Preparing Fast, Healthy and Delicious Meals in Less Time
I don’t know how or why or even when it happened, but it seems like everyone I know is super busy. The number-one reason people tell me why they don’t eat well or exercise is lack of time. When I share my quick-meal tips with clients, they come back to tell me that using this advice actually saves them time, while helping them look and feel their best. So why not give it a try? You’ve got nothing to lose (except maybe a few pounds) and more time to gain!
1. Cook once, eat twice (or more) You may have heard me say this before – it’s the best way I know to make mealtime most efficient. Some of us refer to this approach as “batch cooking.” Here’s what you do:
• Pick a cooking day. Instead of cooking every night -- pick a day or two when you’ll make the recipes for the week ahead. Sure, you’ll spend a little more time in the kitchen on your cooking day(s), but you’ll get an extra hour or two the other days (or evenings) of the week. I recommend you also prepare snacks and lunches on your cooking day. I cook on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons – works for me.
• Double or triple your recipes when cooking. When you prepare more than you need for one meal, you have plenty to pack for lunches and you’ll find that dinnertime is fast and easy. Learn to love leftovers!
2. Have it your way. Try different ways to eat the same meal – if you’re grilling chicken breasts, make extra to chop and include in salads or soups. If you’re cooking quinoa, take some of the leftovers and add cooked spinach or kale, beans and raw veggies to it for a quinoa-based salad.
3. Plan ahead. We all know we shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, but you also shouldn’t go without a list. The only way to have the most effective list is to plan your recipes for the week and get everything you need for those meals.
4. Invest in quality storage containers. Now that you’ve made extra food, you want to package it in single-servings or family portions, then freeze or refrigerate it. Don’t forget to label and date the container – I use glass containers with seal-tight lids, mailing labels and a Sharpie for this task. Then when you’re ready to prepare, just take out the number of containers you need for the number of people who’ll be eating with you; warm it up, and serve. See what I mean by less time in the kitchen on the other days of the week?
5. The freezer section is your friend. Many grocery stores carry high-quality frozen vegetables, fruits, fish, grilled chicken, and more. This will significantly reduce your cooking time and ensure you always have something healthy and fresh to eat.
6. Stock your kitchen with standbys. Foods I always have on hand include: greens, beans (black, pinto, cannellini, garbanzo), eggs, frozen chicken breasts, pre-cut carrots, peppers, and celery, avocados, salsa, hummus, almonds, oil, and vinegar. The pre-cut and pre-washed veggies really help reduce my prep time. With these standbys on hand, I can always make a salad or lettuce wrap. I also keep my kitchen stocked with almond milk, oats, quinoa, and bananas (which I freeze if they start to over ripen and use in my smoothies).
7. Prepare for the next day tonight. If you pack a lunch, select your favorite mix of leftovers the night before, and pack it in an insulated lunch box. Include everything you’ll need to enjoy the meal at work, school, or wherever you’ll be for lunch. Also include your snack(s) and water.
8. Buddy-up and swap meals. Make arrangements with a family member, friend, or neighbor to cook and swap. You make one soup or meal and they make another and you split them in half and share.
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It seems like such a simple concept, but when we're busy, we need to actually plan what we're going to eat so we don't just eat anything that crosses our path. This planner will help!