The New Year came in much milder than some years; however, today it feels like a true winter day—14 degrees when I woke up this morning!  I hope that each of you will be blessed in 2022.  As we begin a new year, we often reflect on the past year and set goals for the new year.  What new habit do you want to develop?  What projects do you want to complete?

One of the things that I am working on this year is planning and preparing meals that are time effective yet healthy and full of flavor.  Since it is winter, warm meals and comfort foods are often good choices.  Part of my goal includes using foods that I have in the freezer or pantry—reducing food costs and reducing waste (foods forgotten in the pantry and/or freezer).  

What steps need to be taken to be better about time management and resource management in the kitchen this year?
1) Plan ahead.  Choose a time during the week to plan the next week's menus. I typically do this on Sunday afternoon.  This is a good time for me; however, choose a time that works best for your schedule.
2) Check to see what items you have on hand—do you have something that will serve as a good “main dish,” side dishes, breads?  What you currently have can be a good springboard for developing the complete menu.
3) If you have a busy schedule or family members are eating at different times, think SIMPLE.  Suggestion:  main dish, side dish/ vegetable, fruit.
4) Do you have tools that can make things more efficient and simple?  Examples: slow cooker, air fryer, microwave, blender, electric programmable pressure cooker (Instant Pot).  
5) Can you do small tasks ahead of time?  Examples:  brown hamburger in advance, chop vegetables ahead of time, anything that can be measured ahead or prepped in advance.  These simple tasks are great time savers as you begin preparing meals.  Are there items you can make ahead and freeze, then just reheat?
I have been utilizing my slow cooker this week for three different meals—roast and vegetables, northern beans, and chili.  A slow cooker is a nice kitchen appliance because it allows you to put all of the ingredients in one container, set the temperature, and it does all the work while you do other tasks that need completed.  If you have a slow cooker, think about using it for a variety of recipes—enchiladas, soups, cheesy potatoes, meat dishes, etc.

Another appliance I use to reduce time in meal preparation is the Electric Programmable Pressure Cooker (E.P.P.C-like the Instant Pot). Even if you determine your night's menu late in the day, the pressure cooker can help you to still prepare dinner in 30 minutes or less. The E.P. P.C. can be used for main dishes, eggs, cheesecake, soups and much more.  If you have an E.P.P.C. and have not had it out of the box, are unsure of how to use it, or want more recipe ideas, Purdue Extension—Rush County and the Velma Wortman Morristown Branch of the Shelby County Public Library are offering a program called Cooking Under Pressure on Jan. 18 at 6:30pm.  This will be a face-to-face program with samples to try.  If you would prefer a virtual program or are unable to attend the program on Jan. 18, we will be offering a virtual program with the same information on Jan. at 2 p.m.  The virtual program will be recorded.  To access the virtual program, please call Purdue Extension—Rush County @765-932-5974.  
Blessings for the New Year!