I honestly find most cooking tips and kitchen hacks to be relatively unhelpful since so many are geared toward people with full kitchens, lots of experience, families to feed. None of these apply to me in any sense of the word. Sharing a kitchen with roommates, a lack of experience, and having no dependents makes it even more difficult when you’re busy taking classes, working full-time, or even trying to launch a blog.
In spite of these challenges, I have found some supplies and kitchen hacks that help make an inexperienced cook like me make meals and save money and time, so I don’t indulge in eating out as often. This has also helped me in my Weight Watchers journey.
Kitchen Hack #1: Weekly Meal Preparation
I rely a ton on freezer cooking and making as many meals as possible once a week. I don’t have a lot of freezer room (half of a pretty small freezer), but it’s enough space to fit 5-7 days worth of meals. Luckily, I’m not a particularly adventurous eater and don’t mind eating the same meals throughout a week (or even a month honestly). Each week I try to make two batches of meals for lunch and dinner and a half a week’s worth of overnight oats. Although I don’t always succeed, it’s great when I do because it means that I spend about 2 hours prepping my food and I don’t have to do anything more elaborate than throwing a container in the fridge and then into the microwave.
Kitchen Hack #2: Plan to Eat Membership (affiliate link)
Interestingly, I purchased my first Plan to Eat yearly membership in 2016 (and let it lapse last year because I was trying to figure out Weight Watchers’ plan). However, I’ve recently re-subscribed to their monthly plan because even though I paper plan as well, Plan to Eat makes it easier to keep track of the recipes I want to try, ingredients to shop for, and a way to track my freezer meals. Plan to Eat is a such a terrific program because you can import and adjust recipes, meal plan, and automatically compile shopping lists based on the meal plan. My favorite new improvement is the app because I can shop with an electronic list on my phone rather than taking a paper list. In some ways, the app is still minimal, but just having a grocery list that comes out of my meal planning is such a transformative thing.
Kitchen Hack #3: Instant Pot
I can’t remember how I first discovered the Instant Pot, but I bought my first Instant Pot in 2016 during Amazon’s Black Friday sale. It was a gamechanger for me on so many levels, particularly as I understood what I could do with it. I haven’t used a pot or a pan for a really long time because the Instant Pot does pretty everything I used to do with my Crockpot or pots and pans. I’m a bit of an Instant Pot evangelist these days, but it works even better now that I’m trying to be more mindful about what I eat and how much time or money I spend on food.
One of the reasons why my meal prep is under 2 hours for the week is because I can throw all the ingredients for chili in the pot and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Then I separate the food into containers, toss the ingredients for macaroni and cheese into the pot and pressure cook for 5 minutes before repeating the meal separation. Lastly, I make my overnight oats and wash my dishes. I’ve used my Instant Pot to make hard-boiled eggs, sauteed mushrooms, shredded chicken, various breakfast casseroles, and countless other meals. It’s a great tool to have in your toolkit if you lack experience as a cook, want to quickly prep meals, or make enough to fill your freezer.
Kitchen Hack #4: Rubbermaid Premium containers
Of course, if you’re going to freeze and microwave meals, you need amazing containers which is why I can’t recommend the Rubbermaid Premium containers enough. I’ve had Tupperware, Ziploc, and other Rubbermaid bowls and lids in the past. Honestly, these containers in various sizes equal their more expensive cost times ten with their high-quality plastic and locking mechanisms for stacking in the your freezer, fridge, and lunch bag. I also really appreciate how easy they are to clean and how much they repel the usual scents and stains that other containers retain.
Kitchen Hack #5: Mason Jars and Plastic Lids
I’ve been obsessed with Mason jars as containers since I saw my first salad in a jar on Pinterest. I haven’t yet successfully made a salad in a jar that doesn’t wind up all mixed up, but Mason jars are fantastic for overnight oats with lots of room for fruit. They are not as easy to clean as the Rubbermaid containers, but they are aesthetically appealing and are relatively inexpensive. I usually use a 50% off coupon at Michaels. Additionally, I’ve also fallen in love with plastic lids which are easier to clean than the metal lids.
In my pursuit of finding ways to save money and time, eating at home has become very important, but I’ve also had to find tools and accessories and gadgets that help my efficiency. Meal prepping and planning along with the Instant Pot and sturdy containers have simplified the process for me and made it easier for me to spend less than 2 hours a week in the kitchen.
What tools, tricks, and kitchen hacks have you figured out to make meal prep and to easily eat at home? Let me know in the comments below.