Economical, healthy, easy and homemade: Create your own shortcuts and cook once, eat many times

Part 2 of the Economical, healthy, easy and homemade series focuses on cooking shortcuts that save time.

The beginning of the new brings assessment of the past and resolution to change habits for the future. When these resolutions involve changing habits around food and eating or other lifestyle changes, making a strategy is a good way to make progress toward your goals. First and foremost, understand that change is a process with different stages. When you are ready to start changing, there are some strategies you can employ to prepare for changing your eating habits whether you want to save money, eat more healthfully, prepare more food at home, or manage your time to be successful at these goals. If you have a meal plan and you’ve shopped smartly, you can prepare short cuts and cook once to eat multiple times through the week.

Prepare your own shortcuts

With your meal plan in mind and a successful shopping trip having been made, you can spend a short amount of time getting items ready for the week. Wash and dry fresh vegetables and fruit so they are ready to eat when you are hungry. Make packages for snacks so you can grab and go during your busy week. For example, cut the stems of grape bunches and have them ready to grab a small amount at a time. Put frozen vegetables together for a stirfry or lunch portion that can be easily microwaved. Take time to chop onions, celery, carrots or other vegetables which can be portioned out for specific recipes which will make cooking less of a chore on busy week nights. Get help from other members of the household to place items in containers or plastic storage bags. Items like rice and pasta can be premeasured so that recipes come together quickly. Divide large “family-sized” packages of meats or poultry into the amount you’ll need for a recipe. Dry beans can be soaked overnight in the refrigerator so they’ll be ready for meals the next day. Freeze small packages of meat, vegetables, or even beans so they’ll thaw more quickly for future meals. Only cut what you think you’ll eat within the week if the food is refrigerated.

Cook/Prepare in batches

Think through what you can do to make a large recipe for dinner and save the rest for another meal. It can take about the same amount of time to cook a large batch of soup as a small batch. Large quantities of soups, stews, and dinners can be cooled and portioned into jars, storage containers or plastic freezer bags. These can be go-to lunches or even dinners the next week so that you don’t get into a rut. Chili, for example, can top a salad, a baked potato, or even an omelet if you have some left after dinner. Also think about making batches of staples that can be frozen like broth. Slow cookers will allow you to cook a larger quantity and cook while you are at work or doing other things. Prepare large quantities of fresh food like carrots or celery or wash lettuce for salads at one time for the week. Save food safely with tips you can find here.

With these strategies, you can be successful making changes. Even putting one of these efforts into effect will help you save time, money and effort. Michigan State University Extension is committed to help individuals and families improve their lives. Reaching goals for changing eating is a great way to get started on a better 2017.

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