in the kitchen

How to Eat Real Food at Home

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The easiest way to eat healthy, real food, is to cook it at home. You’ll save money, too! By cooking at home, you decide what goes into the meal and what unhealthy stuff stays out.

It’s easy to cook healthy, real food at home but it does take a little planning. (Never meal planned before? Here are 11 reasons to start!) But, don’t worry – I’ve got a plan for you. Here are 5 simple ways to make, and eat, more healthy, real food at home.

How to Eat Real Food at Home

  1. Plan :: Meal plan dinners for the week ahead – and incorporate leftovers! Meal planning is what makes it possible to cook at home and still have a night off in the kitchen. (Don’t know how to meal plan? Check here.) Schedule out dinners for the week and shop once – this saves time. Use this ‘saved time’ to cook each night.
  2. Commit :: Use and buy only “whole foods” – unprocessed, real foods like vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and fish. Don’t get caught up in reading ingredients – look for whole foods where there is no ingredient in list. Those are real foods.
  3. Select :: Look for in-season vegetables – they’re plentiful and when in season are less expensive, too. Don’t overlook vegetables like cabbage, beans, and broccoli. They’re versatile and tasty! Cabbage is an underrated vegetable and is very inexpensive. Oven roasted, sauteed with onions in olive oil, or in a spicy cole slaw (try this one – cole slaw with a kick!) it tastes great.
  4. Start :: Begin every dish with onions sauteing in olive oil and toss in some garlic. That combination plus spices give whatever you’re cooking interesting flavor – especially vegetables! Our house always smells good no matter what we’re cooking – when onions are sauteing!
  5. Embrace :: Embrace make a-head meals when cooking. Try cooking beans the week before (How to cook beans and freeze – find out how to do it here) or brown rice the day before. While vegetables are roasting, warm the already cooked foods. Throwing the actual meal together is quick – even on a weeknight.

Healthy meals to cook at home Go GIngham

Here’s one of our weekly meal plans – notice the dinners my kids are assigned to cook? Friday and Saturday are nights off in the kitchen for the parents! If you have kids, get them cooking and cleaning up so you get a night off, too. (Here’s how to get your kids cooking.)

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If you cook real food that tastes good great at home, you’ll eat at home. If your food tastes great the first night, you’re also much more likely to eat your leftovers. Leftovers are an incredible time saver. (I love leftovers – find out why here!)

All this healthy, real food that tastes great, gives me a night or two off in the kitchen, and saves money – sign me up!

What do you think is an underrated vegetable? Do you meal plan?

Go Gingham related links:

Grocery shopping from the bulk bins and food storage containers
Reusing glass jars and how to get them ready for re-use
Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!
How our freezer gets used – what I keep in our freezer and how I utilize the space

More related links:

Need more information on fake foods? Check out the Environmental Working Group. Their site is packed with resources. Here’s their food guide for additives. Find where to eat well in your part of the country with their “Eat Well Guide.”

16 thoughts on “How to Eat Real Food at Home

  1. I agree with everything you wrote, Sara. One thing I usually have in the fridge is brown rice, ready to reheat and top with any type of vegetable. Try steamed kale, brown rice, and diced & cooked sweet potatoes. Spice the sweet potatoes any way you like. So good! Have you ever watched The Domestic Geek’s videos on YouTube? She has a series on make-ahead meals. I find lots of useful ideas from her. Have a good day!

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    1. Vanessa! We are 2 peas in the same pod with that brown rice! We have it in the refrigerator, too, but it disappears so quickly. Our kids add it to everything or just snack on it. I’ve already made 4 cups of brown rice this week! I did buy a 25-lb of brown rice from Bob’s Red Mill last week. It’s in the freezer and I just refill my pantry container as needed.
      Your dish sounds rather tasty and I’ll check out the videos. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Late last week I cooked a package of white-meat ground turkey. It became turkey-pinto bean burritos for 2 meals, 2 adults. The remainder became turkey chili mac for 2 meals, again 2 adults. I cooked 4 cups of soaked pinto beans; the remainder from the burritos will go with a link of cut-up sausage and cornbread. We are expecting inclement weather soon, the beans/sausage/cornbread meal will be great for that.

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    1. Karen, what time is dinner? I’ll be right over ~
      All of that sounds great and an excellent use of resources. πŸ™‚
      Your inclement weather sounds tasty, too. Crossing my fingers it’s not too bad…
      Thanks, Karen!

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  3. I agree that cabbage is totally underrated. I have a hard time spontaneously buying odd vegetables, which is why I rely on a CSA box “subscription”. I have no choice but to use what is there, and that (strangely) makes it easier – fewer decisions! I search for the ingredients I have on the Epicurious website (my go-to place for recipes) and make whatever uses up the most of them in one shot. Then I do most of the cooking on Sundays (2-4 recipes at a time if I can keep them all straight).

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    1. Liana, I have a hard time buying vegetables we’ve never eaten before, too, but am usually glad once we’ve eaten them. Well, except maybe turnips….while we do eat them they’re only good when mixed in with something else like parsnips or potatoes.
      I *heard* you were cooking on Sunday….do you make all of your meals for the week on Sunday?
      We ate more cabbage last night, too. πŸ™‚
      Thanks, Liana!

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      1. I try to cook every Sunday, but sometimes other events get in the way. Not this weekend, however!
        I made a big batch of beef broth with soup bones I’d had in the freezer for an embarassing amount of time. After that was done, I took the meat off the bones and added it to Lentil Sweet Potato Kale soup with roasted garlic olive oil. That soup was supposed to include grilled skirt steak (hello expensive!) but I used the shredded broth meat instead.
        Then I started the first half of a Potato Gnocchi Gratin with Gorgonzola. Made the gnocchi Sunday, and baked it Monday. I only made it because I had found an expiring wedge of gorgonzola for 50% off at our local organic market. That was heavenly (both the sale price and the dish itself)!

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      2. Yum! I like the substitution for the meat idea. We always have bones in our freezer so you’re in good company. I also keep fish scraps in the freezer, too. Great for fish stew or for planting with my tomatoes. πŸ™‚
        Thanks, Liana! All those meals sound delish.

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  4. I like to keep pre-cooked quinoa in the fridge to use during the week. Packs a little more protein than brown rice. And I’ve recently been trying to cook more of my own beans (from dried) because of you! It’s so easy, but since I don’t have a large freezer anymore, storage can be a problem. A first world problem, admittedly!

    Keep up the great suggestions!

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    1. Very nicely done, Erin! πŸ™‚ So glad to hear you’re cooking beans from dried ones…we just at those for dinner.
      I’m wondering what’s happening in your basement – smaller file cabinet, no large freezer, etc. I may need a tour!

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  5. I’d say great minds think alike, but that phrase always sounds so immodest to me πŸ˜‰

    I just published a hugely long-winded post about our family’s journey with processed food. We’d been eating quite healthy (for the most part) for quite some time, but it took a challenge a couple of years ago (from my then 16 year-old daughter) to get me to completely get the stuff out of our supper routine. And I haven’t looked back since! Once the habit of real cooking is formed, it just becomes second nature, and I don’t even think about using processed food anymore πŸ™‚

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    1. Marian, I say that all the time! Go ahead and say it πŸ™‚
      16-year-old daughters can be very helpful, can’t they? Speaking because mine just turned 16!!
      Now that we’ve completely moved away from processed foods, it makes food commercials on television very clear to me. The only companies who have money to spend on TV ads are the processed food companies. That alone makes me think twice about purchasing their ‘products’ – also known as ‘food’ but not really. It’s the same reason I don’t use coupons – they don’t really exist for real, whole foods.
      Way to go, Marian! Keep up the good work!!

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  6. Do you bake your own bread, too, Sara, or are you a non-bread consumer?

    I can’t claim to never use processed foods, but I do prefer to keep them to a minimum. Currently my kids are having a friendly fight about who gets to make Saturday morning pancakes. My son has been doing it for a couple of years but my daughter is now interested in learning to make them. I find, at their ages (9 and 11), that preparing the same food frequently seems to help them gain confidence as they gain competence. But I think it’s time to have my son branch into new areas of food prep.

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    1. We are bread consumers here, Kris! I don’t make my own bread because we have an excellent source for whole wheat, organic, non-gmo bread. Maybe you have it there? “Dave’s Killer Bread” is located close to us and we get to the outlet regularly. We buy the freezer loaves and stock up!
      You son is just the right age for cooking more but you’re smart to ease the kiddos into it. Our kids started with easy Saturday lunch meals and graduated to full dinners – and cleaning up! It’s heavenly πŸ™‚
      I always tell my kids they’ll make good roommates. It’s also nice because they appreciate someone else’s cooking/cleaning. They’re so glad they’re not doing it!!
      Thanks, Kris!

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  7. I love your posts! Always so motivating and inspiring. Have you done any posts on what your kids take to school for lunch? That’s my challenge is getting my kids to eat healthy at school.

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    1. Hi Alison,
      I haven’t written much about what my kids pack for lunch because they’re both in high school and make their own lunches. We always have plenty of healthy food here and they usually take fruit and a sandwich or pretzels. Both (boy and girl) come home from school starving and I try to have a quinoa salad, boiled eggs or cooked beans for burritos on hand.
      When I made their school lunchse, it was hummus, quinoa salads, veggies, salmon, “cookies” – that were more like energy bars. I missed the whole Instagram the school lunch phase!! LOL! πŸ™‚
      Hope that helps – Thanks for writing in!!

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