This is a great topic because it effects everyone at some point. I go through periods where I would rather stuff my face with a frozen pizza than take the time to cut up veggies. I don’t think anyone can say they haven’t had days like that, although, if you have never experienced this, please get a hold of me because I want to know how you do it!
While I cannot stop time (surprise, surprise!), I can pass on some tips to help you spend less of it in the kitchen and more of it doing the things you love. Eating healthy takes time, but there are tweaks we can all make to decrease it a little. At the same time, food is necessary for survival, so spending time preparing healthy, loving meals is okay, and you are worth it!
- Pantry layout and stocking
Think of some foods that are non-perishable that you love having around for when you want them. This can be dried pasta, canned beans and veg, spices, dried herbs, grains, common oils…
When you have these items on-hand, it is easier to put meals together. If the day comes when you don’t know what to eat, go to the pantry, grab your favourites, and toss in some veggies. A well-stocked pantry is a beautiful thing.
- Plan your meals for the week on the weekend
This one takes some time to get used to, but is very helpful. Take some time on the weekend and just map out what kind of meals you want to have during the week. Look through recipe books, online, any resource for meals and jot down the recipes you want to make with the list of items you will need to buy.
Armed with your list, now you can go to the grocery store and get all you need for the week.
Using Canned Food Is Okay!
Most of the time there is salt added, and you want to watch out for this sneaky devil. There are some brands that have no salt added and these would be the best choice, but if all you have is the salt versions, check out the ratio of calories to sodium which ideally is 1:1. If the calories per serving is 200, then the sodium level should be 200 mg or less. Some say you can remove some salt just by rinsing the beans, but I wouldn’t count on this.
EDTA is an additive used in a lot of canned food. It is used as a preservative and is said to be safe, but I like to err on the side of caution and purchase products without it.
There are definitely products that contain just the food with no additives. This may take you a few minutes to find good ones, but you will know for the next time and it will get quicker. Beans, corn, and tomatoes are some examples of healthy canned food.
If you find that you want to save that extra moolah and go for the dried beans, there are time saving ways to cook them. You will need to soak them overnight in filtered water and then drain and rinse once or twice in the morning. Add them to a crock pot/slow cooker and let them slowly simmer all day. When they are soft, remove from the crock pot, drain and rinse, and add to small jars.
I like to save the glass nut butter jars I buy because they are the perfect size for my use. I fill the jars to about an inch of the top, let them cool, and then freeze. You will have perfect beans whenever you need them. The key with the frozen beans is to think ahead so you pull them out of the freezer so they have time to thaw.
I like to know exactly what is in my food, so making my own is my preferred choice, but I can see why some may shy away from it. The slow cooker is really quite amazing. You just turn it on, let it do its thing all day, and voila – cooked beans.
Use Healthy Frozen Foods
You will also find bags of fruits in the freezer too. You will want to make sure that the labels on these are free of any additives as well. With frozen foods, you should just see the actual foods on the label.
Mise en Place
Another way to save time when you are cooking is to read and understand the recipe ahead of time. Know when certain things need to be added, so you don’t have to waste time referring to the recipe for each step.
Prepare Your Veggies For The Week
When I bring groceries home, I chop some of the veggies so that they are all ready to add to my meal. This can be any foods you need for your planned meals so the prep is done or even foods that you commonly eat so they are ready when you don’t have a plan.
There are some vegetables that are not good to chop ahead because they go bad quicker like cucumber, peppers, and tomatoes.
Rinsing greens and then storing them in an air-tight container with a tea towel will help them last longer as well as have them all ready to go when you need them. Kale can be de-stemmed as well as Swiss chard and any other greens with a strong stem.
Having a dressing or two in the fridge also helps a lot. Prepare quick dressings in a mini blender and store in a little mason jar to have ready at a moment’s notice.
Freeze The Extra
Grains will last the week as will beans, but it is a good idea to watch them because they do go bad eventually.
Wash Dishes As You Go
The Slow Cooker Is a Miracle
With all this new found time in your week, what great things are you going to get up to? I would love to hear some of them, so leave me a comment below. I like to add more reading, relaxing outside, and hanging out with friends, and to be honest I spend more time in the kitchen, but it is on fun things I have been wanting to try but haven’t yet. I love the days I can experiment in the kitchen for a few hours.