So I’ve been wanting to write again, and I’m actually watching anime. However my article today is not about anime, but about cooking. See I don’t like to cook. Or at least I thought I did. Cooking would always go as a disaster, food was destroying my paycheck, and I ate out at least three times a week despite it being hard on my paycheck. Then I reached a breakthrough, and have been cooking for myself since. And not just microwave dinners or tuna helper. Real food. Tonight I made Chicken Tikka Masala for example, last night I made a bean dip and so forth. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been taught a way to shop and cook that was accessible to me, so here’s my tips on making cooking a little easier.
- Aldi’s is pretty great for getting staples for much less. Sure there will come up specialty things that you need to buy at a big grocery store but I find I can get 99% of everything I need there. Feeding one person can be done for under $50 for the week for me, feeding two people is usually about $80 for the week at most including me picking up some extravagant things. How Aldi’s work is you use a quarter to unlock a cart then once you’re done shopping you get it back. You pay for bags at 5 cents for paper and 10 cents for plastic, but the food itself is vastly cheaper
- If you don’t have an Aldi’s or just don’t want to pay a quarter, dollar stores are a decent alternative especially for spices.
- Figuring out which ingredients are going to be cooking staples that you need to be stocked up on takes times, but you will learn. I don’t find lists from others helpful as what everyone uses and needs varies. A lot of the staples my boyfriend and I get are things that usually can be made into a meal by themselves, or need just a few more ingredients to be a meal such as
A lot of the staples we buy are things that can either be meals on their own, or don’t need more than one or two things to qualify as a mealRice, beans, pasta, tomato sauce, cheese and beef. My boyfriend advises to think in baby steps–tomato sauce isn’t much on it’s own but combine with pasta and cheese it becomes a meal. As you learn to cook, envisioning how ingredients go together become easier.
Budget time for shopping at first, but know it’ll get easier.
- Most frozen foods are expensive and taste awful. Keep something on hand for an emergencies but don’t depend on this. A thing of frozen tikka masala may cost lest in the short term, but taste worse and cost more for how much you get then a thing of sauce, rice, chicken, pepper and salt. Plus what you can make in one day will make leftovers and the ingredients you buy will be usable for future meals.
- With that said, canned and frozen vegetables are often a cheap alternative to fresh vegetables in many dishes, and will last longer then fresh ones. Only buy fresh vegetables if you know for sure you’re going to use them
- My friend pointed out when it comes to canned and frozen veggies, frozen are best. They’re not precooked so they work better in recipes. However some things, mainly tomatos and beans are good in a can.
- You can find recipes on the internet, but I’ve found they’re usually not beginner friendly and confusing for me as a newbie chef. There are books out there such as Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen or The Starving Student’s Cookbook that will not only give you simple cheap delicious recipes, but teach you the skills for basic cooking. If anyone knows any websites for newbie cooks though, please post in the comments.
- When you buy meat, chances are there will be a lot to cook. After grocery shopping, take whatever a serving size for meat would be–usually for us it’s a handful or two, and divide them up into plastic bags with the date written on it. Store what you’re going to cook later in the freezer.
- This is probably the most important tip. You’re going to suck at first, and it’s going to be frustrating and difficult. It’s normal and okay. You’re food will still be edible in most cases. Budget time to make dishes until you get down multitasking, keep your recipes simple and don’t sweat it. I made bean dip yesterday, I didn’t mix it well enough and it taste all uneven, but it’s still pretty good.
- Read recipes before making them to avoid any nasty surprises.
- When a dish ask you for spices, you don’t want to skimp on this, A lack of spices can make a dish taste bland and terrible.
- Another tip from my friend, seasoning is just as good as spices. Salt and pepper are your best friends, and sometimes all a recipe needs.
- Thawing meat is a lot easier and takes up less time then it seems. Don’t be deterred from making something just because you gotta thaw meat.
- If there’s a cooking technique you don’t know and are confused on, youtube probably has your back.
- If you’re cooking, and you’re are by yourself or one other person, leftovers will happen. Leftovers are great for future meals.
- Anything you’re going to eat in a day or two goes in the fridge. Everything else goes in the freezer.
- Keep plastic wrap, ziplock bags, tinfoil, and plastic containers on hand for storing leftovers.
- Recycle plastic containers for storing leftovers. A washed out sour cream container makes a decent place to put your leftovers.
- Do all dishes the same night either in the dishwasher or washing them by hand and don’t let them build up. You don’t want to run into the situation of needing something and it being dirty.
- That said no one is perfect. If a dish you need is in the sink, wash it. It won’t take long.
- If you do have a build up, don’t be afraid to do some today and some tomorrow. It’s better then never doing them.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty terrible at cooking, and I’m not a quick learner, but it’s becoming easier and easier. If I can do it, I promise, you can cook too.