Where Take-Out and Frozen Food Meet Home-Cooked Meals

Last week I wrote about The cure for “Hon, Let’s Eat Out Today” Syndrome. It provided tips to motivate cooking at home more often. I received a response from a reader saying she has been trying to cook at home on a regular basis, but so far has only met with modest success. Due to the size of her family and the time restrictions, she ends up taking out food very often. While I would like to say, keep trying to cook at home as much as possible since it is both healthier and more frugal, I understand the urge to take-out. For me, the takeouts were an interim measure between eat-out-all-the-time to eating mostly-home-cooked-meals. By combining the take-outs and frozen foods with home cooked food, I could make the transition to mostly-home-cooked-meals easier. Here are some tricks I used that helped me with the transition.

When you start out, cook only every other day.
Unless you are a person who likes extremes, take it slow and steady. Cooking at home should not feel like something that is forced on you. Instead it needs to become a habit, a part of your daily routine. And you can’t just get used to something that takes around an hour of your time (when you are most likely tired and hungry), without some resistance. So, start slow. Cook only every other day. Whenever you cook, cook a little extra so there are leftovers for the next day. On your way back from work the next day pick up some “wow” side dish such as some spicy wings, or some jalapeno poppers etc. Since I do my groceries on weekdays, I would adjust it for days when I have leftovers and pick up something from the deli section of the grocery store to give a little bit of a boost to the leftovers. This way, you reduce the time you spend in the kitchen, and the money you spend on takeout.

Get takeout, but less than what you actually need
If you don’t have any leftovers, and are planning to get some take-out, then take out less than what you actually need. For instance, if you usually get two entrĂ©es from the Chinese restaurant, get only one instead. If you usually get a large pizza, get a medium pizza instead. At home, toss a quick salad. Or steam some veggies for sides. Or roast some corn. Or cut up some fruits for dessert. The idea is to reduce the amount of takeout and add a home-cooked component. Again, you reduce both time spent in kitchen and money spent on takeout.

Stock up on frozen goodies
If you look into the frozen section of your deli, you will see all sorts of goodies from biscuit dough to garlic bread, stir fry veggies to spiced up meats, baked/mashed potatoes to pizzas (and everything else in between). Stock your freezer with these goodies. When you use them, chop some fresh veggies to add some jazz. For instance, if I use frozen veggies for stir fry, I add a lot of fresh chopped garlic and spring onions to give it some fresh taste. Before baking frozen pizza, I add some fresh bell peppers, onions, mushrooms (and whatever else I can lay my hands on) to give it a unique twist and a fresh taste. And sometimes, I cook pasta and use the stir-fry veggies in the sauce. Try to combine the frozen foods with some light cooking to get the best balance between time spent, money saved and healthier meals.

When used in conjunction with the tips from last week, I can assure you these tricks will help you ease into a frugal and healthy lifestyle with home cooked meals. They become a part of your daily routine, and soon you will stop thinking of cooking as a chore. Good Luck. And please do share if you have any additional tips and tricks.

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3 Comments:

frugal zeitgeist said...

Cooking is great. I love it and it's saved me thousands of dollars over the years. My trick is to make vast quantities of whatever and then have leftovers for a few days. Can't get much easier than that.

ispf said...

frugal zeitgeist: That's a good trick. And for those who don't like eating the same food on consecutive days, you can freeze the leftovers for a couple of days and take it out at a later date when you don't feel like cooking.

Gina said...

I have that same problem! It's so hard to find time to cook since I work all the time. Most frozen food is unhealthy or bland but I've been making Bertolli Mediterranean Style Frozen Dinners, they're tastey! There are videos of Chef Rocco DiSpirito cooking with them here. I have the inside scoop because I work with them!