Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be a time-sucking drudge-fest. Here are some tips and strategies to get you off your feet to a home-cooked meal in short time.
So you really want to eat better, cut out some of the processed junk, cut costs from eating out, but you’re just too dang tired. You’ve been on your feet all day, the kids have to go here and there, and your brain is complete mush.
I get it, I’ve been there. I once had a job that kept me on my feet for eight hours in DRESS SHOES! I could barely walk by the end of the day. Another job was in commissioned sales, it left me drained and sometimes in tears.
The last thing I wanted to do was try to put a meal together. But here are a few things you can do to get dinner together using (mostly) fresh ingredients without feeling like you have one more thing to deal with.
Have a meal plan
Very important! It doesn’t have to be elaborate, I don’t even use a calendar most of the time. I just make a list of menus for a week or two. That way I can shuffle things around if I need to. By knowing what I’m going to fix in the next couple of days, I can pull ingredients from the freezer, make sure I have everything I need, and plan leftovers. It makes me much less likely to eat out or order in.
This is probably the easiest and most obvious solution. If you’re making a meatloaf it’s just as easy to make two and freeze one. Soups and stews freeze well. So do most pasta dishes. Other things I sometimes freeze are:
- spaghetti sauce
- pork bbq
- sloppy joes
- chicken or beef and noodles
You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by having some of your ingredients ready to go. And by the way, nowhere is it written that you have to stand to do this. If you’re tired or your feet hurt, sit down! Get a bar stool or sit at the kitchen table. Listen to some music or put your favorite show on the device of your choice.
The key is to prep a little extra. Does your recipe call for half an onion? Chop the whole thing, or two. One pound of browned ground beef? It’s just as easy to do two or three. Here are some things I like to have on hand in my freezer:
- Chopped onions, peppers, celery.
- Browned ground beef, taco meat: 2 cups cooked=1 pound.
- Spaghetti sauce: measured into 3 cup portions, about the amount of a jar of store-bought.
- Rice: measured into one cup portions.
- Pancakes and waffles: breakfast for dinner, yum! Wrap pancakes two or three at a time and waffles individually. Microwave to reheat.
- Make a “rotisserie” chicken in your slow cooker: chop or shred in 1-2 cup portions and freeze.
Speaking of slow cookers…
You do have one, right? If you don’t, I you need to get one. Not to be a ms. bossypants, but a slow cooker is going to save you soooo much time and work.
The basic models are pretty inexpensive and sometimes you can find them at garage sales or thrift stores. I popped a few extra bucks for mine because it had some features that I really liked. Mainly, I can program it to switch to “warm” when the cook time is done. Which means I don’t have to be home to do it manually. A great feature if you work all day or, say, have a life. Another feature I like is the lid. It has a leak resistant gasket and it locks down, in case I want to take it somewhere. And I like the stainless steel finish. It’s shiny.
Double Duty Leftovers
Reimagine your leftovers into a completely new meal. Some of the best pork bbq I ever made was from leftover slow cooker carnitas. Add chicken broth and noodles to chicken a la king for a creamy soup. Main dish salads are a great way to use leftover grilled chicken. It only takes a few slices of roast beef and some leftover veggies in a beefy broth to create a hearty soup. If you ever have leftover meat loaf, cut it in big cubes and add it to spaghetti sauce. It tastes just like meatballs.
Quick Cooking Foods
Lastly, a few foods that cook up lightning quick:
- Angel hair pasta
- Breakfast for dinner
Try just a couple of these strategies a week and in no time you will be eating meals that are so much more nutritious than eating out or carrying in. You’ll be in control of what you and your family eat and you’ll save a ton of money in the process.