I love to eat. Food brings me great pleasure and I will profess my love for a good meal unabashedly. For years I spent a good part of my income eating out (because I didn’t really know how to cook, and I like the social aspect of it). But now that I’ve learned that eating out is one of the surest ways to derail my budget, I opt for staying in and cooking easy, yummy meals.
If you look back at all of the money you’ve spent eating out (lunches, happy hours, dinners with friends) in the last month or year and are astounded by the gigantic number, you’re not alone. It adds up.
Think about it this way– if you bought lunch and spent $8 (Monday-Friday) that adds up to $2,080 per year and over 10 years of not meal-prepping, you’re looking at $20,800. And we aren’t even talking about the return on that money had you invested it.
Let’s get to the elephant in the room…
Why aren’t you cooking more often at home? Maybe you’re not super comfortable in the kitchen or you feel like you don’t know where to start to learn how to cook. Perhaps you live alone and need ideas for cooking small, easy meals or you’re in the habit of going out for the social aspect of it. Why not recreate the experience in the comfort of your own home? It doesn’t take years in culinary school to learn a few tricks in the kitchen. I’ll share suggestions for beginners as well as a few quick recipe ideas throughout the post to show you just how easy it is!
Start with a few easy steps and you’ll be on your way to overhaul your cooking experience in no time: Plan. Prep. Execute.
Have you ever found that a little planning saves a lot of time? There’s no place where this statement rings truer than in the kitchen. With cooking, planning works best in one-week segments. This will give you the most bang for your buck when you’re shopping for fresh ingredients (you don’t want to buy too much food and end up throwing it away). I usually plan for the week on Sunday morning while enjoying my coffee (this is also my favorite day to prep!).
Plan to eat weekday meals at home (or pack your lunch) and maybe eat out a couple times on the weekends. This means you should plan for roughly 6 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and always be sure to have a few snacks to have on hand.
- Determine what recipes to use for the week. I usually try out a new recipe every week or two and I find them on Pinterest.
- Map out your meals. Take into consideration what ingredients can be used in multiple ways. I love making “Buddha bowls,” which is basically just a bunch of deliciousness all in a bowl (grain/protein/veggies/sauce). It’s a great way to experiment with leftovers so you don’t throw anything away.
- Eat seasonally. Plan to eat what’s freshest according to the season – this spring I’ve been obsessed with asparagus and it’s freshest and always on sale this time of year.
- Commit to the list! Don’t get sidetracked by the shiny objects like pre-extracted pomegranate seeds, which are super pricey. Unless…
- Look for what’s on sale and if it’s freezable, buy 2 and save one for later.
- Buy generic brands whenever you can.
- Buy things you’ll use in different ways: veggies that you’ll use in breakfast egg scrambles, salads, Buddha bowls, on fajitas and tacos; tortillas for fajitas and tacos and huevos rancheros; buy a whole chicken and use it all week in various recipes.
When you get home from the store, take the time to get everything ready for the week. You’ll thank yourself later. And you know what makes prepping fun? Find a podcast you’re really inspired by or a playlist that gets you pumped up. Blast it while you prep!
- Make a big batch of quinoa or rice for your Buddha bowls.
- Chop up your veggies and put them into containers so they’re ready to go for egg scrambles, salads, Buddha bowls, side dishes.
- Mix up a sauce or two to have on hand.
My favorite tahini sauce recipe:
This is good on meats, veggies, and in your bowls and you can store it in the fridge all week.)
- 4 Tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste)
- 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
- A few splashes of cold water.
Honey mustard sauce:
Put this all in a shaker bottle to mix together and keep on hand for salads, meats, or even as a dipping sauce.
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons mayo
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
The execution is where cooking often gets overwhelming. If you’re not an experienced cook, you don’t need to go over the top to make healthy and delicious meals. Simple is usually so much better.
Grains are easy to prepare. Usually you just add water and boil. To make your rice or quinoa extra delicious, try using chicken or vegetable broth. You can store grains in the fridge and re-heat throughout the week.
Veggies that are prepped on Sunday will be easy to throw into a salad or dipped in hummus. Roasting veggies brings out great flavor. Top them with tahini sauce!
Roasted Veggies Recipe:
Cut up your favorite veggies. I like sweet potatoes, red onions, brussels sprouts, zucchini, squash and toss them with olive oil and your favorite spices. You can change it up and use Cajun seasoning or Italian herb mix or cumin or rosemary – experiment! Roast the veggies in the oven at 425 for 30-45 mins, turning once.
Meats don’t have to be daunting. Keep it simple.
Whole Roasted Chicken Recipe:
Preheat the oven to 450. Pat the chicken dry and stuff it with a small bunch of herbs: Rosemary and/or Thyme. Salt and pepper the chicken. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and pour over chicken. Roast for 30 mins. Turn the oven down to 350 and roast another 45 mins. You can use this chicken in recipes all week!
Now you have a few tricks up your sleeve! If done right, cooking at home is healthier, more affordable, and it can be really fun if you set yourself up for success.
*Author: Lindsay Nichols
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