I like cooking. But I don’t have time to make a gourmet meal every day. And I am cringe at the idea of regularly shelling out twenty dollars for a restaurant meal I can easily make for at least one quarter of the menu price.
This is where lazy cooking comes in. Lazy cooking means you save money by preparing food at home. Lazy cooking means you aren’t spending a ridiculous amount of time preparing and cleaning. And finally, lazy cooking means your meals are slightly more time-intensive than eating out of a box or a T.V. dinner tray, but totally worth the slightly extra effort. Here are eight tips to brush up on your lazy cooking skills so you won’t be spending another dinner eating an overpriced sandwich at a restaurant—or a bowl of Ritz cracker crumbs with a glass of cheap wine at home.
1. Frozen vegetables are your best friend. Frozen vegetables (and fruits, for that matter) have just as much nutrients as their unfrozen counterparts. And you never have to worry about using them all up before they all gets spoiled. Frozen vegetables don’t need to be washed, peeled or cut—and can be quickly thawed and thrown into stir-fry, pasta, curry, noodle, omlette dishes. You can also enjoy them on their own as a seasoned vegetable side dish.
2. It’s okay if you sometimes buy your vegetables pre-cut. Yes, I know that buying pre-cut anything is a money-saving no-no. But if buying them pre-cut is going to encourage you more to prepare something at home than dining out, you’re still saving a heck of a lot more money. So if you buy salad in a bag or pre-chopped broccoli from time to time, it’s totally cool.
3. Vegetable / chicken stock makes everything taste good. Chicken and vegetable stock are great to have in handy. You can use stock to cook rice, sauté vegetables, reheat stir-fries and more to add an extra flavor boost to just about anything. For a quick dinner, just heat up some stock, throw in some cooked pasta and vegetables, and you have an instant pasta-vegetable soup.
4. Make a lot of stuff that can be frozen. Anytime you are making something that is freezer-friendly, make extra so you can store the excess in the freezer to defrost and eat for later. Cooked rice, casseroles, curry sauce, pasta sauce, soup, stew, gravy, and other food can be stored next to your ice cream for your future instant frozen meal.
5. Bulk up when non-perishables are being sold for super-cheap. Rice, pasta, canned food—bulk up when they’re on sale so you’ll always have staple food items to work with that are super-easy to prepare.
6. When you are tempted to grocery-shop, see how much longer you can hold out with what you have. Holding out for an extra day or two before you run to the supermarket may force you to get super-creative with what’s lying around in the pantry, refrigerator, freezer, or shelves, which will build your cooking muscles and also save you money! Try to make a casserole even if you don’t have all the vegetables. See what pasta you can make with the frozen veggies you have.
7. Mix and match instant-cooked with the home-cooked. You don’t always have to home-cook everything, nor do you have to go completely microwavable with every meal you have. Be flexible: for example, you can use instant rice but prepare your own side dish. Or use microwavable chicken nuggets but prepare your own killer green salad. By preparing some components and taking advantage of instant cooking for the others, you can save time, money and still enjoy a delicious meal.
8. Sometimes you just need a brand new awesome condiment to make your lazy cooking more interesting. Anytime I’m in a cooking rut or a flavor rut, I use this as an opportunity to explore a cool new sauce I’ve never tried before. Discovering Vegannaise seriously rocked all my lazy sandwiches and veggie burgers for a week. I just recently bought some new Thai stir-fry sauce I’ve never tried before, which will probably make my lazy stir-fries taste brand new to me, too.
Got some lazy and cheap cooking tips that rock your super-busy weeknights? Share your ideas with the community by commenting below!
Originally published on Intent