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from the NatureBox editors

We are SO excited to welcome Jess of COOK+SMARTS to the NatureBox blog today! Jess is a meal planning expert who wants to help you take back dinner time and get yummy, nutritious, and easy to prepare food on the table every night.

Jess is here to tell us a little bit more about meal planning, her tips & tricks, plus share a delicious recipe that does double duty for a meal the next night as well.

What is meal planning?
Meal planning is just taking some pause during your busy week to organize how you plan on feeding yourself and your family throughout the week. This should also include healthy snacks, which help us fuel between our larger meals!

Why is it important?
Taking some time to plan allows you to eat healthier throughout the week, stick to your food budget, and waste less food. If you go into the week without a plan, you’ll find yourself either without groceries or the wrong groceries. This leads to more eating out, which usually costs more and is often not as healthy, making more trips to the grocery store, and possibly tossing food you already purchased

What if I just don’t have time (or sanity) to meal plan?
Good news! There are already a lot of different meal planning services out there, which do the work for you. Our service comes in the form of a free meal planning newsletter. All subscribers get a weekly meal plan emailed to them every Thursday, which contains a detailed menu for the week with grocery list and a detailed how-to for every night’s menu. Plus, we offer a mini-cooking lesson in the newsletter so you learn some new tricks in the kitchen. Sign up right here to get your FREE newsletter!

What are some of your favorite meal planning tips?

  • Keeping a well-stocked pantry with lots of non-perishable, dry, frozen and/or canned ingredients ensures that you will always have a meal in just a few steps. Some items I always have on hand are grains (e.g., brown rice, farro, barley, quinoa), vinegars (e.g., red wine, balsamic, rice), canned beans, frozen vegetables (e.g., edamame, corn, peas), and canned tomatoes. With these ingredients in stock, I’m never too far from a hearty soup or a vegetable & grain bowl with a zesty dressing
  • Leftovers don’t have to be something you dread or get bored of eating. Making larger batches of something and then “transforming” it into something else is incredibly satisfying (and saves you a lot of time!). So, next time you look at your leftovers, ask yourself, “Can I turn this into the filling for tacos, burritos, fried rice, a pasta sauce, a soup or the fixings for a pizza or a salad?”
  • Find an hour to prep for the week. Make it a social activity by inviting a friend over and share a glass of wine or use it as a time to catch up on your favorite shows. Park a laptop on your counter and enjoy the fall line-up - just watch those fingers while chopping! Getting some prep out of the way will make it easier to get dinner on the table during the week.

Can you give us an example of how you meal plan well?
I love figuring out creative ways to repurpose leftovers. This summer we grilled a lot of kebabs and then turned the leftovers into fixing for pasta or tacos. Even though summer is over, you can still just as easily make kebabs in the oven. Here’s a great recipe for how to do that and turn it into a delicious pasta dish the next night.

Meet Jess:                                                            
As the founder of Cook Smarts, I’m on a mission to bring people back in the kitchen. Here you’ll find the skills, tools, and confidence to help you live happier, simpler, and smarter in your kitchen.

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