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Home from vacation and nothing to eat

Hungry and nothing in refrigerator to eat
SomaFare model showing how it sucks to come home to an empty fridge after vacation.

My husband and I just got back from visiting our families for the holidays, and the whole experience of traveling with a 9-month-old was like many experiences with my son, which is to say, very fun and very tiring. The reality that vacations might not be about catching up on sleep, bouncing around from place to place according to our fancy, and eating at interesting new restaurants that may have only bar seating available is another one of those things that I’ve had to just accept as a new parent. Seeing our son experience a lot of new things – dogs! cats! sand! cousins! – was gratifying and wonderful in a new way but it’s definitely not the same as before.

And of course, then there was that moment of getting home at 6:30pm with a tired and hungry child and realizing that there wasn’t anything to eat at home. I actually tried to think ahead on this one and bought some frozen stuff (like the salmon burgers from Costco that I like) that can be prepared relatively quickly. But even salmon burgers take some time to cook on the stove and they need to be constantly monitored, compared to SomaFare which I can pop onto a dish and put in the microwave. It doesn’t need to be constantly monitored like something on the stove, where a minute can be the difference between perfectly crisp and inedible and burnt. And having the flexibility of a minute can mean a lot when you have a baby who might be trying to dive head-first into the bath tub, climb the lamp, or see if they can eat chapstick. So in short, I missed my SomaFare (I’m SomaFare’s #1 customer and if I ever have to close it down, will be its last customer…)

Apparently, some of SomaFare’s customers missed it too because I got a bunch of orders on New Year’s Day, which was a Tuesday (most of the orders usually come in between Wednesday and Friday’s noon deadline).

Glad to be back – first orders for 2019 just went out yesterday and we’re back on our regular schedule. Get that warm, comforting feeling of knowing that your fridge is full of delicious wholesome foods that’s literally takes less than 5 minutes to prep and get your SomaFare order in before Friday at noon!

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Stop chopping those damn onions, please

Ok these are carrots not onions. Actually peeling not chopping either – but she sure looks pissed.

As you’re washing, peeling and chopping a small mountain of vegetables for dinner, have you ever silently cursed to yourself and wondered why you decided to cook this dish in the first place? After all, you’re tired from work and running around. You want time to relax with your family, have some downtime to yourself, but it’s 6:30pm and your family’s gotta eat something besides chips and hummus so you power through. And then, if you’re like me, you eat, you forget, and you might not think about it again until you find yourself doing the same thing, cursing to yourself once again some days later. 

Here’s why I did it (past tense because now we mostly eat SomaFare): 

  1. Because takeout isn’t healthy enough – If we could afford it, I would be delighted to have my family eat food from places like Viale, Alden and Harlow, etc (you know – nice ‘New American’ restaurants) on a daily basis. These places have a lot of vegetables, well-prepared proteins, and complex carbs. Unfortunately, they also run $50+ per person so for our family of 3 adults and 1 child… that would be over $5000 per month just for dinner… so um, no. I’m not actually even sure that they do take out?? All the other takeout options that are at a more moderate price point (let’s say under $20 per person) are very carb-heavy (think pizza, burritos, noodles) or are cold salads (I can’t have cold salad every night. I just can’t).
  2. Because you have a specific cultural heritage to carry on through food – I fit into this category. I’m Korean American and food is an important part of Korean heritage that I want my son to experience. So our food is about 30% Korean – we often have kimchi and rice with our more American-/Mediterranean-/European- influenced meals if they go together and we also have 1-2 meals a week that’s entirely Korean.
  3. Because you have some specific dietary restrictions – like allergies or a strict diet for medical reasons.
  4. Because you love to cook. I love to cook too, but I don’t want to do it every night, especially after work.

What I’m not sure of is the money side of it. Of course eating out is more expensive than cooking yourself, but Americans spend more than 8 hours per week in food preparation. If you value your time at $30 per hour or above, then you should probably eat out most of the time if you can find a service that fits your taste and charges ~$15 per serving (*big fat asterisk here – see the bottom of this post). Roughly, the math is 8 hours per week spent on cooking at $30 per hour for a family of four = $10 of labor per serving. If you assume that the ingredients alone are $5 per serving, then it should be roughly comparable between cooking it yourself and having someone else cook it. 

 And (here it comes… drumroll please ;p) – that’s why I started SomaFare! I wanted the sauteed vegetables, those meats marinated in herbs and slow-roasted, the pastas that were a step above meat-sauce-over-Barilla-pasta… the nutrition-dense foods that were prepared with interesting flavors. And I wanted it to be around $15-20 per serving, not $50. 

Does this resonate with you? How do you think about eating out vs cooking yourself? Also check out SomaFare too, obviously.

*I just want to acknowledge here that $30 per hour is a lot for a lot of Americans and that paying $15 for most of your dinners isn’t reasonable for many people. I don’t think it means that the service shouldn’t exist or that it doesn’t serve a good purpose but I don’t want to make it sound like this makes sense or is feasible for everyone.

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How this multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-generational family does dinner

A typical meal in our household

Running a company whose mission is to make it easy for busy families to eat well each night, I’ve become even more curious about how people think about food, how they put together their meals, and why they do what they do. It’s become a great conversation starter at parties – it usually goes: “I started a dinner service company – think Blue Apron but cooked!” “What a great idea!” “So… what do YOU do for dinner?”

These conversations have helped me see that there’s a pretty wide range in terms of how people approach their meals, especially parents of young children. Some common responses include:

  • I make something halfway decent for my kids but then my spouse and I eat protein bars/ chips and salsa/ popcorn for dinner before falling asleep exhausted
  • Kids eat chicken nuggets/mac n cheese/ grilled cheese and my spouse and I eat whatever one of us cooked over the weekend (and we eat it all week long)
  • My spouse cooks a great meal 3x a week because s/he loves to cook and has the time.
  • My spouse cooks a great meal 3x a week because we love to cook and eat but it’s stressful because we don’t have the time/energy.
  • We do a lot of pizza

So I thought I would share how we eat in our household. Just some context: We’re a bi-racial/ bi-cultural (I’m Korean-American, my husband is a white guy who grew up in the Midwest), multi-generational (my mom lives with us and my husband and I have a baby boy) household. I also run a food business so obviously that also impacts things. I think of my/ my husband’s approach to dinner as having evolved over time:

Stage 1: Before my mom came to live with us and pre-kids

  • Summary: We would cook on the weekends (wide range of cuisines – some Korean/ Asian, others not) and we would eat leftovers during the week or ordered out. We also traveled a lot for work so ate on the company’s dime when on the road.
  • Level of stress about food: Pretty low. We (ok to be honest: I) like cooking and we had a lot of flexibility to cook/ not cook
  • Health factor: Medium. The meals we were eating out weren’t so good for our waistlines/ general health.

Stage 2: After my mom came to live with us

  • Summary: My mom is a member of a dying breed – the traditional Korean mom who feels it is mandatory for her family to eat a proper, balanced, tasty, and healthy meal at least 2x per day. She would cook when she wasn’t working at her job and almost every night, when my husband and I got home from work, there was something delicious in the refrigerator that just needed to be reheated
  • Level of stress about food: Very low. This was the life!
  • Health factor: Good. We ate a lot more vegetables and whole grains

Stage 3: After baby came

  • Summary: My mom is the full-time caregiver for our son, so she no longer had as much time to cook. So we order about $150 worth of SomaFare every week, which gets us from Monday to Friday, depending on how much my husband is home for dinner vs traveling for work. We also keep multi-grain rice in the rice cooker and kimchi in the refrigerator so a typical meal for us is a SomaFare entree (like a chicken dish), one or two SomaFare vegetable sides, plus often a bit of rice and some kimchi. If my husband is doing paleo, he just doesn’t have the rice. We do a combination of cooking/eating out on the weekends.
  • Level of stress about food: Pretty low – everything is in the refrigerator and we just need to heat it up! Come Saturday and Sunday when we start running out of SomaFare food, it gets a little more stressful though because we have to scramble to figure out what we are eating
  • Health factor: Pretty good – our meals are pretty nutrition dense with a focus on protein and vegetables and minimal processed carbs and added sugar

How does your family do meals? In particular, dinner? How do you manage to get it done with all the other things going on?

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Comparing Whole30, Paleo, Keto and Macro diets

With so many different diets promising amazing results, it can be really overwhelming trying to pick one that best suits you. Whole30, Paleo, Keto, Macro… where do you even start? Well, you start by deciding what your goal is. Are you trying to lose weight? Maybe you’re interested in lowering cholesterol or blood pressure, or even regulating blood sugar. Dieting is often associated with weight loss, but, when done properly, a diet can have health benefits beyond physical improvements. Some diets can work for a quick weight loss boost, while others may help inhibit development of health diseases. Finding a diet that fits your lifestyle is the best way to secure healthy eating habits. We’re comparing four popular diets to give you the pros and the cons for each. We understand that developing and maintaining healthy eating habits is difficult in a world of endless to-do lists and packed schedules.  We narrowed it down for you:

 

 

  • Whole30

 

      • What is it? 30-day clean eating regime intended to detox your body and revamp your eating habits. The idea behind it is simple: you have to eat WHOLE (i.e., not processed) foods for 30 days. That means you have to cut out all foods that might throw your natural body processes off (toxins), like alcohol and sugar, grains, dairy, and even legumes.

 

  • What can you eat?

 

        • Proteins, like red meat, poultry and fish.
        • Veggies. All of them. We mean it, from leafy greens to starchy veggies.
        • Fruits. Also known as nature’s candy. You can enjoy berries, apples, bananas.
        • Fats, like avocado, coconut oil

 

  • What should you avoid?

 

        • Alcohol and sugar/artificial sweeteners
        • No smoking (nicotine, tobacco, pot… none at all)
        • Absolutely no grains (rice, quinoa, bread)
        • No legumes (beans, peanut butter)
        • No soy / dairy
        • No processed foods.

 

  • Potential Benefits

 

        • Weight loss
        • Improved energy
        • Improved health benefits
          • No more random headaches, insomnia, fatigue
          • Clearer skin
          • Digestive health
          • Improved sleep
        • Less cravings
        • Better relationship with food

 

  • Drawbacks

 

        • Really inflexible / intensive – Sort of like a training bootcamp
        • Hard to be social when on a demanding diet

 

  • Paleo

 

      • What is it? Also known as the “caveman diet,” the paleo diet trend requires you to reset your eating habits back to hunter-gatherer. By cutting out “modern food” from our diet, or basically anything that comes in a package and cannot be found as is in the wild, some experts believe we can reverse or prevent diseases associated with diets full of high-processed foods.

 

  • What can you eat?

 

        • Lean proteins / game meat / eggs / fish/shellfish
        • Fruits
        • Non starchy veggies
        • Nuts and seeds
        • Olive and flaxseed oils

 

  • What should you avoid?

 

        • ALL dairy, cheeses, and butter
        • Cereal grains
        • Legumes
        • Starchy veggies
        • Artificial sweeteners
        • Sodas and sugary drinks
        • Cured meats
        • Processed foods

 

  • Potential Benefits

 

        • Improved health factors
          • Heart disease prevention
          • Blood sugar regulation
          • Weight loss
        • Improved energy/mood
        • Can be cheaper than buying processed foods

 

  • Drawbacks

 

      • Limited carb options
      • Inflexible/intolerant

 

 

  • Keto

 

      • What is it? Ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. On a standard ketogenic diet, 75% of the calories you consume needs to come from fats, 5% comes from carbs and fiber, and the rest of the 20% is reserved for protein sources. The diet is based on the idea that a drastic cut in carbohydrate consumption sends your body into a state of ketosis, making it an efficient fat burning machine. The metabolic state of ketosis also turns fat into ketones, which provides our brain with energy.

 

  • What can you eat?

 

        • Meat: red, poultry, fish, eggs, lean, fatty
        • Butter and cream
        • Cheeses, the less processed the better
        • Nuts and seeds
        • Healthy oils/fats: avocados, coconut oil, olive oil
        • Extremely low carb veggies: tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, onions
        • Condiments: salt + pepper, herbs and spices

 

  • What should you avoid?

 

        • Sugar
        • Grains / starches
        • Fruits, except berries on occasion
        • Beans / legumes
        • Root veggies
        • Processed / “low-fat” foods
        • Unhealthy fats like mayo, hydrogenated oils
        • Alcohol / “sugar-free” foods

 

  • Potential Benefits

 

        • Hormone regulation = improved mood
        • Lower health risks
        • Weight loss
        • High fat sounds counterintuitive and it might be exciting for someone who’s been doing low fat diet fads for a while.
        • More manageable in a social setting

 

  • Drawbacks

 

        • You’ll get tired of bacon
        • Should need to have a workout regime in mind because of all the high fat/greasy foods

 

  • IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)

 

    • What is it? If it fits your macros, also known as flexible dieting, is the diet phenomenon that literally takes dieting out of losing weight. IIFYM requires you to calculate your daily caloric expenditure based on your activity level, then use nutrition labels to track the calories the food you consume. The idea is that, no matter what you eat, or what time you eat, or how many times a day you eat, if you are at a caloric deficit, you will burn fat.  Similarly, if you are at a caloric surplus, you will gain weight. Where IIFYM differs from traditional calorie counting is that a certain number of calories are allotted for proteins and fats while the rest are allotted for calories (see the IIFYM website to see your recommended allotment). The most liberating thing about this diet is that it puts no restrictions on food, so it doesn’t even feel like a diet. IIFYM can teach you a lot about your personal macro ratios, as each person performs optimally on varying macronutrient ratios. Don’t neglect your vitamins and minerals, though! Tracking your three main macro groups are important for energy, but for all-around health, it’s also important to get enough micronutrients too. Yes.., this means we encourage you to eat nutrient rich foods (A.K.A. veggies), along with tasty treats. It’s all about balance!
    • What can you eat?
      • Anything. Really. If it fits your macros, you can eat it.
    • What should you avoid?
      • Nothing! It’s called flexible dieting for a reason
    • Benefits
      • Flexibility
      • Improved moods because you’re not crash dieting
      • Improved relationship with food
        • No “bad” or “unhealthy” foods
        • Learn to enjoy things in moderation
      • Cookies on a diet? Yes!
    • Drawbacks
      • Need to add up calories by macros and track them
      • Too flexible?
      • Easy to develop bad eating habits – technically, you can eat 2000 calories worth of pasta per day and still lose weight if you burn 2500 calories a day.

 

When comparing different diets, it’s important to make realistic goals and commitments based on your lifestyle. If you have a busy, unpredictable schedule, it might be difficult to commit to a diet like Whole30 that’s very demanding and inflexible. If you have specific health issues you’re trying to address, it makes less sense to go with flexible dieting or IIFYM. When you find a diet that fits your lifestyle, dieting will start to feel less like dieting and more like healthier habits.

Note/ disclaimer: Always consult your healthcare provider before starting a new diet or food regime.

By: Leticia T.

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Why Meal Kits Don’t Work for Working Families

Have you heard of meal kit delivery? It’s a service that sends you exact portions of the ingredients you need to make restaurant style meals in the comfort of your own home. In theory, meal kits are a great idea! It helps with meal planning, so it takes the guesswork out of cooking, you get to explore new recipes, and the exact portions (like for 2 or four people) help eliminate food waste. In practice, it’s certainly not as efficient as it can be — say, if you were to get an already-prepared home cooking delivery service, like Somafare.com — at least not for working families. For one, you still have to cook. You also have less flexibility since you’re following a precise recipe. Because of this, you won’t have leftovers, which can come in handy for busy families. Read on for why a meal kit might not be the best choice for you.

 

  • You still have to cook

 

Cooking takes additional time, so you’d have to plan that into your schedule. That means meal kits only takes the guesswork out of cooking when you have preexisting kitchen skills, otherwise, you’ll have to spend time additional researching the best techniques to go about each recipe. Another thing to consider when making a dinner decision for your family is that cooking times vary, depending on the condition of the stove or oven, or whichever appliance you choose to use, so you’d have to keep those variables in mind, as well. You already have too much on your mind, try something easy like Somafare.com

 

  • Less room for flexibility

 

While many meal kit companies offer an array of different cuisines, giving you the chance to try new recipes and culinary techniques, most of them require you to subscribe. Although these services also make it relatively easy to pause your subscription, it can be a bit of a hassle to remember to notify the company that you’ll be gone. If you don’t remember, you’ll end up with boxes of decaying ingredients left on your front door to greet you when you’ve come home from your vacation or work trip.

 

  • No Leftovers Food, but Lots of Leftover Packaging

 

When you place an order for a meal kit, you’re required to pick your serving size based on how many people are eating that meal. The exact portions included in the meal kits means everyone participating in dinner tonight gets to eat, but there are no leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Keep in mind too, that each individual ingredient is prepackaged, which is super convenient for you, but the extra packaging used for each individual ingredient contributes to the ever-growing environmental problem of plastic pollution.  

With a service like Somafare, you’ll get your meals already cooked to perfection. The most work you’ll have to do is heating up your meal. No long recipes, no excessive packaging. Just freshly cooked meals, delivered right to your door! 

By Leticia T.

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Essential Gadgets for the Starter Kitchen

Photo credit: Kaboompics.com from https://www.pexels.com/photo/kitchenware-6245/

For the times we can’t get you a fresh home-cooked meal, we at Somafare still want to make sure you’re prepared. A great meal starts in a fully stocked, well-organized kitchen. Anyone who has ever tried to purchase new kitchen supplies for the first time or for a kitchen revamp knows how many options there are. From competing brands, to varying colors, shapes, sizes and prices of things, it seems the possibilities are endless. It can be overwhelming and it can cost a fortune. Setting up your new kitchen (or revamping your old one) doesn’t have to be stressful, and with a few tips, you can even find yourself saving money in the long run. We put together a list to serve as a guide for those who are thinking of venturing into the vast world of kitchenware. Our pro tip to you is quality over quantity. Invest in one good quality item once rather than having to purchase a lower quality item several times (and putting up with sub par quality in the meantime!).

Pots and Pans

Photo credit: Pixabay at https://www.pexels.com/photo/stainless-steel-cooking-pot-half-opened-45224/

Many stores sell convenient sets of pots and pans with lids that are worth looking into, but we narrowed the list down to three essentials:

 

Prep Tools

Cooking is a process that requires a lot of prep work and for this you must be prepared. In order to masterfully navigate any recipe, you need at least the following tools:

    • Chef’s knife – For chopping and other heavy knife work
    • Serrated knife – For cutting breads
    • Smaller paring knife – For small cutting jobs and cheeses
    • Cutting boards – A good cutting board provides a sturdy surface for you to chop away all your fruits, veggies and meats. Remember to use a different cutting board when going between fruits, veggies, poultry, fish and red meat – you want to keep cross contamination out of your kitchen!
    • Measuring Cups –  Dry and liquid. Keep in mind, you can’t measure dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup. This is where a scale comes in handy.
    • Measuring Spoons – Tablespoon/teaspoons
    • Scale – for extra precise measurements of dry ingredients.
    • Mixing bowls – Use to mix ingredients, toss and hold salads, or for baking purposes. Purchase in varying sizes for greater use. We prefer stainless steel ones that won’t hold odor or stains.
    • Can opener – You can get a manual can opener, or you can invest in an electric one. We recommend the electric one as it opens cans in the push of a button. Less work for you!
    • Colander – A colander comes in handy for draining pasta or any other boiled foods, like veggies or eggs. It can also be used as a rinser to clean fruits and veggies.
    • Grater – A handheld grater is useful for grating everyday things like cheese, carrots and ginger, but can also be used in a non-traditional way – that is, scraping the burnt parts off of toast.
    • Peeler – Time saver! A vegetable peeler makes peeling veggies safer and quicker.
    • Meat thermometer – A thermometer takes the guesswork away from cooking meats.

Cooking Utensils

These should be larger than your standard silverware set.

Wooden, metal, or silicone:

    • Forks/Spoons – For mixing ingredients, stirring soups
    • Spatula – For grilling, flipping, cooking eggs
    • Tongs – For picking up salad, noodles, bigger pieces of meat
    • Ladles – For soups and sauces
    • Whisks – For mixing batters, beating eggs, and whipping sauces

Baking

Kitchen Organization

By: Leticia T.

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How to Properly Store Leftovers

Unsure if food is spoiled
Unsure if food is spoiled

Eating leftovers is a great way to reduce food waste and save precious time. It’s important to practice proper food safety techniques when dealing with leftovers, starting from when you store them away. When you store cooked food properly, you elongate its shelf life and it can be enjoyed at a later time. The United States Department of Agriculture has set some food safety guidelines to ensure best practices when handling cooked foods. According to the USDA, bacteria grows the fastest between the temperatures of 40 and 140 degrees fahrenheit, also known as the “danger zone.” This means cold food must be kept below 40 degrees fahrenheit, and hot foods must be kept at temperatures above 140 degrees fahrenheit. You want to make sure the food is moderately cooled down before it is stored in the fridge or freezer, but it needs to be within two hours from removing it off the heat.

The USDA suggests the safest way to store cooked food is by cooling it rapidly and storing it in an airtight container. You can get a nice set of plastic or glass containers, and while there are pros and cons to both, it all comes down to preference. Both are adequate for proper food storage.  Our pro tip would be to invest in glass containers! They are safer for the environment and are way easier to clean. Glass containers do not absorb odors or oils like some plastic containers do, although plastic containers are more cost-effective. The fastest way to cool down food is by dividing it up into smaller parts and containers or Ziploc bags. Extremely hot containers can mess with the temperature inside the fridge, which may or may not taint the already stored foods. It’s not worth the risk, so please make sure the your leftovers are cooled down and stored in the fridge within two hours. It’s important to properly cover, seal and wrap your leftovers before putting it in the fridge or freezer to keep bacteria out, to keep moisture in, and to prevent odor absorption. Remember, after 3 or 4 days in the fridge, your leftovers might not be good, so take caution when assessing your containers of food. According to the USDA, food is safe to eat in the freezer indefinitely, but after 3 or 4 months it might lose flavor/nutrients. Keep this in mind when choosing which foods are still safe for your family to enjoy. In the fridge or freezer, your leftovers shelf life is preserved, if not extended. You can use this to your advantage as long as proper food safety techniques are applied when you store your leftovers. With properly stored leftovers, you can repurpose a meal and save time! Take it for lunch the next day or add some fresh ingredients for a fresh twist.

Another pro tip is to not eat out of the container that you store the food in. So, if you cooked a stirfry on Sunday and plan to eat it over the next couple of days, you want to take a clean utensil and move the food that you want to eat onto a separate plate to eat off of. Human saliva contains bacteria that can make leftover food go bad faster so you want to avoid contaminating the food and storage container that goes back in the refrigerator.

Lastly, if you are storing food in the freezer, try to squeeze out the air out of the ziploc bag before freezing. It will not only save room in your freezer but can also help prevent freezer burn.

At SomaFare.com, we use blast-chillers (which are specialized commercial grade machines that chill food very rapidly) soon after cooking the dishes which helps preserve maximum flavor and freshness of our dishes. All our meals are brought down to below 40 degrees well within the recommended time frames, allowing our customers to enjoy our meals throughout the week.

By: Leticia T.

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6 Tips for Managing Your Home Kitchen More Effectively

Cooking over stove happy
Keep yourself happy in the kitchen

Ever feel overwhelmed by a disorganized kitchen? We have some advice to help keep your home kitchen more organized and functional. Restore your sanity, improve your cooking productivity and even save money by managing your home kitchen more effectively. Here are six top tips:

 

  1. Clean as you cook

 

It’s always a good idea to “clean as you go,” washing dishes and wiping surfaces as you’re cooking, or waiting for water to boil, or letting the pan heat up. This helps minimize the clean up you have to do after. You can also be strategic about the order of your cooking so that you can minimize dishes – for example, chop all the vegetables first before the raw meat so that you don’t have to wash the cutting boards, knives and storage containers until you are done.

 

  1. Deep clean your kitchen on a regular basis

It’s handy to have disinfecting wipes for those nights you need a quicker clean-up, but every week, or every few weeks (depending on how often you cook), take some time to clean and sanitize your counters, wipe your stove, clean out the fridge and scrub your sink. You can use heavier cleaning products to rid your kitchen of germs and other food-borne bacteria. Finish it off by sweeping and mopping the floors, but take care to use the proper floor cleaner (wood or tile) to prevent damages.

 

  1. Cut down on clutter by investing in some organizing containers and shelves

Managing your home kitchen will be significantly easier if your kitchen is tidy – and it’s easier to keep things tidy if everything has its place. Resist the urge to throw all your utensils just into the drawer. Invest in some compartments like these that can organize your silverware within the drawer into forks, knives and spoons for example. Free-standing shelves like these can both organize and create more space in your cabinets.

 

  1. Invest in Good Quality Kitchen Tools and containers

Invest in a select number of high-quality kitchenware and resist the urge to create clutter by buying too much low-quality kitchen appliances that just take up counter space and don’t add much value. Everyday cookware like pots and pans, knives and sharpeners, cutting boards, thermometers, and blenders are worth the splurge. Good quality tools can also help save you precious cooking time. If your knife is sharp, chopping veggies is a breeze. Investing in higher quality tools can help save money in the long run, as you don’t need to replace or repair the tools as often.

 

  1. Prep for Meals in Advance

A pro tip that helps keep your home kitchen functional and manageable is prep work. Restaurants would not run as smoothly as they do without major prep done by the kitchen staff, hours before the restaurant opens. Applying similar prep tactics to your weekly menus that a restaurant uses to stay in business will ensure your kitchen runs most efficiently. Season meats and let them marinate in the fridge for maximum flavor. Chop and freeze fruits and veggies to save time on juicing, sauteing or baking. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re cooking, having a few favorites in the freezer prepped and ready to go can relieve a lot of weeknight dinner stress. Implementing time-saving prep work into your culinary routine can help you navigate your home kitchen smoothly.

 

  1. Repurpose Leftover Foods

A lot can be done with your leftovers that can save precious cooking time in the future and also helps eliminate food waste. Reheating leftovers is as simple as dinner can get, but if eating the same meal is not appealing, you can certainly repurpose your leftovers. Shred leftover meats and use them next day in delicious and hearty soups or stews, or you can put it in Ziploc baggies and freeze it up to a month. A cracked and scrambled egg can turn leftover rice and veggies into a quick fried rice dish in half the time it would take for you to get take out. It might be a good idea to learn how to properly reheat foods to get the most out of your leftovers. Even if it’s just reheating a plate, proper techniques can help you master your home kitchen.

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How to plan dinner for the week

Reading cookbook
Reading cookbook

I’m a planner by nature. I’m the type that for vacation, I have a template that I fill out beforehand with where to sleep/ what to eat/ what to see. So when it comes to dinner, I tend to get stressed when I don’t know what we are going to cook or eat beforehand. How will we know if we have the ingredients? How will we know if we have enough time to cook the dish? Starting to think about what to make for dinner at 5pm (when I’m already starting to get hangry) stresses me out. So naturally I plan dinner every week and here’s how I do it:

  • Create a Google spreadsheet and share it with your family members

Your spreadsheet could have eight columns – breakfast, lunch – protein, lunch – veg, lunch – carb, dinner – protein, dinner- veg, dinner – carb, and notes. And then down the left hand side are dates. I like to have a balanced meal especially for dinner (and lunch) so I have a column to make sure I’m planning for all the components. I don’t want to discover on Wednesday night at 7pm that all I have for dinner is steak and bread and no veggies. Some dishes will have all three, which is great! You don’t need to go crazy filling out the spreadsheet – if something doesn’t apply, then don’t fill it out. In the notes column, I will put down info like if someone won’t be home during that meal, a guest is coming, or you are planning to order out. You can also use a meal planner app, though I personally prefer the flexibility of my own spreadsheet.

  • Fill out the spreadsheet with the dishes that you are going planning to eat each night – see here for my view on how to plan a healthy meal

Each Friday, I populate the spreadsheet with dishes that we will eat for that meal. I also keep a list on a separate tab of my favorite dishes so that if I don’t have a good idea of what I want to eat on a particular day, I’ll just look at the list and pick one that we haven’t had in a while. For things like breakfast, it’s literally just eggs, fruit, bagels, peanut butter and jelly every day because that’s what my family eats for breakfast.

  • Create a grocery list based on the dishes

Based on the meals, I then create a grocery list by looking at the recipes for the dishes and adding some stuff I just want around like fruit. I then go through the list to see what we already have so that I don’t buy more than I need.

  • Go grocery shopping with your list in hand

You can also outsource this step with a service like Instacart.

  • Prep things ahead of time as you can

Despite many cookbooks with titles like “dinner in 30 minutes”, I’ve never found that they take only 30 minutes. The only way I’m even able to get close is to prep stuff ahead of time. Vegetables can be washed, peeled, chopped and stored away to be cooked right before eating. When I was growing up, peeling garlic was a family activity that we did while we watched Korean dramas.

  • Leave enough time for cooking

If you are doing a slow cooker dish, you want to remember to set it in the morning or evening (whenever you need to) so that you don’t arrive home and remember that the pork needed to be cooked for 6 hours.

  • Be flexible

Even though this article makes me look like a total control freak, I consider myself flexible (really! I am). I like having a plan (actually I need a plan) but it’s to just guide my direction in any given moment and as conditions change, plans change too. I usually make a little extra of each dish and also I only plan 4-5 days out of the week – the rest we eat out or eat leftovers.

If you are still reading this, you may have also reached another conclusion, which is that this is a LOT of work! It really is a lot of work, which is why most people aren’t able to do it, which contributes to food waste and negative impacts on the environment (Americans throw away 50% of the produce they buy), hangry-ness at 7pm and unhealthy eating habits. It’s one of the main reasons I started SomaFare.com– I’ve made it my full-time job to do this for my customers.

By: Jeanette P.

Posted on

Home cooked meals delivered in Boston

Sad about doing dishes
Spend less time cooking and get homestyle meals delivered

The home-cooking delivery service trend has arrived in Boston! These services offer convenient and relatively affordable access to food that’s good for you. Eating pizza and burrito takeout for the third night in a row is a thing of the past.  Home-cooking delivery consists of fresh and wholesome food, and even those who don’t have time or energy to spend on cooking can enjoy a delicious meal. Many places offer rotating menus, which means more variety without spending mental energy on meal planning or even trying to pick out what to eat from an endless menu. It’s also healthier than ordering take-out because these services tend to focus on high-quality proteins and vegetables rather than fillers like refined carbs.  That way, you can make healthier options, and pre-packaged meals are perfect for portion control. Some specific benefits of services like SomaFare.com include:

Being relatively affordable

While prices can run the gamut, there are certainly more affordable options that don’t cost much more than fast food. At SomaFare.com, a dish of roasted chicken plus a vegetable side runs under $15 per serving and is far healthier than most fast food options at that price.

There are plenty of good food options

Home-cooking delivery services are stepping up the culinary standard for prepped-meals. You can get dishes inspired by cuisine from all over the world.  Many places offer rotating menus, so you don’t have to flip through pages of menus to make a decision and you won’t get repeated food options for a while. You can still get simple meals like meat and veggies, but you can also switch things up and get Korean chili-braised brisket.

It works especially for those with dietary restrictions

Dietary restrictions are the new black, and since people are wearing them everywhere, the food industry is adapting. A few years ago, it was hard to go into a restaurant and find many gluten free, dairy free, vegan, or vegetarian options. Today, you can get a full menu delivered to you weekly that accommodates any and every restriction you may have. Whether you’re on a vegan roll, watching your salt, banning MSG from your diet,  or trying to reach weight loss goals, you’ll find the right service that caters to your needs. Many services, like Somafare, have a number of allergen-friendly dishes for you to easily pick which dish best fits your lifestyle.