Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Easier and more delicious? What? How does that relate to anything?
Cooking your own food saves money. It’s healthier for you. It's a skill anyone over the age of 16 should have. There are few things that make you feel more like you have your life together than putting together a nice dinner. Since cooking is one of my hobbies, and I’ve been at it for quite a while, I’ve found a few things to make life in the kitchen easier and yummier so that you can spend a little more time doing things you love while still having the time to cook your own meals and feel like an adult.
I’m not here to tell you about meal prepping and one pot dinners. You already know about those. They’re great time savers and make it way easier to get dinner on the table, but you don’t come here for me to tell you the same things anyone else could tell you. Without further ado, here are four ways to make your life easier and more delicious.
1. Make nice condiments. Yes, make condiments. Don’t bother with ketchup, Heinz has already perfected that, but things like quick pickled red onions and hot sauce are fairly simple to make and will keep in your fridge for a while. The hot sauce involves quite a bit of waiting, but very, very little effort. Ask a friend with a garden if you can have a few peppers (thanks, mom!), or try your hand at growing your own.
Salsa and hummus are both easily made by throwing a few ingredients into a food processor, and let me tell you, homemade hummus is 5000 times better than the stuff from the store. Pair them with some chips or cut up veggies, and you’ve got an easy, healthy, and delicious snack.
If you’re not convinced that making your own condiments is actually going to improve your life, let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, Bennett and I made some hot sauce. We made quite a few different flavors because we were making them as a gift, but had we stuck to just one, the actual preparation of the hot sauce would have taken no more than half an hour one Saturday afternoon. Making your own hot sauce means you get to customize the flavors. Mango, anyone?
Quite a few months later, as in, about a week ago, I made some quick pickled red onions. Prep? Ten minutes. Then just wait for them to cool, and stick ‘em in a container.
Both of these things now hang out in our fridge and have upped our Taco Tuesday game with zero extra effort needed on Tuesday evening. Or Monday. Or Thursday. I eat a lot of tacos. Sounds like my kind of happily ever after.
Many condiments are way easier to make than you ever would have guessed, and they can hang out in your fridge for anywhere from a few days, to quite a few months, in the case of the hot sauce. That leaves you with an easy way to jazz up any weeknight meal, making it way more delicious and customizable with pretty much no effort.
2. Store leftovers in single serving containers, rather than one big container.
I’ve tried meal prepping. It just does not work for me. I’d prep my meals and then decide during the week that I really wanted to cook, so the meal prepped food would go uneaten. *Sigh* amateur chef problems. However, I have made a habit of storing leftovers in single serving containers so that I can just take one out of the fridge, heat it, and eat it in the span of about three minutes. Plus, fewer dishes!
I like these four cup Pyrex containers because they can go in the oven or microwave depending on what I’m heating and how much time I have. (Disclaimer: not sponsored, but I may make a small commission from purchases made using my links. They help me to keep Grit up and running.)
3. Get an Instant Pot. This is the one we have. I eat beans and rice all the time. It’s cheap, easy, nutritious, and super customizable so it never gets boring. The thing is, beans take FOREVER to cook on the stove AND you have to soak them overnight first!
Not with an Instant Pot, you don't. Add dried beans, water, and any herbs and spices you’re feeling at the moment—I love chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Set it for thirty-five to forty minutes depending on the bean, and bam! You just cooked dried beans in less than an hour and only spent five minutes in the kitchen.
As for the rice, Instant Pots make THE BEST rice. I know rice is totally doable on the stove or in a rice cooker, but something about cooking it under pressure works wonders.
If you want to feel fancy and like you’re really on your A game in the kitchen, rinse 1 cup of basmati rice, then throw it in the Instant Pot with a bit of oil. Toast it on the saute setting for a few minutes until it smells nutty, stirring frequently, but don’t worry too much if a few pieces stick. Add 1 ¼ cups of water, a bay leaf or two, and a teaspoon of kosher salt, and pressure cook it for 7 minutes. Best rice you’ll ever have.
Instant Pots are also great for things like chili and other soups, and I’ve even heard you can even make pasta in them. And the best part? The inner cooking pot can go in the dishwasher when you’re finished.
4. Soylent. No, it’s not made of people. Soylent is a complete drinkable meal that comes in bottled or powdered form. I know it sounds a little weird, but trust me on this.
I started drinking Soylent over a year ago when I was on my journey to make 1000 ceramic pots during my last semester of college. Unsurprisingly, I was very busy at the time and had pretty much no time for lunch most days. The on-campus food was not up to par, I didn’t have time to go back to my apartment and grab something, and a lot of days, I just did not want to put the effort into packing a lunch.
Enter: Soylent. Soylent comes in two forms: ready to drink, and powdered, which just needs to be mixed with water. They have several different flavors, including cocoa, vanilla, and original, which tastes kind of like the milk left in the bowl after you eat cheerios. It’s weird but in a good way. Some of the flavors even have caffeine, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Soylent can be consumed on its own, as I did in college, but once I started going to the gym, I began mixing protein powder with my Soylent as my on-the-go drink-at-my-desk breakfast. (P.S. My favorite protein powder is Gainful. Using my link gets both of us $20 off. Again, not sponsored. Nothing in this post is sponsored. It’s just the referral link that Gainful gives every one of their customers, and I really do love their protein.) Soylent, along with quite a few Clif bars, also came in handy for an easy meal on the road during our seven-week-long road trip last summer.
It’s not for everyone, but if you’re crunched for time and don't have any issues drinking your food, you can get $10 off Soylent here. (Disclaimer: I’m not sponsored. Soylent gives everyone who buys their product a referral link, and I really have been drinking it for over a year.)
If you’re not ready for your food to come as a powder, last spring I backed a Kickstarter for a nutritionally complete instant ramen called Vite Ramen*, and I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty cool. I’ve had the Vegan Mushroom Shio and it’s easily on par with other instant ramens, plus, 25 grams of protein per serving? Yes, please. If you’re already living on ramen, you might as well get your nutrition with it, right?
There you have it: my best ideas for making your life easier and more delicious. Making your own food just makes you feel like you’ve got it all just a bit more together than you did before, and why not make that as easy as possible so you have time for everything else?
If you’ve got any great food ideas that have made your life better, I’d love if you left them in a comment below so we can all do a slightly better job running our lives.