How Do I Tackle Meal-Planning Without Killing the Cooking Muse?

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Q: Now it's January: resolution/fresh start time for many of us. I'd really like to do more meal planning in the coming year. I'm a pretty good what-looks-good-at-the-market, what's-in-the-pantry kind of cook, which feels very liberating and creative, but I'm at a loss when it comes to planning meals for the week. That feels so small and restrictive.

Any advice on how to plan meals without killing the muse?

Sent by Karen

Editor: Wow, really great question, Karen! Personally, I love picking 2 to 3 dinners every week that I plan on making and for which I buy all the ingredients ahead — these recipes come from cookbooks, blogs, magazines, or wherever I'm finding inspiration that week. I really look forward to making them (and I have all the ingredients since I planned ahead! Win!), so it still feels very creative and rewarding to me. I'm also usually cooking a recipe that stretches my kitchen skillz a bit — one that has a new method or uses an ingredient in an interesting way — so that helps keep my energy and excitement high.

But I totally understand your predicament here. I don't think there's one single answer, so I'm really curious to hear what other readers do.

Readers, over to you! How do you tackle meal-planning while still staying inspired?

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(Image credits: Chris Perez)