Cook More, Stress Less


By Celina Scala

With the party-packed, calorie-laden holidays behind us, many of us now find ourselves shaking off our food hangovers and vowing to change our eating habits for the better. Yet even when armed with the best of intentions, we easily wind up feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day to make time for healthy, home-cooked meals, and we find ourselves ordering takeout before February.

Making more meals at home, however, can actually be less stressful than you may think with just a little planning and simple shortcuts:

  • Plan ahead for the week. Take just a few minutes to plan out meals for the week and write out your shopping list. Make one trip to the store to pick up all the supplies you’ll need for the week. This saves time and reduces stress later in the week, because you won’t have to spend time deciding what to cook each night and you’ll already have the ingredients on hand, avoiding those frenzied last-minute trips to the store.
  • Make the most of your time spent in the kitchen. Freezing is a great way to stretch meals over weeks and months. If you have time to cook, make something that freezes well, then freeze individual portions for yourself or your family. On nights when you don’t have time to cook, you can reheat a healthy homemade meal in no time without having to spend money and splurge on calories with restaurant food. Soups, stews, meatloaf and even chicken breasts will keep well after freezing and reheating. It takes just as long to cook four chicken breasts as it does two, so make extra and freeze the chicken breasts individually.
  • Get creative with leftovers. Reinventing leftovers can help turn one meal into two or three. Leftover roasted vegetables can be made into a stir fry the next night, or remaining cooked ground turkey from tacos can be mixed with a few other ingredients to make stuffed peppers.

Lastly, here a few important notes on food safety when freezing and reheating foods.

  • A freezer should be at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Warm foods should not be stacked during freezing, as this can slow freezing time.
  • Freeze foods in shallow containers, which freeze more quickly.
  • Leftovers should always be heated to at least 165 degrees and used within three to four days per the USDA guidelines.

Remember, spending just a little more time in the kitchen can help you save big on calories. Happy New Year and bon appétit!

Celina Scala is a registered dietitian at Rush University Medical Center.

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