Five Tips for Cooking Healthy with Little Time
One of the most common reasons I hear for not eating healthy is lack of time. I completely understand this! Preparing good food takes a whole lot longer than throwing a pre-made package into the microwave! And eating out is not the easiest (or most cost-effective!) way to eat healthy, either! So what’s a health-conscious person to do?
It is incredible how much time a little planning takes out of meal prep. I like to plan my weekly meals ahead of time and shop accordingly. Then when it’s time to fix dinner, all I have to do is check my meal plan (which I keep on my phone) and prepare whatever is there! It takes all the guesswork out of deciding what to eat tonight, as well as eliminating the stress of trying to find something that is healthy and tasty and that I have all the ingredients for on hand.
2. Use a Free Moment to Prep
I have found that the most time-consuming part of meal prep is cutting, chopping, and measuring. Find some time either earlier in the week or earlier in the day to do some of this while you are talking on the phone, watching a show, or just bored (just had to put that option in there!). I know many people prefer to do this on the weekend and then store the prepared ingredients in the fridge in small containers.
Another important time-saving prep step is to preview your meal plan the night before and take out any foods out of the freezer that need to thaw. You can also make a note of anything that you may have ran out of unexpectedly and need to pick up on your way home from work or picking up the kids. This will prevent you from having to change course last minute because you ran out of beef and meat loaf is on the menu.
3.Save New Recipes and Experiments for the Weekend
If you have a new recipe that you are dying to try, but it takes three hours to make it or you're not sure whether you can actually pull it off the first time, do yourself a favor and wait. At some point, maybe next weekend or next year when your kids go to summer camp, you will have time and fewer distractions. You will enjoy the process more and you won't have to come up with an emergency plan B if it doesn't turn out right!
4. Pair Recipes with Prep Time in Mind
It can be really hard to fix multiple courses for one meal when you are on a tight schedule. So when it comes to preparing your meals, try to pair recipes that work well together.
For example, if you are making a roast in the slow cooker, that would be a good time to add a more involved side dish and maybe dessert to your dinner. Having the leg work of the main course done already will free up enough time to spend a little extra on the rest of the meal.
Conversely, if your main dish is a stove top stir fry with noodles, you may want to skip the dessert or make it ahead.
Many main courses are baked. While the oven is running is a great time to put together a salad or saute some green beans!
5. Utilize Leftovers
Leftovers have somewhat of a bad name. They shouldn't! One of the easiest ways to save time and eat healthy is to fix double for dinners and eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Another great option is to make several batches of your meals on the weekend, and freeze extras for later in the week.
It's also quick and easy to cook up some extra meat while you are fixing dinner. If you are making taco meat for taco salad tonight, make a double batch and use the rest later this week for taco soup! This way the leftovers don't really feel like leftovers, but you are still reaping the benefits!
Eating healthy can definitely be challenging, but finding ways to save time and prepare ahead will make it so much easier and enjoyable!