Everyone knows the benefits of cooking at home vs. eating out, but when it comes to preparing meals, people are never short on excuses. ‘I don’t have the time’ and ‘I don’t know how’ are the most popular. After reading this article you won’t be able to claim either.
Eating out takes a lot longer than you think. Between looking through menus, placing orders, and waiting for delivery, the process usually takes 30-45 minutes. If you follow these basic steps, you’ll be able to prepare healthy meals at home in 15-20 minutes.
Stocking Up on Food
I hate going to the grocery store, so when I do I load up for 2-3 weeks. Although I love eating fresh produce, it goes bad quickly. Buy as much fresh produce as you can eat in a week, along with a bunch of frozen and canned food.
Some types of canned or frozen food tastes terrible, while others are surprisingly good. I absolutely hate canned vegetables, but find frozen veggies taste great. Things I buy frozen include peas, broccoli, green beans, and other vegetables. Canned foods I eat include beans, lentils, and tuna.
With meat, I generally buy massive economy packs of chicken, beef, pork, or fish. When I get home, I open up the packages, separate the meat into single meal portions, place them in baggies, and put them in the freezer. This is a great way to save money and stock up for weeks.
Perfecting your grocery list takes a bit of practice, but it makes your shopping and cooking very efficient.
Preparing meals efficiently depends on a few core principles:
- Routine – Eating the same meals on a regular basis will allow you to master the process.
- Simplicity – To cook quickly, you’ll need to eat simple meals that don’t require elaborate preparations.
- Multi-tasking – Having multiple cooking processes going on at once is the key to efficiency.
The Microwave is Your Friend
The fastest and easiest way to cook is popping something in the microwave. Most of the foods I’ve mentioned above (canned/frozen vegetables and grains) don’t need any other preparation. Note that this is much different than eating pre-made microwavable meals.
A Sample Meal Walk Through
To give you a concrete idea of the process, here is a step-by-step walk through of a typical meal.
- Start by defrosting meat in the microwave. This takes approximately 5 minutes. While the meat is in the microwave, get everything ready for the next step by pulling out vegetables and beans and preparing them for the microwave. Also, turn on your Foreman Grill (a great way to minimize clean up time) or start heating a pan on the stove so it’s already hot when the meat is ready. If you’re cooking rice or pasta, you’ll want to start boiling water a bit earlier. Personally, I’ve been hooked on beans (and much leaner) ever since I tried the slow carb diet.
- When the meat is done defrosting, start cooking it. Immediately place your frozen vegetables in the microwave (3 min). When the vegetables are done, throw in your beans (1.5 min), or take the next step in preparing your pasta or rice, since the water should be boiling. It’s easy to do this stuff while tending your meat at the same time.
- Throw it on a plate. By the time the meat is done, all your vegetables, beans, or grains should be ready or close to it. Apply which ever seasonings you like and enjoy.
The total preparation time should be around 15 minutes, possibly a bit longer if you decide to make pasta or rice. The resulting meals are not only easy to cook, but they’re also remarkably nutritious and inexpensive. To cut down even more on prep time, cook the meat for multiple days at once and microwave it later.
If you can enjoy simple meals and don’t mind eating the same food most of the time, you can save tons of time and money by mastering a process, multi-tasking, and utilizing the speed of microwaving.
What are your healthy and efficient cooking tips?
Image by mullingitover