Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Meal Planning for One: Buying Guide

So Meal planning feels like a lot of work when you’re just cooking for one person, right? But it really makes even more sense. How does it feel going home and cooking just-for-you every night? Would you prefer to pop in a microwave-dinner? Or order take out on the way home?

You will save both your health and wallet by meal planning. However, you don’t want to over buy for just one person. So how do you know what’s enough?

1) Generally humans, like all animals, go for the highest calorie per least effort foods. This is a biological drive designed to guard the body against starvation. That means, that when we “shop lazy,” we will consistently order foodstuffs that are high in protein, carbs and sugar. The amino acids in both can be broken down into store-able fat. Whether or not this is good for you, your body desires this stuff, unchecked. When shopping for one, it is harder to police your own buying decisions and the fact that these items proliferate in our grocery stores does not make it easy to adjust these buying patterns.

(Easy-Peasy Chicken Pasta Salad--noodles, chicken, pickle, mushroom, spinach and greek yogurt)

2) Gravitate to dishes--no matter their region of origin--that combine veggies with bread and meat (unless, of course you are vegetarian, in which case you should research what you need for complete protein). These dishes are like: pizza, pasta, stir fry, soups, burritos, enchildadas, salads, casseroles, crepes, sandwiches, pitas...

(Polenta snack--baked polenta discs topped with marinara and leftover balsamic artichoke chicken. Chicken dish can be added to a variety of meals: including pasta salad, salad, pizza and couscous)

3) Select a series of mini dishes--veggie, fruit or meat-centered that can be versatile. That is, seasoned and cooked veggies (or other) that can be tossed into different dishes when you are cooking, baking, or otherwise preparing food.

(Carrot Rice pseudo-frittata)

4) Strategize leftovers--play with dishes that take a long time to eat. If you are afraid they will be going bad soon, try to add them to something, or bake them in a way that turns the dish into something else entirely. Or, pawn them off on family and friends with a last-minute: “Wanna come over to eat?” invite. Just reheat (and perhaps re-season depending on the item) and serve in a pleasing manner.

5) Remember-- ⅔ of what you eat should be fruits and vegies and ⅓ meat, dairy, and everything else. Let that govern how you shop and how you cook.

6) Gage how well you accomplish these things, and then adjust your shopping accordingly. A fruit and veggie-heavy diet should be very cost effective.


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