Instead of relying on the convenience of ordering out, try these tips for meal planning to save money and make cooking faster, easier, and less of a chore!
Ordering out can feel too easy these days considering the countless meal delivery services that are available. You can even order a single frozen yogurt or cup of coffee straight to your door! This convenience can be a benefit for days where you really don’t want to cook, but if used too often, can take a hit on our health and wallets. Here are some simple meal planning solutions to save money that you can prepare yourself for tasty, kid-approved, home-cooked meals.
Get everything prepared before you start cooking. Take out all the ingredients, utensils, and dishes. Being able to visualize the steps, and having everything in order saves time and prevents frustration. Declutter your kitchen at least once every few months to help stay on top of the organization.
Choose Your Go-To Dishes
Familiarize yourself with a handful of the family’s favorite recipes that have under seven ingredients and make them meal staples. You can even take a poll so everyone is involved in the decision and can look forward to the dishes. Cooking doesn’t have to mean a three-course meal. On some nights, a simple whole-grain baguette, a nice cheese (like brie) and some crudité and grapes might be just what the family needs.
One Pot and Done!
One pot recipes can be your new best friend. There are almost endless possibilities that can be made simply by dumping a bunch of ingredients into a pot and letting them cook away. Whether you’re using a slow cooker or pressure cooker, these handy devices allow you to do other things while dinner is cooking, and it saves mega time in clean up!
Embrace taco night for a super quick and family-friendly dinner. All you have to do is cook the protein (tofu, beans, fish, turkey, chicken) and make a spread of the ingredients you and your family love (like avocado, lettuce, tomato, etc.). Heat some tortillas once you’re ready, and within 10 minutes, you have yourself a healthier, less expensive version of takeout. These bean tacos are so simple, plus you can find many more in The Plant-Based Boost Cookbook, 100+ Recipes for Athletes and Exercise Enthusiasts.
Find Simple Substitutes
Substitute pasta or rice with quick-cooking grains like couscous, quinoa, or orzo.
Chop Chop Away
When you prep veggies or fruits, cut extra for snacks and lunches or use in dinner the following day. Sometimes I like to chop a whole onion and put some in a container to use the rest of the week. When fruits or veggies are going bad, pop them in the freezer to use in smoothies later on!
Use the Freezer
Freeze leftovers (especially soups, legumes, or grains) that may go bad before you get a chance to dig in again. This gives you an easy solution for quick dinners (all you need is to reheat) and saves you from wasting food. You can also use the freezer as a handy backup. If you find yourself out of fresh produce, keep some frozen vegetables on hand to use on a weeknight.
Prep the Batter
Make your own batter mixes and store them in a jar. Then when you’re cooking something like pancakes, all you have to do is dump the batter in a bowl, add liquids and mix!
Find Ways to Minimize Clean-Up
Use silicone baking sheets or foil to line baking sheets, pans, and casserole dishes for quicker, easier cleanup.
Nix the Peeling
Don’t peel the potatoes, apples, zucchinis, or cucumbers. Leave the skin on for added color and fiber to your dishes. If you must peel the potatoes, scoop out the centers instead, and have potato skins one night and mashed potatoes another – see these recipes.
Whether you can’t find the time or cooking just isn’t enjoyable to you, that’s OK! Ordering out once in a while is not so bad, and you can still make healthy choices for your family. However, at the end of the day, cooking at home beats ordering out or relying on convenience foods—incorporate some of these tips into your cooking routine and see what a difference a few tweaks can make!