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How to Cook Quick and Healthy Meals in 5 Easy Steps

Updated on March 1, 2018
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, but 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 (some of my favorites are Skinnytaste and Damn Delicious) 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 many apps and websites that can help. I use the app AnyList for meal planning, which allows you to import your recipes and make grocery lists.

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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    • nikitha p profile image

      nikitha p 7 years ago from India

      very informative hub!

    • chirls profile image
      Author

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

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

    • profile image

      Melanie Munn 7 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

    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 7 years ago

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

    • chirls profile image
      Author

      chirls 8 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      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.

    • Hummingbird5356 profile image

      Hummingbird5356 8 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
      Author

      chirls 8 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      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!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 8 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!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 8 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.

    • gramarye profile image

      gramarye 8 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      This is good. I agree with your advice.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 8 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...

    • killrats profile image

      killrats 8 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

    • chirls profile image
      Author

      chirls 8 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      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. :)

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 8 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      Love food! It is better when it is healthy!

    • theblackedition profile image

      Shane Brown-Daniels 8 years ago from USA

      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 :)

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

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

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