If you want to eat better, lose weight, have more energy, then cooking your own meals at home is the best way to achieve all your health goals — no matter what they are!
Saving time in the kitchen is paramount to any busy lifestyle and it also makes cooking much more fun and easy! So here are some insightful ways to trim minutes (and perhaps hours over the week) from your kitchen routine.
1. Always have pantry basics stocked for fast healthy meals: olive oil, canola oil, canned beans, canned tomatoes, peanut/almond, salts, other seasonings. Making extra trips to the grocery store just before cooking is a time waste so keep a running pantry staples list on your fridge to replenish your stash weekly.
2. Keep these four long-lasting vegetables in your crisper: onions, garlic, carrots, and kale — you can whip up a fast stirfry in 15 minutes, just add your favorite protein like chicken, shrimp or nuts.
3. Take a 5-ounce can (or larger) of tomato paste and pack it into 1-tablespoon size snack-bags and freeze. Most recipes call for 1 tablespoon tomatoe paste, so just grab a baggie — no need to search for measuring spoons and a can opener.
4. Don’t want to spend time cleaning greens? Shop for pre-washed, packaged greens that you can literally toss into soups, stews, smoothies, and sauces to multiply your nutrition and portion size with hardly any calories. Go for superfood greens like baby spinach, kale, or these delicious deep green blends. They cook in seconds, so toss a handful into soups, chilis, stews, and even into your favorite marinara sauce while you warm it.
5. Don’t have buttermilk on hand for a recipe? No worries — and skip a trip to the store. Just take 1 cup of milk and sour it by adding 1 teaspoon vinegar (any variety will do).
6. Want a fast way to make vegetables taste good? Saute broccoli, spinach, or kale in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and top with any superfood sauce for a highly nutritious, delicious main dish or side dish that’s also low in salt, sugar, and calories.
7. If you need a chicken noodle soup fix, but don’t have time to make it from scratch, start with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Remove the skin and shred the meat. Just add low-sodium chicken broth and your favorite chopped vegetables and warm for 20 minutes. Soups on!
8. Vegetables are great for you, any way you slice them. For a fast way to boost nutrition, scrub your veggies with a clean scrub brush and simply grate them on a box greater, no need to peel. Add to your favorite meat mixtures to get more nutrition with less calories – for example meatball mixtures, burgers and meatloaf.
9. Love homemade ravioli but don’t have time to make your own pasta dough? Use fresh wonton wrappers that you’ll find in the refrigerated section next to the produce isle. You can also overlay them to make delicious lasagna sheets or make your own pierogies.
10. Want to eat more whole grains like quinoa and short grain brown rice? Cook up a batch of each grain and cool to room temperature. Store each grain in an air-tight container in your fridge for up to 5 days. Scoop and toss into meals when you need whole grain goodness.
11. Don’t toss those bananas that are about to go bad: freeze them in zipper lock bags along with other smoothie ingredients like nuts, oats, seeds, and other fruits to make your own “smoothie packs”.
12. Dispense with the cleanup! Cook fish and chicken in aluminum foil packets or in parchment paper: less mess, less dishes and moister chicken, and flaky fish.
14. Love baked potatoes but hate the wait? Save time by microwaving them. Poke the potatoes with the tinges of a fork and wrap in paper towels, then microwave for 2 minutes and finish them in a 350° F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
15. Nothing is yummier during cold weather months than a rich tasting Bolognese sauce. Double or triple this recipe (skip the pasta) and freeze it in a 2 cup container for fast weeknight meals, like a pasta dinner or a fast lasagna (when added to no-bake noodles) or a delectable dip when topped with cheese and baked.
16. Want to eat more high veg, high protein yet low-carb meals? Start with these super fast cooking proteins like shrimp or white fish (like tilapia) and cut into 1-inch chunks, or pre-cut raw chicken tenders. Each protein takes only about 3 minutes in a hot skillet with oil.
17. Stock up on canned beans to fill out a meal in a snap. Just remember to drain them well under cold running water before tossing them into salads or your blender for quick dips, or adding them to soup to stretch left-over soup.
18. Want to save time and money at the start of your day? Brew two pots of coffee and let them cool. Keep chilled coffee in a pitcher and make your own coffee drinks in the morning, instead of stopping at the coffee shop. Ice it, add milk, or heat it up, make it your way!
19. If you struggle with mincing garlic, get this nifty microplane20. To tired to cook a veggie side dish? Have pre-washed spinach on hand to toss into a dry skillet for one minute and top with a pat of butter or drizzle of olive oil and serve.
21. Only have veggies in your crisper and no protein on hand? Have a few tasty condiments on hand to spice up a simple plate of cooked veggies in seconds. Salsas, sauces, kimchee, hot sauces, and sour cream are all good options to make your plate of veg feel like a complete meal.
22. Cooking an apple recipe that requires a lot of chopping? Instead of peeling and chopping, just grate your apple, skin and all, on a box grater.
23. Handling meat can be a hassle if you’re not used to it, so ask your butcher to cube your beef for stews, trim excess fat from steaks, and remove skin from your bone-in chicken breasts.
24. Sprouts seem so passe, but check out some of the new beautiful and healthy sprouts on the market. You can use them as tasty garnishes for all your dishes without having to wash, chop, or bother with stems.
25. Want lemony flavor that lasts? Take a microplane or grater and top your dish with zest in seconds instead of using juice.
26. Don’t have any marinara sauce on hand, but need tomato sauce? If you have canned tomatoes, blend them in a blender with a tablespoon of olive oil and balsamic vinegar along with a 1 garlic clove. Use in your favorite recipe.
27. Have an unexpected guest for dinner and not enough fish or chicken? Make a deep slice (horizontally) into the fish or chicken. Chop or grate mushrooms, zucchini, or chop any greens you have on hand, like spinach or kale. Toss with one egg or a handful of grated cheese. Stuff the mixture into the chicken and fish and bake. Cut into 4 pieces and serve.
Add Your Comments/Questions
Got anything I didn’t cover? I am happy to answer any of your questions, or highlight reader’s comments on my Facebook and Google Plus profiles… so fire away in the comment section below! Love to see what you think.