The Food Marketing Institute has recently reported that 71% of us are cooking at home more often these days. That means more people are sitting in their cars, their desks or at the kitchen table rummaging through their cupboards and fridge in their minds, trying to figure out what’s for dinner.
Naturally, home cooking has fewer calories and more nutritional value than restaurant meals but are you maximizing your savings or adding to your stress when you eat at home?
The average household wastes 14% of the food they buy due to poor planning and wastage. If you spend $100 a week on groceries, 14% is the equivalent of three homemade gourmet lunches.
By planning your meals you only shop for the items you need for the week, so you’re reducing wastage and worry. Any extra portions of meat can be frozen as can pre-made meals just make sure you label them with what it is and the date and frozen right after you make them so they avoid becoming funky experiments in the back of the fridge. There have been a few times that I have put meals in containers in the freezer and then when I’ve gone to pull them out a few weeks later I’ve completely forgotten what they are so it ends up being a surprise meal (hopefully a good surprise.)
When you plan meals, make sure to include enough foods from each food group, with special attention to fresh vegetables and fruits for every meal as well as snacks. Always keep an eye out for sales on grain products like rice, pasta and oats or other products like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, beans and lentils so you can stock up and have them as staples for every meal.
Frozen fish, frozen vegetables and even frozen fruit are also good to keep on hand for quick entrees, side dishes and smoothies when you haven’t had a chance to buy fresh ingredients. I use frozen vegetables a lot during the winter months and they tend to be my go to for quick additions to meals or at the end of the week when the fridge is looking a little empty.
Meat is definitely the most costly mealtime staple but re-thinking how you use it can be better for your wallet and your waistline. With books like In Defence of Food by Micheal Pollan, it’s becoming increasingly popular to think of meat as a side dish for vegetables as opposed to the meal’s main feature. Remember half your plate should be vegetables! Try having meatless meals once or twice a week and swap out the meat for lentils and beans instead.
Soups, casseroles and salads are all great ways to pepper in a little meat instead of serving it in one big chunk. Pull out the slow cooker, this is a great way to use cheaper cuts of meat and is such a good feeling when you come home, dinner is practically done and the house smells like you’ve been in the kitchen all day. If you are in need of some slow cooker recipes, click here to get your copy of my Slow Cooker Ebook ‘Welcome Home To Dinner, Nutritionist Approved Crockpot Recipes’ it’s only $3 for 26 awesome, real food recipes, I have included one of my personal favourites at the end of this post for you to try – Chicken Tikka Masala.
The benefits of meal planning are numerous and getting started is surprisingly simple. All you need to do is jot down your meals before you go grocery shopping, know what you already have at home and write out your shopping list so you buy only what you need. If this is an area you struggle in consider enlisting the help of professional menu planners (aka your friendly nutritionist – me 🙂 ) who can take the planning off your plate while teaching you the basics. Email me at email@example.com to set up an appointment or call the Better Health Clinic at 519-415-2266.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4 to 6
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 to 2 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
Fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups cooked rice, to serve
Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and transfer them to a 3-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of garam masala, paprika, and kosher salt until the chicken is evenly covered with spices. Stir in the diced tomatoes with their juices.
Cover the slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, stir in the heavy cream. If you prefer a thicker sauce, leave the slow cooker uncovered for the last 15 minutes. Taste and add more garam masala or salt to taste.
Serve over rice with fresh cilantro sprinkled over the top of each serving. The tikka masala can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months.