Meal Planning takes the edge off cooking for yourself or your family. It saves money, minimizes food waste, and maximizes your potential for healthy eating. But it’s not always easy. Here are some of the tips that will be highlighted in The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre®’s upcoming class for recent participants in a six-week community class.
By the time you’re planning your meals for the week, much of your week may already be scheduled. Start by looking ahead to see how many meals you will need to cook, compared to when you have the most time available to do it. If you have dinner plans one night, you only need four weeknight dinners, but if your weeknights are pretty busy, you might opt for meals that you can make over the weekend, or meals that come together quickly.
Once you have an idea of how many meals you’ll be cooking and when you’ll be cooking them, choose your recipes. Be sure to plan around ingredients that you already have and to consider what’s in season and what’s on sale. Try keeping a list of your favorite recipes, and recipes that you want to try, for easy inspiration, and plan to cook once and eat twice whenever you can. Double or triple a recipe to be sure that you’ll have leftovers, and be creative. Make leftover stir-fried vegetables into a burrito. Use leftover grilled fish to make fish tacos. Plan around main dishes, and keep greens, cut up fruit, and frozen vegetables or grains on hand for a quick side.
After choosing your recipes, you can start your shopping list, including staples for quick meals, like sandwiches, stir fries, or salads. Build a to-do list around the ingredients as you put them away. If you’re using dried beans, create a reminder for yourself to soak them the night before. If you’re using frozen ingredients, create a reminder to thaw them.
And of course, don’t be afraid to start small. If meal planning seems intimidating, set a goal of preparing one extra meal over the weekend, cooking an additional night at home during the week, or incorporating ingredients from one meal into the next. See how it goes, and build from there!
For more cooking tips and recipes to add to your meal planning repertoire, sign up for one of our upcoming classes! Full listing here: http://sustainablefoodcenter.org/programs/the-happy-kitchen/public-cooking-classes