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, Day #2 here, Day #4 here, Day #5 here, and Day #6 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!