Carefully Planning Spontaneous Meals

We all want to be able to reach into the fridge, grab a few things, and throw together a quick, tasty, healthy supper. Too often, there seems to be just a lot of random stuff in there. Some yellowed, wilted celery, a few slices of bread, some blueberry yogurt, eggs . . . Where is the meal?

Here is the thing: you need to plan ahead for the spur-of-the-moment feast. First, you need to keep your fridge stocked with the building blocks for tasty dishes. Second, you must have a set of game plans, solid strategies for turning your basic ingredients into something you actually want to eat.

Let’s say you are vegetarian and like Mexican food. You need a repertoire of simple dishes and a shopping list of ingredients to keep on hand.

  • flour tortillas
  • cheese
  • canned beans, refried beans
  • canned tomatoes
  • limes
  • salsa
  • onions
  • peppers
  • vacuum-packed guacamole
  • tempeh, tofu, seitan, vege-strips
  • cumin, chili powder
  • tortilla chips
  • sour cream
  • canned corn
  • rice, preferably pre-cooked to save time
  1. Tortillas + cheese = quesadillas
  2. Tortillas + cheese + refried beans + guacamole + salsa = burritos
  3. Tortillas + sauteed onions and bell peppers + cumin + lime + chili powder + vege-strips (or tofu, tempeh, or seitan) = fajitas
  4. Canned beans + canned tomatoes + cumin + chili powder + cooked rice = chili and rice

Another way to think about it is in terms of types of meals: soup and sandwich, main-dish salad, etc.

Main-dish salads are incredibly easy. Just think about what a salad bar stocks:

  • chickpeas
  • hard-boiled eggs (or some other kind of cooked protein)
  • olives
  • nuts
  • canned beets
  • feta cheese (or other cheese)
  • roasted red peppers
  • lettuce (of course)

This is what I have discovered: if you have healthy food in the fridge that can be quickly turned into a meal, you are less likely to graze on junk. Most of the time, junk is what we eat when we don’t have better options. Don’t let this happen to you. Be prepared and you will always be inspired to make nutritious meals.


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