Money in the bank. Good health. These two things are things that we all want, right?!
Well, there is one habit that will help meet each of those goals.
What if one habit fed your energy levels, your well-being, and saved money?
Well, it exists, and it isn’t a gimmick, a fad, or anything new.
It’s tried and tested for generations. Have you figured out what this habit is?
Cook at home.
Yep, that’s it. Of course, these three little words are a lot easier said–or written– then done!
But cooking at home can save hundreds of dollars a month. For my family of four, a basic meal in a casual restaurant will set us back $40-50. Even going out for fast food costs around $25 or more! It doesn’t matter if your family is big or if it is only you at home–you will spend significantly more eating out.
Freeing up money to pay down debt, save for a big purchase, or go on vacation…that sounds pretty good, right?
Even better, eating at home means that you have more control over what you eat. You can eat more veggies, cooked exactly the way you like them. You can make a big pot of your favorite soup and have it for lunch every day.
It’s a win-win! That’s the best kind of win, if you ask me.
But I get it better than anyone…we are busy. Make that BUSY. There aren’t enough hours in the day to work, clean house, walk the dog, spend time with the kids…the list goes on and on and on.
I can appreciate that women were really able to step away from kitchens and enter the workforce when frozen meals became widely available. It’s not a coincidence. I get that few people really want to spend all their time in the kitchen!
But there is a way to make cooking at home a habit…for your health and bank account. The time spent in the kitchen can be worthwhile, and some simply tricks can make all the difference!
If you’ve looked at many of my blog posts, you know I love a good list. So here is my list to help make sure I cook at home:
- Make a meal plan and grocery list. This is basically the same thing for me. I use a two-page method. On one page, I write out my meals for the week. On the next page, I write any ingredients I’ll need. I like to categorize my grocery list into produce, pantry, freezer, etc., to make shopping faster. If you’ve never done this before, make a list for the next 3 days so that it isn’t so overwhelming. Once you start to get the hang of it, you can make lists for the next week (or two weeks!) to minimize trips to the store.
- Use the most perishable stuff first. I still find wilted lettuce in my fridge if I didn’t place it front and center and make it a point to use it! For me, this can be one of the harder things to manage, but it is so important. Once stuff is starting to wilt, you can always toss it into a soup or smoothie.
- Have a few “back pocket” meals. When things don’t go as planned and you forgot to put a freezer meal in the crockpot (or maybe forgot to turn it on…trust me, it happens), you need a plan B. The kids are hungry, you might be hangry, and it looks like there is nothing in the fridge. If you don’t have leftovers to eat on a night like this, what can you make with the couple cans of beans hidden behind the peanut butter? Bean fritters? Chili? Tamale pie? Do you have eggs? Make a frittata. By having a few “emergency” non-perishable items that can become a quick meal, you’ll prevent those last minute drive-thru trips.
- Get everyone involved. In my house, if you eat, you cook (and clean). My kids are still little, so their cooking and cleaning is very limited, but they do participate in washing potatoes and carrying their plates to the sink after eating. My husband cooks regularly, too, which keeps me from feeling burnt out. If you are single or the primary cook in your family, don’t be afraid to ask for help on occasion from a friend or relative!
- Make friends with your freezer. When I was pregnant with my son, I spent the last two months of my pregnancy doubling recipes and buying extra ingredients to make freezer meals. We didn’t have a support system where we lived at the time, but I knew my toddler, my husband, and myself would all like to eat at home as much as possible after the birth. We made use of those meals for almost three months after he was born. It was fabulous! Fortunately, you don’t have to be nesting to freeze meals for future use!
- Make it fun. Most nights, we turn on some music while I’m cooking. Sometimes we will have theme nights (like Japanese or Mexican food), and we might play corresponding music and use chopsticks or salsa bowls or whatever else is appropriate. There is nothing wrong with trying to recreate your favorite restaurant at home.
- Brag. Seriously, I mean it. Everybody I know has heard me (and my hubby 😉 ) talk about how great his homemade salsa is. My husband reminds my kids that their mom is a great cook. Any time we sit down to a meal, we give thanks and compliment the cook. Not only does this teach gratefulness and good manners, but it reinforces the idea that the best food is at home!
- Remember why. What is your reason for wanting to eat at home? Do you want to improve your health? Do you want to save money? Do you want to pass down old traditions, or start new ones? When I feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and remind myself why I wanted to do this to begin with. Keeping my goals and priorities in mind is always helpful.
- At the end of the day, be nice to yourself. Did you fall short on veggie servings for the day? Eat no veggies at all? Eat only carbs? Throw in the towel and hit the drive-thru? It’s okay! It is only one day. A good habit isn’t going to be broken by one bad day. Just make tomorrow’s goal to eat a vegetable at home. No big deal.
If you cook at home for a day, a week, or a month, be sure to pin your badge and show the world how awesome you are!
What are your reasons for eating at home? Please share your favorite “back pocket” meals, too!