>> Thursday, April 29, 2010
Recently, a friend was asking me about eating a vegetarian diet. She explained that she'd like to eat less meat and more fresh produce, but she felt like vegetables take more time to prepare with all of the cutting and chopping and cooking. Meat and boxed dinners just seemed easier.
As I've said before, cooking from scratch is an important part of being a Conscious Shopper:
- When you buy basic ingredients like oats, beans, and rice from the bulk bins, you cut back on your trash production.
- When you use fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, you cast a vote for a reformed food system and keep your family healthier.
- And perhaps most importantly, you save money, making it possible for you to afford those fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.
I've already told you my two biggest tips for saving time in the kitchen: Keep It Simple, Stupid and Have a Meal Plan. Here are a few other ideas:
- Double and Freeze. It takes about the same amount of time to make four servings as it does to make eight, so next time you're making a soup or casserole, double the recipe and freeze half. Then you'll have a frozen meal waiting for you the next time you feel too tired to cook.
- Freeze Ahead. Similar to the previous tip, I will often make a huge batch of beans and freeze them in two cup portions (about the same amount that's in a can). Or I'll make a ginormous pot of rice, use some for dinner and freeze the rest for future fried rice meals. Individual ingredients freeze just as well as a whole casserole and can be a lifesaver when you're short on time.
- Plan Ahead. If you know a specific day is going to be too busy to make dinner, plan for it. When you prepare your menu, choose a meal that's quick to prepare, like burritos or grilled cheese sandwiches.
- Prep Ahead. I just popped my casserole in the oven, now I get to go take a nap, right? I wish...Instead I use that time to prep veggies for the next day's lunch or dinner. (Or I empty my dishwasher.)
- Learn to Love Your Crockpot. Here are a few recipes (a year's worth) to get you started.
- Start a Dinner Co-Op. This is an intriguing concept that I've never tried. The idea is that you find a friend to swap dinners with (preferably one who lives close to you because of that whole carbon footprint thing). You make dinner, doubling the recipe and delivering half to your friend. Then on a different night, she makes dinner, doubling the recipe, and bringing half to you.
- Go frozen. Now I personally don't buy frozen fruits or vegetables anymore simply because I don't want the extra packaging waste and I can get great local produce year round here in NC. But let's face it - we're not all Marathon Runners in every category. If you need to cut a few corners to keep your family eating a healthy diet, frozen is a better choice than canned because the produce is frozen right after it's picked, preserving it at the peak of freshness. In fact, some could argue that it's healthier to eat frozen vegetables than fresh vegetables shipped halfway across the world.
I had leftover soup in my freezer that I completely forgot about and a husband who wasn't volunteering to fill in for me, so we ordered a pizza. I'm not proud, but sometimes it happens.