Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Make meal planning a success!

It's hard to plan meals! You have to have the time and the energy, and it helps to be in the mood to do it. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. This week, I planned my meals on Sunday and went shopping Monday. Here's what my week of dinners looks like:

Monday: Tofu and vegetables with Thai peanut sauce
Tuesday: Hawaiian "Chicken" with broccoli and quinoa
Wednesday: Bean chili, cornbread, and salad
Thursday: Spelt pasta, lentil "meatballs," veggies, marinara
Friday: Roasted vegetable pizza

It's Tuesday, and so far so good. One trick that saves a lot of trouble is the gadget pictured above: it's a double-decker steamer. Basically the steamer (which is a pot with holes) nests inside and atop a regular pot. The beauty is, that you can either just boil water in the pot, or, cook food. Either way, the stuff in the steamer gets steamed. For example, tonight I steamed the broccoli right on top of the cooking quinoa. Last night I steamed green beans right over the rice. This saves energy (one stove burner instead of 2), saves cleanup time, and keeps things neater.

Another trick: do a little pantry inventory to get started on your planning. Do you have a jar of curry, a packet of taco seasoning, or a can of black beans sitting around? Plan around what you have. If you're like me and keep lots of non-perishables in your pantry (usually because of a sale too good to pass up), then most of your shopping will be fresh produce and bulk grains and beans.

There are other tricks of the trade: using a pressure cooker or crock pot; keeping frozen veggies and canned beans for when you're in a pinch; and learning how to turn a salad into a main course. A little planning goes a long way towards being organized and well-fed... it also helps control waste, which is good for those of us on a tight budget. Happy planning!

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