Save Money—Bake Potatoes

You work hard and want to save money and simplify your life so when you get home after a long day, you can relax. But day in, day out, you still have to eat, and eating out costs too much, yet eating at home means cooking, and cooking takes time—and you just finished working an entire day! So how can you remedy this age-old problem? Well, if you pre-cook ingredients, like potatoes, at the beginning of the week, your weekday meal is that much closer to being ready. The best part is, potatoes are filling, nutritious, keep well, play nicely with most meats, can be made many ways, and are inexpensive.

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So, are you making potatoes at meal-time, or do you get most of the potatoes in your diet when you buy fries at a fast food joint? If you’re making them, then how? Are you peeling and boiling them? Mashing them? Making hash browns, scalloped potatoes, home fries… these are all great, but even just baking a potato is time you’d rather be relaxing.

It isn’t a mystery why fast food is a go-to for many people’s on “those nights” when you’re starving and can’t imagine doing more work just to eat. The idea of peeling potatoes, thawing meat, and sautéing fresh vegetables is exhausting. Good homemade meals aren’t hard to make, but they take time and planning, and when you’re driving right past the burger joint or taco place, it’s so easy to swing into the drive-thru so you can walk in the door like a superhero with bags of warm food in hand.

If you do that a few times a week, viola, you’ve set an unhealthy precedent for your kids and succumbed to the addiction that is fast food. You’ll be hooked on Mc-whopper-nachos, and it’s hard to break that habit. And you know as well as anyone, you’re spending a lot of money on fast food, and probably gaining weight, too. So, why not make a conscious effort to do some planning and cook ahead as much as you can?

Often, people think of cooking ahead as making whole meals for the fridge or freezer. Five containers of lasagna, six containers of Chili, four containers of Enchiladas, etc. That’s fine and it works, but you can pre-cook ingredients as opposed to entire meals. Then you can use those pre-cooked ingredients to make meals quicker and it allows flexibility to make whatever you’re hungry for, not what you were hungry for the day you cooked.

For instance, if you brown a pound of ground beef, or cube up ham, or cook a few chicken breasts on a Sunday and put them in the fridge, you can use those proteins however you want throughout the week. In the same way, you can make a batch of baked potatoes for the fridge at the beginning of the week to use in a variety of ways later. From those baked potatoes, you can make quick scalloped potatoes, potato salad, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato soup, potato pancakes, potato dumplings, twice baked potatoes… I could go on, but you can google recipes. The point is, you have a cooked potato sitting there in its own little natural wrapper just waiting for you to undress and do with it as you will. Slice it up, mash it, cube it, fry it, cover it in sauce, sauté it with onions and corn, toss it with mayonnaise, put it in soup; it’s hard to go wrong. Four baked potatoes in a fridge can mean mashed potatoes with a meatloaf on Monday, and potato salad to have with a ham steak on Thursday.

So, go ahead. Throw five or six spuds in your oven, let them cool, then store them in your fridge. You’ll thank me a few times over the next five days and save money, and more importantly, you’ll have extra time with your family which is as good as gold.

Note: Clean your potatoes and poke or slice holes in them before baking to let steam escape. Baked potatoes will keep in a refrigerator for five to seven days.

For recipes and ideas try “Leftover Baked Potatoes” on Pinterest.