It’s all in the planning. Taking a little extra time to plan and prep one day a week will help save time later and ensure that you still eat delicious healthy meals for lunch and dinner. Time and convenience may be one of our biggest enemies when it comes to eating well.
Trust me, I completely understand what it feels like to get home from work late and be completely unmotivated to cook (or do anything you need to do). I’ve been known to chow down on bowls of cereal (notice I said bowls not bowl) instead of nutritious meals because I simply can’t bear the idea of having to cook and clean after a meal! Not to mention that I’m usually famished when I walk in the door.
So, I’ve come up with a few ideas that seem to help keep me on track and have provided for about of month so far of home-cooked meals.
Menu Planning – Think of your kitchen as your family Café. Plan a menu for the week and try your best to stick to it. Make sure to be realistic with the amount of time you want to spend prepping and cooking for the week. Also, we like to include a date night (or night eating out) so that we can have a break from the cooking and dishes.
Menu planning also helps with staying creative and finding new recipes. If you don’t know what to make each night and you simply go by the ingredients on-hand, you’re likely to fall into making the same old thing, week after week.
Strategic Recipes – When making your weekly menu, try and keep prep and cook time in mind. Save the extravagant gourmet meals for the weekend and look for quick, easy and healthy meals for during the week. Found a recipe that requires rice? Make the rice the night before you plan on eating that meal. Then you can prepare the rest of it right when you get home from work instead of having to wait on the rice for 40 minutes.
Leftovers – I’m not a huge fan of leftovers, but I’m willing to make enough for leftovers if its a meal that I really enjoy. During my husband’s busy season (he’s an accountant) I would usually cook one night that way he could bring dinner with him instead of ordering food every night. The important thing with this tip is to find recipes that keep well – rice w/ beans, baked potato w/ grilled veggies or one pot pasta dishes. The simpler the better. You definitely don’t want a meal that makes a point of it to “serve immediately.” It’ll probably lose its luster if reheated the next day, yuck! Also, avoid things that should be crispy, as they will likely be soggy leftovers.
Afternoon Snacking -This is a big one for both my husband and me… and I’m assuming lots of other people. When I walk through the door with a growling stomach I’m very short sited and can’t envision how great it will be to eat a healthy home cooked meal. Instead I have the “I want it and I want it now” mentality. That’s when take out, cereal, or binge snacking occurs.
The way to combat this issue is to either eat a small snack (apple, small handful of nuts, larabar, etc) on your way home from work or to have “appetizers” planned to munch on while you cook. Having Mexican? Make some quick and easy guacamole (see our recipe at the bottom). Asian? How about defrosting some frozen edamame?
The trick is to make sure your snacks or appetizers are healthy nutritious options. That way if you do accidentally fill up on snacks and appetizers at least it was still nutritious.
Walk in and start – The number one trick I can think of is to start right away. Don’t change, don’t sit down. Walk in and turn on the oven (if it needs to preheat), or pick out all the ingredients that you need from the fridge and pantry. Then change into comfy clothes and continue cooking. Too many times I’ve become a prisoner of my couch; it usually goes hand-in-hand with my bowls of cereal. As exhausted as I am when I walk in, I’m always happy and proud of myself when I stay strong and cook anyways.
Unfortunately these tricks may only be useful if you enjoy cooking in the first place. If you despise cooking, you may require a little more motivation. It might be helpful to buy portions of your meal pre-prepared and cook part of the meal at home. Whole Foods has all their hot bar foods available in large or small portions in the refrigerators. You could always pick up some rice and beans and roast some veggies at home or make yourself a green salad. Start small and hopefully when you see the benefits of eating home cooked meals you’ll start to change your mind about cooking!
If you’re not quite as organized or a planner like myself, then maybe you’d be interested in having someone else plan your meals each week. So I figure, why don’t I share? I’m going to plan my meals each week anyways, how hard would it be to send you my file with the recipes, menu and grocery shopping list!
So here’s my offer: Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and email address and I’ll send you my file each week. Feel free to rearrange when you cook particular meals, how many days you choose to cook, the serving size of the meal and when/whether you have a date night or family night out – but it should be helpful to have a general guideline of dinner ideas. I’ll try and have the list out by Friday night for you Saturday morning grocery shoppers.
What’s that? You think that’s such a nice offer that you’d like to do something for me in return? Aww shucks, you don’t have to do anyth… ok well since you offered. In return for those weekly menus I would love a follow on instragram and twitter @veggiefueled, on my blog http://www.veggiefueled.wordpress.com and to share my blog with friends who might be interested! Thanks!
Have any ideas that would help you stay motivated to make home cooked meals? Let us know!
Dylan’s Quick and Easy Guacamole
Serving size: 2 people (as a snack or appetizer for dinner) You may want to double, triple or quadruple for a party sized portion!
- 1 ripe haas avocado
- 1 large spoonful of Green Mountain Gringo salsa
- Green Mountain Gringo Sesame Blues Tortilla Chips
Mash avocado. Mix in salsa. Enjoy!
*Note: Dylan wanted me to add that I was in fact very against the creation of this recipe. I had always made my own guacamole, with lime juice, spices, etc… and didn’t think there was any way mixing some salsa in with avocado would be any good. So here, on this day, I will put in writing… He was right. IT’S AMAZING!