By Laura Slatalla, Recent ASU Nutrition Student
The first step can be the hardest hurdle. Instead of a chore, menu planning can be an opportunity to save money, try new foods, and get creative. Having a list of meals for the week will build anticipation and help you fall in love with cooking again!
There’s one way that I love to begin menu planning: looking for new recipes. Make it a goal to try something new every week. Spend leisure time flipping through magazines and cookbooks. Check out popular dishes on recipe sites like Fill Your Plate and ask friends and family to share their favorite meal ideas. A great way to get started is looking through the grocery store ads to see what’s on sale. Find an unusual ingredient and look for a recipe it includes.
A sectioned piece of paper will do in a pinch, but a calendar is super helpful for visualizing the week, what obligations will prevent cooking longer recipes, and writing yourself notes.
When you find the main dish that you want to cook, plan sides around it. Traditionally this is a meat, but it doesn’t have to be. Decide on what vegetables you want to eat with it, and how much you’d like to prepare. Make sure your meal isn’t all one color and look for ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes throughout the week.
Decide if you want enough for lunch the next day, and think about how well it would freeze. After all, the week’s dinners are planned, fill in the rest. If you’re baking chicken one night for dinner, plan to cook extra for chicken salad sandwiches the next day. Using ingredients from the night before will help plan out lunches.
Make a list of all the items you need, and check to make sure you still have enough of the spices and staples like flour. Try to plan on going to the store halfway through the week for fresh produce, and incorporate these items into your shopping list. Not only will menu planning help make meals easier, it will prevent overstocking and food waste!
Prep for those meals right away, after shopping if possible. Combine dry ingredients. Wash fruits and vegetables. Cut up veggies and put them in stacked containers in the fridge. I’m so grateful later when it’s saving me time during the busy week.
Give menu planning a try and those good intentions will be put into action. Planning healthy meals in advance and having them prepped will make dinner go so smoothly!
After all, it’s the beginning of a new year with new beginnings!