as a result of my begging & stalking by popular demand, the inimitable Charlotte of The Great Fitness Experiment.
We all know her. We all love her. We all wanna be her. Enjoy.
I’m Cheap, Easy & Quick
No I’m not a hooker at a blue-light special. I’m talking about the way
I cook. Being a health-minded gal with limited culinary abilities and
three picky toddlers, I’m in a tough position come every evening round
about 5 pm.
Healthy. Cheap. Quick. In that order, those are my three main
priorities when it comes to food. (Notice that “tastes good” didn’t
even make my top 3? Yeah, sadly, so did my family.) It’s hard to
find recipes that do all three things. Sure there are tons of healthy
recipes – with 5,000 exotic, expensive ingredients that take an hour
just to prep. And of course there’s plenty of cheap, quick food a la
McD’s. But all three? Plus yummy?? It’s enough to make this
cooking-disabled momma throw the towel in. Literally. Surprisingly
it didn’t make the soup taste any worse. All Husband said was “Hmm.
Bring on the Revolution
I grew up with a mom who, like many women of her generation, was
enamored of Stuff In A Box (although in her defense she was also a huge
fan of fresh produce). So consequently when I went to college I ate a
lot of Stuff In A Box. After I got married, I added Frozen Stuff In a
Box to the repertoire. It wasn’t pretty.
After gaining 47 pounds with my first pregnancy, I had had it with the
unhealthy eating. I read every book I could on the subject and
pestered every healthy friend I had and surfed the web like my DSL
connection carried oxygen instead of data.
The problem with most “healthy” recipes that I found was that they were
either too time consuming & expensive or relied too much on processed
crap packaged in a special “healthy” box. (I’m thinking cardboard
probably does have a lot of fiber – too bad it doesn’t apply to what’s
inside as well.) It was then I realized that I was going to have to
learn how to cook. I cried. I screamed at the heavens. I
fainted. And then I got up and made dinner. I tried everything and
sloooowly taught myself how to cook.
As if it wasn’t enough of a challenge, I am also a vegetarian (shout out
to my girl Ruta Bega and my homie K. Ale!!). So here are my fave
strategies for coming up with something healthy, cheap & quick. Note:
Omnivores – you know I love all you beautiful little freaks! – can just
add meat to most of these dishes or serve it on the side. My husband
and kids are all Omni so I know it works!
Soup: I make a lot of soup. And I make it from scratch. The trick
is to make it in really big batches. Think witch cauldron minus the
snake tongues and beetle butts. I base most of my soups off of beans
and/or lentils and vegetables in a broth base. The variations are
endless. Then I freeze it in little disposable plastic containers
(that I reuse because I’m cheap and, well, I kinda have a soft spot for
the ol’ planet) that hold about 4 servings each.
Salad: On Monday of every week I make a ginormous bowl of salad with a
little lettuce, a lot of spinach and every conceivable veggie I can
throw in. During the week, I’ll pull some of it out and add some
cheese or beans or tomatoes or something else to kick it up. I make my
own dressing by quickly stirring together some olive oil with a flavored
vinegar. It takes me about 30 seconds. If I use my finger to stir
it. What? It’s not like I lick it. Usually.
Bread: Being the health nut that I am (when I said I eat healthy I mean
Healthy – a friend once told me my intestines must look like burnished
steel from all the fiber I eat. I take that as one of the most
wonderful compliments I’ve ever gotten!), I make my own whole wheat
bread. Every Sunday I cook two loaves (despite what you may have heard
bread baking is not that hard and pretty quick) . I leave one out and
put one in the freezer.
I also make big batches of snacks for my kids like homemade granola
bars, whole wheat banana muffins and the like and then put the extras
in… the freezer!
Think Outside the Box
In addition to big batch cooking, my other tip is to make meat, if you
eat it, the side dish and make vegetables your main dish. Veggies are
cheap, healthy and easy to prep: I’ve never met a veggie that didn’t
taste good sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic. (Except you Mr.
Okra. Don’t look at me that way. You know what you did!) Stir fry is
about as quick a meal as they come. And don’t feel bad at all about
buying those pre-cut veggies. Sometimes the time saved is worth the
Beans, lentils and other legumes are also super cheap, especially if you
buy them dried and not canned, and only require a little overnight
soaking to loosen them up (not unlike some friends I know). Think
quick cooking grains as well, like quinoa & couscous. If you throw in
a cube of bullion with the cooking water everyone will ask what you did
to make it so “fancy.” Then you can go put on your pearls and smile
sweetly and tell them you slaved for hours until you oozed enough sweat
to give it just the right tang – not that they should feel guilty or
anything although you have heard that Nordstrom’s is having a spring
shoe sale. Ahem.
So there you have it – cooking tips from the girl who can’t cook! I’m
assuming that most of you have mad kitch skillz so please leave me your
suggestions and comments.
PS> What? You want a recipe? You actually trust me to give you a
recipe?? Fools! Muwhahahah! Try my Vegetarian Pad Thai or D’s
Special Granola Bars (not special like that, psychos). There. I’m done
(MizFit note: links to recipes are in comments area.)
Thanks so much, Charlotte. You, sisterfriend, were already part of the Bumbling Band O’MizFits.