Meal Planning Ideas Week 4 has not only menu ideas but tips on getting your kitchen pantry for meal planning!
So, we have made it through a full month of meal planning ideas. You should see what we have in store for next month. There are some delicious spring recipes to be shared to get you through Easter and hopefully get you inspired for the warmer weather that is to come
I’ve already talked about the benefits of menu and meal planning and I’ve already given you some tips and tricks on how to simply start meal planning. This meal planning ideas post is going to give you some ideas on being more successful at meal and menu planning. it will also give you some ideas on meal prepping for those busy nights when you don’t really have a lot of time to cook.
Keep a well-stocked pantry.
This doesn’t mean have a ton of ingredients on hand. it means you should stock your pantry with common items. Don’t stock your pantry with ingredients that you rarely use because that just takes up space. You really should stock your pantry strategically with a variety of pasta. Elbows, spaghetti, penne, lasagna noodles. Those are the types of things that I keep stocked in my pantry.
I also have basmati rice, brown rice, par-cooked rice, and arborio rice. I use basmati rice instead of a white long grain rice because I enjoy the flavor of it. But if you don’t then keep long grain white rice around.
I also have canned beans as well as dried beans period now I will get into a trick about dried beans a little later when we talk about your freezer. Yes, I see that quizzical look on your face but trust me. Typically, I keep canned kidney beans and black beans in the pantry. For dried beans I have black eyed peas, Pinto beans, a variety of lentil beans (red, green, and black), and a multiple bean soup mix like a 13 bean soup mix.
Have a mix of canned goods on hand.
I always keep canned green beans, canned peas, and canned corn. There is also cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken or celery soup, and tomato soup. I also keep a variety of tomato products such as petite diced, whole peeled, crushed, and small cans of tomato sauce. Now for us we always keep a jar of diced pimentos because that is an ingredient that we used in tuna casserole. Which leads me to tuna.
I am picky about my tuna. If the tuna is for tuna salad then it has to be albacore or white tuna. I do not like the flavor of a chunk light or chunk or regular tuna. It can be a chunk white tuna which is also an albacore tuna but for sandwiches it has to be a white or an albacore.
So, I keep two kinds of tuna in my pantry one for sandwiches and one for casseroles. The one for casseroles can be the chunk light and lately I’ve enjoyed using the packed in oil tuna for my casseroles. I know most people don’t like it because it’s oil it’s full of fat blah blah blah. But I drain the oil, or most of it anyway. But there’s something about that oil-soaked tuna that makes for a more delicious tuna casserole. And I only figured this out because I accidentally purchased tuna and oil instead of water. But stock whatever kind of tuning you like. Just keep doing it on hand.
Of course, it’s always good to keep broth on hand for meal planning ideas. So, I keep containers of unsalted chicken and beef broth as well as low sodium bouillon. In the fridge I keep a broth paste. It’s called Better Than Broth and comes in a variety of flavors like chicken, beef, vegetable, and seafood but I have never seen this seafood at the grocery store.
Staple dry goods to keep well stocked.
The obvious pantry ingredients are flour, sugar, honey, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla extract and other extracts. Some items people don’t think about are cornmeal, corn starch, polenta, oatmeal (both rolled and cut), and potentially other grains like bulgur or quinoa.
While I’m sure everyone has extra Virgin olive oil and or canola oil in their pantry some might not consider a flavored oil. We keep garlic and Rosemary flavored olive oil because it adds an extra layer of flavor to anything that we’re cooking. And to go with oils are the vinegars. I keep white vinegar for mainly cleaning but I do use some in my coleslaw. My cooking vinegars are usually cider vinegar, some flavored balsamic vinegar’s, and rice wine vinegar.
Finally, it’s good to have some jams and jellies on hand and maybe a jar of peanut butter. But not for sandwiches. I use peanut butter for baking, but I also use peanut butter to make a Thai peanut sauce or dan dan style peanut noodles. And the jams and jellies make for great marinades or glazes. They are also great in salad dressings and sauces.
When I started this post, I had no idea I had so much to say about stocking a pantry. But it is important to maintain the pantry with ingredients that you use or will use often. It doesn’t make sense to me to have a one-use item in my pantry. Like all of my kitchen gadgets and tools there’s very few that are not multi-purpose. So, try and keep that in mind when you’re creating your menu plan.
Is this ingredient something I will use again? If the answer is no then try and find a common substitute or maybe just skip the recipe for now. And if you’re determined to make it isn’t an ingredient that can be frozen for later use? These are the questions that you should be asking yourself when you are stocking your pantry and making your menu plan.
And this leads me into spices.
Keep this in mind when you’re buying spices for your kitchen or your pantry. There are staples that we use all the time: garlic and onion powder, Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, chili powder, cumin powder, sage, garlic salt, and Cajun seasoning.
Yes, we use these all the time. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. There are spices that we don’t use every day that we keep on hand because we use them frequently. Dill weed is one of them marjoram and dried tarragon, poultry seasoning and Curry powder. These are items that we keep because we use them frequently just not all the time.
For baking I keep a small number of herbs and spices. The obvious being cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger (actually my ginger is whole and I grind it), allspice, cardamom, and cloves. maybe if I did more baking I would have more spices but I feel these are core to almost any recipe that you would bake for a dessert and some of them can be used in savory recipes too.
Take jerk seasoning for instance. Jerk seasoning has cinnamon and all space along with coriander and vinegars and Peppers. If you make masala Anne grind your own credit powder it’s going to have cardamom and cinnamon and ground ginger in there along with the turmeric and the coriander and other spices. So you can see how a well-stocked pantry doesn’t mean keeping a lot of ingredients on hand but core ingredients that you use often
I hope you’re getting inspired to do some meal planning and maybe some meal prepping for you and your family. It’s not as difficult and daunting as you may think. Once you start, you’ll see how easy it is to pick up and make it work for your family.