My first year living on my own, I ordered a take-out burrito bowl basically twice a week. I would rather starve all day and eat one hefty, greasy meal I picked up somewhere than spend the energy and time to cook myself something. For one, I barely knew how to cook eggs, let alone a meal, but I also found myself struggling with all the time it’d take to cook. I relished my free time way too much to spend it cooped up in the kitchen. And I couldn’t dare picture how some people actually found cooking to be a self-care activity. Isn’t that what the eating part is for?
Fast-forward and in 2020, I’ve done basically a 180. Do I get takeout sometimes? Absolutely. But for the sake of my finances and my health, I began teaching myself a little here and there about cooking at home. But even while I’m spending all my time at home, I don’t enjoy spending a ton of time in the kitchen, so I vowed that every meal I made would be under 30 minutes (a good motivator, if I do say so myself). Over time, I’ve gotten more comfortable in the kitchen, but one thing’s remained: I spend way more time doing my skincare routine than I do cooking dinner. Here are my secrets:
1. I invested in Blue Apron
One of the hardest parts of cooking is meal planning and getting everything from the grocery store. Although your meal might only take you 30 minutes, it might take you three hours to figure out what to make, create a list, wait in line at the grocery store, and get everything—and I forget something almost every single time. A meal-delivery service like Blue Apron takes away all of that time and energy planning and buying groceries, so your meals actually can take under 30 minutes.
My favorite thing about Blue Apron is that you can easily see the recipes when you order, and they always tell you how long it takes to prep and cook. I’m able to order meals that exclusively take under 35 minutes to make, plus I can see how much prep work is involved. I’m making exciting new dishes I never would have made, but they feel easy and doable like everything else I cook. This has led me to keep all of my recipes handy to recreate them again, helping me to build an arsenal of quick and easy meals I know I already like.
2. Save everything you see on IG, Pinterest, and YouTube
One of my biggest sources of cooking inspiration as of late has been Instagram and Tik Tok. I’m constantly seeing new ways people are making delicious, easy meals that take seriously no time at all. However, it’s easy to forget them all. Lately, I’ve been saving all of my meal ideas in one place so that I can easily come back to them. I use Pinterest because you can Pin anything from the web right there, so pictures I see on Instagram, YouTube videos, and Tik Toks can be saved amongst all the other great recipe content on Pinterest. Every Sunday I look through this catalog of ideas and pick one or two to try for the week.
3. Eat breakfast for dinner!
Once I got out of the funk that breakfast foods need to be eaten for breakfast and dinner foods can only be eaten at dinner, my world changed. Although I absolutely love breakfast foods, sometimes I’m craving a heartier meal when I eat in the mornings and opting for something that would ordinarily be a lunch or dinner for me has been a lifesaver. But like I said, I love breakfast foods (I could eat exclusively sunny-side-up eggs and hash browns with hot sauce for the rest of my life and be the happiest person on Earth), so when I’m in a rut about what to cook for dinner, I go with my go-to breakfast. As long as it has some protein and maybe a side salad (hence the maybe), I’m good to go.
4. Keep a go-to grocery list and meal ideas list on your phone
This was one of the first pages I made when I started a Bullet Journal, but you can put it basically anywhere: a note on your phone, a page you keep in your purse, on your computer, or even in your car. I first created a list of all of my favorite easy, go-to meals. I started with things like chicken quesadilla, turkey tacos, chicken caesar wraps, pita pizzas, spicy noodles, and an egg scramble. Then, I broke each of those meals down into all of their ingredients and wrote that as a master grocery list. Then when I’m feeling uninspired in the kitchen, I already have a pre-made meal plan and grocery list to get me through the week. This has truly saved me on nights when I’d rather do anything but cook, but if I have these on hand, I know I can make a meal I absolutely love.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of a doctored-up frozen meal
Like most people, I live in the frozen section of a grocery store. It’s so much easier, and if you know what to look for, it’s not the worst thing for your body either. But sometimes you need a little something more, so I love taking frozen staples and doctoring them up just a little bit. I’ll take frozen cauliflower rice and cook it in a little bit of soy sauce and sriracha with grilled chicken and a scrambled egg. Add some veggies, and you have the most basic fried “rice” on the planet. Another favorite of mine is using frozen breaded chicken tenders for salads, sandwiches, and wraps for an adult meal instead of just dipping them in BBQ sauce and fries (which I definitely still do on occasion and have zero regrets).
I do the same with frozen vegetables, always serving them in a sauce or a ton of my favorite seasonings to make them taste a little fresher. Find whatever ways you can take the frozen items in your freezer to the next level.
6. Keep all of your go-to spices on-hand
Make sure you have a constant flow of all of your go-to spices, seasoning blends, and sauces. For me, that’s garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, sriracha, soy sauce, chili paste, cinnamon, and taco seasoning, but your list will be different based on what you like to cook! Having these in my cupboard and fridge at all times makes it easy to doctor up a plain meal or add a little extra flavor to something.
This post includes a sponsored mention of Blue Apron, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.