1. Get yourself a slow cooker. Sure, it’s not glamorous, but with this kitchen workhorse you’ll have the next best thing to Mom’s home-cooking ready and waiting when you get home.
2. Invest in a few good knives. Nothing makes chopping more frustrating and downright dangerous than cheap, dull cutlery. The basics–a paring knife, serrated knife and chef’s knife–will make meal prep so much easier and safer!
3. Plan ahead. Lack of planning will break your food budget faster than you can say ‘Chinese take-out.’ Get in the habit of making a weekly menu, and planning your shopping list in advance. Take advantage of sale items–if ground beef is on sale, buy extra, cook it all at once and designate half for burritos and the other half for a meaty lasagna.
4. Think high protein, low cost. We’d love to eat fresh salmon and steak every meal, but let’s face it, we’re paying off student loans now! Stretch your budget by choosing less expensive cuts of meat and incorporating other protein sources like beans and quinoa.
5. Buy in-season. Choosing produce in season is not only cost-effective, it also guarantees the most flavorful ingredients. Check your grocery or farmers market to find out what is in abundance.
6. Get your java fix at home. A daily coffee shop habit can add up in a hurry. Purchase good quality coffee beans, a grinder, and make your morning cup at a fraction of the cost. Check out roast master Chris Weber’s tips for perfectly brewed coffee.
7. Know the pantry staples. A well-stocked pantry is the key to kitchen flexibility. Building your stash of staples will mean fewer trips to the grocery store, and make it easier to try great new recipes on the fly.
8. Master a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Few foods are as comforting as homemade chocolate chip cookies. These all-American treats are a cinch to make, and will give you instant kitchen cred at the office pitch-in. Once you’ve mastered the basics, customize with cranberries, pecans, and more.
9. Ask for help. There’s no shame in asking an experienced cook for guidance! Most people who enjoy cooking enjoy sharing their knowledge, so don’t be shy.
10. Experiment. Make recipes your own by experimenting with ingredient substitutions or adding your favorite spices. Adapt dishes you like to meet your individual taste. Get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen!