If you’re like most people, you’re probably busier than you’d like to be and in a constant rush to get things done. A dash to the local drive-thru or your favorite restaurant is not only breaking your budget, but it might also be causing you to gain those unwanted pounds. Making the decision to cook and eat at home more often instead of eating out can be a difficult one but once you commit, it’s well worth it.
Eating at home can help you to slim down especially if you prepare meals ahead of time. It’s wise to keep your cabinets stocked with healthy cooking staples like coconut or olive oil, Himalayan salt and a variety of seasonings to spice things up.
Here are some tips to help making cooking at home fun, healthy and economical for you and your family.
1. Set the Dining Mood
It’s been a long day and you’re ready to wind down and relax with a good meal. Set the mood by lighting a few candles, putting on some music and pouring yourself a glass of wine. If you’ve got a tight budget, hit up your local dollar store for some fun glasses, plates and candles to elevate your at-home dining experience in a pinch and on a budget. An added bonus to your dollar store finds is the quick and easy clean up. It’s also a great way to change things up a bit from your everyday flatware without breaking the bank or the need for extra storage space.
2. Keep Your Cabinets Stocked with Healthy Staples for Cooking
It’s a good idea to keep a few staples always on hand. Dried or canned beans and lentils have a long shelf life and are packed with healthy nutrients. Nuts, dried fruits, seeds and nut butters are also great to have in your pantry for a quick snack, smoothie or salad. Grains like brown rice or quinoa also have a long shelf life, and if you’re looking for a quick meal, keep a few steamer bags in your pantry. Coconut oil, olive oil and ghee are healthy fats that also have at least a year shelf life.
3. Prepare Meals Ahead
Make cooking a family affair. Prepare your meals ahead of schedule and on your day off for the week or two ahead. Get the kids to join in by allowing them to help with the simple dishes like vegetables, salads and cutting fruit for desserts. You can put the meals in containers and store them in the freezer and refrigerator, so you have enough meals for every day of the week. Grocery stores are now offering prepared meals that are affordable and healthy and help to save time. Unless you buy organic, the foods sold in stores today may still not fulfill your dietary needs. To make sure you and your family are reaping the full nutritional benefits of eating at home, a multivitamin like Havasu Nutrition’s natural fruit-flavored Multivitamin Gummies will help you supplement the nutrients you might be missing from food alone.
4. The Freezer is Your Friend
While you’re in the kitchen chopping vegetables, put on some fun nostalgic tunes and get to steppin’. Count the number of freezer bags you’ll need for each meal, fill them with onions, bell peppers, zucchini and other vegetables that are freezer-friendly so they will be ready when you pull them out to cook. Frozen fruits and veggies maintain the same level of micronutrient content as they do fresh, so they’ll be convenient and healthy! If you prefer to grab and go, you can stock your freezer with veggie steamers, fish, poultry and meats, all of which will typically last six months to a year if kept frozen. Just keep in mind, you’ll have to do a little planning ahead to give your frozen meats time to safely thaw before cooking. Usually, you can pop a few frozen chicken breasts in the fridge before leaving for work, and it should be just about ready to cook by the time you get home.
5. Do Your Homework
If you have done any shopping for your family or even just for yourself, then you know planning meals ahead is important. Find a few recipes to cook each week before you head to the grocery store and then make your grocery list. Meals that are easy to prepare but still are very healthy include chicken, vegetables, fish, salad and berries and cream for dessert.
6. Spice It Up
Keeping dry spices like turmeric, cayenne pepper, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, oregano and cumin are quick and easy ways to kick up the flavor while offering impressive health benefits like reducing inflammation and lowering your risk of certain diseases. Garlic and onions are always good to keep on hand, dried, minced or fresh, as these are the backbone to many recipes.
7. Versatile Mixers
Eggs and yogurt are among the most versatile items you can keep in your kitchen. Think about it. Eggs are packed with protein and can be used in any meal of the day -- you can do an omelet for breakfast, throw some hardboiled eggs in a salad for lunch, put a fried egg over rice Beijing-style, or make chaffles in place of your burger bun for dinner. Yogurt is a healthy fat that can be enjoyed alone or with fruit for breakfast or a light snack, and it can be a great substitute in recipes, added to your favorite smoothie or used as a tangy base for soups and sauces.
Whether you’re super busy, have picky people in your family or you’re just not really a fan of the kitchen, following these tips will make eating at home simple, easy, and an experience you may actually enjoy.