Sorry, sorry, sorry.  For those who don’t know or don’t remember where I’m from…my home base is the lovely little state of Rhode Island, which just got smacked firmly with the effects of Hurricane Irene.  Our home is actually fine — we fared better than most of our friends and neighbors — but the kids’ school has been closed and remains closed for at least the next couple of days, J. and I are juggling time and efforts to try to care for them AND keep our work commitments in line, and technology has been semi-spotty.  Soooo…yeah, there hasn’t been a lot of blogging.

But I’m back!  And I’m enjoying a cool, fallish breeze through my office window tonight as I listen to the crickets in our backyard and think about the September meal plan.  Things have been completely batty, meal plan-wise, for the better part of a week now, thanks to good old Irene and her immobilizing effects on grocery stores, etc.  After all of that, it’s nice to just get myself back in order and plan out something fabulous. 

The MOST fabulous part of the September plan, I’ll be honest, is really that it revolves almost entirely around the Slow Food USA $5 Challenge.  In a nutshell, the $5 challenge is a day devoted to cooking “value” meals at home — meals which must cost less than $5 per person.  Of course, I know by now, as do most of you if you read this blog regularly, that $5 per person for dinner is positively LUXURIOUS from a home cook’s perspective, so I decided that not only would I participate in the challenge (along with many other amazing bloggers), but I would use it as a platform to do more than it requires.

My $5 Challenge plan contains three major steps:
1) I’m enhancing the challenge rules by adding for myself that all the food cooked in that “value” meal must be responsibly sourced; it must be as much local and organic as possible; and it must be purchased strictly from Whole Foods and the farmer’s market, so I can prove that it’s possible to maintain this lifestyle on a budget.
2) On the challenge day, September 17, I’ve invited several close friends to our home for a $5 challenge taco party.  I’m pledging to feed every one of those people for less than $5 a head, but I’ve asked each of them to please consider bringing a donation of up to $5 for our local food bank.  Hopefully we’ll raise a little money to feed a few of our neighbors in need.
3) Here on the blog, I’m expanding the challenge!  Starting in the week leading up to the Slow Food Challenge day, I’ll be sharing 5 dinners that each cost $5 or less per person.  The following week, I’ll share 4 dinners for $4 a head…then 3 dinners for $3 a head…2 dinners for $2 a head…and finally, we’ll enter October with one spectacular, healthy dinner that costs less than $1 per person to create.

It’s an exciting time for RRG!  Hopefully I can pull this all off and share the ups and downs with you.  In the meantime, though, I’ll provide a teaser — the meal plan.

Thursday, 9/1: Quesadillas and roasted veggies
Friday, 9/2: Fend night
Saturday, 9/3 – Tuesday, 9/6: We’ve got plans for the long weekend that do NOT involve me cooking, so I’ll just try to check in here once or twice to share what we end up eating.  Happy Labor Day!
Wednesday, 9/7: Tuna-artichoke panini, salad, fruit
Thursday, 9/8: Grilled lemon-herb chicken breasts and veggies, cous cous
Friday, 9/9: Whole wheat pasta with tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella
Saturday, 9/10: Turkey sliders and farmer’s market salads
Sunday, 9/11: 40-clove garlic chicken and mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables
Monday, 9/12: Potato pancakes with smoked salmon, salad
Tuesday, 9/13: Slow cooker — California chuck roast and vegetables, cheesy potato casserole
Wednesday, 9/14: Prosciutto flatbreads and white bean soup
Thursday, 9/15: Beet and corn panzanella, greens, fruit
Friday, 9/16: Fend
Saturday, 9/17: $5 Taco Party!
Sunday, 9/18: Lasagna and salad
Monday, 9/19: Vegetable grilled cheese and fruit fondue
Tuesday, 9/20: Slow cooker — white bean and chicken chili, whole wheat corn muffins, and avocado salad
Wednesday, 9/21: Spinach and pepperoni calzones
Thursday, 9/22: Lamb mini-meatballs, whole-wheat pita, hummus and salad
Friday, 9/23: Fend
Saturday, 9/24: Carrot ginger soup and vegetable wontons
Sunday, 9/25: Sunday roast chicken, wild rice, vegetables
Monday, 9/26: Frittata and homemade bread
Tuesday, 9/27: Slow cooker — spaghetti with Mom’s Meat Sauce, salad
Wednesday, 9/28: Vegetarian stir-fry and brown rice
Thursday, 9/29: Parmesan chicken cutlets and roasted vegetables
Friday, 9/30: Fend