Reinventing Dinner, along with the theme of this year’s Home Show! I wanted to share some great ways in which proper meal planning can save you money, time, create healthier meals and reduce waste and stress. Wouldn’t we all like that, to come home after a busy day to a plan already in place that’s easy to use and healthy. I like to think of meals in sets of threes. Being able to put similar ingredients with multiple uses, in the time when they are at their prime, easy cooking methods that also cutdown time, like using stovetop pressure cookers, induction cooking and crockpot (or better yet an electric pressure cooker).
Buying in bulk is also a great cost saver, investing in storage containers with labels create a clean and tidy look. Here is a great tutorial for making custom transfer labels. http://thepaintedhive.net/2012/02/magic-decal-transfer-tutorial-with-free-printables/.
I love using glass jars but if space is an issues the Ikea 365+ 2QT tall storage containers store a full box of cereal and have a very tiny footprint in the pantry. I like to make a general two column list of meal ideas (including enough for leftover lunches and breakfasts) and corrospond those ideas with days of the week. Sort it by protein, meal and ingredients, cooking method, check your family calender to account for any days when you won’t been home or holidays or entertaining.
Take this with you when you go shopping, and also account for anything still in the fridge or pantry that needs to be eaten or spoiling soon. Most people have about $500 worth of food in the typical pantry, so it’s important to account for staple ingredients (flour, sugar, rice, pasta, grains, spices) as well as fresh ingredients (dairy, produce, meat). Always make sure you have your staples for the week, then add to the mix. Check your freezer, any seafood or meat older than four months… add that into the dinner plans. Some cuisines have very similar ingredients with only a few modifications… like a great Mexican meal can easily become amazing Thai food the next night.
It’s also important to share this plan with the family, how can they participate, children as young as 3 can help grate cheese, or chop potatoes or carrots with wavy cutter, it’s important for everyone to have a chance to contribute into the plan as well as in it’s preparation. You can find the wavy cutter my daughters use on Amazon.com, at 4 and 9 they are starting to kick me out of the kitchen for some meals now…
A few simple lessons in knife skills learning how to protect your fingers and a little supervision and you can prep your mirepoix (chopped carrots, onions and celery) for meals for the whole week. Also very important to save the scraps (carrot bottoms, celery tops, onion skins,) from mirepoix in the freezer to add to stocks, they add a ton of flavor. Here is a mock meal plan for the week that I recently did.
- Monday night roast chicken, roasted root vegetables and spinach salad
- Tuesday Night Chicken Chilli Corn Chowder
- Wednesday make a pie crust and have chilli corn chowder pot pie with the leftovers
- Thursday Halibut Tacos
- Friday Thai Coconut Soup (using cilantro and veggies from the tacos) and Phad Thai or Pancit
- Saturday Roast Beef
- Sunday French Dip Sandwiches
From my table to yours,
Enjoy, Amber King
Chicken Chilli Corn Chowder
- 1 Whole chicken leftovers
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1T oil (coconut or grapeseed)
- 2c chopped onion
- 1c celery, chopped
- 1c carrot, chopped
- 1T garlic, minced
- 2 8oz cans green chillies, chopped
- 5 ears fresh corn cut off cob (or frozen corn, or cream corn if you found a can while organizing the pantry)
- 2 cups of half and half (or 2 cans evaporated milk)
- Fresh Cilantro to taste
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Put roast chicken leftovers covered in water in pressure cooker or stock pot and cook until meat is falling off the bones (about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker OR 1.5 hrs in stock pot) Strain Stock off and let chicken cool. Saute carrot, celery and onion until translucent, add garlic and chillies saute another five minutes and add chicken stock. Shred chicken off the bones add corn, bring to boil, and reduce to low heat, let simmer for ten minutes and add cream and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. This meal is delicious with cornbread, nice cold IPA, and coleslaw.