Written by Alanna Mitchell
Tuesday, December 18th, 2018
What is it about the dark days of winter that make it so tough to cook?
This time of year, I always look back longingly at those carefree summer evenings when I could toss something on the grill, whip up a healthy salad and sit down to eat in no time. In winter, it feels so much easier to pull out your phone, open an app and wait for delivery.
How to Avoid Too Much Takeout this Winter
It's the dreaded winter takeout cycle. Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian in Toronto and cookbook author, says the key to saving money, boosting nutrition and preventing food waste is to break that cycle and prepare your own meals.
Adding Up the Costs of Takeout
I added up my cold-weather takeout expenses over the past year from one app alone.
- It came to $1,000, mainly from my favourite Indian restaurant.
I then calculated how much it would have cost to just purchase the ingredients myself at my local grocery store.
- Making the chicken curries, the daals and the mango salads at home would've saved me at least $750.
Worse still, I didn't always eat the leftovers, tossing some of them away.
Meal Prep When You Have Time
Beck's secret weapon to avoid the takeout trap is to plan cold-weather favourites in advance, and even do some of the cooking on the weekend or whenever you have more time. Doing so can take the stress out of cooking because it makes it easier to plan ahead.
The types of dishes you can make that last are also perfect for this time of year, when we crave silky soups, satisfying stews and robust pasta sauces. They all lend themselves to being made ahead and can be made in big batches.
"Meal prep is a fantastic strategy," she says.
One of her favourite winter comfort foods is turkey chili: ground turkey, kidney and black beans in a tomato sauce, seasoned with chili pepper and cayenne. It comes in at about $2 a serving, less than half the cost of a takeout sandwich. Nutritionally, it's packed with fibre and modest on carbs.
She'll whip up a big batch of quinoa on Sunday and pull it out during the week as an add-on to baked salmon brushed with hoisin sauce or chicken slathered in tandoori spices. Add a side of available-in-winter leafy greens like spinach or swiss chard sautéed in a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes, and you've got a great meal packed with anti-oxidants, protein and flavour. Not only does it save money, but it also cuts down on salt and unhealthy fats that come with delivered food.
Or why not heat up some of the quinoa another night and pile it on a stir fry made with lots of vegetables you chopped on the weekend, plus some tofu or shrimp? Voilà. Another cost-conscious yet delectable weeknight delight.
Home Cooking is Also Healthy
And it's not just the pocketbook that benefits — the waistline does, too. Beck points to a French study in 2016 that tracked 40,554 participants. The conclusion they reached: meal planning was associated with a healthier diet and less obesity.