“Don’t be afraid of messing up and try everything at least once.” – Melanie
Having a busy schedule, Kitchen Hero Melanie found eating out a lot more convenient than spending time to track down good recipes and cook at the end of a long day. Yet, when she recently decided to work part-time to pursue her passions in grad school, figuring out how to save money while under time constraints was a must. Learning how to eat healthy as a student doesn’t have to be hard if you have fast recipes for affordable meals every day. Our time-saving hacks have given Melanie and her partner a streamlined process to save hundreds of dollars each month by cooking at home!
City, State: San Diego, CA
I cook for: myself and my partner.
Outside of the kitchen I: am a student and do part-time social work involving relationship and sexual violence.
The strangest food I have ever eaten is: maybe cow tongue or snails. Not that weird, but very delicious!
I cook because: it’s fun, healthy, and cheap!
Favorite CS meal so far: There’s too many to choose! I really like the fake-out take-out meals like General Tso’s Chicken.
How did you learn to cook?
I always helped out with cooking or baking during holidays as a kid, so that helped me to not be scared of the kitchen. I didn’t really start to cook on my own until my early twenties and typically always follow recipes. My extended family also teaches me something new every time we get together. At this point, new techniques don’t scare me so I’ll try anything even if it seems hard!
What’s been your biggest cooking challenge?
Dishes. I try to create as few dishes as possible because I don’t have a dishwasher. It’s a trade-off in the kitchen to decide if I want cooking to go quickly or if I want clean-up to go quickly. One of the things I’ve done is have a very large cutting board so that I don’t need to get my prep bowls out for quick meals.
[Cook Smarts] allows me to have the variety that my previous lifestyle afforded me through eating out, but at eating-in prices. We save hundreds of dollars a month just by following the Cook Smarts meal plans instead of eating out.
How has your cooking routine changed since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?
So I used to have a really hectic schedule but recently made some significant life changes. I quit my full-time job to go back to school to pursue my passion for social work. My partner and I used to eat out a lot and we would only cook a handful of times a month. With our new income, we needed to make a lifestyle change and part of that was adding in home-cooked meals.
I was never good at picking things to make and would usually choose things that took way too much time and money. Cook Smarts has taken the thinking out of it for me which has allowed me the freedom and efficiency to cook nearly every day. It allows me to have the variety that my previous lifestyle afforded me through eating out, but at eating-in prices. We save hundreds of dollars a month just by following the Cook Smarts meal plans instead of eating out.
Another side effect of this has been that instead of eating calorie laden take-out, I’m getting that same variety at reasonable calorie counts. It’s curbed my cravings and I’ve lost a ton of weight!
Tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.
Successfully making puff pastry on my first try. I used it to make palmiers and they were amazing! My next go-round I made a galette des rois, which also turned out great.
What are your tips for health and success in the kitchen?
Don’t be afraid of messing up and try everything at least once. Having the right tools and a well-organized kitchen are a must and make the entire experience much more fun.
Thank you so much for sharing your cooking stories with our Cook Smarts community, Melanie! We are truly happy that our meal plan service has been good to your budget and makes each week a bit easier as you study and do significant work for those who have experienced relationship and sexual violence. You are an inspiration!