Meal

Ask the Readers: Do You Plan Your Meals?

Meal planning is a great practice for frugal families. When you plan your meals around ingredients that are on sale or that you already have, you end up wasting less food saving more money.

Do you plan your meals? What are some of the difficulties you’ve encountered in meal planning? If you don’t meal plan, what other strategies do you use to save money on food?

Tell us if you plan your meals and we’ll enter you in…

Save Time and Money With These 15 Delicious Sheet Pan Meals

Feel like you’re constantly stuck in a dinner rut? Don’t turn into the drive-thru lane again for a quick dinner solution. Instead, use sheet pan meals to cook a delicious dinner, all in one pan.

The best part about sheet pan meals is that there are endless options. Below are 15 recipes, but feel free to tweak them to your desire. These meals are practically foolproof. (See also: 10 One Pot Meals That Will Transform Dinner)

1. Ultimate Chicken Nachos

Nachos can’t really be dinner, can they? You bet they can, and your family will love you for it. Spread an overlapping layer of chips on your metal sheet pan, then top with grated cheese, cooked chicken pieces, diced tomatoes, corn kernels, and canned pinto or black beans. You can even add sliced jalapeños if you’d like.

Bake at 400º for 10 to 15 minutes. Immediately sprinkle chopped cilantro on the finished chips. Top with your favorite wet ingredients (sour cream, guacamole, salsa, etc.) and enjoy!

2. Ratatouille

You won’t miss the meat in this dish. Use a mandolin or vegetable slicer to save time. Cut Yukon potatoes, zucchinis, yellow squash, and eggplant into small coin shapes. Next, open a can of tomato puree and add a thin layer on your sheet pan. Season with salt, then arrange the sliced vegetables in an overlapping fashion. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Bake the ratatouille for 35 minutes in a 375º oven. Sprinkle with goat cheese and serve with crusty bread for a complete meal.

3. Lemon Garlic Salmon and Green Beans

Baking salmon on top of green beans, or a vegetable with a similar cooking time, makes for a yummy, heart-healthy meal.

Layer the green beans on a nonstick sheet pan. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup of olive oil, the juice of two lemons, a dash of salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning. Dip the salmon fillets in the oil mixture and then lay them skin side up on the green beans.

Broil on high for eight to 10 minutes. Make sure the oven is fully hot before sticking your fish in, and check the fish at the eight-minute mark. It should flake easily with a fork.

4. Cilantro Lime Chicken Fajitas

Cut raw chicken breasts, onions, and bell peppers into strips. In a bag or bowl, mix ½ cup of oil, ¼ cup lime juice, finely chopped cilantro, and a packet of taco seasoning….

People Waste More Food If They Have the Option to Compost It

We throw out a lot of food in the U.S.—an estimated 30 to 40 percent of our supply. To prevent uneaten meals from ending up in landfills, some choose to dispose of scraps by composting them. However, as Co.Exist reports, this well-meaning approach can backfire: According to a new study led by researchers at Ohio State University, diners who know their leftovers will be turned into fertilizer don’t try as hard to reduce their food waste during a meal.

Led by Brian Roe, an agricultural, environmental, and developmental economics professor, and OSU graduate student Danyi Qi, the experiment observed 266 participants as they ate a self-serve meal of sandwiches, chips, and apple slices. They were allowed to take as much food as they wanted, but they weren’t allowed to share meals or save any leftovers. At the meal’s end, researchers weighed diners’ trays to measure how much food they left behind.

Before the meal, subjects were given some reading material, either educational pamphlets about the environmental harm of food waste (this made up the “educated” group) or information about financial literacy (the “uneducated” group). However, around half of the participants in both groups were informed that their waste would be composted, while the rest were told it would end up in a landfill.

Diners who didn’t…

A Quick History about the White House Executive Chef

Virginia Woolf once wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” That’s especially true for the president of the United States. If you’re going to run a country without losing your mind, then you’re going to need some really good food to get you through the day. Of course, that begs a simple yet significant question. Who’s in charge of putting dinner on the White House table?

Well, that task belongs to the White House executive chef. Since 1961, only seven people have held this prestigious position. Working with a surprisingly small staff, the executive chef is the one who keeps the first family healthy and happy. Plus, when an emperor or prime minister shows up for a swanky White House party, the chef has to make sure all those powerful palates are sufficiently sated.

Sure, it’s incredibly stressful, but when it comes to culinary accomplishments, there’s no job more important than cooking for the president of the United States.

Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and staff, 2005. By The White House (Shealah Craighead) [Public domain], via

As you might imagine, applying for the position of head White House chef is a pretty competitive endeavor. Cooks from the nation’s best restaurants and hotels send in their resumes, and if you’re singled out from the pack, it’s time to impress the first lady.

Chef Henry Haller got the gig one day after interviewing with Lady Bird Johnson, and Walter Scheib won the position by preparing a meal for Hillary Clinton. Similarly, Cristeta Comerford had to come up with a menu to impress Mr. and Mrs. Bush. (Past that, the White House is kind of secretive about the selection process, so we’re all a bit in the dark when it comes to impressing the first family.)

If you’re lucky enough to land the gig, the job starts at 6 a.m. each day, ends well after midnight, and there’s no pay for overtime. The chef takes home somewhere between $80,000 and $100,000 a year, and they earn every single penny. In addition to feeding the first family, the executive chef is also in charge of preparing meals for White House parties and important banquets. Depending on the evening, the chef might be cooking for A-list celebrities, national heroes, foreign dignitaries, or even royalty.

As part of the job, the executive chef oversees three separate White House kitchens. The one located on the second floor is for the president and his family. (The food here is all paid for by the president, and that goes for the meals served at private parties, as well.) Head down to the ground floor, and you’ll find Kitchen #2, which is dedicated to big banquets. And underneath the main level, there’s Kitchen #3 [PDF], which is where all the pastries are made. While the executive chef isn’t in charge of the desserts, she does coordinate menus with the executive pastry chef. A sous chef takes care of the Mess Kitchen for staff in residence.

While the numbers have fluctuated over the years, the present-day executive chef only has a staff of about five people. Naturally, during large events, extra chefs are shuttled in to help feed all the guests. But the State Department also lends a helping hand by sending memos to the executive chef, detailing what food items foreign dignitaries will and won’t eat. The chef also gets inside information because she’s a member of Le Club des Chefs de Chefs, a group of 23 men and women who earn their membership by serving as the personal chefs to heads of state. In addition to keeping world leaders healthy and happy, these cooks meet every year to swap tips and recipes.

But even before Jackie Kennedy created the position of executive chef in 1961, presidents had to eat. So who did the cooking?

A long line of people operated the commander-in-chief’s stoves and ovens before 1961, including slaves, servants, and sailors. America’s first presidential cook was a slave named Hercules. Some think he might have been trained by Martha Washington, and he spent his days cooking at George’s home in Philadelphia, where the capital was then located. (Hercules escaped to freedom when Washington was preparing to retire.)

Several other Founding Fathers—including Thomas Jefferson—relied on slaves to keep their kitchens going. (John Adams, on the other hand, hired a white couple by the name of Briesler to make his stews and puddings.) Even after slavery came to an end, African-Americans played an important part in keeping the president full. For example, Benjamin Harrison made headlines when he fired his French chef and employed a Black chef named Dolly Johnson, and women such as Ida Allen, Mary Campbell, and Lizzie McDuffie all cooked for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Some cooks served under multiple administrations, such as Alice Howard, a woman who prepared meals for Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. And finally, one of the last White House cooks before 1961 was Pedro Udo, a Navy man who served under Dwight D. Eisenhower and impressed the first lady with his ability to decorate cakes.

But that all changed when the Kennedys moved into the White House and created the position of Executive Chef. For the first time in American history, a professionally trained chef had an official government position, cooking meals for the first family and preparing elaborate banquets for parties, state dinners, and events like the Easter Egg Roll. The First Lady chose French-born René Verdon to fill the post.

Verdon was tapped for the job while working as an assistant chef at New York’s Carlyle Hotel; Jackie Kennedy learned about him from the chef of one of her favorite restaurants, La Caravelle, and it seems the man was a perfect fit for the Kennedy White House. He often chatted with the first lady in French, kept the president supplied with his favorite soup (New England clam chowder), and baked cookies for their daughter, Caroline.

When he wasn’t feeding the first family, Verdon could be found harvesting vegetables from the gardens he’d planted on the White House roof. He used his homegrown herbs and mastery of French cuisine to dazzle various heads of state, such as Harold Macmillan, the British prime minister.

However, much like a stereotypical French chef, Verdon could be difficult to work with. For example, while preparing to serve 132 guests at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, he threatened to quit when he spotted workers pumping the air full of mosquito spray. But after Secret Service agents offered to taste all the food to ensure no one would die of DDT poisoning, Verdon whipped up a meal of avocado and crabmeat salads, among other dishes. The evening turned out to be Verdon’s favorite state dinner.

After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, things changed pretty dramatically around the White House. Lyndon B. Johnson wasn’t a fan of French food; he preferred hamburgers and chili. Verdon was understandably upset and once famously declared, “You can eat at home what you want, but you do not serve barbecued spareribs at a banquet with the ladies in white gloves.” The relationship between Verdon and the Johnsons worsened even further when a food coordinator was hired to cut prices by stocking the kitchen with frozen and canned vegetables.

One of the final blows came in 1965, when Verdon was asked to serve a cold puree of garbanzo beans. The chef responded that that particular dish was “already bad hot.” At around the same time, the food coordinator was steering Verdon to recipes found in a series of cookbooks. Insulted, Verdon turned in his resignation. The chef fled to San Francisco, where he opened a renowned restaurant called Le Trianon.

Henry Haller with Betty Ford, 1974. By The White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After Verdon left the Johnsons in limbo, the White House turned to Henry Haller. Born in Switzerland, Haller had previously worked at Manhattan’s Hampshire House and made a name for himself in the New York food scene. When offered the chance to cook for the commander-in-chief, Haller seized the moment.

The chef quickly discovered that the president was not especially conscientious: He often told Haller that a dozen guests were coming to dinner that night with just a few hours to prepare. But Haller stayed on and was executive chef for 21 years, feeding five presidents (including…

This AI Egg Timer Can Help You Prepare Meals & Cook Recipes

Feel overwhelmed every time you set foot in your kitchen? The makers of Hello Egg hope their new product will help you whip up homecooked meals with confidence. As VentureBeat reports, the egg-shaped digital assistant uses AI to guide users through every step of the cooking process.

Unveiled by the startup RnD64 at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Hello Egg is like Google Home or Amazon Echo for your kitchen. The screen, usually animated with a charming cartoon eyeball, can also project text and video recipes as you cook. Hello Egg offers audio guidance as well, and if you ever get…

This Artist Creates Awesome Cartoon Character Meals

Preparing cute (and often cartoon character shaped) meals for kids is a popular pastime among parents these days, but some of their edible art creations really stand out from the rest.

That’s because food artists like Laleh Mohmedi have a knack for combining custom shaped ingredients on a plate to form fantastic likenesses of famous…

Taking a Look At the Calorie Counts of Your Favorite Fast Food Menus

Fast food is notoriously bad for you—and a major factor in America’s obesity epidemic—but not all drive-thru visits are equal, health-wise. On Flowing Data, stats nerd Nathan Yau crunched the numbers to figure out how different fast food restaurant menus stack up in terms of calorie counts, as WIRED recently highlighted.

Unlike some other breakdowns that compare the calories of specific fast food items or meal combinations, Yau’s visualization takes all the major menu items into account so you can see in general terms how…