There’s nothing more frustrating than coming home from a long day of work with a growling stomach, a hangry spouse/roommate/kid and an empty fridge, am I right? It probably happens to you most nights a week, which is why modern marvels like delivery, frozen pizzas, and the Whole Foods hot bar are life savers.
Are they really, though?
We end up spending tons of money and ingesting loads of excess calories, sugar, fat, and salt when we eat out — especially fast food — or grab packaged foods on the way home from work.
“Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: t’s the act of cooking itself. People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.”
(Who says? Yup, Michael Pollan).
As much as it sucks, the truth is we must eat, every day, multiple times a day in fact, and this is a lot of WORK. I can help you make it less work. No, I’m not driving to your house to hand you some home-cooked meals; that’s on you, my friend, but I can at least lessen the burden.
Top five tips to ease the process of home cooking
1) Change your mindset.
Seriously, this is step one. Cooking doesn’t have to be a drag every time, but rather an enjoyable event if you’re prepared and have a positive outlook. Just like any skill, it takes practice and some mishaps to get better at it. Recognize that by cooking for yourself and your family, you’re giving the gift of nourishment and long term health.
2) Plan ahead.
Just like you spend time organizing your schedule for the upcoming week, figuring out if you need childcare, making appointments, etc., do this with your meal planning too. Flip through some dusty cookbooks, glance through your favorite cooking blogs, or head to Pinterest for inspiration. Spending just 30 minutes on a Sunday will arm you with a meal plan for the whole week.
NutritionPro, my weekly meal plan program, basically does this part for you. It has four dinner recipes delivered every Friday, plus a prep plan and grocery list for two people. Click on the button below for a free sample.NutritionPro
3) Strategic grocery store shopping
Think about how much time you waste by going to the grocery store every day! It’s silly. If you plan ahead, you might only need to go every 5-7 days, as fresh veggies, meat, poultry, and fish will last about that long. Start a list well in advance (my favorite app is ShopShop for jotting down items I run out of AS I run out of them), buy ingredients for a few thoughtfully planned dinners, and grab staple items or dry goods to have on hand for the not-so-planned dinners.
**When you get home from the store, don’t put everything away until you’ve washed the veggies, chopped and bagged them, marinated the chicken… etc.
4) Organize and stock your pantry
Spring cleaning is a great time to sort through your pantry and all the random bottles in your fridge. Toss old things, invest in some mason jars for storage, and assess what condiments you have. Making ingredients visible will help you remember to use them. Take that bag of lentils out of the cupboard and put it on the counter; bring the miso paste to the front of the fridge so you remember to use it when roasting your veggies this week!
Click here for the post I wrote on Pantry Basics â€” it’s a whole list of must-have oils, vinegars, bulk things, etc. Easy meal prep would be much harder without my tamari, miso paste, nutritional yeast, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, tahini, sun dried tomatoes, chicken stock, sesame oil…
5) Plan for leftovers
If leftovers sound unappetizing, get over it! Most foods lasts for longer than many people think if they’re refrigerated and sealed. Having the same-ish healthy home cooked dinner two nights in a row is better than the fast food alternative. For more variety with just a little extra work, you can transform leftover key ingredients into a brand new meal.
• Last night’s leftover turkey meatballs can be crumbled up for tonight’s taco salad.
• Yesterday’s quinoa can be mixed with cabbage, carrots, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar for tonight’s Asian slaw.
• Extra baked chicken can be shredded and made into today’s lettuce wraps.