From Soup to Nuts
The continuous cycle of searching for recipes, making a list, grocery shopping and cooking can be a daunting task for most of us. As soon as the process is complete it is time to do it again next week. I continue to be taken aback by the abundance of recipes that can be found online, not to mention the countless cookbooks we all have stashed away in a cabinet…most collecting dust. Our problem is not a lack of information; our issue is information overload.
On top of finding recipes, making a grocery list can seem just as overwhelming, followed by actually shopping for everything once the list is made. Really, this whole process, as necessary as it is, does not make my top 10-list of favorite things to do.
My goal for today is to simplify this process just a little bit, from finding the perfect menu for the week to making the grocery list to preparing the meal. Here are 10 ideas to keep in mind during this process. Take what you like and modify what you don’t!
- Start. Yes, it is that simple: start. We have to begin somewhere! Find a few recipes that you like and keep them in one place. Pinterest is a great site to store your favorite recipes. You could also save a Word or Excel document or even make a monthly calendar for recipes. If you are like me you may prefer a hard copy of recipes. Buy a simple 3 ring binder and print your recipes for the month.
- Choose 4-5 recipes for the week. Depending on your schedule and the size of your family you may only need 3-4 recipes. Inevitably you will eat out for a meal or 2, have leftovers or have a change in plans, which will cause you to not be home for the evening. If you are like most families on the go, you probably will not be cooking 7 nights a week.
- Change countries daily. Choose 1 dish from each of your favorite “countries”. For example, Monday: Chicken Parmesan; Tuesday: Vegetable Stir Fry; Wednesday: Fajitas; Thursday: Corn Bread and Chili, Friday: Homemade Pizza. Having a variety of cuisines not only makes recipe browsing a bit easier but also prevents monotony in your meal planning.
- The “regulars”. There are certain items that are consumed weekly and should be replenished with each grocery run. This simplifies the shopping because you already know these items will make the list. And unless they are apart of a recipe they do not have to be specific. For example, there is no need to list every fruit you want. See what is on sale or in season. These are a few items for me:
- Fresh fruit and veggies
- Low fat dairy or soy milk (Almond milk is okay but contains only 1 gram of protein. Milk in the morning is often my source of protein for breakfast. Protein is not a magical macronutrient but is necessary for growth, development, and satiety. But that is a topic for another time.)
- Whole wheat bread
- Keep staple items on hand. These are items that can be combined to make a quick meal when you are in a pinch. This will also make the shopping less daunting when you already have some items in the pantry.
- Whole grains such as brown rice, couscous, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, etc.
- Frozen vegetables
- Olive oil
- Spices-any that you like! Just be aware of the sodium and use fresh ingredients when able.
- Cheese. This could be debatable but in our house cheese is a staple item. It can be apart of a snack, used in grilled cheese for a quick dinner, or my personal favorite: the quesadilla.
- Low-sodium broth. This is especially helpful during the winter months. Add some veggies and left over meat to some broth and you have a crock-pot ready soup!
- “Healthify” the recipe. I find many, many recipes that look amazing but are loaded with non-nutritive items. One way to combat this is to watch your portion size. There are just going to be those recipes that we love but are not the healthiest. Make these for special occasions and when possible, modify. A few ways I like to do this:
- Substitute olive oil for butter.
- Nix the salt. Unless you are baking, salt is probably not necessary. I prefer to leave it out and let people salt to taste if desired.
- Use cheese sparingly. Many recipes call for layering cheese in the dish. Instead, try topping with a light layer of cheese. Most people will not be able to tell the difference!
- Substitute milk for cream. This may not always be possible depending on the recipe but experiment! Even using half cream and half milk is an improvement.
- Try a different kind of meat. If the recipe calls for sausage, try turkey sausage. Use chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef when possible. If you are really feeling adventurous try tofu for a meal or 2.
- Add extra vegetables when possible to soups, pasta dishes and casseroles.
- Find 3 friends. Yes, just 3 friends can make your life much easier! Each one can take 1 week of planning. Share you recipes and suddenly your month is planned! Even better, make a night of it by cooking some of the meals together, then freezing for a quick dinner.
- Practice makes perfect. Eventually, this will be second nature and will not take much time at all. If you keep good records you will no longer have to search for recipes each week but can refer to your past findings.
- For goodness sake, enjoy! You may be surprised to find out that recipe searching and cooking are not my passion. But I have found that if I carve out a few minutes that are designated to the grocery list and if I make cooking an experience I tend to enjoy the process more.
10. Shop. Cook. Eat. Repeat.
And if all else fails, click HERE at the first of the month. I will plan your month for you. 🙂