Posts Tagged: meal planning

Kitchen Letters #13 : Meal Planning

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Dear thoughtful readers,

I told you I would write to you about  meal planning–I know it’s been a while–and I’m here today to do this very thing!  Approaching meal planning has been a task I’ve had to wrangle myself in, to do.  I have weeks where the weekend escapes me and a meal plan is never made. Then there are the weeks when I’m able to sit down and sift my mind through simple ideas for meals that would be easy to approach, are not time-consuming and won’t require excessive meal prep.

Meal Planning Tips:

  • Take inventory, either physically or mentally, of what you have in stock.  I like to take a quick peek into our refrigerator, produce baskets and our cupboards.  When I began meal planning, I would write all the unique produce items in our refrigerator, as those were the items I felt most likely to forget about.
  • Organize your week’s meals by longevity of foodstuffs, schedule for the week, and who’s preparing what–if you’re in a multi-person home.  On that note…
  • Plan meals based around who will be preparing the meal and what their skill level or interest in cooking is.
  • Decide on the number of days you would like to plan.  I decided on just week days, as time is most restrictive on week days for us now.
  • Decide on the meals  you want to plan; breakfast, lunch & dinner.  I decided to just plan dinners, as the evenings can be the most hectic in our home.
  • Consider the time of year.  Most of our meals are seasonally based because of the produce contained in our C.S.A. box.  Consider the produce that is in season and how hot your kitchen might become after the preparation of a certain meal.  In Texas, the Spring arrests the idea of preparing meals that require too much heat.  Creativity comes into play in the Summer when baking veggies and dishes in the oven produces a sense of dread from the heat wave that accompanies the prep and cooking process.
  • If you know you have a busy month coming up, plan.
  • Have realistic and non-judgemental expectations about the types of meals you can prepare.
  • Search for recipes and organize them using an online tool such as pinterest.
  • Know your audience.  Make food that’s appropriate for who you’re cooking for, and your life will be much easier.  Keep in mind food allergies, sensitivities and preferences.
  • Start with what you have.  Most of us have to semi-regularly restock our pantry with our staple items, but try to plan your meals around what you have on a regular basis.
  • Create a base grocery list and adjust as needed.
  • Buy what you need and eat what you buy.  (When I was a little girl, I have a vivid memory of being in Epcot Center at one of the Italian restaurants and I wanted a big plate of spaghetti, far more than I could have possibly handled–I may have channeled The Lady and the Tramp.  My Papa (pawpaw) told me my eyes were bigger than my stomach and he was right.  They had a big box of left-overs that night.)
  • Find a method of keeping track of your planned meals and stick to it. I’m a paper and pen gal, so I just cut up some scrap paper, draw some lines, label the days of the week, and go for it.
  • Find a way to make it fun.  Planning meals should help make your life easier and less stressful, not more.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you first start.

I hope meal planning this summer makes for a happier you, and remember..bite responsibly!

 

Healthy & Happy Summer Regards,

RAM

 

Kitchen Letters #12: Thoughtful Meal Prep and Seasonal Produce

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Dear friends,

It’s fair to assume that this winter has been a hellish one for many across the United States.  Some of you who have experienced a comedic amount of snow probably don’t feel like this.  Here in central Texas, mother nature’s ambivalence has been difficult to adjust to, but I feel fortunate to not have to plow through snow and scrape ice off of my car every morning.  There’s a reason everything shuts down in Texas if there’s even a hint of ice headed our way; we don’t know how to handle it, for the most part.  All that to say, the strange fluctuation in the weather has played a role in my exhaustion with certain ‘seasonal’ veggies.  Our winter season has been a strange mix of winter and spring and I need a change.  A girl can only eat so many turnips, ya know?  Honestly, my first reaction to feeling this way is guilt.  I should be able to flow with what nature provides me and see that every season eventually passes, and for the most part, I can.  But perhaps this winter, with schedules growing busier and time feeling more scarce and precious, I have become a little impatient with our produce abundance and assortment.  At times there has been too much of one particular veggie and not enough of another.  I’ve decided to let this guilt wash over me and move on.  There’s no harm in feeling a certain way about the food that you’re eating. What’s important is being responsible and mature enough to recognize your feelings, and to not block them out for fear of adhering to a label or self-imposed restriction.

On that note, meals prepared with love and positive happy energy are the best meals.  Recently, a colleague and I discussed a previous job she had in a bakery; she had to arrive for each shift around 4 a.m., wherein she would stock the shelves and the display cases and make the bakery storefront presentable.  She said one baker’s pastries and loaves looked distressed and lumpy, while the other baker’s pastries and loaves looked fluffy and well-formed.  She correlated the contrast in quality with the personality of the bakers and I’ll let you guess which was the happier, more active person.  Our energy and heart truly do affect not only the manner in which we’re able to appreciate our food, but also the way the food we prepare turns out.  Although I think that being in the kitchen can be a great stress reliever for some on a taxing day, consider how your mood will impact what you’re preparing and try to change your attitude before immersing your hands.  What’s you’re take?

If you’ve followed Connect a Bite long enough you may have come to know me as the type of person who has not–despite my necessity to plan and organize every other aspect of my life–made planning in the kitchen a priority.  However, I’ve been experimenting lately with meal planning and it has been sort of fun.  As it goes for most things in life, having a design to reflect on in the midst of spontaneity is comforting.  It’s great to know that I have something to fall back on and so does my husband.  Although I’m the type of chef who can check out our current weekly inventory of foodstuffs and dream something up, my husband does not favor that kind of ambiguity when it comes to preparing a meal; honestly, some days it’s nice to just know what you’re getting yourself into ahead of time.  He likes a recipe or a stand-by dish, and that’s why having something to reference like a week-day meal plan is helpful.  I won’t expand on the specifics of my meal planning tactics this week, but keep an eye out for a post to come where I break down my process.

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Finally, I wanted to comment on the rejuvenation of thoughtful meals.  I don’t just mean preparing a surprise meal for a loved one, I mean allowing yourself the room for culinary growth.  It is very easy to become complacent in the kitchen by regularly preparing ‘stand-by’ meals because you’re on your best chef game with those dishes, and maybe they don’t take very long to throw together.  But I’d like to pay attention to the key verb in the last sentence, “throw”.  Why is it that our minds are set on ‘throwing’ our meal together and moving on to something else?  I understand the inescapability of this circumstance some days, but soon, after a routine is formed, all of your meals with be ‘thrown’ together.  As stated previously, are we doing ourselves and those we’re making food for a disservice by not being more present and thoughtful with our preparation?  Are we not depriving ourselves of a potentially meditative experience because we just want to gormandize our food so we can move on to a task that bears more importance on our docket?  Maybe take the time to flip through some of those cookbooks you were given over the winter holiday that you haven’t touched, or those pinterest boards you’ve spent hours organizing, and find a new recipe or recipes to inspire your own, special creations.  Treat yourself!  Treat the loves in your life to something that was mindfully prepared and happily sought out.  Sharing a meal is a beautiful thing.  Let’s give this thoughtful meal prep a chance, what do ya say?

Thank you for taking the time to read Kitchen Letters !  Have any seasonal veggie and meal prep stories to share?  I’d love to hear them!

Have an enchanting Vernal Equinox this Friday and if you’re in Scotland, let me know if you’re able to see the total eclipse!  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy and Happy (almost) Spring Regards,

RAM