Part of successful meal planning is sometimes adapting recipes for the ingredients you already have on hand. First and foremost, don’t be afraid to change a recipe! The first thing to remember when it comes to cooking at home is not being afraid to try new things, and not being afraid to fail.
For all the years I’ve been cooking, there have been plenty of times I tried something new that DID NOT turn out the way it was supposed to. That’s what pizza is for! If you never try though, you’ll never know. I’ve also tried new things that I was sure would not turn out to be edible at all, and my husband thought it was the best thing ever!
Don’t have one seasoning from the list 5 in a recipe? Leave it out! Don’t have buttermilk? Add one tablespoon of vinegar to one cup of milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Learning to swap ingredients will make you a much more confident home cook. The more you try, the more you learn. The internet will be your friend, I Google stuff when I’m cooking all the time.
Making 1/2 of a recipe:
I do this A TON. For 5 years it was just my husband and I, and most recipes are for 4 servings. Even now, my son is only 3 (and sometimes picky) and so I still half recipes constantly. Just make sure you’re doing your math right! Hopefully you weren’t as bad at fractions as I was in school, and it will be easier for you. 😉 Writing it out helps a lot, often I get pulled away mid-recipe (Hi, a 3yo lives here.) and I’ll forget for a second I was halving the recipe…and oops, almost dump double the salt I wanted to!
Can it go in a slow cooker?
If don’t have a slow cooker and want to try meal planning for the first time, I highly recommend spending the $30 or so to get one. When cooking from scratch I always see if I can adapt whatever it is to the slow cooker. There are lots of great compilations of recipes on Pinterest specifically for the slow cooker, you can find some of them on my boards here.
Swapping the protein.
You might often see recipes that sound good, but don’t try it because it calls for beef and someone in your house doesn’t eat beef. Or is vegetarian. You can still make the recipe! Many recipes that call for beef can be swapped with chicken (tacos, chili, teriyaki stir-fry, to name a few). Also there are recipes that may call for ground beef and it can be swapped with quinoa or black beans. Or both! Chili is a great example, just add a 1/2 cup cooked quinoa to your slow cooker chili an hour before serving (see my slow cooker chili recipe here).
Once you start adapting recipes, you’ll realize just how easy it is. And you won’t feel so limited when deciding what to cook for dinner. Of course planning head is what’s most helpful; if you need an easy start to that click here to download my FREE printable one sheet meal planner (includes an easy step-by-step guide!).