Back to basics: Healthy meal planning

What comes to your mind when the words “healthy meal planning” come up. Is it the countless hours you have to make a healthy dish and then disappear after 30 seconds? Or is it the expensive cost of high-quality food that makes it taste so good? To be truly honest, you don’t need to spend a fortune on ingredients. But first, let me give me a few reasons why you should spend more money cooking for yourself rather than going out to eat almost every day:

  • Food inflation– Ever since covid hit and restaurants are struggling to survive. All prices has skyrocketed on their menu just to keep their business afloat. So now, your $3 beer from your local bar will now be $5. Another reason for food inflation is the minimum wage increase. In Ontario, the minimum wage will soon be $15 per hour. That is a whopping 80 ¢ increase per hour. Don’t be surprised if your food will be even more expensive in a few months
  • More flexibly and cheaper– because of the price increase in restaurants, people will tend to think twice before going out for a $30 “cheap” meal. When cooking at home, you have the power to adjust ingredients to your heart’s contents. Plus, while the food prices in restaurants have increased dramatically, it’s not so much when it comes to your local supermarket. So if that’s doesn’t signal you to learn how to cook from home, I’m not sure what will.
  • It is a life skill– I always get so upset if people can get away from making kraft dinner or instant noodles as cooking. If they do, then congratulations. You have a cooking level of a newborn baby. In this day in age, every young adult should know how to cook 3-5 different dishes they can always fall back on. Otherwise, they’re deserved to get shamed on (sorry, my inner cook was coming out)

Before I get into the mix, there’s a few highlights or tips I want to get across

  • Think consistency not intensity– It’s not how you do it, it’s how LONG you can do it. If you do it for a few days and stop, it’s basically a waste of time and money. I always say to people that want to get into healthy meal planning: start off small, work for it for a week and slowly add more when you’re getting the hang of it. It takes 30 days to build a habit, but it takes over 90 days to build a lifestyle
  • Do some research (word of mouth, websites, youtube)- we’re so fortunate that we have internet, people that have experience of cooking, and we still struggle to cook ourselves a decent meal. 
  • The most expensive products in your local supermarket may not be the best option– since we’re trying to keep it as bare bone and basic as possible, you don’t need to spend a fortune for a high-quality ingredient. 

When it comes to recipes, I personally can’t give you guys a set amount of recipes just because there’s is a huge selection of recipes to choose from. However, I can give you guys some very helpful tips to help your meal prep much easier:

  • Make a large batch of food and freeze it for future use– I’m a big advocate of making a large batch of food like soups, stews, or anything that can be frozen, freeze it, and store it for future use. This was one of my go-to strategies when it comes to cooking for myself during culinary school. I typically make soups, stews, meatballs, chicken wings, or even some vegetable or chicken broth so I can use it for any future cooking. The best part is that all of it is cooked! All you have to do is to pull it out of the freezer ahead of time, defrost it, and reheat it using a stove, oven, or even a microwave (if you’re really lazy).
  • Cooking with friends– sure you have to share the food, but it will be well worth it, especially when you’re living on campus at university.  Cooking with friends or even with your roommates can make your time in the kitchen much faster. The only real issue will be who will be doing the dishes. 
  • Plan ahead– I listed this on my last back-to-basics and it’s one of the most important things that will save you a ton of time. No one likes to rush while cooking a meal. From shopping your groceries to marinating certain protein dishes, it will save you a ton of time and will make your meal prep much smoother 
  • You learn as you go– it takes practice to know what works and what doesn’t work for you. Sometimes if it works for me, it doesn’t mean it works for everybody. When you’re cooking you’re basically a scientist, accountant, a construction worker, and a critic, all in one. You plan what works, you see if it’s in your budget and adjust if needed, you make the dish and you critique it to see what can you do to make it better. Every skill takes time and creating healthy meals, no surprise, is one of them. But over time, the more you do it, the more comfortable you be. And soon, your confidence will soon grow. 

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