit has arisen from my new system.  Middle has learned to bake cookies from scratch.

I left to attend a meeting the other night, and when I returned there was a nice plate of warm, chocolate chips cookies waiting for me on the dining room table. I had served him soup for dinner, with a side of orange chicken and had also watched as he munched his way from one end to the other of an enormous baguette, so I thought he was fully topped off. Silly me.

(He has gotten a lot better at cooking since he served me those burned pancakes the other day.)

Yes, I was thrilled to have his leftover cookies to eat. I was not-so-thrilled to have a kitchen to clean up at 9:30 p.m. when ya’ll all know that my bedtime is 9 p.m. (I don’t turn into a pumpkin, but sadly I do turn into a beee-aacch past 10 p.m.)

So besides the benefits of menu-planning, I have learned a few new things about my family during this process:

Middle’s wife will some day find herself writing a blog post about how her husband is an incredible cook, but HE NEVER FREAKING CLEANS UP AFTERWARDS!  (And he will leave his dirty socks on the floor.  Like, for sure.)

In addition, I didn’t realize what a mental struggle it would be for me to have nearly-bare cupboards while residing so very close to the San Andreas fault.

If disaster strikes, you know who I am going to blame, right?

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