Cook smarter, not harder

From top: Pizza dough rising; cut fresh cucumber; roasted peppers and tomatoes; carmelized onions; frozen mushrooms, snap peas and peppers.

I’m a planner.

It’s no secret I love making my own food. As a vegetarian, cooking is easier than reading endless ingredient lists. I know real, whole foods are going into my meals. And I was raised on homemade food, so it’s what I’m used to and prefer.

But who has time for this every day? Not me. I have work, appointments and commitments. In my free time I enjoy relaxing, watching movies, going to the beach or pool and hanging out. Don’t get me wrong, I make food because I want to and enjoy cooking (and eating!) and it’s cathartic.

To allow myself both home-cooked meals and free time, I work to find a balance. Something I really like is setting aside some time once a week and doing a lot of “prep work.”

When I get vegetables from my CSA, I will wash all of them and cut many items into bite-size pieces and put them into containers so they are ready to go. And I will devote time to prepare foods I will use that week, anywhere from slicing and dicing to roasting and sauteing. That way meals are partly started and I can prepare them quicker that day.

Although I love fresh foods, I keep a variety of frozen foods on hand for quick fixes. And I keep a well-stocked pantry so between the two I can throw together a decent meal.

Another secret I love, especially since there are only two of us in our house, is making more of something I know will freeze well. I will make a casserole every few weeks and freeze a few servings in individual containers. Instant homemade frozen dinners! I’ll grab these and take them to work when I’m short on time. And we aren’t left eating an entire 9-by-13 casserole until we are tired of it or having it go bad before the end.

One of my favorite secrets and items in the kitchen is my slow cooker. I pour everything into the cookware, go to work or sleep and eight hours later the slow cooker has done all the work.

At the end of the week left with a variety of scraps, I always seem to fall back on my favorite simple meal: Leftovers quesadillas. I always have wraps and filling to make this quick, flavorful and filling meal.

What is your cooking style? Do you mostly eat out, stock up on frozen meals, plan like me or just grab what is in the fridge at the time.

4 thoughts on “Cook smarter, not harder

  1. Pingback: Weekly groceries | Words from a visual journalist

  2. Pingback: (Not so Extreme) Couponing | Words from a visual journalist

  3. I meal plan once a week in order to use up what I have in the house. saves sooo much moola that way. I just started dpoing it a few months ago and it is revolutionary!

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