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Tips for Planning Meals by the Week

Despite all the differences and challenges that this semester presents, there’s one part of my plan that didn’t change - moving away from home. Earlier this month, I packed up my belongings and moved into a small apartment near ASU’s campus. Sure, I’ll be participating in most of my classes online via Zoom, but there’s something about being in an apartment with bad wifi and loud neighbors that gets me in the academic zone.

Along with independent living comes a conundrum that one is fortunate to have: what should I eat? I am not kitchen-savvy, and I have so many questions when it comes to food storage, expiration dates, and what spices I really need. Don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to portion food for one person! (I would put something here saying like “despite my struggles and lack of cooking expertise…” it would make a nice transition into the tips) Here are some tips for thoughtful planning when it comes to grocery shopping and preparing food.

Plan out a list of meals you like

Write down every meal or snack you can think of- what do you prefer to eat for breakfast, and what are some things you normally like for lunch and dinner?

Plan on a weekly basis

Make sure to think about how long it will take you to eat certain foods. For example, you might like toast for breakfast, but you also like bagels. Think about how long it will take you to eat a loaf of bread if you’re alternating between toast and bagels every day. Consider purchasing just bread for the week, then switch it up by adding different toppings such as fruit slices, honey, jam, or avocado!

Find common ingredients between multiple dishes

Look back at that list of dishes- what are some common ingredients? You might like fettuccine alfredo and macaroni and cheese, but both of those dishes feature pasta. It might not be as conventional to have macaroni alfredo, but savings are savings. 

Know when to stock and when to shop

It can be good to stock up on dry items that won’t expire- for example, the pasta in the last scenario. You can keep a large box of pasta to use for all those dishes. However, be e mindful of the foods you ought to go shopping for often- things like fruit, dairy, and meat. These specialty items are what will make your meals different day to day, so make sure to get some variety here if your stock items are getting boring to you!

Plan out portion sizes and freeze the rest for future meals

If you’re following a recipe, you can plan out if you want to half it (or quarter it!) or not,ut you could consider making a bit extra and freezing the rest in small reusable containers to create easy future meals.

When in doubt, refrigerate it!

Refrigeration obviously helps to preserve foods and is even essential to a lot of our modern dishes. But it’s also worth considering refrigerating things that you might not normally consider keeping cold. An apartment might be more prone to hot nights or unwelcomed bugs in the kitchen, so it’s not a bad idea to keep  bread and fruit in the refrigerator. The less food left out, the less welcoming the environment is  for our non-rent paying, six-legged neighbors.

Overall, the start of a new school year brings a lot of changes and stresses.. Don’t let your kitchen add to that stress!

Madeline is a junior studying English at Arizona State University. She was raised in California but now calls Arizona home. Some of her hobbies are reading, writing, and taking really long walks through parks with beautiful scenery.
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