A lot of people make resolutions to kick off a new year. Even if you don't always succeed at them, they're a good way to broaden your horizons and give you some goals.
That said, resolutions don't always have to be geared toward chiseling your body into a perfect state or changing some major part of your life.
Sometimes a better strategy is to take on a few smaller resolutions that might give you a different outlook on life or just teach you a few new skills.
Below are eleven resolutions that are geared toward cooking, food, or the kitchen. Some are more ambitious than others but for each one, I've also included an action step to help you get started.
1. Meatless Mondays. One of the biggest food ideas that took hold in 2010 was Meatless Monday. Americans tend to overindulge in the meat department. By cutting out meat just one day a week, you'll be forced to try some new dishes and also probably end up eating healthier as a result.
Action Step: Check out www.meatlessmonday.com for recipe ideas and start planning!
2. Read Ingredient Labels. Make it a goal to start reading ingredient lists on the food you buy. The goal isn't to necessarily change what you eat, but just to become more knowledgeable about what's in what you eat. It takes just a few minutes and if you're like me, you'll become addicting to finding out what food producers put in stuff and why they do it.
Action Step: Go through your cupboard and read all the ingredients in the products there. Pick out a few ingredients that aren't familiar to you and research them on Wikipedia.
3. Join a CSA. If you have them available in your area, community supported agriculture (CSAs) is a great way to support your local farmers and also get really good produce during the Spring and Summer months.
Action Step: Go to Local Harvest to find out more about CSA programs and find ones near you.
4. Start a Garden. While it may seem a bit early, now's a great time to start planning a small garden. Pick out a spot, do some research on what grows well where you live, and find out when you can start planting. Even a small garden can help you save money on food and provide you with really good produce. Plus you'll get some exercise out of it!
Action Step: Check out some gardening books at your local library. They should have a section that's specific to your area's climate.
5. Learn a New Cuisine. Pick a cuisine that you're unfamiliar with and try it out! If you don't have any restaurants in your area that offer the cuisine you want to learn, do some online searches and try to find basic recipes to get you started. Most likely you'll have to research a few new ingredients, but it shouldn't take too long and at the end you'll be able to make really unique dishes.
Action Step: Pick a cuisine that you think you might like. If you like spicy food, try Mexican food or Thai food. If you're short on time, maybe try to master the stir-fry.
6. Host a Dinner Party. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but it's a great way to learn to cook for a crowd and cheaply get a bunch of friends together. My favorite dinner party is a taco night with homemade guacamole and salsa.
Action Step: Plan a good weekend and a list of a few friends that would be good dinner guests!
7. Learn to Can. This is actually one of my resolutions for the year. Canning is becoming a lost art and it's a fantastic way to store food through the winter. If you coupled this resolution with the CSA or Garden resolution, you'd be in good shape.
Action Step: Buy a canning kit and grab an introduction on canning book. It's possible that someone in your family (Grandparents?) might also have what you need to get started.
8. Waste Less Food. As food prices go up, it's always good to try to use more of your produce and food before it goes bad. Make a concerted effort in 2011 to reduce your food waste.
Action Step: Put a white board on your fridge and start keeping track of the produce that you have available so you can use it before it goes bad. If you're starting a garden, you could also start a compost heap to reduce waste.
9. Learn to Cook Something From Scratch. It could be something easy like cupcakes or something a bit trickier like pasta, but it's always fun to start with raw ingredients and make a meal out of it.
Action Step: Pick something that you typically buy prepared and do research on if and how you can make it at home.
10. Use the Whole Bird. Learn to cut up a whole chicken and use all the parts. You'll save money and also be able to make a lot of new, awesome meals.
Action Step: Look up videos on YouTube to guide you through the process or find a friendly chef to help you with your first bird.
11. Homemade Cleaning Products. Not exactly food-related, but definitely kitchen related. This is a resolution that my wife made this year to try to start making a few cleaning products at home. It's really easy to do by mixing up essential oils with a few simple products like baking soda, vinegar, etc. It'll save you money in the long-run and cut down on chemicals in your home.
Action Step: If you're going to do this, there are a bunch of great books with home cleaning recipes. Pick one out at your local library and give it a shot. One thing to note about this resolution is some of the ingredients (oils) are pretty expensive. They keep forever though and you'll only use a few drops each time. Over the long-run you'll save money.
So there you have it. Eleven resolutions that will hopefully give you some ideas for 2011.
Are you making any food-related resolutions for the new year? Leave a comment!
Follow Nick Evans on Twitter: www.twitter.com/macheesmo