After getting home from a long day of work, finding the motivation to cook an elaborate meal can be the last thing you want to do. Simply figuring out what you want to cook is anxiety-provoking in and of itself: According to a 2021 survey from sales and marketing firm Acosta, 56 percent of Americans find daily meal planning a challenge.
Yet, as eating most of our at home became the norm throughout the pandemic, research has found that most folks want to continue feasting on home-cooked meals. In fact, nearly 90 percent of millennials have been cooking meals for themselves in 2022. But as the holiday season is officially upon us and days are getting increasingly jam-packed, figuring out what and how to get dinner on the table without cutting into your sacred nighttime relaxation ritual or putting your stress levels over the edge is definitely top of mind.
In the most recent episode of The Well+Good Podcast, Einat Admony, chef and owner of Balaboosta in New York City, and Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, owner of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition and author of Eating from Our Roots (which comes out January 2023), shared their go-to tips for making easy and nutritious meals at home after a busy day, which is especially useful advice for well, immediately if not sooner.
Listen to the full episode:
5 easy cooking tips for when you really don’t feel like cooking at all
1. Have prepped meals ready to go in the fridge
According to chef Admony, quick meals don’t have to mean that you cut corners on flavor or nutrition, which is why he partnered with Cook Unity, a subscription-based food company that delivers chef-crafted meals right to your doorstep. “My kids come from school around between three to four, and most of the time, my husband and I are not there yet," she says. "So, if they're really hungry, they take one of these packs, and they can heat it up in the microwave—no problem." This is one way Admony makes sure her family always has quick and easy access to flavorful, delicious meals without spending too much time in the kitchen.
2. Cook in large batches
After a long shift at the restaurant, Admony says many chefs can feel too tired to cook (that is, more than they already spent all day doing) once they get home. A simple solution she recommends is batch cooking to mitigate the stress of weeknight meal prep after an exhausting day. “Once a week, [I recommend] cooking five different things and freezing them or putting them in packaging,” Admony says. To best preserve the food and avoid spoilage, she says a vacuum sealer and some bags are all you need, plus this method will take up less space in your freezer (by removing all the excess air trapped in food-safe storage bags).
3. Sneak nutritious ingredients into every meal
To make cooking at home as nourishing as possible, Admony sneaks veggies into just about every meal she makes for her family. “My kids always said that they hate zucchini—but do you know how many zucchinis they have had in their food without even knowing?” she muses. This is a simple (slash genius) way to make sure you and your family are eating plenty of nutrients on the regular.
4. Make sure the meals you plan to make fit your lifestyle needs
According to Feller, it’s important to consider your lifestyle needs when deciding what to make at home. “I always take finances, access, someone's work conditions, their family—just the whole picture—into consideration when we're thinking about how to best stock that pantry,” Feller says. The best way to approach nutrition is to start by understanding that it's never going to be one-size-fits-all—our bodies, lifestyles, cultures, flavor preferences, and more are always going to be incredibly different, and knowing this will help set us up for success. As we all work to balance the many aspects of our busy lives, striking a good balance between these personal factors can help make cooking at home as practical, efficient, and nutritious as possible.
5. Stock up on a solid variety of foods
To ensure your meals are as versatile and offer as much nutritional value as possible, Feller says it’s important to stock up on a wide variety of foods. “Shop the entire store. And when I say the entire store, I'm talking about the perimeter, the center aisles, and the frozen section. I'm talking about everything. And that's really how you build a pantry that's got plenty of variety and also takes into consideration those days when you're like: I needed dinner that's done in seven minutes flat,” Feller says.
To learn more about how to make cooking at home stress-free, efficient, and filled with nutrients, plus what dishes lend themselves to batch cooking and sneaky veggies, listen to the full podcast episode here. (Bonus: Both experts share their must-have ingredients on their grocery shopping lists.)
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