Do you cook at home? If so, how many times a week?
Chances are, your answer will vary depending on whether or not you work outside the home, your age, and your income.
Sure, cooking at home can save you plenty of money, but not a lot of us do it. According to Harris Interactive, “Two in five (41%) say they prepare meals at home five or more times a week and three in ten (29%) do so three to four times a week. One in five (19%) of U.S. adults prepare meals at home one to two times a week, and 11% say they rarely or never prepare meals at home.” There aren’t always easy ways to get a home cooked meal on the table.
In the last several years, my husband and I have made the switch to exclusively eating at home. We go out to eat less than 10 times a year, usually only when we’re traveling. What I’ve discovered is that cooking at home can actually be A LOT of work. Making healthy, low-cost food requires time and energy, and then there is all of the clean up to do afterwards. If I were still working full-time outside the home, I doubt that I would have time to cook as much as I do now.
However, there are a number of strategies that can help make preparing foods at home easier.
Have a go to meal. Everyone should have a few easy meals that they can make from staples in the pantry when they’re short on time. Choices might include spaghetti, cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. These meals may not be ideal nutritionally, but they’re still better than grabbing fast food, and they’ll save your wallet.
Use your slow cooker. Start the slow cooker in the morning, and when you come home, you’ll have a hot meal waiting for you. To save even more time, prep all of the ingredients the night before so in the busy morning, you can just dump in the ingredients and go.
Utilize freezer cooking. Take one day a month and cook up several meals for your family for the month. This might take you three to four hours, but then you will eliminate much of the cooking you’ll need to do for the rest of the month. Simply take a meal out of your freezer the night before you need it and then reheat it when you get home from work.
There are short cuts to freezer meals, too. Search Pinterest, and you’ll find crockpot freezer meals. Simply dump the ingredients in a freezer bag and freeze. This type of freezer cooking doesn’t require any cooking before putting it in the slow cooker, so you can make a month’s worth of meals in about an hour.
Another idea is to double any recipe you are already cooking and put the second one in the freezer for a busy night.
Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet mastered how to eat at home without spending all of your time cooking. As Marion Nestle, professor of food studies at New York University and author of What to Eat says, “Anything that you do that’s not fast food is terrific; cooking once a week is far better than not cooking at all. It’s the same argument as exercise: more is better than less and some is better than none” (The New York Times).
What is your favorite strategy to get a healthy meal on the table quickly?