Home Cooking for Beginners

A Month of Sundays!

Whether you are a struggling student, an up and coming professional, a single parent, a busy family or a very successful and established individual who simply appreciates frugality and the value of time, quick, inexpensive yet nutritious recipes are life-savers in a clinch!  By spending each Sunday for one month, and then one Sunday every two weeks to make some basic preparations you can save a lot of time on a daily basis and still provide yourself with killer home cooked meals!

All of the recipes/menu plans you will see In this string have specific characteristics:

  • They are tasty yet focused on economy and nutritional value.
  • They can incorporate leftovers to minimize waste.
  • They can be frozen (either ready to serve, or as separate ingredients)
  • They take less than an hour in total from start to serving.
  • With only one on-the-spot ingredient you can achieve an impressive presentation, especially valuable for bachelors eager to prove their emancipation from M.O.M. (Mother’s Omnipresent Martyrdom).

Now don’t get stressed out here, I’m not suggesting you spend your entire Sunday slaving away in the kitchen.  About an hour of concentrated effort is enough to cover your back for the remainder of the week.  So, what are the preparations you can do once a week initially, then twice per month to ensure you will always have what you need to throw together a great, quick meal?

1)      If you are one of those people with nothing but glacial ice and a bottle of tequila and/or vodka in your freezer – put the bottles in the fridge and DEFROST your most important ally!

2)      Invest in small, freezer-friendly plastic storage containers that fit together well to conserve space.  These are essential for storing basic ingredients as well as portions of prepared foods for quick heat-ups during the week.  For fresh herbs you can use freezer bags to conserve space too.

3)      The basic tools everyone needs:  one 4lt pot for boiling, one 1.5lt sauce pan, one 12 inch steel or cast-iron frying pan or wok (the Asian version) avoid the non-stick coated aluminum variety.  One large mixing bowl, a colander, a ladle, a flat edged wooden spoon, a whisk and a steel spatula.  At least one decent knife that you can efficiently chop and slice with is essential.  An electric kettle is also a great time saving device if you have the space.

4)      Make a weekly menu plan.  I always do this BEFORE I do the grocery shopping.  It helps keep me focused on essential purchases.  The only time I allow myself to stray is if I come across a great special on turkey or chicken breast filets or salmon, things I can freeze and work into my next menu plan or use if I need to get creative on short notice.

5)      Use silk or masking tape and a permanent marker to label and date everything you freeze as well as any leftovers you store in the fridge.  The general rule is 2-4 weeks turn around for frozen and 2-4 days for left-over foods.  If you haven’t eaten or used leftovers in 4 days you are better off clearing the space.  Your pre-chopped fresh herbs can remain frozen longer just be sure they are well sealed so they don’t lose their aroma.

6)      Waste not, want not.  Menu plans are not carved in stone – they are a guide for convenience.  Before I cook I always check to see what leftovers I have that can be combined into a tasty meal.  If the quantity is sufficient, that means my menu plan can actually cover an additional day!  If my husband or one of my teenagers wants a snack I would rather they ate real food than a bag of chips or cookies and they actually like it too.

7)      Start chopping!  Onions (dry or spring), garlic, a variety of fresh herbs, spicy peppers, it is up to you.  Cut salmon, chicken, turkey or lean pork into cubes and freeze for quick and easy preparation later.

8)      Always have a package of non-processed mixed frozen veggies on hand to add color, flavor and nutrition to a quick meal.

That one hour you spend washing and chopping on Sunday will save you lots of valuable time during your busy week.  The time you spend thinking before you shop will also save you time later and give you peace of mind in that you won’t get home from work and say, “Oh crap!  What am I going to make for dinner?”  Do the practical math: how much do you spend in a month on take-out or eating out?  Most delivery operations require a $5-$10 minimum order, and if you eat out you are spending your time as well as your hard earned money.  It is good for your health and your pocket book to be able to prepare quick and easy home cooked meals that will only cost you $1 – $2 per serving.

Victoria Andre King is a freelance writer and audiovisual professional her novel The Führer Must Die is available for pre-orders and will be released on November 8th 2016 with Yucca Publications, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing NYC.

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