Taking Back the Value Meal – Preparing Fresh Meals At Home
|September 9, 2011||Posted by Alex under Lifestyle|
Restaurants, notably fast food chains, have been using the term “value meal” for quite some time now to describe a certain amount of food at a supposedly unbeatable price.
The problem is two fold: firstly that the amount of real food in each of these meals is minimal, meaning that you won’t be getting the nutrients you need, or feeding yourself for very long. Secondly, when it comes to overall value and price, you can do much better if you start cooking for yourself.
This week in the states, in response to first lady Michelle Obama’s pledge that Americans need to work together to help end the obesity epidemic in one generation, a number of groups are getting together to help raise awareness for the benefits of home cooked meals. They are calling the event they’re promoting the $5 Challenge, where they hope to show that people can cook genuine value meals for five dollars or less.
The concept, for some people, that a meal could cost under $5 seems impossible. More than a few people eat out or order take out every single day of the week. I’ve had friends of mine, back when they moved out on their own for the first time, that their diets consisted largely of Subways sandwiches, McDonalds and cheap Italian eateries simply because they didn’t know how to cook. Just about every single meal would set them back close to $10, and wouldn’t do their health any sort of favours either. Unfortunately for them, 21st Century Food wasn’t around back them to give them a healthier alternative.
This challenge, however, is designed precisely with these kinds of people in mind, to show them that cooking isn’t all that frightening or challenging. Also, that for $5 dollars, you can cook meals that give you ample left overs, and can feed you for days.
So what can you get for $5, provided you have a spare afternoon to cook food the old fashion way, at home, in the kitchen, over the stove?
First, you’re going to want to find something that you can cook large quantities of at once as a main ingredient of your meal. Beans, lentils and chickpeas are a great choice for this. Buying them dry, and soaking them overnight, costs little and takes almost no effort.
Also, they are loaded with protein! Even canned beans are far cheaper than other sources of protein. Try cooking an assortment of beans together in a pot to create the base for chilis, bean salads and burrito filler. Even draining and rinsing three cans of different beans, mixing them in a bowl with oil, garlic, onion slices and salt makes a great side to any dish.
Next, try looking for tomatoes once they go on sale and buy a ton of them. Tomatoes are great because they can be used for the bases of soups, thrown in to chilis, home made bruschetta and most importantly of all, tomato sauce.
Making tomato sauce at home is easy, and you can make a lot of it at once. Dice up onions and garlic, and throw them in the pot with some olive oil. Next, add several chopped up tomatoes and let it cook. Add in basil or oregano, salt and other sliced vegetables, and then 20 minutes later you’ll have more sauce than you know what to do with!
As a good side to every dish, I would recommend going with rice. Buying rice in bulk is very cost efficient, and it just about never goes bad. If you have a rice cooker (the greatest invention of all time) you can efforlessly make rice without having to keep on eye on it like you do when you cook over the stove with a pot.
While rice might not taste like much, it soaks up other flavours and helps balance out the taste of a meal. In fact it goes with a thick and chunky tomato sauce as good as any pasta. It’s also a great source of carbohydrates, and it can help your stomach digest heavier, spicier parts of the meal.
So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t cooked something at home recently, give it a shot. Look up meals online, talk to a nutritionist (we have a few in our services, be sure to ask) and invite some friends over to your place for one great big meal!