Not only can grocery shopping be extremely stressful, the day-to-day cooking itself can start to feel monotonous. Once you’ve found a few meals that you like and are also easy to prep, we start to fall into boring routines of the same old food and recipes day in and day out.
But it doesn’t have to be like that! Cooking is another great way to express your creativity. Mix up your meals with these tips:
1. Add fruit to your sandwiches.
Instead of peanut butter and jelly, try peanut butter with banana or strawberry slices. It’s a great way to mix up your flavors and add real fruit to your meal (read: extra fiber). A turkey sandwich with pear slices is also a great way to go.
You could even try using almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter for even more new and exciting flavor combinations.
2. Make your own spice blends.
No need to stick with the store bought stuff. You can feel free to make rubs for your meats, sauces, etc. Add them to your favorite veggies, pastas, or stirfrys for new flavors.
Go extra spicy with chili powder, a dash cayenne pepper, and garlic. Use coffee beans or ground coffee, some pepper, garlic, and a dash of paprika for a nice coffee rub. Crunch up some cornflakes and add a few spices to create a nice coating for baked crispy chicken tenders.
3. Create new salad dressings.
Grab a salad dressing shaker and create your own dressings for your salads. Mix oils, some lemon or lime juice, your favorite spices and there you go! A brand new (and healthier) dressing for your salad.
Make things even more interesting by adding chunks of garlic or ginger, or fresh herbs like parsley, basil or cilantro to your oil and letting the flavors blend together.
4. Use a crockpot.
Crockpots are beautiful and wonderful little inventions that allow you to set it, forget it, and come home to a delicious dinner for very little cost or work.
You could buy pre-made sauces at the store (Campbell’s makes a few great ones) or make your own! Add your meat, veggie or chicken broth, one of your new DIY’d spice rubs, some vegetables or even sliced apples, and set the crockpot for the day.
Most of these appliances suggest 7-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high, but be sure to check with your crockpot’s manual for optimum and safe cooking times.
Related: 3 Easy Crockpot Recipes for the Busy Twenty-Something
5. Homemade pizza.
Do I even need to say anything more? Takeout is just way to expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have pizza at least once a week! Many stores sell pre-made pizza dough or completely pre-cooked crusts for you. Opt for one of these typically inexpensive options and make your favorite pizza at home.
Pizza gives you so many options to be creative! Have a fruit pizza, a breakfast pizza, a double pepperoni pizza, a buffalo chicken pizza, a barbecue chicken pizza — the options are truly endless.
Food doesn’t have to be boring. Even if you’re on a budget, you still have plenty of options to mix up your plate and get creative in the kitchen.