I hope you are staying safe (and sane) during this unusual time of home quarantine. I've personally been keeping busy by tackling lots of home projects I've been putting off and focusing on lots of self-care. It's Day #3 of the #PantryFreezerChallenge with No Waste Nutrition and we're talking about creative meal planning! (Pst, if you need to catch up on the other days of our challenge, check out Day #1 here and Day #2 here.)
Now before anxiety starts to rush over you, remember that creating and cooking meals is not about crafting a 5-star meal that Gordon Ramsay wouldn't spit at. Of course we want the end product to come out delicious, but the heart of this step in the #PantryFreezerChallenge is to simply step outside your comfort zone, try something new, and use up those ingredients you already have on hand!
I always tell my clients that "boredom is the enemy of healthy habits." Why? Because when we get bored of something - whether we're bored of eating baked chicken, broccoli, and rice or bored of running on the treadmill - we're gonna abandon it. So keeping things new, fresh, and exciting is an essential strategy to getting healthy habits to stick around for the long run.
I've created a list of tips to help you meal plan creatively. Keep scrolling to check 'em all out!
Before I kick off my list of tips for creative meal planning, it's important for me to express that there truly is no right or wrong here. Creative meal planning and finding new ways to use old or unfamiliar ingredients is more about finding what feels right to you, so feel free to use these tips as a guide to inspire you to do just that.
1) Make something familiar.
Subbing in similar ingredients (that you're trying to get rid of and use up) into a recipe you already know and love is probably the easiest way to eat down your pantry/freezer. Here are some examples that we're trying out this week:
2) Create a copy-cat meal.
What could be a funner challenge or more rewarding experience than recreating a restaurant meal that you love at home!? With your own hands?! You can use the restaurant's menu as a guide to what ingredients & spices you'll need or try searching the web for "copy cat __________". I've got some pickle juice saved up that I can't wait to try making Copy Cat Chick-fil-A Nuggets with!
3) Phone a friend.
Call on friends, family, co-workers, etc. to give you ideas for whatever ingredient(s) you're trying to use up. Here are some posts you could try on social media or texts you could send to your ride or dies:
Similarly, get your immediate family involved in the creative meal planning process too! There is no rule that says that "all meal planning decisions must be made by __________." Making meals should be a team effort, so take family members off the bench and give them a chance to chip in.
4) Save it for a Salad!
5) Totally stuck? Leave the decision to chance!
There is no shame (at all!) in handing off the decision of "What's to eat?" to fate. I'm rather fond of our Dinner Dice, but you can also use resources like AllRecipes.com, SuperCook.com, and Pinterest to help you find recipes for any ingredient under the sun. Just try to be open to new tastes and don't allow yourself to go down a rabbit hole of options. I promise that time could be better spent elsewhere.
Did I miss any of your favorite ways to get creative with meal planning? Feel free to share with me in the comments below!
If you follow us over on Instagram (@themealplanningmethod) you'll commonly see Kroger pop-up in our posts, stories, and meal plans. Being a nutrition nerd, I could truly shop at ANY grocery store, but for us Kroger is our typical one-stop-shop place to get all our ingredient needs week-to-week. And it doesn't hurt that's it's so close to home!
Kroger, of course, has their own line of products, including Private Selection, so I thought I'd share our very favorite buys that you can find in our fridge and pantry on any given day. Check 'em all our top picks from Kroger below!
OUR 6 FAVORITE PRODUCTS FROM KROGER
What are you're favorite products to buy at Kroger? Tell us what we missed in the comments below!
This week I made a dish inspired by my recent travels. My husband and I spent our 5th anniversary in Asheville, North Carolina in November and we visited a local farm-to-table restaurant, Haywood Common. Their menu is "seasonal", which means it changes often. Whenever I visit a new restaurant I try to order something that is (1) a little familiar (i.e. something I know I like), but (2) also brand new to me. Enter: Salmon and Farro Salad. I know salmon, I love salmon, and I will always eat salmon, but farro - what does that taste like!? I knew what farro was, but I had never eaten it. I decided this was the meal for me and oh man I am so glad I ordered it! The salmon was brought to our table on a bed of farro and the farro was mixed with a delicious concoction of goat cheese, microgreens, mushrooms, curried peanuts, and pickled raisins. The entire plate was drizzled in a creamy, dream-worthy chipotle and red pepper harissa and avocado sauce. I basically wanted to bathe in this sauce, it was THAT good. Since devouring this meal from Haywood Common, I have been thinking about how to recreate this yummy drool worthy farro ever since! Keep reading for a super simple farro-filled recipe that will make you a farro fan for life.
What is farro?
Farro is an ancient whole-grain that dates back to ancient Rome. Farro is used often in many modern kitchens and is loved by many. On top of its delicious flavor and versatile character, this grain is packed with fiber and plant-based protein. It is very similar to barley, but has a nuttier, chewier texture when cooked. Farro is a great source of magnesium, iron and B vitamins. And is also a great heart-healthy choice as it is low in fat and cholesterol. Half a cup of farro provides about 7 grams of protein so it is a great choice for vegans and/or vegetarians!
Farro is great because it requires no prep work! All you have to do is rinse it and stick it in a pot of boiling liquid. That’s it! (You could do this blindfolded - although I don’t recommend blindfolding yourself near a pot of hot water :P)
Keep scrolling for my recipe inspired by my eats in Asheville!
3-Cheese Spinach + Mushroom Farro Recipe
SERVINGS: 4-5 (this recipes makes ~4 cups)
**NOTE: There is no such thing as too much cheese so... top with a little bit of extra cheese if you’re feeling adventurous!