Life has taken a complete turn recently. You can’t just walk out to your favorite restaurant at a moment’s notice anymore. We’re spending more time at home than many of us have in years. During a time like this, it’s always a good idea to start thinking about how you can get more acquainted with your once-ignored kitchen.
It’s a good time to practice creating meals at home so that, when we get back to our new normal, we’re better equipped with an easier relationship with our kitchen and the foods we eat. Finding creative ways to hate being in the kitchen less doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some practical pointers.
1. Keep a personalized recipe book.
You can always get scrappy and create a collection of recipes and meal ideas you can pull from in an instant. By this, I don’t mean hop onto Google and scroll through the millions of search engine results you’ll get when you type in “dinner ideas.”
Chances are, you’ll only end up procrastinating when you do that and get distracted (been there done that). You either want to keep a bookmarked portfolio sorted by dish that you can easily create on Google Docs, or you can print out your favorite recipes and keep them in a kitchen binder. There are plenty of free printables you can find online to help you do this as well as recipe planners you can find on Etsy. If you really want to get fancy, go ahead and include conversion charts and measurements for when you’ll need them. The point is, there is no shortage of tools here.
The idea is to keep a shortlist of inspiration on hand when you need it. Bonus points if you can find recipes built around the base ingredients you tend to buy and can afford most. On that note-
2. Keep ingredients simple.
One great way to lessen the friction between you and the kitchen is to keep ingredients simple and learn to meal prep around those simple ingredients.
For example, it might be easier for you to make rice than pasta with a wine-based sauce, so try looking up recipes and meal prep ideas that center around rice (wild rice or brown rice if you want to be extra healthy).
If you’re a sucker for a good salad, you can always get Kale in bulk and build your salad with complementary ingredients that add flavor instead of buying the expensive pre-made stuff.
When you keep ingredients simple, cooking is easier and faster.
3. Consider nutrition first, flavor second.
Along with keeping ingredients simple, it’s important to also think about nutrition before flavor.
Often, when we’re shopping, especially when we haven’t made a list before-hand, we tend to go for items that look like they’ll taste better instead of the foods we’ll get the most nutrition from. In other words, we’ll grab whatever we see that looks tasty and easy — hello unhealthy frozen dinners!
It’s safe to say many of us do this without thinking, but once we realize we’re doing it, we can start changing that mindset little by little and go for nutritious first, flavor second. Why? Because flavor can always be added to more nutritious foods that at first glance might not look that appetizing.
Healthy and hearty ingredients like sweet potatoes, spinach, legumes, and plain white rice can be cooked and flavored a million and one ways. You can go through a list of the healthiest ingredients and pick your favorite ones to shop for. Going for the processed stuff will only be pricier in the long run and make you feel sluggish during the day.
4. Budget a meal plan and take a picture of your shopping list.
Food tends to be one of the most expensive categories in our budget. A great way to get more involved in the kitchen is to create a meal plan at the beginning of each week.
This makes figuring out your meals each day easier, and you’re guaranteed to have the ingredients you need on hand for a particular recipe. This can be as simple as sitting down with a meal planner each Sunday, looking through your pantry to take stock of what you have and what you need, and planning out your dinners for each night. It can seem like a lot of work at first, but the amount of money you can save each month is significant enough to make it a habit.
If you aren’t the type to print out and carry a meal plan with you to the store, simply draw it out at home and take a picture of it with your phone. That way you make sure you don’t forget a single ingredient.
In the end, bulk meal planning on Sunday — or whatever day works best for you — and getting most of the planning, shopping, and cooking out of the way can make the kitchen less daunting during the week. You’ll find that takeout gets a bit less tempting. You’ll feel more energized eating home-cooked meals. And your pocketbook will thank you in the long run.
And hey, who knows? You might even start to like cooking a little more.
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