6 Ways To Keep Meals Simple
Love the flavors of time-consuming gourmet dishes, but not the time-consuming part?
Yeah, me either.
I am all about simple.
My decor style is simple and minimalistic. My clothes are simple and comfy. I keep my hair long because it’s simpler to style (ie. throw in a messy bun and not wash for days).
I carry my simple lifestyle straight into the kitchen. And if you poke around, you’ll notice that theme is present right here on my website too.
Complicated recipes can be fun and interesting … but they’re not something I want to do all the time!
I don’t cook many time-consuming recipes in real life, so I don’t share time-consuming recipes with you. I want to make Real Food easy on myself and easy on you!
For a new recipe to make it on our menu, it has to meet these six requirements for simple meals:
#1 — Not Too Many Ingredients
Ideally less than five — not including salt or seasonings — but a few more than that is fine.
I don’t include salt and seasonings as “ingredients” because they have to go in, no matter what. Food just isn’t food without salt and seasonings, spices, and herbs.
Now, if there are 20 spices listed in a recipe, I’m probably not going to make it because that’s just too many. Also, I can’t think of 20 seasonings that go well together anyway, so a recipe with that many seasonings is probably a dud.
#2 — No More Than One Specialty Ingredient
A “specialty” ingredient for me might not be one for you.
For example, I have garam masala and wasabi powder in my pantry at all times. These are not special ingredients to me, but they might be to you.
I don’t have shrimp or kohlrabi or cricket flour in my larder at all times, so those would be “speciality” ingredients for me.
If it’s an ingredient that you have to special order or search for high and low at several different stores, it’s a specialty ingredient.
You may make a dish with that ingredient that turns out to be an instant favorite and goes on your menus regularly. If that happens, great! That ingredient graduates from “special ingredient” status to “always has a spot on my shelf” status!
That’s how garam masala and wasabi powder found their way into my life. 🙂
#3 — As Hands-Off As Possible
This means I can put it in the Crock Pot, InstantPot, or oven and walk away. I don’t have to stand at the stove, watching it constantly or adding ingredients at several different stages of preparation.
One pot dinners or skillet meals often meet this requirement, but not always.
If I’m baking, I love to throw all the ingredients into my BlendTec, blend, pour into my baking dish, and bake.
When a recipe calls for sifting dry ingredients in one bowl, combining wet ingredients in another bowl, yada, yada, yada, my eyes glaze over. I have zero desire to make those types of recipes — and that brings me to my next point…
#4 — As Few Dishes As Possible
In my opinion, dishwashing ranks a few notches above “get mammogram” on my list of favorite things to do. We don’t have a dishwasher, and I cook three meals a day.
I don’t want to make meals that require two skillets, a saucepan, a cookie sheet, a cooling rack, a Dutch oven, and a baking dish, plus the food processor, a cutting board, and measuring cups and spoons — only to have to wash plates and silverware after the meal too.
I’ll make an exception every once in a while, however.
A chicken pot pie requires quite a few dishes: bowl for the crust ingredients, plus a rolling pin, and a pie plate. Then the filling has to be prepared by chopping veggies on a cutting board, sauteeing in a pot, and using measuring spoons for herbs and spices. And if I’m cooking a whole chicken, there’s a stock pot thrown in the mix.
BUT, I love chicken pot pie with all my heart.
And every once in a while, I get a hankering for chicken pot pie from scratch, and there’s no amount of dishes that are going to stand in my way.
You won’t see me making a chicken pot pie once a week though — it’s more like every six months.
#5 — Leftovers!
I want whatever meals I make to make enough for leftovers, at least for lunch the next day. Getting a full three meals out of a recipe is even better.
Without leftovers, I would be a basket case. Leftovers keep me calm. Leftovers make my life easier.
And do the peeps sometimes complain that we’re having leftovers?
Not often, but sometimes they do.
And I don’t care.
Eat what you’re served, make something for yourself, or go hungry. It’s your choice.
That’s our motto.
When they’re experienced enough in the kitchen to prepare and cook entire meals from start to finish on their own, then they can complain about leftovers. As long as I’m running the kitchen, however, we will have leftovers and we. will. like. it. (Rant over.) 😉
#6 — Homey And Comforting
I’m a comfort food lover, and simple is my comfort zone. This doesn’t mean everything has to be served with gravy or covered in cheese, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, for sure. I am a Southern girl, after all.
I want whatever food I make to be enjoyed by everyone, for it to bring calm and happiness to a stressful or tiring day, for it to bring a smile to the faces at the table.
There’s definitely a time and place for exploring crazy new flavors, but 80% of the time, we just like to eat simply — familiar flavors and smells, no kids or husbands pushing food around on their plates asking, “What’s that?!”
Making Real Food Simple
I’ve simplified my Pinterest boards recently by deleting a bunch of beautiful and nourishing, but complicated, recipes that I pinned but never made.
Why didn’t I make them?
Because I realized they didn’t meet my criteria.
There’s no point in them taking up virtual space, causing me to sift through them to get to the recipes I actually do love or want to try.
I’ve tried gourmet and fancy. Although those dishes are almost always fantastic, they don’t fit in very well with a simplified lifestyle.
I hope that, by sharing the six ways I keep meals simple with you, I can help you narrow down the gazillion pins you’ve got sitting on your boards and the hundreds of bookmarked recipes in your cookbooks that are just too complicated for you to make right now.
Speaking of Pinterest…
Did you know I have a board that’s dedicated to simple recipes, projects, ideas, and crafts I’ve tried that have actually worked?
It’s my “been there, done that, it worked!” board!
I invite you to follow along as I continue to add to more than 100 pins that are already there!
Remember, I’m all about simple. So for something to make it to this board it means that it was easy, worked, and if it was a recipe, it tasted great. Follow along here.
Or you can join me on all my Pinterest boards!
Do you love simple cooking? Does a recipe have to be simple to make it on to your family’s menu? How do you keep meals simple?
7 dinners, 2 desserts, prep steps, & printable shopping list...
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