How to Plan Quick and Easy Menus

                                    DINNER, WHAT’S QUICK & EASY?

                                                      

Making Quick Dinners

Busy schedules create a need for quick and easy meals. Fatigue, stress, and special events can threaten to overwhelm our intentions about eating sensibly.

Planning is the key, but it is easy to forget as pressures mount. A few moments of planning will reduce last-minute stress and confusion and save approximately 15 percent on food costs. I eat all of my meals and snacks for about $7.50/day. Planning ahead does not mean you have to plan every detail. Merely decide when you will plan your meals each week, leaving allowance for changes. Keeping your pantry well stocked is the key!

                                                   Quick Meals According to Categories

How to Plan  

  • Review your upcoming schedule. When will you have time for: Planning? Grocery shopping? Cooking? Who will eat the meals? What are their food preferences?
  • Have necessary materials available, such as cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, and a shopping list.
  • Prepare a cup of tea or a cool drink to sip when planning. This can make it enjoyable. We suggest that you also involve other family members, when possible. This helps them feel included. They also develop the skill of meal planning.
  • Be realistic. Plan foods you will prepare easily. See “Quick & Easy Meals For Busy Lives–According To Meal Categories” below.

What to Plan 

  • Think of a meal “focus” or category, then use simply prepared foods to round out meals and add interest. Consider fresh or canned fruit for dessert, a variety of sliced breads, vegetables that are quickly cut, or bagged salad mixes. See suggestions below.
  • Select protein items that cook quickly, such as poultry, thinly sliced fish, or shellfish.
  • When preparing mixed dishes, keep the number of items to five to speed up the process.
  • Plan for leftovers. Prepare several dishes at the same time. With extra food prepared, you will be able to take a day off from cooking!
  •   Check Out Delicious Quick Meals!

Use of Time-Saving Equipment

  • Apple corer
  • Slow cooker
  • Food processor
  • Large vegetable steamer
  • Microwave
  • Pressure cooker
  • Rice cooker

Ask For Help

  • If the post-meal clean-up discourages you from cooking, ask for help in cleaning up.
  • Make meal preparation a group affair.
  • Request a back or shoulder rub since you are preparing the meal! Ahh!
  •   Listen to your favorite music. Ooh…this part is FUN! I just made a salad and steamed veggies while listening to some wonderful tunes! Singing is FUN too!

Keep it Simple

  • Once you have your Healthful PANTRY set up it’s easy to “max & match” meals
  • Keep a variety of “emergency foods” on hand for times when there is NO time to cook
  • Perhaps try one to two new recipes per week.
  • Include the new ones along with old favorites.
  • Keep a folder with menus and recipes in it.
  • Think seasonal: in Winter–> soups and stews, baked meals; in Summer–> salads and sandwiches, and stoveless meals.

                                                                        Quick Menu Ideas!!!

          Quick & Easy Meals For Busy Lives–According To “Meal Categories”

Developed By Bob Wilson BS, DTR

CATEGORIES (MEAL “FOCUS”)          WHAT’S IN YOUR PANTRY?

Casseroles

Great flexibility and mouth FUN!

Noodles, rice, beans, potatoes, frozen/fresh: peas, corn,  eggplant,  all other vegetables,  tofu, tempeh, frozen/fresh meat, fish & poultry, lowfat gravies and soups
Pasta

Use LOTS of fruits and veggies

Stewed tomatoes, onions, green/red/yellow sweet peppers, garlic,  sun dried tomatoes,  sautéed  or microwaved vegetables, dried or canned beans, bean soups, lowfat chili, lowfat/fat-free cheeses, lowfat meats, fish or poultry, lowfat salad dressings
Vegetarian

See vegetarian main dish ideas

All kinds of fresh/frozen vegetables & fresh/dried and canned fruits, dried/canned beans, refried black, pinto, & spicy beans, tofu, tempeh, rice,  barley, buckwheat, bulgur, lowfat dairy products (yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese), chili, pita bread, tortillas, nachos with lowfat cheese/salsa, Garden Burger/Sausage& Garden  Spicy Bean, yogurt & fruit, SPICES from “A to Z”!
Breakfast For Dinner

On-the-Go Packed Lunches

Use when HOT or in a rush

Lowfat omelets/frittata  made with egg substitute & all kinds of vegetables, lowfat waffles/pancakes with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc., whole wheat French toast, all kinds of cereals, lowfat/fat-free milk and yogurt, lowfat muffins
Baked & Microwaved Dinners

Baked dinners in Winter, microwave in Summer time

Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, all kinds of vegetables, lowfat lasagna (noodles, stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, lowfat cheeses, beans, etc.), lowfat meat, fish or poultry, tempeh, even commercial lowfat frozen entrees and dinners!
BAR (Salad, Taco/Burrito & Potato!)

*Salads:

-Fruit & Vegetable Salads

-Potato Salads

-Green  & Marinated Salads

-Slaws & Mixed Fruit/Vegetable

-Bean & Grain Salads

Mix and Match!

Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, sweet bell peppers, green beans, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower,  beets, onions, corn, cabbage,  eggplant, spinach, zucchini, fennel root, pineapple, oranges, bananas, apples, melons, pears, grapefruit, grapes, kumquats, kiwi fruit, mangoes …and MANY MORE!, salsa, spaghetti sauce, tortillas (corn & whole wheat),  red/purple or Yukon Gold potatoes, lowfat meats, fish & poultry, dried cooked & canned beans, lowfat salad dressings, flavored vinegars, chutneys, sauces & dips
Meats

Use Kabobs & stir frys; encourage use of veggies and fruits!

 

Grilled/broiled chicken & turkey, fish,  meat with vegetables or fruits (kabob’s), marinades, SPICES!
Soup (stews/chili’s) & Salads (Sandwiches for Summertime!) Chili, lentil, split pea soup, borscht, gazpacho,  all kinds of vegetables & fruits, SPICES!, mustards, bean spreads & refried beans, GREAT breads
Stir Fry ALL vegetables- fresh & frozen, tofu, tempeh, chicken,  turkey, lowfat thin-sliced meats,  SPICES, marinades, low sodium tamari soy sauce, hot sesame oil, noodles, rice
Leftovers!

Planned cook-overs

???????  Mix & match–cook up large batches and freeze extras, make large  vegetable & fruit salads, soups, bean spreads–Use when “no time to cook”!
Guinea Pig!

Don’t cook the poor thing!!

TRY SOMETHING NEW!  Check out magazines, newsletters, cookbooks, newspapers and then keep a file –one page per “category”–with your favorite “yummy”  recipes to use again!
Adapted from Yolanda McVicker, Frugal Homemaker Newsletter

                                  Cook It Quick! link: https://cookitquick.org/

                                                IS AN EXCELLENT SITE!

 

 

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