Monday, July 4, 2016

Too Busy To Cook Healthy? Think Again... - Tips

One of the first excuses I hear when healthy cooking is mentioned, is "I don't have time to cook" or "it is too much chopping and prepping." With a little planning ahead, you can make cooking healthy a breeze. I have great time saving tips for you. There is no need to buy packaged foods, or pre-made stuff with unhealthy ingredients. Cooking fresh can take you 30 minutes or less in the kitchen when you plan ahead. 
I work 40 hours a week and am the primary cook in the house. Coming home from work and spending hours in the kitchen is not something I want to do, yet we need to eat. We rarely go out to eat, so every meal needs to be cooked, and fresh is best. 

Plan your meals ahead. Take a few minutes to plan out the weekly menu. If you follow FMD, this is really crucial for the first few months. Planning ahead saves time later in the busy week and makes grocery shopping easier. This also ensures that you have every ingredient you need. There is nothing worse than wanting spaghetti for dinner, and realizing you don't have garlic. This also saves time worrying and discussing what to have for dinner. You have a list of meals to choose from, you know the ingredients are in the pantry, you are good to go. 

Spend a couple of hours every week prepping ahead. Today, I pulled out the food processor and sliced a few carrots, a few celery stalks. I shredded a few more carrots, celery and chopped some onion. I will use these this week in turkey burgers, taco filling, soups, salads, stir fries. These three- mire a poix - are staples in so many dishes I cook and they last for days in the fridge. I spent maybe 15 minutes with my Kitchen Aid and it will save a lot of prep later. 
Note: I do not cut bell peppers or cucumbers ahead, as they tend to get soggy and mushy after cutting. I will, however, cut extra on Monday evening while prepping dinner, if I know I will need them Tuesday evening. They will keep a day or so. If you have Cauliflower Fried Rice on the menu later in the week, you can even chop your cauliflower and it will keep several days. Review your dinner menus and see what you can prep. While you have the food processor out, do it all at once, as long as the chopped food will keep. 

Buy meat in bulk and prep it. I buy large family packs of chicken, whole pork loins, whole chickens. When I get it home, I cut the chicken and pork into the portion sizes I need, some I cut into cubes for tacos or stir fries, then freeze in containers. This way, I don't have meat to prep to cook dinner. Just thaw and season, and it is ready to cook. Buying in bulk saves money, as I will explain in another post with my money saving tips. You can even add marinades and spices to the meats you will roast and bake. 

Portion out your snacks into reusable containers. Whether it is berries or nuts, carrot sticks, celery sticks, hummus, nut butters- take some time to get them ready. This helps with remembering what to eat during the FMD phases, and keeps you from the frustration of forgetting a snack. 

If you have freezer space, cook double batches and freeze half for another meal later in the month. Chili, pasta sauce, soups- they all freeze nicely. All you need to do is take them out the night before to thaw and then reheat. 

Make enough dinner for lunch the next day. If you follow FMD, this does require thinking and planning ahead- you don't want to cook extra sweet potatoes for dinner the second night of Phase 1, since lunch the first day of Phase 2 doesn't include these. But the meat you cook could work nicely in a terrific salad for lunch. 

Prep your grains for FMD. If you bake your own bread, get it done on Sunday. I usually make hamburger buns for the week, and a loaf of bread to eat in Phase 1 (super easy stir and bake wheat bread) and prep my oats. I measure out the oats into wide mouth mason jars, add cinnamon and water, stick it in the fridge. Then Monday and Tuesday morning (or whatever days your Phase 1 falls on) all I have to do is dump it into a pan and heat while I shower. 

Use your crock pot!! You can cook a whole pork tenderloin then use it for 2-3 meals through the week. Roast pork and sweet potatoes one night. Pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and cole slaw another night, and pork tacos a third night, for example. Cook the pork with simple seasonings- salt, black pepper, a little garlic. Then when you make the other dishes, you can season the meat differently. The same works great with chicken. Cooking meat with no fuss during the day saves a lot of time! If you don't have a crock pot, you can use a Dutch oven in your oven, with a lid, on low temps. 
You can use your crock pot for marinara sauce, soups, stews. Throwing the ingredients in the pot in the morning and come dinner time, you are almost done cooking!

This all sounds like a whole day's work- but it really isn't. Once you get into the groove of the prep, you can knock it out in no time. Enlisting the help of your kids will encourage healthy eating, and learning to cook and eat healthy is invaluable. 

What other time saving prep tips do you have?




4 comments:

  1. You are brilliant. Bless your soul!!!

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! Antipodes

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  3. Where can I find your "super easy stir and bake white bread" Thanks!

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  4. Sprouted wheat bread recipe on my blog

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