It has become all too common to order carry-out or prepare processed food from a box. The cause of this makes complete sense – schedules are busy and there’s so little time to prepare a home cooked meal from scratch – but if you plan accordingly, that busy schedule shouldn’t hold you back.
There are many positives to eating at home. For starters, you can prepare things to be exactly the way you like them. You also know the quality of ingredients used and you can easily work around any food sensitivities. You might even know exactly how the food you’re cooking with is grown if you shop from the farmers’ market. And if your goal is to eat healthier, there’s no better way than to ditch the carry-out and processed foods and start enjoying the process of preparing a delicious home cooked meal!
Need a little more convincing that preparing home cooked meals is important? A study done on more than 9,000 people showed that people who frequently cook dinner at home consume fewer calories than those who cook less. In a similar study, they found that people who live alone—who are less likely to cook on a regular basis—often have diets that lack core food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, and fish.
So how can you fit home cooked meals into your busy life? Read on to find out!
#1 Plan your meals ahead of time.
If you have a plan of what you may want to eat, it will allow you to buy the right ingredients at the farmer’s market and grocery store. This reduces the need for last minute grocery runs, which may lead to the fate of choosing to eat out instead. Take an inventory of what you already have and determine what meals you would like to make. Then, write a grocery list to fill in the gaps of what you are missing. If you are having trouble coming up with meal ideas, try starting by choosing your protein. Will the meal be chicken, sausage, bison, fish? Vary your proteins from meal to meal, and find recipes that sound good to you. If you still need help, allrecipes.com has a tool where you can type in the ingredients you already have and it will generate recipes using those foods.
#2 Prep your ingredients ahead of time.
Now that you have planned your meals and have an idea of what you may be eating, chop up your produce for the whole week. For example, if you are planning to eat a few salads during the week, chop up your cucumbers, carrots, or any other toppings that you may want to add. This will prevent you from having to pull out the cutting board at each meal. Almost all produce can be chopped ahead of time – think about dicing onions, chopping lettuce, etc. With a little prep work ahead of time, this will drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare each meal.
#3 Cook large batches and freeze what you don’t eat.
If you’re having a good day and are in the mood to cook, double the recipe! Whatever you don’t eat, separate into individual portions (or portions to feed the number of people in your household) and throw in the freezer. This way, on the days you do not feel like cooking, you can simply pop the frozen entree into the microwave or oven. And the best part about this is you will have no pots and pans to clean! Some foods that freeze well include soups and chilis, meatloaf, stuffed peppers, meatballs, and lasagna.
#4 Find easy recipes with few ingredients.
There are tons of recipes on the internet, and some of them are more involved than others. Skip the 15 step recipes, and use recipes with 5 or less steps instead. Keywords that you can search for are “quick”, “simple”, or “one pan”. And, if you’ve chopped some ingredients ahead of time, meals may be as simple as dumping some Tupperware containers onto a sheet pan and throwing in the oven. Click here for all of our quick recipe options using fresh ingredients from the farmers’ market.
#5 Cook with someone else.
Cooking can be a great bonding activity, and can even be a great at-home date night. Plus, maybe you will learn a new skill or technique from the other person. Pick a meal that you both enjoy and split up the tasks. Throw on some music and dance around while you cook. If your loved ones do not live with you, cook together virtually. To make a whole night of it, make it a 3 course meal. If you are feeling fancy, you can even try wine pairings with your dinner. Matchingfoodandwine.com is a great resource for this.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re the kind of person that is always looking for the most convenient option for grocery shopping. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just the way the world works these days and we have to adapt ourselves to accommodate. That being said, we would be remiss if we didn’t let you in on the exciting new feature of Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow this season. We will be offering the option to pick up all of your farmers’ market goodies curb-side, so you can continue to support your local community even on a time crunch!
Does cooking at home seem more realistic now? Hopefully, these 5 tips have given you some insight on how cooking at home does not have to be a long, drawn out process. Identify your obstacles to making meals at home and choose to tackle them!