This time of year brings ideas of spring cleaning. Hints of warmer weather ahead, ideas of getting rid of the old and cleaning out the clutter may fill your weekends.
It can be just as meaningful to consider your kitchen and cooking as you prepare for springtime. Meal planning, shopping and food prepping can become quite routine over time. Even pros can get in a rut in the kitchen. However, keeping it simple and seasonal, you may find new inspiration for your plate.
Here are a few easy steps for spring cleaning your cooking routine as we head into this new season.
1. Clean out your pantry
Just like our closets, things in the pantry get pushed to the back and not used often. Like that can of hearts of palm you thought you would try in a salad. Or the box of raisins that has still never been opened.
Review your shelf-stable items periodically to be sure items have not expired. Create your go-to canned and dry goods that make easy weeknight meals such as black beans and rice, or canned salmon and olives for the feature of a Niçoise salad.
Other staples for a nutrient-dense meal might be whole grains like wild rice and quinoa, canned whole tomatoes, coconut milk, canned beans like lentils and chickpeas as well as vegetable broth.
2. Enjoy seasonal produce
This is one of the best ways to see foods in a new light. There are many benefits of eating with the seasons. For example, in spring, we eat lighter after the heavy winter meals in January and February.
Spring greens like arugula and collard greens lighten and detoxify our bodies from the fatty foods we may have enjoyed during the colder months. Foods like radishes, dandelion greens, sorrel and asparagus provide cleansing properties to promote detoxification. These foods also help prepare us for the warmer summer months.
Seasonal foods are also fresher and can be less expensive.Shopping at farmers markets or joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) can improve the overall economy by keeping dollars in the local community. Visit Urban Harvest Farmers Market, Heights Mercantile Farmers Market or Eleanora’s Market.
3. Try meal planning
Planning is key to successful behavior change. To meet your goals, being ready and prepared can be the secret sauce ingredient.
Changes in the kitchen don’t have to be overwhelming. You can have a mix of weekly meals you prepare and some that are partially premade. The key is taking time to evaluate and make those choices that are supportive of better nutrition. Pick a day that allows you a little extra time and fill a sheet pan with vegetables to roast. Or boil or roast a whole chicken and use the meat for a few different recipes during the week. If you are considering outsourcing, a few good local meal prep companies are Family Thyme Meals, Houston Eats and Epicurean Lite.
Taking time for a kitchen and pantry refresh can make a big change in your health. Think about your staple and stock menu ideas with an added dash of seasonal produce for extra nutrient density and flavor. Plan a meal using a new seasonal vegetable this week and see where it leads you, one new bite at a time.
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