There are a few questions that seem to make my blood pressure rise, my shoulders tense, and my neck do a weird twitch. This is one of them: “Honey, what were your plans for dinner this evening?” My husband asks this question in the sweetest way possible, but it still makes me a little stressed! (FYI: I know he will make dinner if I just don’t have the energy to do so.)
I am pretty well versed in meal planning strategies; however, I don’t always have (or make) the time to do so. When I don’t do meal planning, I find myself conjuring up creative one-pot meals, which are more budget-friendly and nutritious than my other “busy day go-tos” – take out or convenience foods. And, some of these one-pot meals are now family favorites!
How do I make these one-pot wonders? I figure out whatever I have on hand and go from there. If it seems like everything in the pantry, fridge, and freezer doesn’t go together, think about different recipes you’ve seen to get inspiration for creative one-pot meals. For example, you might make “hamburger casserole” if you have pasta, but no hamburger buns. Set yourself up for success by storing a few staples in your fridge, freezer, or pantry. Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, tortillas, bread, canned beans, spices, etc. are great items to keep around the house. If you have fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, yogurt, or cheese, by all means add those in, too! Having trouble adding dairy? Serve a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk with your meal.
Soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, chili, stir-fry, stews, and salads are all possibilities for one-pot meals using ingredients you have on hand. Mix and match foods from each of the five MyPlate food groups to get all five food groups quickly, conveniently, and easily. For example, make your own “MyPlate Chili” by mixing together brown rice, beans, canned tomatoes, frozen corn, and canned pineapple. Top with low-fat cheese and enjoy!
To create different dishes in a cinch:
- Make a chart with each of the five food groups.
- Write down various foods from each food group that you have on-hand.
- Try to pick something from each food group to make soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, salads, etc.
- Add to the fun by letting your kids pick the ingredients or name the dish.
If you have a recipe, but forgot to purchase an ingredient, improvise by substituting ingredients you have on hand. You can make convenience foods healthier by adding veggies or fruit, using half the seasoning packet, or reducing the amount of fat added.