It’s 2pm. You’ve barely looked up from your computer and all you’ve consumed today is a scalding long black from the cafe downstairs.
As the pangs of hunger finally kick in, you race to the nearest sandwich spot in the hopes of nabbing their last one. By the time you’ve got home from work, the fridge is bare and the chances of a grocery shop is fading fast.
Eating well takes time and preparation. With our jobs gobbling up so much of our time, cooking balanced and nutritious meals can feel like an endless struggle. And with ordering in and dining out more convenient than ever, it’s no wonder we’re frequently opting out of a home-cooked meal.
So, we’ve come armed with five simple strategies to help you eat better without spending night after night slaving over the stove. Here are our top time-saving cooking hacks:
1. Write a weekly shopping list
It might sound like the daggiest thing to do but this one is essential.
You know the feeling of wandering aimlessly around the grocery store? Suddenly you’ve got a basket of fruit, body wash and a tub of $10 coconut yoghurt? Yep, we’ve all been there. Without a clear idea of what you’re going to cook, buying the right set of ingredients is almost impossible.
Start by figuring out what you want to eat for each meal and factor in any nights you might be eating out or heading home late. Write down a clear list of what you need in your phone’s notes app and then it’s time to get shopping.
Getting your groceries done in one visit helps to avoid impulse purchases that can blow your budget month to month. Plus, doing a weekly grocery list forces you to be intentional with what you’re eating at each meal as you’re planning in advance.
With a fully stocked fridge, you’ll be much more likely to make a healthier choice when it comes round to dinner time, too.
2. Meal prep your work lunches
This one is a golden time-saving gem. Carving out the time to meal prep your lunches on a Sunday afternoon can seem totally unreasonable, but hear us out on this one.
Think about the time it takes you to buy lunch each day. Once you’ve factored in ordering, waiting and heading to and from the office, it’s probably close to 20 minutes. Do that five times a week, and you’re at well over an hour. Oh, and you’ve just dropped an easy $50+ for all of that.
Meal prepping can seem like a massive waste of your precious weekend time, but it’s an incredibly simple way to save both time and money. Plus, you know exactly what you’re eating every day as you’ve prepared your own food.
3. Cook in bulk and freeze your leftovers
Even with the best of intentions, sometimes we just need a quick feed.
Whether you’ve been stuck in an all-day seminar or had to stay back at work to field some urgent emails, cooking a wholesome dinner every night might not be realistic. And that’s totally fair enough!
That’s where frozen leftovers come in. Next time you’re making your favourite pasta, stew or soup, think about making an extra serving or two. Why? Because these freezer-friendly dishes will come in handy next time you’re short on time.
This is fantastic for those single ladies who struggle to cook for one person. As most recipes are portioned to feed four people, you can easily follow along and save the rest for your future self. Genius.
4. Keep nutritious snacks handy
When we’re hungry, it’s super difficult to exercise self-control. Whether it’s eating an entire tub of peanut butter (guilty) or inhaling a family-size pack of MnMs, we all have those moments when a sweet treat is all we can think about
But, what if we had nutritious alternatives on hand? Think ahead and load up on a range of healthy snacks that’ll save you in those ‘hangry’ moments. Stock up on fruit, nuts, dips and even a few more indulgent sweet treats like bliss balls and dark chocolate bars.
The best bit? Having these healthy options in your cupboard will avoid the temptation of a hungry grocery store visit that we all know will end up in the ice cream aisle.
5. Stock your pantry with herbs and spices
One of the biggest barriers to cooking at home is not having the right staples. From olive oil to soy sauce, these essential condiments are what bring dishes to life.
Although it can be a big investment initially, creating a well-stocked pantry will serve you for many weeks and months to come. Think about the style of dishes you like to make and purchase the right oils, sauces, spices and canned veggies to suits those.
If you’re an Italian aficionado, look for olive oils, pine nuts, dried pasta and canned diced tomatoes. For those who love Japanese flavours, get your hands on peanut oil, mirin, teriyaki sauce and soba noodles.
With a little planning and preparation you’ll become a meal-prepping queen, while saving time and money. It’s a win win!
This article was written by Lucinda Starr and originally published on A Girl In Progress.