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Three Meal Planning Tips

Posted Nov 12 2009 10:04pm

Preparing FoodA kitchen is like a favorite soft t-shirt; it feels better the more you use it. Settling into your kitchen can take a bit of trial and error as you figure out the ergonomics that will best fit your needs. Learning the key place to keep your favorite sharp knife so you can quickly dice onions and vegetables and toss them into the pan while the cumin sizzles or placing your spices within arm’s reach as your prepare a meal in under 30 minutes after work can take a bit of customization.

The kitchen is an amazing space in many ways. When guests come over, they all congregate here, no matter how beautiful your living room or how much seating is available elsewhere. The warmth of your kitchen draws people to it and ultimately to the nourishment it can provide. It is the part of the home where tantalizing aromas are created and waft through the hallway and into rooms, beckoning everyone to inquire, “What’s cooking?”

The responsibility of cooking for two (or more) is peppered with the reconciling of tastes. He likes it spicy; you like it bland. She says coconut curry; you say no way. Where do you start when blending tastes, coordinating schedules and dividing daily responsibilities? Awareness and planning can make all the difference.

As a dietitian, I have found that healthy eating for couples and families ultimately revolves around three main things: the menu, shopping and prep. One of the most useful things is acknowledging what you don’t like because then figuring out what you do like is easier. Having said that, here are a few things to consider:

The Menu…

Plan a menu with variety. Are you a beans and rice gal at heart while your partner prefers Thai food? Most of us have been exposed to many cuisines growing up. As you plan your menu for the month, week or next few days, consider cuisines that you both will enjoy. Not sure? Ask your partner and take the few minutes to discover both of your favorite foods. Having a game plan is a must in watching your pocketbooks and waistlines.

The Shopping…

Designate a grocery day. As planned as this may feel for you creative souls, this one simple decision has helped many of my clients enjoy the process of grocery shopping rather than being overwhelmed or annoyed by it. Choose your grocery day and time but, of course, be flexible when life and work happen. Having a backup grocery day can be a lifesaver or utilizing online grocery shopping services, such as Peapod, may be an option that works better for you. To avoid buying junk food, be sure to pick a time of day when you are not hungry.

The Prep…

Manage your time. It is just as important to manage your time in the kitchen as it is at work. Knowing how long it will take to prepare something can save a lot of frustration down the line. Also be sure to keep cushion time for when you try new recipes. If you lead a busy life or are new to cooking, try to choose recipes that can be made within 30 minutes. As you build familiarity with dishes, the process will become faster.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be elaborate or lengthy. It could be as simple as jotting down what you both like to eat. If planned right, grocery shopping can become an adventure as you discover new ingredients. And preparation is best appreciated when both parties are involved. If you manage your kitchen efficiently and take ownership (which includes healthy delegation), you may find it pays you back in the kindest of ways. And perhaps, just perhaps, the pleasant call of “What’s cooking?” will give you pride and personal satisfaction, as you play a major role in helping yourself and your family stay healthy.

Visit ABCD lady, a magazine for the American Born Confident Desi for the full article and more meal planning tips.

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