Quick Cooking Tips for 2017

As we welcome in 2017, I’ve taken time to reflect on some of the changes in my life in 2016 that drastically altered my relationship with food. In May, my husband and I celebrated one year of marriage. Also in May, I began a graduate program. While continuing to work full-time at Sustainable Food Center (SFC), attend school and find time to be with my husband, I suddenly found myself in an unfamiliar situation: I had no time to cook!

My job as the program director for SFC’s The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre doesn’t stop when I leave the building and go home. I am an avid cook—not only because I enjoy it, but because of the health and economic benefits it brings to my family. We eat more healthfully at home when we meal-plan, and we save money when we’re not eating out. This lack of time for cooking, however, is all too familiar for many American families. After all, the average American spends 35 minutes per day preparing, and cleaning up after, meals. (For comparison, the average American also spends 168 minutes watching television daily.)

SFC’s The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre offers classes on how to prepare time-sensitive and culturally appropriate recipes using inexpensive, healthy and seasonal ingredients. Now more than ever before, I am relating to the concerns that many of our class participants share: struggling to balance life obligations, cooking and eating. It’s tempting to fall into the convenience warp of eating on-the-go by picking up takeout or relying on frozen dinners. But my challenge is this: What is possible with so little time? Here are some ideas for your busy 2017:

• Make a hearty pot of soup for your week’s go-to lunch. 

• Buy an inexpensive cut of humanely-raised meat, such as pork shoulder, and cook it in a slow cooker on Sunday evening for the week’s dinners.

• Make sure your pantry and refrigerator are well stocked and that staples such as yogurt, oatmeal, honey, salsa, beans, rice, tortillas, cheese, greens and fruit are on hand to make a quick bite.

• Clean and chop a bunch of veggies over the weekend and put in containers in the refrigerator. In the morning, sauté a handful or two with eggs and wrap in a tortilla for breakfast.

• Turn social activities into cooking get-togethers where you and a few friends prepare a couple of dishes in large quantities so that everyone gets to take home a portion of each for the week.

• And the last tip? Keep it simple. I am not ashamed to share that in addition to our favorite staples, we also eat a lot of sandwiches at my house. Sandwiches paired with a piece of fruit, a bowl of soup or a salad makes for a tasty, quick and easy meal!

By Joy Casnovsky