5 Tips for Busy Cooks
Everyone is too busy these days—including me. Many people say they are too busy to cook, but no one seems to be too busy to eat! This is often remedied by a lot of eating out, take-out, and make-do meals. I’d like to encourage people cook and eat at home, so here are some of my tried-and-true tips for making cooked-from-scratch meals a daily reality, even after the most exhausting days:
- Make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with good-quality ingredients for quick and/or “emergency meals.” My pantry standbys include canned beans, quick-cooking grains (like couscous and quinoa), white and sweet potatoes, and pastas. Plus, prepared sauces like marinara, barbecue, Thai peanut, and salsa. In the freezer are whole wheat English muffins, veggie burgers, pita bread (for quick pizzas), corn and wheat tortillas. Basic frozen veggies include corn, peas, and green beans (all organic if possible!). With fresh produce on hand, there are a myriad of nearly-instant meals that can be created with these basics. For a more details on stocking up, see Creating a Vegan Pantry.
- Plan three full meals for the week ahead, allowing for two nights of leftovers. And do so BEFORE you go grocery shopping to prevent running back and forth to the store all week for ingredients. There is nothing worse than walking into the kitchen after a long day without a clue as to what you want to make. I try to practice what I preach, but whenever there is a week that I’ve left unplanned, I really regret it! Just 15 or 20 minutes of meal planning per week saves lots of time and simplifies your life immeasurably.
- On Sunday, try to prepare a couple of basics for the week to come. Cook some plain brown rice (or other grain), bake some potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash. Bake a quick bread or muffins, or prepare a good pasta sauce. Knowing that you have even one item that’s already prepared when you enter the kitchen at 6:00 is a sweet feeling, and the rest of the meal then comes together quickly.
- Once a week, make a big one-pot meal that can stretch to two nights-a hearty soup or stew, chili, a casserole, or something that can be prepared in a Crockpot or other slow-cooker. Then, all you need is a bountiful salad and a simple fresh vegetable dish to accompany the meal.
- Keep it simple! You need not spend hours cooking or use dozens of ingredients to create tasty meals. put post-its on your favorite quick recipes in your top go-to cookbooks.