One of the biggest barriers to entry for those wanting to take on healthier eating habits is the PERCEIVED amount of time it takes to make healthy nourishing meals. There is often a prejudice to well prepared, healthy meals that sounds something like, “That’s great but I don’t have time to be spending hours in the kitchen.” I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but that’s because I like to experiment with recipes, make herbal blends, ferment my own veggies AND I run a food blog. The amount of time I spend in the kitchen preparing the average meal is often less than 15-30 minutes!
I plan ahead by preparing food for the week!
My main tools:
- Stock pile the fridge with ready to eat or partially cooked food.
- Crock pot for broths and stews
- Always cook for more than one meal (plan for leftovers)
- Plan meals at least once a week and plan market trips – make a list.
This “stockpiling ready to eat food” business is actually quite simple. The idea is that you prepare a bunch of food at least once a week that you can then easily grab and put on a plate or stick in a tupperware if you’re on the go. Yes, it is true that food is most nutritious when it is freshly made but I’d rather eat food that I made in the past few days than eat something that comes out of a box or eat take-out that who know’s what sorts of additives or rancid oils (vegetable oils) the restaurant is cooking with. My favorite staples are eggs, quinoa, root vegetables, caramelized onions, shredded carrots/beets, and sweet potatoes. I like to spend about an hour prepping all this on Sunday and a refresh on Wednesday.
- EGGS: Hard/soft Boil them. Here’s an online course on everything you need to know about egg cooking! I’ll often keep at least a few hard boiled eggs in the fridge – portable food! Get organic/free range pasture-raised if you can find it. Everything else is totally gross.
- QUINOA: Make 5 servings of quinoa. One serving is a little over 1/4 cup so 1.5 cups is perfect. I like to soak quinoa for a several hours or overnight with a little lemon or vinegar, then rinse well before cooking. This dissolves the saponins that may inhibit proper digestion of the seed (yes, quinoa is a seed). After soaking cook in a covered pot with around 1.5 cups of water (more water means softer quinoa). Usually quinoa takes more water but less water is needed because you were soaking it. Then bring to a boil, turn down to low, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Let it cool for a bit then put it in a container and stick it in the fridge! BONUS: instead of using water use bone, fish, or veggie broth.
- STEAMED ROOT VEGGIES: Root veggies are not locally available year round but when they are they store rather well and if you really want to you can cheat and get imported roots. Beets, carrots, celeriac (celery root), rutabaga, and parsnips are among my favorites and the most widely available. Yes, sweet potato could be in this category but I’ll get to that later. You can either steam root veggies or bake them. Steaming holds in the nutrients a little better. To steam them, cut them up into bite sized morsels. Then put them in a pot with a steamer basket in it and a couple inches of water at the bottom. Cover the pot and steam at medium-high. Different roots require different steaming times. Beets: about 30-50mins. Carrots: 10-15mins. Celeriac: about 15-20. Refer to this chart for other veggies (ignore the microwave part.) When you serve them you can heat them for a couple minutes or have them cold. Make sure to have them with some sort of fat though. Ghee, butter, or olive oil drizzled on the veggies will help you assimilate the important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K).
- CARAMELIZED ONIONS: One of my favorite things to have stocked in the fridge is caramelized onions and they’re really easy to make. Here’s a great blog post that shows the best way to cut an onion and tips on caramelization. I would leave out the sugar – no need. I make them with a mixture of olive oil and ghee.
- SHREDDED CARROTS/BEETS: This is as simple as it sounds – just shred some carrots and/or beets and stick ‘em in a container. It’s best to use these within a day or two though. You can sprinkle this on greens or as a garnish to many plates.
- SWEET POTATOES: Ok, so here’s my favorite favorite! There’s the orange sweet potatoes and the ever-so-delicious boniato aka Japanese sweet potato. Get a whole bunch of them, rinse ‘em, stick ‘em in the oven at 450 for 50-60 minutes. You’ll end up with beautiful little packages that are easy to peel and very nourishing. The “meat” of the potato shrinks and caramelizes. Sweet potato is actually lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes even though they’re certainly sweeter. I always keep a bunch of these in the fridge. They can serve as snacks or an addition to a portable lunch along with other portables like avocado – self-packaged food!
I’m not gonna get into crock pot magic too much here because I’m saving that for another post. But, suffice to say that the crock pot is your always-on, automatic cook. Check out this post’s recipes. Need a crockpot? Crock Pot 4-1/2-Quart Slow Cooker
These are just a few ideas of things you can have handy in your fridge and crock pot to make eating healthy easier when you are juggling 500,000 multitasks throughout your week. I find that my time prepping my fridge for the week is great for sorting out my busy mind and quite relaxing.
Stop making excuses – just PLAN AHEAD!
A really great and simple book that covers a lot of this:
It’s rather tongue and cheek title is telling of the sort of voice in the text but its chock full of useful food and health tips.