If you want to eat healthier but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen, I wrote this article for you. One of the biggest barriers to eating well is the extra time it takes to prepare home cooked meals from scratch. Even with some time saving tricks, prepping meals with fresh, real food does take more time than opening a box of Kraft Dinner or going to a drive-thru. But, I think you and your health are worth it, and I hope you do too.
Here are 4 time saving tips to prepare healthy, nourishing meals for you and your family:
1. Meal Plan. Each week, create a rough plan of what you’re going to have for dinner each week. Yes, this takes time, but it’ll save you a lot of time at the grocery store. Planning ahead also takes away the need to decide what you’re going to have for dinner when you’re tired at the end of the day (and less likely to make a healthy choice). For a more details on how to meal plan, plus meal planning templates, go to www.tanjashaw.com/10.
2. Use some processed foods. Eating real food doesn’t mean you have to grind your own oats or grow your own lettuce. While it may be best to eat fresh, local food, it’s not always realistic. Consider buying pre-chopped or frozen veggies, pre-washed salad, low-sodium canned tomatoes, and canned beans. Healthier condiments are also available at the store: look for salad dressings (read the labels and look for ingredients that you can pronounce), low sodium tomato sauces and marinades to create quick, tasty meals.
3. Always make extra. It takes only slightly more time to cook a double, or even triple batch of a recipe. Pack some of the leftovers in containers for lunches or another dinner in the week, and freeze the rest. You could also make a large stew or soup when you have a bit more time, perhaps on the weekend, simply to stock your freezer. Be sure to label the containers with contents and the date! When roasting chicken or cooking meat, also make extra to use for other meals during the week. You can also cook extra rice ahead of time and freeze it.
4. Chop veggies ahead of time. When you look in the fridge for a snack, you likely don’t feel like chopping a plate full of veggies. I get it! But, if you had veggies already pre-chopped, you’ll be more likely to eat them. Once a week, invest 15 minutes to wash and slice carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and other veggies so they are ready to eat. I pack them in containers so I can easily take one to work with me each day.
5. Get a slow cooker. Throw in a few ingredients in the morning, and come home to a warm, nourishing meal. When you find a delicious, easy recipe, bookmark it so you remember to make it again.
There’s no doubt: healthy eating requires a bit more planning, preparation and time. But, these time saving tricks can get you leverage the health and money saving benefits of cooking at home in a fraction of the time.