One of the biggest hurdles my clients have to stay on track with their eating plan is finding the time it takes to have healthy food on hand. You want to cook healthy meals for your family dinner, bring a healthy lunch to work, and make time for breakfast. Instead you find yourself running to a vending machine or convenience store every time you need a snack. How can you do it all? Try these time savers to get you started on the right track to healthy eating. Some will require advanced planning but, once you are in the habit it becomes a breeze.
1. Cut your cooking time
The multi cookers - These free up kitchen space by replacing up to 6 appliances and the pressure cooking feature allows you to cut cooking time down up to 70%. Aside from slow and pressure cooking, you can steam, saute, cook rice/multigrains, make yogurt, and even bake. They have been around long enough now that there are quite a few brands to choose from most of which have great reviews. Currently, Crockpot's version is selling for $25 less than the original instant potwith many of the same features. The only program it lacks over instant pot is the egg cooker. That one is on my wish list so if you would like to gift it to me, I'll send you my address ;) If you are looking to avoid using metals go with the Vitaclay organic multi cooker. I love natural options but, it lacks some features its competitors have. The Meykeyalso has a fry and pizza pre-set. It has 5 stars but, only 8 reviews.
2. Meal prepping
For more detail, check back in on next week's blog. In a nutshell, take a look at your schedule to find a chunk of time (2-4 hours) that you can devote to making multiple meals and snacks at once. This can be done on the same day each week. Many people make it a Sunday which falls in line with the weekend farmer's market (allowing you to know where you food is coming from, eat local, and sometimes save money). If your scheduled is varied you can certainly do your meal prep different days each week. Save even more time by dividing up each meal in separate containers you can grab on your way out the door if you do not work from home like me.
3. Keep snacks in your car or bag
For as long as I can remember I have kept snacks in my car. This was especially important when I was training up to 20 hours a week, and before I was fat adapted (see my post on my ketogenic journey in a few weeks if you're not sure what I mean). Most of us will get hungry at some point when we are away from our home. What you thought would be fast errands can run longer, you may get delayed at the office, stuck in traffic, forget to pack food, etc. By keeping a non perishable snack in your car or throwing it in your bag if you aren't driving, you can avoid the hangry monster within, wasted time running into a store, and the risk of falling off your eating plan when you can not find a healthy option in that gas station pit stop. One of my favorites has always been a sandwich bag with my simple nut mix.
4. Bring your food when traveling
Plan for your next day trip or weekend by packing a cooler with all meals needed. Bonus - this tip saves time and money too! My friends have always teased me for "bringing my grocery store" to my monthly PA visits. This has saved me more times than I can count. I have extended stays, eaten beforehand when the restaurant the group picks didn't have options that met my needs, and stuck been at airports for hours. I'll never forget being stuck on a delayed plane happily nibbling on trail mix when the guy across the aisle asked if he could have some. It was more than a little awkward to figure out if I'd let a stranger stick his hand in my bag or my own reaching over to dispense the coveted snack in his hand. Don't be that guy. Be prepared.
5. Freezing food
If the meal prep option leaves you overwhelmed, just make an extra few servings or double the recipe you are cooking and freeze the left overs. Things like casserole, slow cooked meat, lasagna, burritos, soups and stews, pancakes, the list goes on for possibilities. Some meals, it is best to freeze the components separately into meal kits. For example, freeze a sauce for the stir fry in a sandwich bag. Lay out the blanched vegetables on a parchment lined cookie sheet allowing to freeze before moving them to a gallon size bag. Throw the smaller bag of sauce in the gallon bag and label as stir fry.
6. Buy frozen
Frozen vegetables save you a lot of time and are just as fresh (sometimes more so than fresh produce). Keep your favorites stocked and you will never have the excuse to skip those micro nutrient dense foods again. You can microwave them to save even more time. Health tip: always microwave in glass to avoid leaching the toxins from plastic into your food. Although home cooked is always best, there are some very healthy options for full meals. Be sure to check not only the nutrition label but, the ingredients list as well to make sure there isn't anything lurking in there you shouldn't be consuming.
7. Go electric
Maybe you envision doing everything the way your great grand parents did it but, those electric gadgets were created for a reason. I love my nutribullet for more than just quick smoothies. I make batters, puree cauliflower for a mashed potato alternative, grind nuts, mince garlic, and more. I save both time and money using my food processor to make my own nut butters. Of course you can use it to mix larger batches, and a more accurate chop to vegetables than the nutribullet too.
8. Smoothies for meals
You can substitute a smoothie for your most time crunched meal. I love my nutribullet for these! You can even blend these the night before or throw all the ingredients in the night before then blend in the morning for an easy portable breakfast. Replace the blades with a to go lid on the mixer cup and your out the door in no time. For the smoothie ingredients try adding a handful of greens first, some fruit or avacado, liquid of choice - almond milk, coconut milk, water, coconut water, and some protein powder. I am partial to this veganone with my green smoothie. Or for more of a dessert flavor try some peanut or nut butter, coco powder, sweetner, liquid, and whey protein.
9. Join a meal kit delivery service
I have tried and enjoyed Hello Fresh and if it is affordable for you, I think these services are a great option. There are a few companies that you can pick from now. You pay more than you would for ingredients alone. However, if you want to have home cooked dinners with less planning, less meal prep time, while adding variety, and money as not as much of a hindrance, go for it! It will defiantly save you time. Along this theme, you can use a grocery delivery service if it is available in your area. Unfortunately there are none in my area. I have started using the grocery pick up at Walmart and this has certainly saved at least an hour each week. Click here to save $10 off your first order!
10. Meal planning
This can take more time initially so you may be wondering why it is on the list. Imagine you get home from work and scan the fridge trying to figure out what you can throw together fast for dinner. You throw in the towel and order take out full of not so great for you ingredients or end up wasting money on unused produce by the end of the week. Taking a few minutes to write down what you will cook each night saves that hectic end of the day dinner frenzy. I have used Real Plans for a year now and it saves me even more time because it does the meal planning and grocery list for me. I have tried all sorts of yummy new recipes in the process. If you pay for the full year up front it is only $6 per month. Score! I do not get any kick back from them, I just love the system.
If you found these tips to be helpful or tried some out after reading this, let me know by commenting below.