Gabrielle: Quick Home Cooking for the Family
If you’ve been wanting to avoid eating out to save money and eat healthier, Gabrielle’s cooking story is a total inspiration! This Kitchen Hero has learned how to not eat out as much anymore and discovered countless benefits of eating at home.
With 2 young kids at home, it’s often easier to just opt for take-out or eating out, but Gabrielle has realized how much time she really saves each week without having to make various restaurant, take-out, and drive-through trips. Keep reading to find out how this month’s Kitchen Hero navigates picky eaters, makes satisfying vegetarian dinners twice a week, and keeps every meal quick and manageable with an organized cooking process.
Name: Gabrielle Smith
City, State: Fort Worth, Texas
I cook for: myself, my husband, and my 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
Outside of the kitchen I: spend a lot of time at my desk at home writing for work. I love spending time with my family . . . both my kids and husband, and extended family, whenever I can. I enjoy reading, yoga, and lifting weights. And eating, of course!
The strangest food I have ever eaten is: rabbit-rattlesnake sausage at a barbeque restaurant.
I cook because: I feel better when I eat food that I have prepared at home, and I love creating a meal at the end of a long workday. It’s almost like stress relief for me. It is also important to me to use cooking as an opportunity to teach our children about the value of different types of food.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: For me personally, the Lentil & Roasted Sweet Potato Salad. The entire family likes the Chipotle Sweet Potato & Quinoa Chili and the Hungarian Chicken Paprikash though. But really, everyone loves Cook Smarts at our house, we have so many favorites. Even my three year old will at least try most things and she’s super picky.
We’d love to get a peek into your cooking routine. What is your daily / weekly cooking routine like? How do you tackle shopping, prep, and leftovers?
Every Friday (Saturday morning at the latest), I plan all of our meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for the upcoming week and make one giant grocery list (Cook Smarts has made this so much easier!). I normally go in one grocery store with a list, and place an online order with a second grocery store for the other items to get the best prices. I pick the online order up on my way home from the grocery store I actually shop inside of, normally on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
My daily cooking routine is often thirty to forty-five minutes as soon as I get home from picking my daughter up from preschool. I pull out all of my ingredients first, and follow the steps on my computer or phone. On days when I know we will not have time to prepare a meal, I try to double up a meal earlier in the week to eat for leftovers later in the week or reuse a protein so that prep time is reduced. I rarely do the weekend prep for Cook Smarts meals, but sometimes I will prep for dinner while cooking breakfast.
We try not to have leftovers, but I do generally double one meal during the week so that we have something to eat on our busiest day later in the week (normally Wednesday or Thursday). My husband and I will eat leftovers for lunch on the rare occasion that we have them.
What’s been a big cooking challenge that you’ve recently conquered, and what is something you’re still working on?
I love to eat pinto beans, but I have never been able to make dry pinto beans that were not too salty. I can make lentils, red beans, white beans, black beans, but my pinto beans were always horrible. Last month, I conquered the challenge. I’m still working on organization of spices and gluten-free baking. I would really like to make my own gluten-free bread at home as it can be fairly expensive to buy in stores.
What are your best tips and strategies to deal with picky eating?
I encourage my kids to at least try a little of everything. If they decide they do not want to eat what I have prepared, I have something on hand for them to eat, normally beans and rice and broccoli / carrots, because I feel it is important for them to eat something and also to respect their preferences to a degree, but it is also important for my husband and I to enjoy our meals as well.
“We almost never eat out now. We have such variety with Cook Smarts, and the recipes are so simple to follow that eating out is more of a chore now than eating at home.”
How do you make cooking / meals a family activity?
My kids are very helpful and love to help me cook. Especially on the weekends, they often help with measuring (also math skills!), pouring, mixing, washing dishes, cleaning the floor, etc. We all sit down at the kitchen table and eat breakfast and dinner together most days. I take my six year old to the grocery store with me sometimes, he is actually pretty helpful! I want them to see and understand that food is part of life, and that most of your food should be prepared at home. I sometimes let them choose meals. If they have a special request, I try to incorporate it into the meal plan for the upcoming week.
What’s been the biggest change in your family’s cooking / eating routine since starting Cook Smarts?
I would say there are two. We almost never eat out now. We have such variety with Cook Smarts, and the recipes are so simple to follow that eating out is more of a chore now than eating at home. Another change is that we eat at least two vegetarian meals per week, and no one complains about missing meat!
What tips do you have for parents with busy schedules who want to make nutritious meals for their family?
The biggest tip I have is to plan NOT to eat takeout. I look at the entire schedule for the upcoming week and try to pick meals that fit the amount of prep time I will have on a given day. Often people say they grab fast food or takeout because there is no plan, or they don’t have time. Or, they really do not have time to make the meal they wanted to make that day. But honestly, when we started eating more takeout last fall thinking we were “saving time,” I started timing the process of getting dressed, driving to a restaurant, waiting in the drive through or for table service, eating, and then driving back home, it would still take an hour or more. If I plan, I can have a meal on the table at home in thirty to forty five minutes, eat in my comfy clothes, and not drive home afterwards, and save so much money!
The other thing I would suggest would be to try new things. Before Cook Smarts, I did not regularly use shallots, never poached an egg, and would not even think about making a vegetarian meal for the entire family for dinner. Now I have done all of these things, and still look forward to learning more!
Gabrielle, thank you so much for giving us a peek into your organized kitchen! We know your journey of saying goodbye to eating out and hello to vegetarian meals will inspire our cooking community. We wish you the best of luck with current spice organizing and gluten-free baking goals – we know you can do it!