Wellness// Good Tips for Good Eats

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I’m not a chef, by far, but I do love to cook. Cooking is a form of meditation for me, no matter what’s going on around me or in my life I feel a sense of security and balance when I’m doing my thing in the kitchen. I’m always looking for and trying new things in the kitchen. I become bored very easily so it’s important for me to stay inspired and excited.

I’ve noticed that many people cook the same things over, and over, and over again. Those are the people who usually hate to cook and view cooking a tedious task versus an enjoyable and fulfilling hobby. Giving yourself proper care and nutrition shouldn’t have to be a stressful task, it should be something motivating and ultimately something you find joy in doing. I also know many individuals who have the “ain’t nobody got time for that” mentality. I won’t lie I’ve fell into that category many times before.  These are a few tips on planning, shopping, storing, and preparing food. They are the basics that got me started, help me to manage my time effectively, and help me to save money. I hope they do the same for you.

  • Pick one or two days and set aside some time for prep work, such as, researching/planning, shopping, cooking, storing.

  • Cook multiple servings (even if you live alone). You can make enough for you to eat that night and the next night or even that night and for lunch the next day. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing every night. You can also make multiple servings and freeze the leftovers until you’re ready to have it again.

  • Utilize slow cookers and pressure cookers. I love my crock pot. It was the best gift ever, thanks mom! I set my crock pot in the morning before I leave for school and by the time everyone returns home the food is all ready done.

  • Do as much as possible in advance. Whether it be the night before or two nights ahead. Cut, chop, mix, season,etc., just get the tedious things out-of-the-way. Take out any foods that needs time to defrost. I also like to set out my equipment before I leave for school, this way when I get home I can just dive straight in.

20140122-215053  Have Game Plan/Make a Meal Plan

  • Go through recipes (magazines, online, television, phone apps, books, etc.) and remember to be fun and creative when listing your weekly meal plan.  EX. Meat-less Monday, Fun Friday, Soul Food Sunday. (Don’t stop there plan a little more. Add your researched recipes to your meal plan) EX. “For World Travel Wednesday I want to go to Asia and I’d like to try a tofu stir fry or homemade sushi wraps” or “For Fun Friday I’d like to make homemade chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries with the kids”.

  • Be Adventurous(don’t look at a recipe and automatically doubt yourself, try it and if it doesn’t come out right the first time try it again and alter it to your liking).

  • Make a list of all the ingredients and supplies you’ll need for each recipe.

  • Check to see what you already have and cross them off.

  • Pick up your local grocery stores weekly circular and search through it for sales. (Also sometimes they drop of local store circulars at your door, you can find them online, and in the newspaper)

  • Check your Sunday paper and online for coupons.

  • Cross reference your meal plan ingredient list with sales and coupons then make changes if necessary.

  • Make a shopping list to keep you focused and organized.

How to buy in bulk/How to store:

  • Purchase a variety. (Chicken/turkey, beef, seafood, etc.) Have some bone-in, skinless, and boneless. (Time saver tip: go to your local grocery store butcher and have them cut up your meats for you. EX: cut beef or chicken into strips for when you want to make your stir-fries or get them cut into cubes for your stews and soups. This usually doesn’t cost any extra fee and will save you plenty of prep time.)

  • Have freezer safe plastic bags or containers (make sure they are freezer safe and not just for storage, yes there is a difference)

  • Almost all fruits store well in the freezer, especially berries

  • Most veggies store well also (usually the ones you cook before serving like corn, peas, and beans for example)

  • Warning: do not freeze vegetables that are usually eaten raw like cucumbers or lettuce.

  • Clean and prep your meats and veggies before you freeze them.

  • Blanch and shock veggies before you freeze them.

  • You can cook some of your meats before you freeze them (especially seafood).

  • Warning: I’ve learned the hard way not to season my meats before I freeze them for two very specific reasons:

    • Sometimes allowing your seasonings to marinate that long can cause the meat to be too salty when you’re ready to eat it.

    • Depending on what I feel like using the meat for will determine how I season, for instance, I do not season my ground beef for a burger the same way I would for a meatloaf.

MOST IMPORTANTLY DON’T GIVE UP!!! Don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t work well for you the first or even the second time. Take baby steps, find strategies and approaches that work for you and your situation. Everyone is different and your style of cooking and prepping should be personalized and functional for you.

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Written by: Cecily Wheeler

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