One of the largest budget items for an individual or family is food. The ways most modern families eat — take out before soccer practice, a pizza on the way home from work — are expensive and often unhealthy. Meal delivery services are convenient, but also cost an arm and a leg. The cheapest and tastiest meals are home-cooked; here’s how to pull them off with minimal fuss.
Learn a Killer Go-To Recipe
If you are new to cooking, try to master a simple meal that you and your family love. Sauteed chicken cutlets with a simple pan sauce, served with roasted veggies or a side of rice is a great gateway recipe. From this base recipe, you can branch off into other flavors or proteins.
One-Pot Meals Are Your Best Friend
Some of the best meals come out of one pot. Chilis, stews, soups and curries each boast strong flavors and often dirt-cheap ingredients. These meals are easy for leftovers, too. Slow braises are simple to execute and make tough cuts of meat shine. Experiment with spices and flavors and pinpoint your family’s tastes.
Cookbooks Are Guides, Not Rulebooks
Novice home cooks often make the common mistake of leaning on cookbooks as a rigid set of instructions, like an appliance manual. Use cookbooks as inspiration, not gospel. Follow a recipe, but also teach yourself how to know when meat is properly seared, and how much seasoning your dish requires.
Meal Planning Is Like Chess, Think a Few Steps Ahead
That pot of stew can be portioned out into lunches, but its braised meat can also be saved for another meal entirely. Learn to embrace leftovers for future meals. Cook extra portions of meat and freeze it to use as taco or omelet fillings next week. Reduce soup and stock to a sauce that can top another meal.
Make Freshness Your Guide
Many people waste money on groceries that they end up tossing, such as salad greens. If you want fresh, delicate vegetables, eat them soon after purchase and plan your weekly meals accordingly. If you want to have a salad on Thursday, don’t buy a head of lettuce on Saturday morning.
Meal planning takes a little work but pays off in flavor, health, and savings.