In between work, school, friends, and nap time, there isn’t much time in the day to make sure you actually eat a meal. (No, a protein bar doesn’t count as a meal.) Plus, cooking can be annoying since everything nowadays is sold in bulk, making everything you buy go bad before you even cook it. And then on top of all of that, groceries are not the cheapest things in the world. But I’ll get to that later.
Cooking can be fun if you stop looking at it like it is some massive chore or nuisance. I like to put on a good podcast or some music I can’t help but sing along to while I cook. It helps the time go by faster. But the biggest timesaver throughout the week that I have found when it comes to cooking is if I prep-cook on my day off. So on Sunday afternoons, when most people are taking a nap, watching football, or just being a grade-A bum, I put on my apron and fire up the oven. When I say prep-cook, this is what I mean:
- Cut up all the veggies you have into different sizes and lengths. Dice half an onion and maybe keep the other half in bigger pieces; that way, you have onions for fajitas/tacos or an omelet. Just have them cut, so you don’t need to waste any time on prepping when you go to cook.
- Look at #1 but do it for whatever meat you like to eat. (and if you don’t eat meat, then use this time to make all different kinds of beans and lentils or whatever you eat to get your protein). Cut up chicken breast into strips to have it with some pasta or make ground beef for tacos. (If you can’t tell, I really like tacos). Just make sure you season the chicken and have it ready to go for when you are ready to cook.
- Make rice now!!!! Rice is usually the easiest thing to make, but it takes so long compared to everything else. I usually find myself waiting for the rice to finish cooking while everything else is getting cold. Make a cup or 2 of rice in advance, so all you have to do is heat it up, and you have a staple side for any good meal.
- Make snacks!!!! Nothing fancy. Make some homemade guac and salsa for your chips. Making homemade potato chips is way easier than you think, so give it a shot.
I know, I know. Who wants to spend an hour of their downtime in the kitchen? But I promise you, it is sooo worth it. If you take the time out of your week to prep-cook, you will make your life easier and better, and you will get to eat actual meals throughout the week. Doesn’t that sound better than the weird chalky “chocolate” protein bars you keep stuffing down your throat?
So I’ve rambled on about prep-cooking, but what is it you should be buying? Most people don’t realize how annoying it is to buy groceries for one person. Everything comes in bulk because more is better, right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had vegetables go bad or meat get freezer burn. There is only so much one person can eat before they explode. So here are a few tips that work for me when it comes to buying groceries.
- Vegetables are the thing that I have the hardest time with when it comes to bulk to non-bulk price ratio. I can either buy, at a grocery store, a bag of 10 carrots for a couple of dollars or I can buy 1 measly carrot for a small fortune. The problem is if you buy all 10 carrots some of them might go bad before you finish them all. (Unless you really like carrots) So your best options are you can either go grocery shopping with a friend and split up all the stuff you buy. My mom and aunt would go to Costco and buy enough food to feed both families by divvying up the insane amount of food they purchased. Why buy one box of cereal when you can buy 4 of them? It just makes more sense to go shopping with someone and splitting up whatever might be too much for one person. Your other option is to find a farmer’s market. You will be hard-pressed to find cheaper produce than at a farmer’s market.
- Meat can be expensive, and the prices rise and fall like gas, so you need to be on the lookout for great deals. BOGOs help save a few dollars here and there, but the most bang for your buck will be any slab of meat on sale. And if you can’t afford meat this time, then eggs are always a great substitute. I firmly believe that there is no single dish in this world that isn’t made better with an egg added on top. Another great substitute is a hot dog. Ever cut up a hot dog and eat with some rice and beans? Throw a little sriracha on it, and you’ve got yourself some dinner.
The whole reason you prep is so when it is actually time to cook, you aren’t in the kitchen for longer than 20-30 mins – and that is pushing it. My mom can make tacos in under 12 minutes. They aren’t flimsy wannabe tacos either. She can whip up chicken and steak tacos with lettuce, homemade salsa, guac, cheese, and sour cream on both hard and soft shells in the same amount of time it takes me to watch an episode of anime (that’s with skipping the intro and outro song). Cooking doesn’t have to be a horrible task that takes you all day.
Do yourself a favor and spend time in the kitchen. You eat three times a day (at least), make them worthwhile.