There's been a lot of literature flying back and forth lately about America's lack of good eating habits. While I think we all know that frozen meals and fast food aren't really
what healthy diets are made of, we also suspect that eating well can be a real
pain in the butt. It means extra shopping, extra expenses, extra time planning
meals - basically, it means putting forth a bunch of extra effort. Sure, it's
great if you join your parents or friends for a home-cooked dinner, but when you're the one doing all the work, it
can get a bit daunting.
I'll cover different aspects of this over the next few weeks, because it's important for all of us to know that eating well really isn't that tough. In this first installment, here are a few ways to ease the burden of extra shopping and extra planning.
I firmly believe that thinking things out in advance is the key to life in general, and good eats in particular. First, figure out what on which nights you want to cook; then, as early in the week as possible, decide what meals you're going to make. That way, you can make only one or two shopping trips (one for nonperishable items at the beginning of the week, and one for more time-sensitive things towards the middle) during the week instead of dropping by the store every night.
Manage your time efficiently.
If you've planned ahead effectively, then you'll have cut down on your number of required shopping trips. Unless I need a lot of frozen food (sherbet, anyone?) my favorite time to go to the store is on my lunch hour; very few people are buying a large number of items, and if it's a small haul, I can just bring my bags back to my desk to stay cool.
Consult new cookbooks and cooking magazines (they're not all just for professional chefs, you know), pick your friends' and family's brains, and do Internet searches based on your favorite ingredients. If you get any health/fitness mags or a publication like Better Homes & Gardens, check out their recipe sections as well. The best way to burn yourself out on cooking is to get stuck in a repetitive cycle of dishes that bore you half to death. Keep a few easy and familiar dishes in your back pocket, but make an effort to find new meal ideas that you can get excited about, and you'll be looking forward to the nights you've planned to cook.
You really don't have to cook every night; heaven knows I sure don't. Some nights, I want nothing more than to microwave some frozen pizza bagels before I plop down in front of the TV to relax. But it's important to get fresh food mixed in with the pre-made stuff, so budget your frozen dinners, saving them for nights when you know you're going to be too tired or too crunched for time to do much more than shove a plastic dish in the microwave.