Sara: Sharing Smart Cooking Methods

“I put a lot of thought into what meal I’m cooking which day of the week because I have to plan to use my leftovers on days I know I can’t cook.”

After being introduced to our meal plan service by a friend, Kitchen Hero Sara just couldn’t keep it to herself! She quickly got her mom and sister a subscription and now the whole family is a part of our community. Keep reading to find out the many ways Sara’s cooking habits have changed since starting Cook Smarts – everything from being adventurous with ingredients, to acquiring knife skills and saving money every month.

Name: Sara Velasco
Ages: 34
City, State: Angier, North Carolina
Favorite CS meal so far: So hard to choose just one!! We love the Jambalaya, Huevos Rancheros, and Chicken Pot Pie Soup in our household.

1. We always love to see parents and siblings using Cook Smarts, so give us a little window into your family and how you all ended up using our meal plan service.

I got into Cook Smarts first! A high school friend told me about it, I gave it a try and was addicted. Then I got a subscription for my mom to try the following Christmastime. After that she gifted my sister with a subscription.

2. Whether fun, disastrous, successful, or hilarious, what is one of your favorite cooking moments with your mom and sister?

We all 3 actually live in different areas so we don’t typically cook together. However, we do share meal comments between us and how we chose to modify the meals. When I was younger, sometimes my sister and I would help our mom out with baking things like cookies . . . We hardly ever had success making no-bake cookies correctly (either too runny or turned out like crumbs). 🙂

3. Now let’s give our readers a peek into your kitchen. What are your daily / weekly cooking routines like? How do you tackle shopping, prepping, and cooking?

For me, every Sunday afternoon is when I go grocery shopping (with a full-time job and a kiddo there’s not really any other time to go). I take advantage of [Cook Smarts’] grocery list feature so I use my phone with the list throughout the store when shopping. When I know it’s going to be a busy week, I try to prep a little bit on Sundays. I love the prep feature but I don’t always get my act together on Sundays to do it all. Sometimes I just buy frozen veggies to make it easier to throw in and cut down on prep time.

I put a lot of thought into what meal I’m cooking which day of the week because I have to plan to use my leftovers on days I know I can’t cook (for example, I might have meetings after school or Thursdays my daughter has dance class). All this planning has drastically cut down the amount of times we grab fast food, so overall I think we cook healthier and have saved money.

4. On the practical side, what are 5 basic or advanced kitchen tools that are must-haves in your kitchen?

Blender, good set of knives, Dutch oven, salad spinner, and prep / mixing bowls. I use all of those on a regular basis for almost every meal. I’ve loved the versatility of the Dutch oven (making something on the stove and then being able to directly transfer to oven).


“All this planning has drastically cut down the amount of times we grab fast food, so overall I think we cook healthier and have saved money.”


5. How has Cook Smarts helped you to become a better cook and overcome cooking challenges?

I’ve gotten better with my cutting skills.

I’ve changed a few things around so I have access to certain key kitchen items in drawers around my stove / oven so I don’t have to go back and forth across the kitchen as much.

I’ve become more adventurous with the spices and crazy veggies that previously had never bought (i.e. parsnips, kale, chard . . . never cooked with a single one of those previously). I love getting weird looks from the cashiers at the grocery store and they are always like, “What is this? And what are you making with this??!!”

I’ve also gotten better being able to manage my time while cooking. So while the main dish is cooking, I often use that time to clean up and by the time the meal is ready, I’ve pretty much cleaned up the kitchen so there’s not much left to do once we eat!!

6. Now let’s end with some words of wisdom! If there was one tip you could give to anyone who wanted to try our meal plan service, but didn’t know where to start, what would it be?

Spend time checking out the features because the features (like prep suggestions and grocery list) are what help save me time and money. And you can easily substitute tons of things. Once you cook a lot of the meals, you’ll naturally start to feel confident about how to modify and add / delete certain ingredients that you don’t like or can’t find. Don’t stress if you can’t find an ingredient locally; you can always modify and most of the time the meals still turn out totally fine with either putting another similar ingredient or just leaving it out.


Thank you for giving us some insight into your kitchen and your family, Sara! We are so grateful that you got your mom and sister to use our meal plan service and are thrilled that our features have helped you save time and money. We hope you keep having fun stunning your grocery cashiers with all of the adventurous veggies you get each week!

To join Sara and cook meals like her favorite Jambalaya, Huevos Rancheros, and Chicken Pot Pie Soup, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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