2020: The Year Everyone Learned How to Cook
2020 was a roller coaster of a year – the year we spent making, baking, frying, and trying as a human population. 2020 is when cooking at home became not just essential, but mandatory for all. The COVID-19 virus was unexpected and took a toll on everyone. As the COVID-19 pandemic lives on, consumers have settled into their new routines that involve more home cooking. Studies predict that these habits will live on even after the pandemic. This may be because meals at home are financially beneficial and can be more efficient, as leftovers can be stretched much further than a restaurant meal.
Another change that occurred during the pandemic – food shopping lists. Grocery retailers are seeing a shift in consumers shopping habits and working to accommodate consumers as they are taking attempts at more complex cooking. However, these attempts may be short-lived. Even with more time at home, many consumers share the goal of spending less time planning and cooking meals. This provides an opportunity for food retailers and manufacturers to come up with new innovations to better cater to consumers’ needs with options that make home cooking simpler, faster and healthier. This can also help bring some very much needed variety to the menu at home. A new survey revealed that Americans are cooking an average of 9 meals per week and have eaten the same meal 28 times since the pandemic began… Yup! You read that right. 28 TIMES! Even those that used to love cooking for themselves and their families found themselves losing that passion. Many are beginning to become bored or fatigued of cooking and eating the same meals. And though takeout has been an option for some, 55% confessed that they are eating unhealthier because of the increased takeout meals.
So, while there are many benefits to cooking more meals at home, the planning can become tiresome, leading to mealtime monotony and boredom. And while takeout can be nice to switch things up, it can start to take a toll on our health (and wallets). But like all things nutrition-related, moderation is key! It can help to try to reserve takeout meals for the weekend and prep more healthy meals at home during the week. Here are some tips to create quicker, healthier meals at home:
Keep Eggs on Hand. Eggs are a must-have when stocking the kitchen for quick, nutrient dense meals. Eggs are typically thought of as a breakfast food, but they can make a great meal for anytime of the day, even dinner! Switch up your meal routine by trying eggs for dinner.
Plan Meals with Leftovers in Mind. Cook a meal with the intention of having leftovers, whether that means doubling, or even tripling a single recipe. Learn the art of packaging and storing leftovers to last you up to a week in the fridge or longer in the freezer.
Prep Vegetables Ahead of Time. Frequently, it is the prep of a recipe where we say “Ugh, I don’t even want to start!” Washing, chopping and mincing can be a pain, but if you do it one time for the rest of the week, meals will come with great ease! For example, if you'll be having salads for lunch or dinner, chop your vegetables ahead of time and keep them in air tight containers so that you can simply throw them on a bed of lettuce and add dressing when it comes time to eat.
Cook Your Grains in Batches. Think about the grains you will eat during the week and make a whole batch of them to keep in the fridge. For example: quinoa, brown rice, pasta, oatmeal, etc. can all be made ahead of time in bulk and kept in the fridge. When it's time to eat them, simply take your serving and leave the rest for the next day (or few days). Instead of letting these carbohydrates sit in your refrigerator until dinner inspiration hits, figure out how to use these grains before the week begins.
Have Versatile Proteins Available. Stock your freezer, fridge and pantry with all sorts of proteins. Stock up on canned tuna (for salads and sandwiches) and beans (great for soups, dips, and salads), and frozen edamame and shrimp (both great for stir-fries, fried rice, and different varieties of noodle bowls). Proteins like tofu and tempeh can be kept in the fridge for a while before opening, and will last 3-5 days after opening.
For more inspiration, check out these ideas for quick and easy meals you can make at home!
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Written by: Amanda Landesman, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern