10.17.2006

Adrenaline Days (Part 2): Food for Thought

The busier I get, the less I cook, but even if I made enough to fix up a meal-on-the-go, it's not always practicable. When I'm having my 12-hour days away for school or work + gym, meals are always a problem. Eating out is draining on my finances, yet carrying food around (and heating it up) is troublesome. Today I'll talk about what could be done on the home front and on the road.

Let's start with home...

1) Family packs of meat with bones attached is the least expensive of all. Unfortunately, they require the most treatment. Deboning takes forever. One way to cut down on processing time is to use recipes that involve baking, stewing, or a crock pot. The meat will either fall off the bones or cook through and through. Unfortunately, I don't have a crock pot, and I don't have enough time to wait for stewing, so baking it is. But when you've been out all day long, you're going to be hungry and not want to wait an hour or so for a meal. Cooking over the stove is a lot quicker. That's why I've been more willing to spend a little more money on leaner, boneless cuts of meat...when they're on sale, of course. I've also been eating a lot of fish because they take less work. Costco and supermarkets in general have frozen packs of boneless meats and seafood, which make cooking on the fly quick and easy.

2) If you only have 1 or 2 days a week to cook, like I do, you're going to make massive amounts of food. That leads to another problem--when you have to eat the same thing for a whole week, you're going to get tired of it and be tempted to eat out. Resist that urge. There are a couple of options. You can make something with completely different ingredients. This gives you a break from what you've been eating, but make sure you don't make too much or it or else you'll end up with more unsavory leftovers. Alternatively, when you cook the massive amounts of food to last a week, make separate dishes (veggies, meats, etc.) instead of mixing everything together to make just one dish. The leftovers can serve as separate starting materials for new dishes. For example, I like to use leftover beef to make stroganoff, or leftover salmons for cream pasta. Veggies are handy for noodle soups.

3) Keep your pantry stocked with canned soups/broths and pastas/noodles, and have frozen veggies and TV dinners in your freezer. I'd advise against packing your freezer with premade food, as that would make it tempting to skip out on cooking, but it's good to have something quick around. Soups can be a meal in of themselves or as bases for sauces. In the aforementioned salmon pasta, I'd combine the salmon w/a can of cream of mushroom soup and some frozen or leftover veggies for a tasty meal that takes only 10 minutes to concoct.

Now for eating out. When I was working in the summer, my workplace didn't have a microwave and I need bigger portions of sandwiches/salads than I can carry from home in a little lunchbox, so I had no choice but to eat out for lunch. Oftentimes I hit the gym afterwards, so I need to worry about dinner as well. Here are a couple of things I did or wish I did:

1) Stretch your meals--if you're going to be on the go for 2 meals, get a big portion for lunch and save leftovers for dinner. That way, you end up with two meals for the price of one. Since I had no place to heat my dinner, I usually choose salads or sandwiches. If I get a complimentary loaf of bread from lunch that I can't eat at that time, I'd hang onto it and buy a cheap portion of soup to eat with it later.

2) Eating out, cheaply, and healthfully is a tough balancing act, especially if all you have to work with is fast food. I usually stay away from value meals because they're expensive and not very good for you. It's cheaper to build your own value meal: at McD's, I'd get a $1 chicken sandwich with a $1 side salad or yogurt parfait, and drink water instead of soda. Better than spending an extra $2-3 for fries and soda.

3) Bring something, buy something--I wish I had done that. I could have brought a sandwich from home and buy a soup to cut down on costs.

4) Hit the supermarket deli instead of a restaurant--on my "discerning foodie" days, I often went to the local Whole Foods instead of a restaurant. Food is obviously not as gourmet, but whether the food is hot or cold, it's actually pretty good, and a bit cheaper.

1 comment:

bee said...

Great ideas to save the green!