I have a love-hate relationship with cooking. I really do love to cook, but what I resent is the amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen that I could spend with my family. Generally I am the one doing the cooking with no help from the peanut gallery so I’m usually so annoyed by the time I’m done that it becomes not enjoyable for me or them. These days since the kids are both away at school, I only put in hours in the kitchen for holiday meals, when we are entertaining guests or on special request. Over the years, I have figured out different ways to make quick healthy dinners and meals in little or no time avoiding those long lost hours in the kitchen that I now get to spend catching up with the hubby. My family is frequently astonished at how I can get home after a full work day and whip up a full dinner in 30 minutes or less.
These are my tips
1- do keep a well stocked pantry
Always have in your pantry or fridge different spices ( my faves are regular old iodized salt, onion and garlic powder, onion and garlic flakes, garlic butter, chopped garlic, seasoned salt, sea salt, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, lemon pepper, curry powder, jerk seasoning, adobo seasoning, bouillon or Maggi cubes, ginger, thyme, bay leaves, cumin, turmeric). You also need to have rice (medium or long grain, basmati, jasmine and brown), beans (I like Goya canned black eyed peas, black beans, red beans- because beans take a long time to cook). I try to stock different types of pasta, rice noodles, canned diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, soy sauce, sirrachia sauce, Asian fish paste, chicken broth, vegetable and olive oil. For baking on the fly you must have on hand flour, milk, condensed milk, eggs, bread, sugar, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, vanilla, baking powder/soda, yeast, corn starch.
2- do prep ahead.
I always have these items on hand in the freezer at any given time.
Pre chopped vegetables, cooked rice, sauces/stews, soups, grilled or rotisserie chicken and large bags of frozen peeled and deveined shrimp from SAMS/COSTCO. These are all things I can easily defrost and whip together in no time because when all else fails, stir fries are super easy, healthy and tasty.
3- do invest in these kitchen gadgets.
A rice cooker is a must if you like rice. Talk about set it and forget it. No more checking to see if the rice is cooked. That way you can run around and do other things while the rice is cooking.
An air fryer will change your life if you have committed to healthier eating. For me I hate to fry anything but enjoy the flavor. So this has been a great healthy alternative. Think fried chicken, French fries without the oil.
A spiralizer for healthy alternatives to carb heavy pastas. The veggie pastas are also sold frozen pre spiraled at some super markets or grocers like Whole Foods or Trader Joes (zucchini, squash, cauliflower)
The Instapot or crockpot is also a must although, I have to admit I’ve used mine maybe twice. But I know people who swear by this to make awesome quick meals ahead.
4- do stock up on pre made meals.
A lot of grocery stores have fresh cooked whole meals that are ready to go. I also like the pre packaged ones from trader Joes. These are easy on the fly and are delicious. You just need to be conscious of making healthy choices and supplement with quick easy steamed vegetables or salads.
5- do bulk cook
Every once in a while, when I am in the mood, usually on weekends I slave over the stove and make those meals that would normally take a long time. For me it’s the ethnic food. I make it in large quantities and put it in freezer friendly containers and leave it in my freezer. I have 2 large deep freezers in my basement full of such dishes. Then when we have the hankering for that particular type of meal I would defrost it and serve it like I had slaved all day in the kitchen.
6- do eat out.
I personally don’t think it is practical to cook 7 days a week unless you enjoy doing it and have time to do so. In that case it is okay. We eat out or get take out at least twice a week and one day a week everyone is on their own- thats when we do left overs for the most part. Be aware when ordering out that it’s not license to eat badly. You can still make good choices. A lot of restaurants today are on board with healthier alternatives as more people become vegetarian or vegan. So we have no excuses
There are a couple of ways to do this. First you can subscribe to have meals delivered to you several times a week and all you do is heat it up. The second way is to have ingredients and cooking instructions delivered to you to make on your own. This is fine if you and your family want to try different recipes and meal ideas. They are generally easy to put together quick meals. We did not like either of these too much as I found the meal options limited. We ended up canceling because we never felt like preparing the meals they sent. But again I know many people that swear by this. And there are so many different companies out there now that you may find one that works for you- Blue apron, Hello fresh, Freshly to name a few.
These are my cooking hacks for now. I’m sure I left out a few. Please feel free to add to
this list and comment below.
Check expiration dates from time to time and discard and replace items as needed.
As always thanks for reading.