"90% of Americans don't like to cook - and it's costing them thousands."
Yes, I enjoy cooking. But if I didn't have a plan, some easy recipes, and some time saving tips or an understanding of why it matters, you can guarantee I wouldn't cook half as much as I do.
But for me, it's a priority. I consider nutritious, home-cooked meals to be one of the most important aspects of my family's and my health. It's a non-negotiable. It's what I preach and is absolutely what I practice.
There are so many benefits to preparing meals in your home. If you read the quote above, it might sound alarming, but the truth is, we throw away so much money on pre-made foods, ordering in, eating out. So if improving your finances is a goal, consider getting in the kitchen!
Most importantly are the health benefits. We are finally having our eyes opened to just how harmful processed foods can be. There are so many unnecessary additives, chemicals, colors that can really have alarming long term effects. But these foods are cheap and made to taste good - be addicting actually. It would be unrealistic to try and eliminate them completely, but I would urge you to take steps towards reducing the amount you consume. When we cook our own food, we control what goes in it.
But sometimes it just seems so overwhelming to think about everything from planning meals, to creating lists, to shopping, to unpacking and storing the food, to prepping it, and finally cooking it. That can seem like a daunting task to anyone. But it doesn't have to be!
I have rounded up some of my favorite tips that I use week in and week out to save time, money, my health, and my sanity! I hope you find them helpful!
Consider your week. Look at your calendar for the week and get an idea of what your obligations are. What nights are super busy? When do you have a little more time? Which nights will you take off from cooking?
Decide What to cook. First, always take inventory of what you already have in your home that can be used for a meal. Next, consider themes or seasons. For example, in my home, every Monday is #meatlessmonday so this way I know we are most likely having fish. Every other Tuesday or so we do a Mexican theme like #tacotuesday or some type of fajitas. Sundays are for large pot meals like sauce with meatballs, soups, chilis....all things that can be made in excess and frozen for another meal down the road. What foods are in season during this particular time of year? Build a meal around some of the fresh produce you find.
Make your menu. From there, jot down an idea for each night of the week you plan to cook. This can be done on a cute menu board hanging in your kitchen, a list hanging on your fridge, or in your phone. Keep this visible so that you stick to your plan and feel prepared knowing what's coming.
Create your organized grocery list. After taking inventory of your fridge and pantry, using your menu, look at each meal you have chosen and jot down all of the necessary ingredients in an organized list by section of the grocery story. I include a template for this in my Free 3 Day Recipe Guide. This will save you time, frustration, and money once both at the store or your online cart.
Shop with a purpose. If, like me, you still physically go to the grocery store, it helps to know the layout of the store. Be sure to shop the perimeter first. This will assure you are getting all of the necessities to build your (non-processed) meals. It will also leave less time to just aimlessly stroll the aisles for impulse purchases. Stick to your list! And when unloading your cart, organize your items on the belt in categories so that unpacking once you are home is easier. For example, bag all of your produce together, anything that needs to be refrigerated, pantry items, etc.
A little prep goes a long way. Think of a few things you can carve out time for early in the week to prep ahead. I like to make sure I prepare some quick grab & go breakfasts like chia pudding or overnight oats, dry ingredients for oatmeal, smoothie bags, muffins, etc. Then I try to make 1-2 healthy snacks for the week - think oat balls, chocolate crispy bars, chocolate covered dates, popcorn, kale chips. Next, I wash and cut fruits and veggies (I rely on my Produce Storage Guide for this). I also like to prep some things I can use to build a healthy lunch like quinoa, hard-boiled eggs, bean salads, or salads in a jar. Finally, I typically do my prep on a Sunday which is the day I like to make a big pot meal like a sauce, a soup or chili. I make a big batch so I can enjoy it for lunch or another dinner or freeze and use again at another time.
Invest in convenient cookware. Considering a crock pot, or my favorite, a Dutch oven will without a doubt save you time. Why? Because any time you can cook an entire meal in one pot is a win! Crock pots are obviously great since they can be set up ahead of time, but what I love about a Dutch oven is that it can go both on the stove and in the oven. It cooks quickly if need be or you can cook more slowly as well. It keeps the food nice and warm due to the cast iron.
Minimize the number of pots or pans you use. This seems obvious, but there are lots of great meals that can be made all in one pan or on one baking sheet. I will often roast my veggies along side my protein. (I share a few tricks for how to cook two things that take a different amount of time in my Instagram highlights). Less cleanup? Yes please!
Roast or bake your veggies. (Or other foods too). Roasting is such a delicious and simple way to prepare food! No more standing over the stove mixing, just line a baking sheet with parchment paper, chop up your favorite veggies, drizzle some oil and seasoning and let the oven do the rest!
Set up what you can ahead of time. If I know we have a busy day/evening, I will try to think of what steps I can do ahead of time. Marinating meat or veggies in a Ziploc baggie or glass Pyrex earlier in the day will not only leave your food tasting amazing but will minimize the time spent in the kitchen right before dinnertime. And that to me is always a goal!
Like anything else, this may take a little practice and trial & error. But I promise, it does get easier and you do figure out methods that work for you and your lifestyle.
I designed my 10 Day JumpStart with all of this in mind. I wanted to take out as much of the effort for you as possible which is why I included a done for you menu, grocery lists and easy to follow, simple recipes. But of course I had to go beyond the food since health means so much more...so also included are some workouts and informational videos addressing other aspects of wellness, as well as a Food Prep Guide and video. I tried to think of resources that would be simple but helpful to make like a little easier and your efforts towards improved health a little less overwhelming.
When you know what to cook, how to cook it, and why it really matters, it makes a big difference on your outlook. And having some simple steps doesn't hurt either!