If you’re thinking of resolving to spend less and eat healthier this year, you can start by deciding to cut down on the convenience foods and learn to make at least a few foods from scratch. Here are some ideas for starters:
Tomato sauce — start by cooking vegetables (onions, garlic, celery, peppers, whatever — I’ve even sneaked in spinach) in a little oil till they’re soft. Then add crushed tomatoes, or tomato paste, water, and a little wine, plus basil and maybe oregano, and simmer a few minutes. This tastes much fresher and has lots of extra nutrition.
Pulled pork — find recipes for this online. Yes, it’s a lot of work assembling the spices and rubbing them into the pork, and it does take a lot of time — overnight to let the spices sink in, then most of the next day to let the pork cook very slowly. But it’s delicious, and you can make several meals’ (or lots of sandwiches’) worth at a time.
Whipped cream — put back that tub of “edible oil product” and pick up a carton of cream instead. If you’ve got something at home to mix it with — food processor, electric mixer, even an eggbeater — you’re all set. (The cream won’t stay whipped, so you’ll need to do this just before you eat.) If you end up not whipping the cream, you can make . . .
White sauce — not that this needs cream, milk will do, but cream will make it richer. Add grated cheese to make cheese sauce for pasta or vegetables, and you can forget the Kraft Dinner and boil-in-a-bag side dishes.
Mashed potatoes — admittedly a lot more work than instant, but much better tasting. Just peel, cut up — the smaller you cut them, the faster they’ll cook — boil, and blend by hand or appliance with a little milk. Add salt and maybe butter.
Oatmeal, or porridge as we call it in Canada — here’s a really simple one: Instead of packets of instant oatmeal, buy a bag of quick oats and follow the microwave directions. Just as fast, cheaper, and you can flavor it any way you want.
If you’re feeling really ambitious this year, you can get into making your own pasta, or even butter, which is really just taking whipped cream a step further — but that’s all something for later.