As inflation continues to eat away at consumer buying power, especially at the grocery store, home-cooked meals continue to trend among American consumers. Between 79 and 80% of American meals are consumed at home, a number that hasn’t decreased even as the pandemic has somewhat loosened its grip on life.
Eating at home has its benefits—portion control, knowing what’s in your food, healthy ingredients, less expense—but if you’re not someone who enjoys the process, grocery shopping and preparing food can be a chore. Yet with a little planning, even the most kitchen-resistant among us can learn to put healthy, delicious, and simple meals on the table, and have fun doing it.
Make a plan. Spend a few minutes on the weekend planning what you’re going to cook and eat during the week. Keep in mind that you don’t have to actually cook every meal. Grill a big steak for dinner one night, save the leftovers, and you’ll have sandwiches/salads/tacos for lunch for the next couple of days.
Make a budget and a list. (The tedious part.) Once you have a basic menu outlined, then make a shopping list, keeping in mind your food budget for the week. It’s easy to bust the budget by impulse buying lots of meat, cheeses, and expensive condiments, but meat doesn’t have to be the center of your plate at every meal. Fill in with lots of fresh vegetables and beans and use less-expensive cuts, like stew meat (for soups and stews), steak strips (for kabobs) or brisket, which will feed a crowd and still give you leftovers for sandwiches or other meals. And of course, Panorama Organic’s grass-fed ground beef is an excellent choice for burgers, meatloaf, or tacos. The key with meat is to buy the best you can afford, but then use it sparingly and extend it through more than one meal.
Stock your freezer. It’s just as easy to make a big batch of soup or stew as a small one and then freeze what you won’t eat in a few days. Just be sure to wrap it well so you don’t end up with freezer burn, and label and date it so you aren’t faced with mystery containers later. It also helps to keep a list of what’s in the freezer. A small magnetic dry erase board on the outside makes inventory management a snap. It’s super-gratifying to know that on a chilly day, you can pull a package of delicious beef stew out of the freezer and have dinner on the table in no time at all.
Stock your pantry. Buy things like beans, rice, pasta, and other staples in bulk so they’re always ready to cook when you are. Canned stocks and tomatoes are also essentials for soups and stews. But make sure you stock up on things you’ll actually use—we’re still choking our way through the gluten-free quinoa pasta we bought in bulk at the beginning of the pandemic when there wasn’t anything else in the store.
Use prepared foods. You don’t have to bake your own bread, hand make pasta, or cook anything from scratch unless you want to. Panorama Organic has created a pre-cooked line of grass-fed meatballs, sausage, and hotdogs that help you get delicious and wholesome meals on the table quickly and easily. Visit our recipe page for ideas.
Commit to trying one new recipe a week. It’s easy to get into a rut in the kitchen, always making the same set of meals over and over. It’s easy, but it can get pretty boring for both the cook and the eaters. Spend a little time on one of the thousands of recipe sites (Simply Recipes is a good place to start) and come up with a list of new things to try, then pick one each week. Experiment with a new cuisine, a new cooking method, or a new ingredient or spice. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to make it ever again, but it might add a new meal to your rotation and make things a little more interesting.
Make good use of your slow cooker and/or Instant Pot. A slow cooker is great for soups, stews, chili, or even oatmeal for a nourishing breakfast in the morning. And if you have an Instant Pot and some dry beans in the pantry, you can get a delicious soup on the table in a little over an hour without soaking or precooking the beans. It doesn’t get much easier.
Get everyone into the act. Even young kids can learn to make simple dishes like hotdog mac and cheese, so let them cook, with some adult supervision of course, one night a week. And be sure that those who don’t do the cooking are there for the clean-up. Making it a team effort is more fun than having one designated cook who has to shoulder the entire responsibility.
Finally, don’t forget to treat yourself once in a while and go out to eat. Local restaurants are still struggling to recover from the pandemic, so give them your support.