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October 16, 2012

Meal planning cuts time and waste, boosts nutrition

The fall season seems to feel rushed after the “lazy days” of summer. 

Not only is it dark well before bedtime, often there are after-school activities, homework assignments and evening work meetings that get put off during the vacation season. Fall is a busy time, but that should not be an excuse to eat unhealthy dinners. Doing a little menu planning can really help you incorporate nutrition into dinner and can actually save you time and money.

GETTING STARTED

If you’re new to menu planning, you should choose a format or style that most fits your needs and personality. 

In the beginning, choose one meal to plan for the week, usually dinner. Some people enjoy a chart-style menu planner, which you can fill in by hand or enter on an electronic device. If you are like me — a lot less organized — you can jot ideas down on your grocery list. 

I think the reason people do not use a menu more often is because they feel tied down to the chart, day by day. Do not forget that it is your menu; make it work for you. I like a random list, so as the week gets started, I can loosely plan quick meals for busy days and fill in the longer meals when I will be home earlier or have more prep time in the morning or the night before. 

As you start, take a look at what you already have in the refrigerator, cupboards and freezer. There is no point in saving all 10 boxes of spaghetti; plan a meal around it. Reducing waste will help keep your food-storage areas tidy and save you some money each week. 

Consider the plate method when filling out your meal. Ideally, one half of your plate should be vegetables or fruits, so they should be included in every meal. Quick sides, like salads or frozen vegetables that can be quickly reheated, are great ways to fill in your plate. Make a grocery list based on your menu, so you are sure to have everything you need to prepare it.

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