Now that the fashion makeover is taken care of, and you’re all looking fabulous, I thought it time to share with you my other recent project: cooking. Last year, my job was quite stressful and required working till eight or nine two days a week. The three other weekdays, I was in no mood to deal with grocery shopping or cooking, so I did what we all love to—Takeout! It was fabulous, in a way… delicious food, often bought by my wonderful boyfriend, pizza every week, plenty of leftovers for the late nights, and lunch in ready-made packages every morning from the grocery store. Meanwhile, I watched my waistline and my budget balloon. So when I finally managed to free myself from my miserable job, I set out to learn how to cook. My criteria were (as always) numerous:
1) I needed to be able to make things in 30 minutes or less, because I come home hungry.
2) Recipes needed to be simple and foolproof--no temperamental souffles for me.
2) I did not want to go to the grocery store more than once a week.
3) Meals needed to be low-calorie and nutritious to stop the ballooning. Hello, vegetables!
4) Food should be delicious, so everything had to taste good.
5) Ingredients needed to be affordable, better yet, cheap. No exotic pastes that needed to be tracked down in specialty markets.
6) Variety. Who wants to eat the same thing all the time?
So that was it. I wanted cheap, easy, quick, delicious, healthy food—in essence, takeout from my kitchen, but better. I started by making a list of thirty things that the boyfriend and I like to eat (Variety—check!). Then, I got recipes for those dishes on my favorite website, www.cooksillustrated.com, (Delicious—check!). Then I compared those to the recipes in the Cooking Light cookbook, and added more vegetables and lean protein to trim down the calories (Healthy—check!). In order to make the recipes less daunting, I re-formatted them to list instructions and ingredients just once, to make times easier to track, and to let me know what pans and temperatures to use right at the top (Easy--check!). Anything that took longer than half an hour got simplified or cut out (at first, I tried to make some exceptions to this rule, but I still haven’t made those dishes, so… Quick—Check!). The last part anyone born after 1965 will find totally crazy—inconceivably, I planned my meals for the month.
That’s right, I made a calendar of meals for thirty days. I grouped together things that used the same fresh ingredients. It allowed me to figure out what basics I could keep in the cupboard or freezer, and what I could shop for fresh once a week. With a finite shopping list, it was easy to stock up and then go to the grocery store just once a week (check!). And from there, it was easy to find the cheapest grocery stores (which I’ll talk about more later).
In case you’re looking for a similar situation, you can see what I came up with here.