Every day on our Hotline—one of Food52’s oldest, coolest features—curious cooks ask questions that the experts in our community answer. Often the questions relate to a specific recipe, but we get open-ended queries, too, like this one from Katie McDonald:
Katie, your days of ramen may not be over just yet, but we can help you add more home-cooked meals to your week. Let’s start with the tips from the three Food52ers who offered their advice on our community-fueled forum.
Nancy, who often lends her expertise on the Hotline, suggested adding a few cookbooks to your library including Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubb’s A New Way to Dinner, which includes grocery lists and meal plans for up to 16 weeks of menus.
She also recommends mastering just a few key recipes in the beginning, which will help you develop your techniques and make grocery shopping easy. Some of these basics might include:
Make Planned Overs, Not Leftovers
As Miss_Karen points out, “it helps to think of leftovers as ‘planned overs’ since cooking for just two can be tricky.” In other words: Think in advance about how you can turn your dinner into tomorrow’s lunch—that roast chicken could become a chicken salad or simple chicken fried rice.
Invest in a Slow Cooker
“If you don’t already have one, put a crockpot on your wishlist,” says Mcter1. “My favorite [slow-cooker recipe] is inexpensive pork loin with BBQ sauce for pulled pork.” Put it in before you go to class, and dinner will be ready when you get home for dinner with leftovers or “planned overs.”
Prep Your Vegetables
Our last bit of expert advice come from our Test Kitchen Director Allison Buford. Kale and broccoli make regular appearances on her weekly menu, and as soon as she brings them back from the store, she de-stems, trims, washes, and stores hers—wrapped in paper towels—in her produce drawer, so they’re ready to use anytime.
She has a go-to cookbook for beginner home cooks, too:
“When I first started and I didn’t know anything about cooking,” says Allison, “what I found helpful was Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Any questions you might have, as simple as you think they may be, it was a huge help in laying the foundation for how to cook everything.”
Some of our Favorite Weeknight Meals