Everyone wants to enjoy a healthy gourmet meal at the end of a productive day. Cooking meals at home is the healthiest and most economically-friendly route to putting food on the table. However, cooking those meals is not always feasible with work, school, soccer practice, ballet class, and PTA meetings on the agenda.
Many people end up turning to TV dinners, which are cooked by the radiation of a microwave in under five minutes, or the McDonald’s drive-thru, where the total price can easily be racked up to twenty dollars to feed a family of four. Though it may seem insurmountable to incorporate cooking into a busy schedule, it is possible. However, a bit of tweaking is required to make that possibility a reality.
Here five tips and tricks to incorporate cooking into a busy lifestyle
1. Invest in a Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is a busy chef’s greatest asset because it safely and continuously cooks even when the cook is not present. Therefore, a working parent or young adult can throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker before work in the morning. That evening, he/she comes home to a ready-to-serve meal.
The makers of Crock-Pot, the original slow cooker, state, “Slow cookers provide flexibility to prepare a meal early and then go about your day worry-free. Easily serve a wholesome, satisfying, home-cooked meal with the freedom and convenience of cooking without being in the kitchen. It’s a practical way to enjoy delicious meals, saving money by eating at home and making the most of your time.”
A slow cooker is a cheap investment for the many benefits it renders. A classic slow cooker can be purchased for less than fifty dollars.
A slow cooker is also portable for traveling convenience. A family can save a largesse of money during a vacation by packing their slow cooker. There is no need for them to spend money for every meal or worry about the hassle of cooking impinging on their sightseeing and recreation schedule.
A variety of savory recipes can be made with the slow cooker such as chicken and dumplings, rustic Italian beef stew, Cuban Mojo Pork, jambalaya and rice, and many more.
2. Utilize Your Freezer
The freezer was invented with the future 2017 lifestyles in mind. The freezer is also a great asset to tweak cooking into a busy schedule because its purpose is to preserve food for an extended period.
On a lazy Saturday or Sunday, a person can cook all of the meals for the upcoming week and freeze them. Each day, the only maintenance he/she has to do is go into the freezer, select a meal, microwave it, and serve it. The person gets five to seven days’ worth of cooking for only one day of cooking. After that one day of cooking, he/she gets a nutritious home-cooked meal each night for the same maintenance as a TV dinner.
The idea of freezing entire meals may not sound appealing to everyone. The freezer can just be used to shorten cooking time. A person does not have to freeze the main courses and the side dishes; he/she can just freeze the vegetables or side dishes and only have to worry about cooking a fresh main course. He/she can also do vise-versa, depending on which part of the meal he/she would prefer to have freshly-made: the main course or the side dishes.
3. Cut the Prep Time with Shortcuts
The grocery store is a beautiful place. It can be the equivalent to the Happiest Place on Earth for a busy, working adult who desires to tweak cooking into his/her schedule. The reason is modern grocery stores have a wide-selection of short-cut ingredients. These include, but are not limited to, pre-chopped vegetables, minced garlic, and sauce in a jar.
There is no shame to using these short-cut ingredients, and there is no stigma attached to them that says, “A person who uses them is not a real chef.” There is a reason grocery stores have a wide- selection of these short-cut ingredients: thousands of people buy them every week. The reason thousands of people buy them is because it makes cooking more convenient.
Without these ingredients being in grocery store shelves and freezers, many people would be shying away from cooking at home. The money that would be spent at the grocery store on these ingredients would definitely be spend at the McDonald’s drive-thru because cooking would be more of a time-consuming hassle without them.
4. Get Two Meals For the Price of One
No, this is not a deal or a coupon at a local restaurant. This is about more meals for less cooking. The beauty of cooking is that quantity and quality work together in this situation. A person can cook a large quantity of a meal one night for there to be leftovers for the next night. Leftovers’ fate is not the trashcan or the dogs’ tummy. Therefore, a person can get two meals for the time and effort of cooking one meal.
This method can also be applied to preparing ingredients. A person can prepare enough ingredients for one meal to be used in another meal. For example, if a person is chopping tomatoes and carrots on Monday night for Tuesday’s dinner, he/she should chop up enough to be used for Wednesday’s dinner that also requires the use of tomatoes and/or carrots. This can save a plethora of prep time.
The price is not always in monetary form; it can also be in the form of invested time and effort.
5. Divide Up the Responsibility
This trick is destined to a mother’s favorite. Cooking can be made into a family affair. It can be divided up among mother, father, and the children. For example: Susan, the mother, can cook on Mondays and Fridays. Michael, the father, can cook on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Jessica, the daughter, can cook on Wednesdays and Sundays. Michael Jr., the son, can cook on Thursdays; he only gets to cook on one day because he really does not have the knack for it.
This is efficient because it takes the pressure off one person. The family cooking schedule can be worked around each person in the family’s schedule, so whoever is not busy or is less busy on a certain evening can be the one who cooks on that evening. This trick not only comes with the benefits of cooking at home, but it also has the added benefits of promoting teamwork and family cohesion.
A possibility can easily be made a reality if the appropriate measures are taken. Sometimes, it is not the destination that is full of adversity; it is the road to the destination that is full of adversity. Cooking at home is not the challenge; making it feasible in a busy lifestyle is the challenge. If these tips and tricks are used, it can be possible to enjoy a nutritious, savory home-cooked meal at the end of a productive day. Yes, there are busy chefs in today’s world.