Foodie news | Ten-tip countdown to 2012 meal-planning | SierraSun.com

Foodie news | Ten-tip countdown to 2012 meal-planning

Sheri Alzeerah
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Resolutions, shmesolutions is the general feeling toward that obligatory list of start-of-the-year self-improvements. Whether kicking an old habit or starting a new one, New Yearand#8217;s resolutions just tend to have a bad rap.

But donand#8217;t resolve to not resolve just yet. Meal planning in the new year is a promise thatand#8217;ll be hard not to keep. Itand#8217;s simple to do, saves time in the kitchen, saves money in the store and benefits your familyand#8217;s health. Whatand#8217;s to lose? Only the nasty stigma attached to New Yearand#8217;s resolutions.

Count down to a brand new start with these 10 tips to kick your meal-planning year off with a fireworks-worthy bang.-

10. Keep up with savings. Clipping newspaper coupons, scanning ads for sweet deals and hunting online for store savings are only a few of the boundless ways to make the most of your money at the grocery store. Between print ads and online coupons, more and more companies are basically handing customers money to buy their products. The small amount of time it takes to find these deals is a tiny price to pay to keep your grocery bill in check.

9. Check your inventory. No need to restart your pantry when it comes to starting a meal plan. Pantries are riddled with hidden useful ingredients that are largely non-perishable. Before hitting up the grocery store, venture into the abyss of your pantry to distinguish between your potential wants and needs. Youand#8217;ll be surprised by what you can whip up using goods youand#8217;ve got right under your nose, saving yourself a trip to the grocery store and saving your credit card an unnecessary charge.

8. Discover new recipes. Once you know your pantry, check online, in cookbooks and magazines or ask friends for new recipes. As a starting-off point, think of your familyand#8217;s favorite dishes already and work off those ingredients. For example, if your grilled steaks are a hit with your family, try out a steak and mozzarella pizza. Variety is key to pleasing the palette. Avoid home-cooked monotony, and donand#8217;t be afraid to try something new.

7. Think nutritious thoughts. Meal planning doesnand#8217;t just mean mapping out a meal and#8212; it means developing a schedule to keep your familyand#8217;s health in check. Knowing what meals are approaching gives the head chef of the family more time to work out proteins, carbs, good fats and fiber. Donand#8217;t cut all guilty pleasures completely, though. When paired with well-balanced meals for the majority of the week, itand#8217;s OK to treat the family to a decadent dessert every once in a while.

6. Make a shopping list and#8212; and stick to it. Take on the beast that is the grocery store by coming equipped with a roadmap, a.k.a. the shopping list. Before biting off more foods than your family can chew, make a tangible grocery list. Having this with you at the store, whether on paper or on your phone, will be an excellent deterrent to overspending on impulsive treats. Donand#8217;t forget to check your pantry before you go to avoid having double items, which translates to double expenses.

5. Post the weekly menu in the house. Now that your pantry is prepared and your recipes are bookmarked, allot a meal to a day and post the weekand#8217;s menu somewhere everyone can see it. The kitchen fridge, for instance, is a great place for a physical menu, reminding you what to cook and telling the kids whatand#8217;s coming up. Dry-erase boards are a clean, clear and affordable meal-planning tool.

4. Take family schedules into account. Plan meals around after-school and work schedules. For example, if you know work will run after hours one night, itand#8217;d make more sense to whip up something quick and easy for dinner. Busy being the No. 1 fan at your daughterand#8217;s soccer game? Have her favorite dish prepared for that night as a post-game reward.-

3. Plan for leftovers. Not even Suzy Homemaker could cook every day of every week. Be reasonable, and allot no-cook nights for leftover dinners. Pastas, pizzas and rice dishes keep well, but try to steer clear of serving leafy greens and re-reheated meats long after theyand#8217;re prepared.

2. Match the meal to the season. Make the most of Mother Natureand#8217;s bounty by taking advantage of seasonal produce and weather-appropriate meals. Nowand#8217;s a perfect time for hearty soups, warm stews and winter veggies like broccoli and cabbage. Save the cold and refreshing treats for warmer months of the year. Itand#8217;s easy for meal planning to get boring and#8212; keep meals fresh by remembering the season.-

1. Stay flexible. Though and#8220;planningand#8221; is crucial to meal planning, itand#8217;s vital to keep an open mind for last-minute changes. That menu might be a victim of the eraser every so often, but donand#8217;t let that make you give up on meal planning. Try your hardest to stick to the plan, and itand#8217;ll only get easier.-

and#8212; Sheri Alzeerah is a journalist and freelance writer for meal planning service http://www.foodonthetable.com.