"Mix and Match" Meal Planning Strategy

Create Meals from Basic Foods on Hand - Solve the "What's for Dinner" Dilemma

Mix and Match Meal Planning Strategy - Create meals from basic foods on hand and solve the What is for Dinner Dilemma

Questions or comments? Email Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

A "Restaurants and Institutions" survey found that about 70 percent of the adult U.S. population doesn't decide what to eat that night until 4 p.m. or later. One way to ease the "dinner dilemma" is to plan meals like some people plan clothing purchases.

Consider the person who rapidly mixes and matches a few clothing items into dozens of different outfits. Perform that same trick in your kitchen! Stock up with basic foods that quickly assemble into an assortment of different and delicious meals.

To start you thinking, here are some sample foods and suggested uses. Then, kick-off your "hurried and harried" recipe collection with four fast and fabulous recipes from cookbooks by registered dietitians. Transform the dinner dilemma into a daily delight!

Possible Foods For "Mixing And Matching"

  • Assorted Fresh Fruits in Season: Eat out of hand; chop or slice and add to salads; slice and serve as a topper for frozen desserts or layer with pudding for a parfait.
  • Cheese: Make toasted cheese sandwiches; add to main dish salads; mix into a white sauce and serve with broccoli over a baked potato or use as a base for soups; grate and use as a topping for casseroles.
  • Eggs: Hard-cook, slice and use for a main dish salad; fry; scramble; make into an omelet; use in egg salad sandwiches.
  • Frozen Vegetables: Serve as is; toss into soups; add to casseroles; thaw and use in cold salads.
  • Mayonnaise-Type Dressing: Check your cookbooks, library or the Internet for variations on mayo-type dressings to add variety to salads and sandwiches. Some possible add-ins include curry powder, mustard, tarragon, dill and onion. To keep calories low, use reduced-fat or fat-free versions of dressing.
  • Milk: Use in white sauces, puddings and cream soups as well as for drinking.
  • Meat, Poultry and Fish: Look through your recipe sources for multiple ways to fix your favorite types of meat and poultry. Especially look for recipes that include other staple foods you typically have on hand.
  • Rice, Pasta: Offer with seasonings as a side dish, serve topped with a sauce; mix with other foods and a white sauce or can of soup for a casserole; use cold in salads; add to soups.