It’s a tough cycle to break. In our fast-paced culture, once the 9 to 5 drill is done for the day, prepping and cooking dinner feels like a daunting task. This is true whether we’re talking a meal for one or a feast for the family. Our go-to? Take out food.
We all know cooking at home costs less than eating out, and home cooked meals are usually healthier than their restaurant counterparts. So eating at home more often is a win-win, right? Sure it is. But when dinnertime rolls around, many of us feel too fried to shop for ingredients, let alone cook.
The good news? A few simple life hacks can help take the pressure off preparing dinner. Take a look at this list below and see how you can reorganize your kitchen and your time to make the most of Monday night’s meatloaf.
1. Drop the cookbook style approach to cooking – Not all cookbooks are tomes that help us offer Julia Child-style spreads; there are plenty of volumes aimed at getting meals on the table quickly (30 Minute Meals, anyone?). But this approach doesn’t always work as advertised.
Think about it. These one-and-done type meals take more time than meets the eye. You have to drive, shop, drive, prep, cook and serve. Instead of being faithful to recipes, develop your own handful of tried and true dishes that work for your family. In the end, you’ll have less wasted effort, and fewer wasted ingredients.
2. Plan and shop for your meals in advance – Taking a short view of nightly meals that are too recipe-centric can add time and stress to meal preparations. Instead, try planning for the entire week so you can get your shopping done in one shot.
Keep a well-stocked pantry of cooking basics that you use regularly. Sure, even a chef-grade pantry will run out of capers every now and then. But you’ll save time (and money) if you plan ahead for the week and do all your shopping in one trip. If you have to hit the grocery store on the way home from work, you’ll just be running in for fresh fruits, veggies, and meats.
3. Take leftovers to the next level – Step off of the one-dinner-at-a-time treadmill. This is a time-consuming process turns off a lot of would-be cooks, sending them straight for the take-out menus. Find creative ways to make different dinners out of leftovers. Last night’s pork roast is tomorrow night’s carnitas tacos.
Branch out and experiment. You’ll save money by wasting less food, and you’ll save time by using what you already have in the fridge. And flexing your cooking muscle only gets better with practice.
Try employing your own systematic approach to home cooking. Your health and wallet (and sanity) will thank you.