Are you just starting to cook for yourself and struggling with building your meal plans? The Kitchen Library has a workshop for that! For those of you who haven’t yet made it to one of our meal planning workshops at a branch of the Toronto Public Library, this list of tips & tricks for meal planning might just help you get started until you get a chance to join us!
Meal Planning Tips & Tricks
(Adapted from our Meal Planning workshops, originally drafted by board member Olivia Scobie)
- Theme Nights: setting up a rotation of theme nights can help you narrow down your choices, as well as letting you create variations on a theme as you get to know the basics of a recipe. Ideas include: taco nights, homemade pizza nights, soup and salad nights, pasta nights, “meatless Mondays,” and so on. This not only takes some of the thinking out of your planning, but creating variations can also be a fun family activity!
- Prep Ahead: Set aside some time each week to get your groceries ready-to-go. Wash and chop your fruits and veggies for snacks, portion ingredients and bulk items into smaller containers, and make sure your frozen items are portioned so you can thaw only what you need! Setting aside sections of your fridge, freezer, and/or pantry specifically for already-prepped items helps you make sure you have what you need as the week progresses.
- Remember, Out of Sight, Out of Mind: It can be tempting to fill your fridge to bursting when items are available or on sale, but having the fridge so full you can’t see what you have can lead to waste. If you do keep a full fridge, it can help to keep a list of what’s inside on a dry-erase board nearby, so you don’t forget the things that you can’t see!
- Use What You Have: When making your meal plans and grocery lists, start by checking your fridge, freezer, and pantry for ingredients that need to be used up. To help you follow this rule, remember First In, First Out when you’re putting away groceries. Make sure you pull older items toward the front and put newer items at the back. This will ensure that you use items closer to their expiration dates first!
- The Freezer is Your Friend: You’ve probably heard of freezer meals (which are a topic for another workshop entirely!) but did you know that most fruits and veggies can be chopped and frozen in portions that make them easier to grab-and-go later? Pre-portioning chopped fruits like strawberries, bananas, mangoes, etc for smoothies is a great way to incorporate more fruit into your diet (and several non-fruit add-ins like spinach and kale actually freeze very well!). Onions, peppers, and other veggies can be chopped ahead of time and separated into the measurements you use most often, which does the double duty of keeping them from spoiling as quickly and making meal preparation simpler!
Interested in learning more? For more tips, tricks, tools, sparks to help your brainstorming sessions, and starter menu ideas, heck with your neighbourhood library branch and see whether they have any upcoming workshops with us, and if not, have your librarian get in touch with us about setting something up!