If you want to cook and eat more at home, and take advantage of ingredients that are in season or on special, here is a simple idea. It takes a little bit of work and research up front, but once implemented, you won’t have to plan weekly menus again.
Come up with 4-5 meals that you really like, can be made without a recipe, can incorporate whatever meats and vegetables you have on hand, and can be made in one pot. When you get home from work, you can look in the fridge to see what’s there and throw together one of your meals. It will be quick and tasty, and there won’t be too much washing up to do.
Here are the 5 meals I make regularly (4 of these can be made completely vegetarian):
- roasted chicken breasts and vegetables
- pasta with vegetables
- frittata (an egg dish)
- vegetable/potato soup
- chicken or bean tacos
I’ll be posting the recipes for all of these soon. But don’t let these suggestions limit you. Many dishes would work, such as stir-fry, curry, chicken soup, baked pasta or sausage stew. The key is that you like all of the dishes and won’t get tired of them.
Learn what the basic components of your key meals are and always keep those stocked. When you go grocery shopping, buy proteins and vegetables that are on sale or in season. These will give your weekly meals some variety and will also save you money.
Over time, you can learn some additional cooking techniques so you can take advantage of special offers. For example, figure out your favorite way to cook a piece of fish or a steak and memorize it. Memorize a variety of simple side dishes that you can easily throw together, such as salad with vinaigrette, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli with garlic, etc. Or do as I do and keep a notebook in the kitchen with a selection of quick, simple dishes written down. You can turn to these ideas when you get bored with your weekly rotation.
If you have the time or inclination, cook more elaborate meals on the weekends, or go out. But this has helped me stick to my goal of cooking on weeknights, even when I’m tired, without resorting to take-out or going out.