Cook at home and your body will thank you
There’s a lot of truth to that old saying, “you are what you eat.” When you put healthy food into your body, you give it the nourishment it needs to stay healthy. According to NHS1 eating a well-balanced diet can:
- provide the energy you need to keep active through the day,
- help you maintain a healthy weight,
- help prevent diet-related illnesses including some cancers,
- reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,
- reduce your risk of heart disease by helping you maintain good blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and
- help to slow bone loss associated with getting older.
One of the best ways to be sure that the food you’re eating is as good-for-you as possible is to prepare and cook as many of your own meals and snacks as you can. While that may sound like a time-consuming, daunting task, consider this: on top of being healthier, it’s almost always cheaper to make your own food rather than eating out at a restaurant or getting take-out.2 Even buying processed, pre-made meals from the grocery store (which are usually loaded with sodium, saturated fats and other things our bodies don’t want or need) is usually more expensive than making your own version of the same meal.
If you can master these basics, you’re well on your way to being able to prepare easy, cheap and healthy meals for you and your family.
- Make your own stock. It might sound difficult, but it’s really not much harder than boiling water. Stock recipes and techniques vary, but essentially all you’re doing is stewing bones (chicken, turkey or beef) in water with some added flavor boosters (often onion, carrots, celery and black pepper) until all the delicious goodness in the bones is extracted. You can buy bones from your local butcher, or just toss leftover bones from roasted chicken and beef roasts in your freezer until you have enough to turn into stock. Once it’s cooled, pop your stock in the freezer so you always have the base for soups, stews and gravies when you need it. Check out Bon Appetit for a selection of stock recipes.
- Roast a chicken. Roasted chicken is simple, affordable and versatile. Depending upon how many people you’re feeding, you can get several meals out of one bird (factoring in meals made from the chicken-bone stock), and it’s always a comforting and cozy dish to serve to those you love. Roasting a whole chicken has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, but it’s really quite simple. Watch this video from Tasty for tips on how to roast a succulent chicken with delicious, crispy skin.
- Break down a chicken. It’s almost always cheaper to buy a whole chicken and break it down into its parts rather than buy those parts pre-cut and packaged by the butcher at your supermarket. When whole chickens are on sale, pick up a couple, then watch this video for a step-by-step chicken butchering lesson.
- Make salad dressing. Store-bought salad dressings are notoriously sodium-heavy, and don’t taste nearly as good as their homemade counterparts. Homemade dressings can often be made with things you probably already have in your kitchen — herbs and spices, oil, mustard, mayo and honey. On top of all that, they’re usually much cheaper to make than they are to buy. Visit Wholefully for 8 healthy salad dressing recipes.
- Proper freezing techniques. Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to preparing healthy meals and saving money. You can buy meat and produce on sale, and freeze it for later use, or make large batch recipes (soups and stews are great for this) and freeze them to pull out on busy days when you want a homecooked meal. Visit The Spruce Eats for freezing and food safety tips.
- Bake your own bread. This probably terrifies people more than any other kitchen task, but making a delicious loaf of homemade bread is not as difficult as you might think. Read our article for tips on making the perfect loaf.
- Make soup. One of the most delightful and satisfying things you can do empty your vegetable crisper into a delicious, wholesome soup. Add some crusty bread or a salad, and you have a restaurant-worthy meal for a fraction of the cost. Visit Kitchn for a tutorial on how to make soup from almost any vegetable, and Simple Bites for step-by-step instructions for making soup with whatever you happen to have on hand. Remember, this is where those stock-making skills come in handy!
- Learn to make healthy substitutions. Check out our article on healthy comfort foods to learn how to make lighter versions of cozy classics like mashed potatoes, creamy soups and fried chicken.
417961D CAN/US 10/20