By Brenna Topham, RDN, LD
Hi, I’m Brenna, and I’m a self-identified lazy cook. I have a few dishes I can make consistently well, but for the most part I need lots of practice before a recipe is actually enjoyable. I’m also at a point in my life where I have many priorities and roles I need to play, and very little money. So, that means I don’t have time to cook and also can’t afford to eat out all the time.
My solution to this problem is what I call a “half-homemade” meal.
I can get burnout on restaurants and want to change up some on the sides or mains I get. I also don’t want to pay for a dish I can easily make myself. While I definitely still buy veggies from restaurants, if I can muster the energy to zap some frozen veg that’s much preferred for me. I’ll often take food to-go (especially now, during social distancing) and make my homemade portion just after getting home. Sometimes I’ll eat some microwaved veg before/after I go out to eat. Sometimes it’s intuitive and I feel like my meal isn’t satisfying and I eat more at home.
1. Saves money
I don’t want to pay $5.99 for a cup of steamed broccoli. If it’s something fancy like honey mustard brussel sprouts or maple-glazed carrots, I can get behind ordering a vegetable from a restaurant. But it hurts my heart to spend a precocious mark up on something I could have zapped in the microwave. I can also forgo the gourmet bread and dunk some crusty store bought bread in soup, which honestly tastes just as good.
2. Saves time
I’m craving roast chicken but I definitely don’t have roast chicken time. Why not throw some roasted veg in the oven, that would usually accompany the roasted chicken, and get the chicken itself to-go from a restaurant?
3. Saves brain power
Don’t have to think of a gourmet meal, just a veg or sides. Planning a meal can sometimes be as mentally consuming as cooking the meal. By just planning the side of my meals and grocery shopping for those, I ensure variety and balance without having to think about if the flavors will mesh or if I will have enough for leftovers tomorrow. Often I use a frozen veg so I don;t have to worry about it going bad before I’m ready to eat it.
4. Expand Variety
There’s no way I’m broiling a whole fish at home. It sounds really messy and time consuming and complicated. And with two dogs that will be jumping on the counter the whole time? Nope! So, if i want it that means I need to order it from a restaurant. By allowing restaurant foods, I can have foods that sound good without having to worry if I can make it right or clean up. If I’m committed to learning to cook new foods, I can use the restaurant as an example of what I’m aiming for. It also gives me the chance to try flavors and cooking styles from other cultures.
5. More balance
Often, the restaurant I’m craving doesn’t offer all the foods to honor my body. While a few lower fiber meals don’t bother me, I find I have digestive issues if I have lower fiber meals several days in a row. By adding some salad to the side of my quesadillas, I can get the food I’m craving and the fiber my body is asking me for.
Here are some ideas for a half-homemade meal:
Get donuts, and cook bacon and eggs and berries at home
Order margs and fajitas, and serve chips and jarred queso at home
Buy a fancy starbucks latte and make some instant oatmeal at home
Pick up fresh bread and soup from your local bakery and grill chicken at home
Drive thru Whataburger and microwave some frozen broccoli at home
Buy a frozen pizza and throw some spinach on top
Often, we can get into patterns of black and white thinking, which can hurt us in several ways.
Either food is healthy or unhealthy, I’m a good or bad friend, school is easy or impossible, I’m happy or sad. We forget about the complexity of human experiences that exists in the gray. The “truth” is in the gray!
Problems can arise when we fall into consistent patterns of black and white thinking. If we’re not totally happy, we will consider ourselves sad which can lead to feeling hopeless and lessens motivation. When we see food as either healthy or unhealthy, it can lead us to cutting out foods or even entire food groups in the name of health. We might start thinking that our body will be negatively affected even by the smallest bit of a perceived ‘unhealthy’ food. We ignore the body’s ability to get nutrients from any foods- no matter how processed it is or whole says it’s unhealthy. Our body naturally wants balance and variety.
We can have both, all at the same time.
It's the notion that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. Just as we can be happy AND sad, feel stressed AND fulfilled, be anxious AND excited. And sometimes this means feeling like we either need a home cooked meal or a restaurant meal. We can have both!