We’re not talking about shoving some frozen taquitos into the oven. Or chicken nuggets either. Or any of those other leftovers from high school and college days. Today’s topic is making nutritious, delicious, fabulous adult meals in your own apartment. Why? Because it can make apartment living more enjoyable. It can bring a little more wellness to your life. And, frankly, it’s time to take home cooking to the next level because we have been spending a whole bunch of money getting takeout and delivery.1 Plus, who doesn’t want to save money? (Looking at you, people searching “cheap renters insurance California.”)
It’s healthy. It’s good for your budget. It makes your fridge look grown up.
Let’s face it. A mostly empty ketchup bottle and some random fast food boxes might not be the best look for the fridge of an up-and-comer like you. And is all that takeout doing any favors for your fit level or monthly budget? Signs point to probably not. But we don’t need to guilt-trip about it. Everyone’s busy, right? We have a lot of stuff on our “plate” haha. We just spent over a year barely leaving our apartments, for goodness’ sake. So let’s be kind to ourselves about our eating habits. And think about making a change for the better. The good news is you can be a busy person and still have time to make and enjoy delicious, healthy meals at home. If you can get renters insurance, you can definitelyget good at this. Because it really isn’t that hard.
Spending like drunken sailors on delivery apps comes down to one simple issue: failure to plan. And everyone knows what you’re planning to do if you’re failing to plan. So, let’s not do that. Let’s do the opposite instead. Let’s start eating healthier. Let’s keep more money in our pockets. Let’s have well-stocked fridges that make coming home feel like home. Let’s get down to business with meal planning tips.
OK, we do not want to embark on this journey to home cooking with a lump of moldy cheese and a bunch of stuff that’s past its expiration date for our supplies. So, the first thing to do is go through your fridge and cupboards and throw all the old stuff out. While you’re at it, get rid of anything you don’t like or plan to eat. Then, take some notes so you remember the items you have on hand, like pasta, rice, beans and canned vegetables that you can incorporate into future meals. Give it a try. It feels quite cleansing!
You don’t have to jump into the heat of the kitchen and buy a molecular gastronomy cookbook to attempt to make parmesan snow. Start out with comfort food. And by that we mean food that takes your cooking skills into account. If you’re new to all this, try starting with the basics like soups or salads. There are tons of simple recipes that take less than 10 minutes. A few minutes searching meal planning websites1and you’ll have a great foundation for your first menu and shopping list. As you get more experience you can branch out and build your cooking skills. The internet is full of step-by-step recipe videos for anything you want to make. In the meantime, start simple with an easy plan based on familiar foods and go-to ingredients you’re comfortable preparing.
You need to work this meal planning and cooking thing around your schedule if it’s going to work. So, ask yourself: What night of the week is best for grocery shopping? Is it on my normal route? Is affordable renters insurance legit? Is there one store where I can get everything I need? You also definitely want to plan ahead for busy days. (Kind of like getting apartment insurance before something happens.) For the times when you’re busy burning the midnight oil, you probably want to plan stuff that’s quick and easy to make. Or even have some frozen or premade meals on hand. Weekends are a great time to work in some meal prep and prepare for a busy week. Then you’ll be ready when things get crazy busy, and you won’t have to resort to takeout.
To create your first meal plan, choose your favorite meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pick simple foods you know how to cook and you know you like. For instance:
Breakfast: Overnight Oats, Oatmeal, Avocado and Egg Toast, Omelette, Fruit, Toasted Bagel and Cream Cheese
Lunch: Salad with Chicken, Turkey Sandwich, Soup, Crackers with Hummus, Frozen Meal
Dinner: Mac and Cheese, Slow Cooker Stews, Grain Bowls with Assorted Toppings, Grilled Chicken Breast with Broccoli, Loaded Baked Potato
See? It’s all easy stuff that you can easily make, and it will taste great!
Step 5: Create your routine.
Your meal plan doesn’t have to have an insane level of variety. In fact, if you want to succeed, the opposite is true. Having some faves saved in a meal planning app makes everything easier. Especially if you’re only cooking for one or two people. So, yes, you might have similar breakfasts and lunches each day (especially during the week). But you’ll save time and money, and you’ll have regular healthy options on hand. And you won’t waste your groceries because you only use a little bit. Also, you can cook once but make enough for two or three meals that you spread out over the next several days. Create your routine. It works!
Step 6: Experiment!!!
Now, once you have your routine established, you don’t want things to get stale. So, try experimenting with something new each week. Stretch your cooking skills by finding a new recipe online. It’s a lot of fun. And you might just discover something new to add to your routine.
A meal plan does one great thing for you for sure: It makes it so you don’t have to run to the grocery store multiple times per week. You make your list. You do your shopping, and you get the job done. We all know that when the question comes down to running to the grocery store after a hard day of work or ordering takeout, takeout always wins.
Create your shopping list based on your plan
Consult the items you have on hand
Add a few snacks and beverages
Go to the store and stock up for the week
One and done.
Tip 2: Prep once
Once a week, carve out an hour or so and spend it prepping for the week’s meals. You only mess up the kitchen once, and you’ll be ready to enjoy meals all week long. Some people who are really good at this even gather ingredients in a big batch for everything from bentos to tiffins, prep a week’s worth of meals and put them into individual containers in their fridge so they’re ready to go. You can pre-prepare single meals like tacos and spaghetti on the weekend and have them ready to reheat later in the week. So go by the meal planner motto, which – spoiler – was already in this post: Succeeding to plan is planning to succeed.
Tip 3: Stock up on quick staples
OK, we all know the best-laid plans don’t always work out. Things can go awry. Wrenches do get thrown in spokes. Bosses can call and make unexpected demands on your freedom. So. It’s always good to have a few staples on hand as a backup option. A frozen pizza, a box of pasta, an instant dinner, a few containers of soup or some frozen vegetables can save the day when everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
Home-cooked meals in your own home. Does it get any better?
Inviting someone to your home for a home-cooked meal. Sounds pretty good, right? That’s some solid adulting stuff right there. And imagine coming home to a fridge stocked with good food and having a great meal prepared in no time. Not to mention seeing your weekly spending slim down a bit. It’s not that hard. So, let’s start planning meals.
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1. “A Pandemic Lifeline for Restaurants, Delivery Is ‘Here to Stay’,” The New York Times, Jul. 2, 2021.