One of the many challenges our community faces due to the spread of COVID-19, is the change in our typical day-to-day activities. To help flatten the curve and reduce our time in public, we must be more thoughtful as to what our family needs before going out to stock up on essentials. Planning out meals and grocery lists for an extended period can be an added burden to our already hectic lives. To make life a little easier, we’ve put together a list of meal planning tips, smart pantry information, and recipes to use next time you’re headed to the grocery store.
Why Planned Over Meals?
Instead of having leftovers, start prepping for planned overs. These are meals that are created using extra leftover ingredients from previous meals. For example, if you cooked too much chicken breast and don’t feel like eating the same thing tomorrow night, repurpose the chicken and make shredded chicken tacos or add it to a stir-fry. If your meal has leftover grains, add them to a salad for extra fiber or serve them with tomorrow night’s curry.
Planning meals in advance helps with unprecedented situations such as what we are experiencing now with COVID-19 and in the future when we resume with our everyday busy lives of balancing school, work, and family time. Smart planning leads to less time cooking, less money spent on groceries, and most importantly, delicious wholesome meals for the family to enjoy.
How to Get Started
The first step is to organize your pantry and choose your recipes for the week. We recommend starting with a smaller group of recipes that you know your family enjoys, then gradually adding in another 1-2 new recipes. Grouping recipes by common ingredients will simplify shopping and save you money and pantry space.
If it’s been a while since you stocked your pantry or gone shopping, you may want to first go through and get things organized. Start by removing expired ingredients and opened packages that aren’t sealed tightly. Next, review your spices and remove those older than 6 months. While this can be a tedious process, afterwards you’ll have a better idea of what ingredients you’re missing and what you already have stocked up. For more ideas on how to clean out and organize your pantry, check out our blog on how to give your pantry a CHEF-Approved makeover. If you want to go the extra mile, consider creating your own smart pantry. A smart pantry, stocked with wholesome grains, spices, beans, flavorful oils and vinegars, plus a few other essentials makes it easier to prepare delicious meals on even the busiest days of the week. Here’s a checklist of what our experts recommend you keep stocked in your kitchen.
Go Shopping and Start Cooking
Once your pantry is organized make a list of all the ingredients in the recipes you would like to prepare this week. Compare this list to what you currently have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer and then eliminate by crossing out the ingredients what you already have on hand.
After you’ve shopped for the ingredients you need, you’re ready to start cooking. You may find it easier to prepare some of the recipes by batch cooking over the weekend. Weekends usually allow enough time to set aside an hour or two to get some of the recipe basics out of the way. We like to use this time to wash and prep vegetables, prepare seasonings, and marinate or grill proteins. Prepping ingredients is a great way to get the entire family involved in the cooking process. Everyone can find a role in the kitchen, no matter what age. Check out our blog to learn how to involve your children in the cooking process and which culinary skills are appropriate for each age group.
Keep prepped ingredients refrigerated in air-tight containers. Practice safe food handling and follow food safety guidelines to avoid cross contamination risks in your kitchen. Here’s a helpful link from the USDA to ensure you’re cooking safely.
Menu Tips for Planned Overs