The week gets so busy sometimes. We work, we get exercise, we run errands, and sometimes there just isn’t enough time to cook something healthy for the family (or, in my case, Ben and I). I really, really enjoy cooking but without some organization, the weekly meals go by the wayside and are overtaken by the convenience of frozen burritos, boxed rice, and the all too tempting Pho take out restaurant across the street. A point of clarification: There is nothing wrong with frozen burritos, boxed rice, or Pho every now and then. But having pre-packaged and take out foods can be damaging to the waste line and to the wallet! To fight the temptation of pre-packaged convenience, here are some tricks I use to keep myself organized and save money every week:
1.) Meal Planning is Key: I troll the internet every day looking for interesting recipes and book mark the ones that look manageable for a week night. At the start of the weekend I make a Monday-Friday Meal Plan. Every Saturday Ben and I take inventory of what food we have in the house and make a list of what groceries we need for the week. In addition to the staples: Bananas, salad vegetables, and salsa; I also list what we’ll need to accomplish the weekly meal plan. Last week’s meal plan looked something like this:
Monday: Broccoli and tofu stir-fry with rice
Tuesday: Grass fed beef tacos and salad
Wednesday: Baked potatoes, Greens and Grain Gratin (from A Sweet Spoonful), and chicken sausages
Thursday: Salad and frozen burritos (it happens sometimes!)
Friday: Date with Ben at The Sapphire Hotel
2.) Save money: Find recipes for the foods that you already have laying (or growing) around. Last week Ben and I surveyed the kitchen and found a package of uncooked rice in the back of the cabinet. I also noticed that the Kale from our winter garden was bursting out of its plot. Hence, I incorporated both stir-fry with rice and greens and grains gratin made with kale into the meal plan to save a little dough.
Look at the beautiful Kale from the garden, it has been so tasty this winter!
3.) Invest in good storage containers and Always make leftovers: One of my best kitchen investments was my Frigoverre storage containers. Anytime I make a meal, I always make enough to take for lunch the next day. This not only saves time, but also saves money. The $50 per week that would usually be spent on buying lunch gets saved for more fun things like this dress, or travel to this place.
4.) Prep cook, like whoa: I often make a salad base (lettuce, carrot, and cucumber) that lasts 2 or three nights, put it in a container and store in the refrigerator. At dinner time I add avocado and dressing and I have the perfect salad with limited washing and cutting!
Some mornings, I wake up early and chop vegetables (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, etc.) for dinner in the evening. After a long day, all I have to do is put the ingredients together in the pan or pop something in the oven. This way, making a nice meal doesn’t seem over burdensome and I’m not tempted to pick up take-out on the way home, or give up and throw a frozen pizza in the oven.
4.) One pot meals are life savers: As mentioned above, I often like to chop up ingredients the night or morning before to save time while preparing meals on evenings during the week. The convenience provided by this type of preparation is heightened when used in conjunction with a “one pot meal” (meals where you put all ingredients in one pot, cook, and serve!). Some of my very favorite one pot meals are
- Shutterbean’s Curried Chicken with Coconut Rice
- PaleOMG’s honey ginger apple shredded pork (I often use garam masala seasoning as a substitute for cinnamon for a little extra kick)
- Speaking of Garam masala, while not technically a one pot meal, Eat Live Run has an awesome slow cooker chicken tikka masala recipe that I love.
5.) Enroll your partner in crime: Print out a recipe, and give it to your partner. Who says you have to do all the cooking, all the time!
Do you have any one pot meal recipes that you enjoy? Tell me, please! I always like to get new ideas for the kitchen.