How to cook quick and healthy meals in 5 easy steps

A delicious homemade meal
A delicious homemade meal

In recent years, our relationship with food has changed. These days people are much more likely to eat out or buy ready made meals than to cook from scratch. There is a time and a place for convenience foods, and that is NOT on your plate every day of the week. I want to spread the word that cooking healthy meals can be tasty, quick and easy if you know how to do it.

1. Keep your pantry well stocked. There are certain things that you should always have in your pantry. This will vary depending on what you like to eat, but I recommend the following: onions, garlic, canned tomatoes (diced), canned beans (like kidney beans), pasta, rice, olive or vegetable oil and herbs & spices (chili powder, oregano, basil and parsley). This will give you the basis for a pasta dish with tomato sauce, chilli with rice, and many different side dishes.

2. Pick out your recipes beforehand. When I first started doing this it seemed crazy to cook from a recipe every night, but it takes all the guesswork out of cooking. For me it also meant that I started using new flavour combinations and cooking different cuisines, so it made my food a lot more interesting to eat. I have a food magazine, BBC Good Food, that I get most of my recipes from, although I also get recipes online (www.bbcgoodfood.com is my favourite) or from cookbooks I own. I pick recipes that take under 30 minutes to prepare and cook, are easy to make, and are low fat/calorie. If you're trying to be healthy, pick recipes that show the fat and calorie content, and keep it under 20g of fat and 500 calories per serving whenever you can. If you're not keen on using recipes all the time, just plan to cook dishes that you know how to make that contain lean meats and a good variety of veggies. Midweek cooking is one area where the "keep it simple, stupid" (KISS) principle works perfectly. In order to make cooking from scratch a sustainable part of your lifestyle, make it as easy on yourself as possible. Aim for recipes with around 5 ingredients or less.

3. Make a list. Spend a few minutes writing your shopping list before you do your weekly grocery shopping. Making a list and sticking to it will save you money in the supermarket and make preparing your meals much easier. You may want to keep your list flexible, especially in the summer when lots of fresh produce is available. I often write down "green veg" or "meat for stir fry" so I can pick the best (or best value) product available. If you don't want to make your own list then there are also some other options you can consider. There are many websites out there, like www.epicurious.com and www.mealsmatter.org, that are free to join that allow you to select the recipes you like and will compile the shopping list for you. Just pay attention to how many servings each recipe makes - you may need to adjust your quantities accordingly.

4. Get your ingredients prepped before you start cooking. The chefs call it "mise en place" but whatever you call it, it's just good sense, especially for beginner cooks. Even if you ignore all of the other steps, definitely follow this one. Read your recipe before you start cooking, and make sure you get all your veggies chopped and have all of your ingredients ready for when you start cooking. Don't think that you're going to be able to cook more efficiently by chopping while you're cooking. If you're like me, you'll probably just burn something or stress yourself out by trying to do too much at once!

5. Have a backup plan. There are some days when things just don't turn out how I expected. Perhaps I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer, I just don't feel like making the recipe I chose, or I just don't have the time or energy to make even a 30-minute meal. Having leftovers in the freezer is a good backup plan - whenever I make soups, stews or sauces, I always make extra and freeze it. I also have at least one vegetarian meal a week, so that can save me when I forget to take the meat out of the freezer. If your backup plan is getting takeout/delivery, then try to keep your portion sizes as small as possible - save some for lunch the next day.

Cooking quick and healthy meals really is as simple as this. If you can follow these steps, then you can cook delicious meals every night of the week with little more effort than microwaving some frozen ready-meal. It's so satisfying to be able to cook for yourself and your family - not only does it mean you know exactly what you're eating but it also makes other people happy. With the added bonus of decreasing your grocery bills and maybe even the number on the scales, too.

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Comments 16 comments

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

Nice first hub - I look forward to reading more ;)


theblackedition profile image

theblackedition 6 years ago from Jamaica

That KISS principle is great! Cooking can even be an awesome experience by getting others involved in the process, including children. Quick, healthy, tasty! - Great first hub Chirls :)


tim-tim profile image

tim-tim 6 years ago from Normal, Illinois

Love food! It is better when it is healthy!


chirls profile image

chirls 6 years ago from Indiana (for now) Author

Thanks for all of the comments! It's definitely best to cook and eat with others. Food is one thing I'm very passionate about - especially healthy food. :)


killrats profile image

killrats 6 years ago from Cape town South Africa

You are right, things are to easy in our mordern world.

When I was a child we only had mud ovens.

Take a look at my hub Recipes of years ago.

will be following


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Very sound advice you have here! Thumbs up! Healthy meals to the Hubnuggets...yes! Your hub has been picked, chosen, nominated for the Hubnuggets! So go and vote for it and promote it like crazy (just no spamming on the forums teehee) http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets10/hub/HubNuggets-Pi...


gramarye profile image

gramarye 6 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

This is good. I agree with your advice.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

I think you have written a good hub with a great way of organizing your cooking which I don't particularly like to do anymore. Good hub.


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

I like the idea of planning meals for the week, however, many times I don't want to eat what I've planned on cooking. LOL! So, it is important to have a backup plan for a good healthy meal to avoid take out. Congrats on being selected to this week's HubNuggets Wannabe nominees. Good luck to ya!


chirls profile image

chirls 6 years ago from Indiana (for now) Author

Ripplemaker - thanks for letting me know about HubNuggets! That's great news!

Gramarye - thanks for your comments and thanks for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Pamela99 - Thanks for reading! I guess everyone gets sick of cooking sometimes. The trick is to cook better food than you can get in a restaurant so you won't want to eat out! :)

Money Glitch - The same thing happens to me - the backup plan is definitely essential! Thanks, I'm really happy to have been nominated for HubNuggets!


Hummingbird5356 profile image

Hummingbird5356 6 years ago

A very good hub. It is true that eating ready made meals can make you put on weight. Cooking yourself is so much healthier and people really do appreciate it.


chirls profile image

chirls 6 years ago from Indiana (for now) Author

Thanks for your comments, Hummingbird. Even if you can find healthier ready made meals, it can be tricky to get the portion sizes right. If you cook it yourself then you know exactly what you're eating and how much.


Rose Kolowinski profile image

Rose Kolowinski 6 years ago

Very good advice! There's nothing better than a homemade meal!


Melanie Munn 6 years ago

If you don't have time to prepare healthy meals, you guys should try a meal delivery service. To check out the best one around, visit NutrifitOnline.com


chirls profile image

chirls 6 years ago from Indiana (for now) Author

I believe that almost everyone can find time to make healthy meals! It's easy if you get organized. Thanks for stopping by.


nikitha p profile image

nikitha p 6 years ago from India

very informative hub!

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