3 Dinner Prep Suggestions for Quarantine (and Beyond!)
Quarantine caused by a global pandemic is reason enough, to consider cooking at home more often..
But the benefits of home cooking go beyond a government mandated protocol- home meals can drastically save money and kindle healthier relationships with family members. not to mention there's also a certain excitement that comes with preparing dinner at home- personal accomplishment in preparing complex recipes (if you're that type of person) and saving time by preparing meals for days to come.
Of course, one of the primary struggles with home cooked meals is deciding what to actually cook, and allocating the time to prepare meals! Unless you're a seasoned chef, Olive oil and Tortilla Chips pose just a small handful of meal possibilities, certainly not enough to impress Gordon Ramsey. To truly grasp the possibilities available in the pantry, we need guidance from external sources that understand complexities of diets and don't infringe on our precious time. Below, I'll highlight several tips and best practices for creating delicious, home-cooked dinners that family and friends will love.
1. Use a recipe planning app (save time and headache)
We live in a technological society- there's no reason why technology can't act as our humble culinary guide to the land of deliciousness. Mobile recipes applications today are equipped with every possible parameter to help you in your conquest of mouth-watering dinner goodness. Read Set Dinner is one such application, that offers a full stack of meal-preparation value including shopping lists, dietary restriction options, and of course- diversified recipes. To accommodate for COVID-19, they're offering their Premium membership free of charge, so now's a good time to put your mobile device to use, followed by those black beans at the back of the pantry. Petra Wintner (founder) shares a bit more about why she created Ready Set Dinner:
"We built Ready set Dinner to help people reduce the hassle around meal time and enjoy home-made dinners (more often). If we can take one item off your plate in these particularly stressful times, we have achieved our goal. Let us plan for you, speed up your shopping and guide you through the cooking process, so you can enjoy your meals!" -Petra
Using a recipe planning app will also help you identify which ingredients to use, whether you're preparing a small or big batch, and more. Regardless of cooking experience, a dinner recipe app will hold your hand every step of the way, unlike those old cookbooks tucked away in your grandparents cupboards. Not only that, but recipe apps will also level up your dish-making abilities, so you can show off to your friends and family (just remember social distancing)!
Tip #1: Download a recipe planning app (link to website) and take full advantage of the dietary restrictions, diversified recipes, and more.
2. Avoid foods with high (bad) calories and ingredients
This is a more practical, health tip, but it resonates with my topic. As more and more people are working from home, calories are becoming burned less and less (unless you have an impressive home gym). Combined with your usual diet of cheese, peanut butter and leftover chicken, this couch-lounging lifestyle can have serious impact on your health. Pizza begins to scare you and comfort foods end up being not so comfortable. Here are some common foods that carry more calories than you might need:
- Fast food (duh)
- Processed meat like Kielbasa
- Fatty meat like pork chops
- Sugar drinks/soda
- Salad dressing
I'm not saying you need to cut these foods from your diet entirely, just be mindful of your calorie in / calorie out ratio- especially as remote work continues to become our status quo. Good calorie foods include seeds, avocado, Salmon, bananas, whole wheat bread, and eggs, to name a few. Also, just because food packaging says “organic” does not mean it is actually good for your body. The more ingredients (especially the ones that you don’t understand) that are listed on the packaging, the further away you should stay from that food. The best food does not have ingredients, but IS ingredients.Remember that the important thing is to have a proper balance of calorie-to-exercise. Scientifically speaking, calories give us energy, but that energy needs to be given only in the amount that it's consumed. As an extra reminder, sugar is at least as bad for you as fat, so be extremely wary of “low fat” products as they often replace fat with sugar or sugar substitutes.
Tip #2: Evaluate your changes in physical activity during extended time at home, and adjust your calorie intake accordingly.
3. Shop wisely and quickly
Lastly, be mindful when you shop for groceries- plan your journey in advance and only buy the necessary ingredients to create your target foods. I try to spend no more than 20 minutes in a grocery store, by planning and creating a shopping list. If you're smart, you'll use a dinner recipe app that designs shopping lists based on suggested recipes. All it takes is one day to plan/shop and you're set for the entire week, if not longer.
Most grocery stores know that there's an increase in home meal preparation, so also be wary of inflated prices. Inversely, restrictions of travel and shipment could mean that certain types of food item are not able to be delivered and localities experience shortages. Do your due diligence and identify which items you need in advance, how much you expect to pay for them, and where you might best find said items.
Tip #3: Don't go to a grocery store on an empty stomach. You'll leave with an emptier wallet and unexpectedly heavier shopping cart.
There really is no easy way to adapt to an at-home dinner regimen overnight. However, self quarantine has enlightened many of us to the intrinsic benefits of preparing dinner at home, so get a grip, bust out your slow cooker, don your apron, and let's get cookin'.
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