One of the areas of menu planning that I think that tends to get over looked are the side dishes. Most of us think about the main course when deciding what to prepare but I have found that planning the side dishes is actually more challenging and can be a great opportunity to try new things. A side dish is less of a commitment so if not everyone likes it that’s ok, and if the dish doesn’t turn out there is still plenty to eat. It can also be a chance add some color to plate as well as more vegetables, afterall we can all really use more veggies. I also make sure to balance heavier main dishes with lighter sides like green veggies and salad and make heavier sides like risotto when we have a lighter main dish such as fish.
I find that side dishes are also where I use many of the fresh veggies I buy where as the main dishes often come from the freezer. For this reason I space the meals out in the month so that the stuff that will go bad the fastest like green beans pea pods are used within days of grocery shopping and the meals with sweet potatoes and carrots are much later. Many times I am able to make weeks of planned main dishes without having to go to the store but it’s the side dishes that force me to go, if I didn’t plan them out then we would be low on the fresh stuff and would simply go without.
When looking for inspiration I try to think about new ways to prepare the same old food. I look for new ways to make green beans or new seasoning combinations for potato wedges. When we have something ethnically inspired I search for side dishes that are typical in those styles of cooking. Next time you are stumped as to what to make for dinner try starting with a favorite side dish and work backwards.
Happy menu planning!
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Much love, Aislinn and Emily