With the kids all grown up, an empty nest often means eating out more and an empty fridge. Try these tips to enjoy being back in the kitchen for you and your health.
BY: ANNE DANAHY, MS, RD
When you love to cook, it’s usually not the chopping and standing over the stove part that you love. It’s the act of choosing ingredients your friends or family will enjoy, and putting them together into a dish that you hope will bring a smile to their faces. It’s appreciating the pleasure it brings you when your family eats something that you made just for them.
It’s about expressing your love through the meals shared with your people.
When the kids leave home, you now find yourself transitioning from the keeper of the kitchen and answerer of the “what’s for dinner” question each night, to empty nester. While you have a newfound freedom from excessive grocery bills, weekly rushed grocery trips, and juggling mealtime, sports, and social schedules, it can still be difficult.
For those who are used to years of feeding a family, cooking often seems like too much effort for just one or two people.
While it might be easier to eat out every night, or pop a frozen dinner in the microwave, it may not always be the best choice especially as you’re nearing an age where you need to stay more mindful about your health habits. Empty nest cooking requires a few changes in your routine, but the bonus is big – better health, and more money in your pocket to enjoy it.
1. Scale-back your recipes.
If your favorite family recipes are designed to feed a crowd, take some time to rewrite them with scaled-back ingredients to make cooking much easier. You may also consider using some of what you’ll save in grocery money to splurge on some new cookbooks that focus on recipes for one or two.
2. Make your own frozen meals.
This is a good time to replace all of those lidless plastic food storage containers. Invest in some small-size freezer and microwave-friendly containers. Consider a food vacuum sealing storage system so you can easily divide batch-cooked meals into smaller meals and freeze for a later time. You’ll find that you can spend less time in the kitchen, but still be able to enjoy healthier meals from your freezer.
3. Shop smarter.
Unless you really plan to repackage your family size food purchases into smaller portions, it’s probably not worth it to maintain that shopping club membership. Between the money spent on the annual fee and extra-large sized grocery items that often go to waste, you’ll likely come out ahead if you skip it. Instead, consider going to those upscale grocery stores that weren’t so kid-friendly a few years ago. Shop their prepped food and salad bar section for a few meals each week — then you’ll have just a few nights to cook.
4. Take a cooking class.
Are you still making the same casseroles? Are you wondering what all the fuss is over ancient grains? If you’re stuck in a rut with the same old recipes from years ago, it might be time to take a class or two to update your cooking skills and taste buds. Try new plant-based recipes or ethnic cuisines that you love but didn’t get to try while the kids were home.
5. Splurge on “grown up” food.
Whether it’s organic dairy or produce, heirloom vegetables, grass-fed beef, or exotic grains, the foods that were too expensive to buy in quantities that were large enough to feed your teenagers are suddenly within your budget. Now is the time to focus on quality rather than quantity, so master simple meals. Try making a perfect omelet with farm fresh vegetables, an heirloom tomato salad with local organic cheese, or a grilled piece of beef on a bed of fresh arugula. With a little practice in small-scale cooking, you can have healthy and restaurant-worthy meals right at home.
Who says an empty nest can’t be fun?
Adapted from the original article.
Anne Danahy, MS, RD is a Scottsdale-AZ-based registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant specializing in women’s health and healthy aging. Anne is passionate about teaching people how to make the science of nutrition more delicious on their plates. Visit her at Craving Something Healthy.