I just completed a little survey of my audience. I did this to find out what you want to know and learn, and how I can help you get all you want and need from me. One of the most common ideas that kept coming up was not having enough time to make these healthy, delicious meals we are supposed to be making.
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!
Bleh! What a terrible way to start. As annoying as this may sound, it is super helpful and will take the stress out of thinking of what’s for dinner. There are 2 ways you can get organized to cut down on kitchen time:
- 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.
Added tip – try writing out your grocery list so that all the items from the same aisle are together and from top to bottom, so your list is the route you take through the store. I find that I can get home without forgetting something on my list, and that feels pretty good. It may sound anal, but I love this one!
Here is where the well-stocked pantry will come in handy. As you start to grow your healthy foods pantry, you will notice that you will need less because you already have a lot of it. I love that feeling.
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!
Let’s take it easy on ourselves! Just because something is in a can doesn’t make it bad. Having canned beans in the pantry saves so much time. You will just want to read the labels to make sure there is nothing added that shouldn’t be there. Ideally you want just beans and water.
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.
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Use Healthy Frozen Foods
Yes, they exist. Look for whole foods in the freezer like lone veggies or veggie mixes. These can be added to stir fries, casseroles, stews, or soups.
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
Ooooo. I’m getting all fancy on you! Not really. This just means that you have all of your ingredients measured out and ready to go before you start cooking. I have done this a few times, but find it hard to stick with. You may or may not find this works for you. One thing I love about it is how beautiful all the separate ingredients look when placed in bowls next to each other. It is photo-worthy!
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
There are times when I come home and hope that a little fairy has made a delicious, healthy supper for me. This has yet to happen, but it is all okay because I stock the kitchen with ready-to-eat veggies and mixin’s, so I don’t need to work too hard.
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
We have all made those recipes that turn into a week’s worth of meals. That is just too much for me, so I freeze the excess in serving jars and pull out as I want/remember. Having a full meal ready to eat in the freezer feels so good!
On the day of the week when you plan out your meals for the week and chop all the veggies and other goodies, you can also get some grains and/or beans prepared as well. This can be done at the same time as the chopping and doesn’t take much supervision, so it is a handy add-on tip! When they are ready, let cool, and place in air-tight container to place in the fridge so you can take as you need throughout the week.
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
Another boring one! This one has been a favourite of mine since I was a kid – you can just imagine my childhood, right?! When you wash the dishes as you are cooking, there is no added time going into the process. We are just using the time we are already using. Whoa. I like it worded that way more than multi-tasking – which is what it actually is.
The Slow Cooker Is a Miracle
This is so great for rainy summer days and any winter day. You put all the ingredients in the slow cooker before you go to work and when you come home, your meal is waiting. I guess this is the closest to the supper fairy I talked about earlier! Slow cooker meals are highly recommended.
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Our time is our most valuable resource and should not be squandered on things we don’t love. I want this post to be a new beginning for your relationship with meal prep and healthy food. It is totally possible to make all your meals and keep them healthy, fresh, and delicious and most importantly, to have time for all the things that make your heart sing. Who knows, maybe one day, cooking will be one of them!
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.