It’s all well and good to say we should cook at home more often, but guess what? It’s not always easy. At one point I had six kids ten and under — I know that quite often by the time a mom gets to the end of her day cooking at home is the last thing she wants to tackle. I’ve been there! That’s one of the reasons I like to eat out so much! But with all of the great reasons I’ve shared for cooking at home, you can see why its something I highly encourage. That being said, I also highly recommend cheating. And by cheating – I mean – you should use these tips to make cooking at home easier on your feet, on your mental health, and on your tired bones. Because you are worth it.
Fill your freezer with ready-to-go ingredients. One of the best things I have ever done to make cooking at home easier was purchasing and filling a freezer with prepped food. Now, I personally don’t like to make a bunch of prepared dinners like lasagna or whatever, that’s a ton of work. If that’s something you want to try I have friends that swear by it. What I’m talking about though is filling my freezer with things like bags of diced chicken, pre-cooked ground beef, and pre-formed but uncooked meatballs and hamburger patties, and marinated chicken breasts ready for the grill. Things I can grab and turn into a quick meal on any given crazy night.
Most recently, I purchased boneless chicken thighs in bulk (fifty pounds), diced them all into bite-sized chunks, and froze in one-pound bags. Now, when I want to make risotto, or chili, or any number of meals with diced chicken I just grab one or two of those bags. It makes meal prep so much faster! I also like to dice and freeze veggies like celery, onions, peppers when they are still good but about to be past their prime. These veggies can be pulled out for quick soups because when cooking soups dicing all the veggies is the long pole in the tent.
Bonus: Fill your freezer with leftovers. With my two oldest back in college, and my four other kids home all day, we are enjoying the fact that I always have a couple of extra portions of our favorite meals to stick in the freezer. What my husband doesn’t take to work, my kids grab for lunch with definitely makes my job fixing endless lunches easier.
Do some meal prep on grocery shopping day. As you put groceries away, wash the fruits and vegetables. Dice up the veggies that store well and if you know what you are cooking (and you should) you can even pre-measure the veggies and bag them in the exact amounts you need. Dice and bag up meat if that’s how you will use it. If you plan to marinate any of your meats, do that now. The more you can prep on that one day of the week, the more time you will save when the nights get crazy. Meal prep one day a week is a great way to save time later!
Bonus: Buy one extra of each vegetable and dice it for the freezer on grocery shopping day! On some crazy day in your future, this will make supper time a breeze.
Invest in the right tools. You need to have the right tools for the job. You will be saving so much money not eating out, you can afford to put a little bit of that money back into making your life easier cooking at home. My favorite major tool is an Instant Pot, which I use almost constantly. I also absolutely love having an excellent food processor for shredding cheese and potatoes and slicing and dicing veggies of all types. I’ve had KitchenAid and Breville, and the Breville is by far my favorite brand. For marinades and smoothies, I use a Vitamix but at least having some kind of blender is a must. I use a potato masher for egg salad, mashed potatoes, and avocados in the guacamole. It’s a cheap tool that I wouldn’t want to do without. Also, having two pizza cutters makes life happier. We use pizza cutters for a lot of different things. We don’t skimp on yard tools used once or twice a week, why skimp on the kitchen tools we will use daily for years.
Learn how to use sharp knives. One thing that no well-used kitchen should do without is a really good set of sharp knives. Buy quality and keep them sharp. Your fingers will thank you, and time spent dicing fresh veggies for healthy meals will be so much more enjoyable. One of my favorite scenes from Julie and Julia is the scene where Julia Child spends all weekend learning to properly dice an onion just to prove to the male chef students in her class that she can. It’s not a super easy skill to learn, but it is well worth it. A proper dice makes a world of difference to the food you make! Watch some YouTube videos or take a course on knife skills!
Plan Out Your Meals before you grocery shop. For me, menu-planning is a dirty word. I love to fly by the seat of my pants. But you know what? Cooking more at home requires at least a bit of menu planning unless you have a bottomless fridge, extra pantry space, and an unlimited budget. Think of menu planning as a tool to help you, but don’t think of it as a taskmaster. You can still have the flexibility to change your mind, but having a plan will reduce the number of “unplanned” restaurant trips. Plus, nothing is more frustrating than getting halfway through dinner prep and realizing you are out of onions or whatever.