Things to know about me- One, I like food. Two, I don’t like cooking on weeknights. Three, I hate buying the next size up in pants. Oh and four, I’m an artist who’s self employed. I need my meals to meet the tall order of being delicious, quick, healthy, and economical. How do I do it? By following these six meal hacks.
Know your staples and keep them stocked.
How long have you been eating for? A while right? You know what you like. Always keep those staple ingredients in the house. For example, for me that's- olive oil, every bean the nice people at goya produce, vinegar, tahini, and soy sauce. I buy two of those pantry items each time I go to the store. One to use, and one to restock. When I go to restock the first one, I know it’s time to but another one of that item. By keeping these ingredients in the house I’m saving times with last minute trips to the grocery store.
2)Take a page from the frozen food aisle’s book
Trader Joe has these great oven roasted potatoes you can buy, throw in a skillet, and boom- your side dish is set. Once a month I hack up a bunch of (more carb friendly) butternut squash, dice an onion, toss it all in olive oil and roast them on a cookie sheet at 425 for 40 minutes. I prefer them super crispy. After the squash cools down, I throw it in a gallon zip lock bag and put it in the freezer. I take out portions as needed through out the week and reheat them in a skillet Trader Joe style. I also store things like sliced roast chicken, diced pepper, crumbled bacon, cooked lentils in the freezer. By doing this I create the the quick cooking ingredients for countless combinations of meal ahead of time.
3)You need to eat less then you think you do.
Yes, I went there. Portion size. Hear me out. This goes out to all you meat/fish eaters out there. Protein is pricey. With the exception of body builders and those of the paleo nation, I can guarantee you, you’re eating more meat then is your body needs. Take that portion of meat, half it and put it in the refrigerator for tomorrows lunch or dinner. Fill up the rest of your plate with vegetables and other sides. You’ve just created a more colorful (eating with your eyes is a real thing), and well rounded dinner. Plus you have one less meal to make later.
4)Eating out? Pick a meal that can be two.
Speaking of portion sizes, we in “amuricaaaa” are served needlessly HUGE meals by restaurants. Put those big portions to good use! If I’m eating out or getting delivery, I try to order a meal I know is leftover friendly. Salad with a protein and dressing on the side? Left over friendly. Asian stir fried meal with steamed rice? Left over friendly. Sushi? Not so much.
5)Leftovers aren’t just meals, they’re ingredients.
Leftovers can be ingredients too. If I eat all my cashew chicken and only have left over rice, that rice is going home with me. Fried rice for dinner tomorrow. If that roast pork was so good, I couldn’t not eat all of it but didn't have room to finish the broccoli? I now have an ingredient prepped to toss with my pasta and that sliced chicken I keep in my freezer.
6)Find the recipe after you buy the ingredients.
I buy what’s on sale and seasonal. If chicken breast is two for one and asparagus is in season, that’s what I’m buying. What do I make with it? I google “chicken asparagus recipe” in the store on my iphone. Let what you buy dictate what recipe you make not the other way around.
So to summarize- keep stocked, the freezer is your friend, leftovers rock and don’t let your recipe tell you what to do. Now go tell your kitchen who’s boss.
Erica Campanella is an illustrator and designer who lives in Providence, RI. She is the owner of E. Campanella Design Studios LLC, a design studio that creates art and patterns for the fashion, home decor and product design industry. Some of her favorite past clients include Rebecca Taylor, Maria Claire, and Shutterfly. Her current claim to fame is that her illustrations have appeared on the Hershey Easter Chocolate packaging for the last two years. When she’s not doing work, she’s a newbie rower, a epic dinner party host, or is chasing after a very spry 12 year old corgi named Teddy.