So, you're trying out this whole new healthy life style thing but find you're plans derailed by the amount of time you must spend preparing and cooking. Cooking meals seemed fun for the first week of this new-and-improved-you, but now it's eating up your free time and life is getting in the way. So, do you revert back to your old ways of convenience meals and eating out? Sure, if you want to continue on the same unhealthy path you were striving to get away from. If you're desperate for change, but struggling to find the balance of life, kids, husbands, work outs and cooking... read on. These tips will be your saving grace!
Prepare Food in Advance
This may seem obvious, but perhaps you're not exactly sure where to start. The more meals that you "prep" the less you will have to make on a daily basis. For instance, I like to make these Banana Carrot Muffins on Sunday's for a breakfast option all week. Or if you are more of a savory palate, try this Egg Bake. These are fast and easy ways to make breakfast for the whole week. If you're like me, I wake up and head straight to the computer to start my work day. Quick and easy is exactly what I need. You should do the same with your lunches. Whether you work from home or at the office, preparing lunches for the week will help you to avoid fast food runs, skipping lunch or grabbing whatever is near. I typically pick any salad and make it 5x and have it packaged into containers and ready to go.
Part of the hassle of cooking is the prep work it takes to simply put the meal together. On Sunday's, upon unloading the groceries from the car, I pre-cut veggies that I will need for the week and store them accordingly. This forces me to actually use them instead of opting out of it just because it takes up front work to add them to a meal. If you aren't exactly keen on pre-chopping the vegetables yourself, you can often find pre-chopped veggies in packages at the store. If it doesn't bother you to fork over a few extra dollars, this is a great alternative for the busy cook!
Make Freezer Meals
With a time consuming baby and me being the only cook in the household, freezer meals have been the best thing since Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes in the fall. Instead of letting food go to waste, if you know you aren't going to get to the rest of it that week, package it up and freeze it! All too often, I'd make a crockpot meal only for us not to finish and would throw the rest out. NOT ANY MORE! I work way too hard to balance showers, feedings, workouts and cleaning to waste anything from a spare minute to a bowl of roast beef. The past two weeks I've put meals in the freezer that we weren't going to get to. Give me another week and my freezer will be so full I might not have to go to the grocery store!
I cooked an entire fillet of salmon (for myself for the week) and it was still too much to finish so I froze it and ate it the following week. I was astonished by how good and fresh it tasted after thawing. This was my official AH-HA moment for utilizing the freezer in a way I hadn't imagined.
FREEZE your COOKED meals. Do it. You will never look back!
Always Have Options on Hand
See 'Make Freezer Meals" :). But also, I always have simple options ready to go for busy nights or on nights I don't feel like slaving away in the kitchen! Back up options for us are usually in the form of left overs or sandwiches. I always try to make more than just dinner for two, specifically for this purpose. This used to get me in trouble (with my guilty food-wasting conscious) but then... freezer meals. If we don't end up needing the left overs or if we get sick of that particular dish, it finds a nice, cozy home in the freezer until next time!
Buy Simple Snacks
It doesn't get much more simple than fruit, nuts, yogurt (watch the sugar content!) and string cheese. If you're feeling motivated though, hop on over to my Guilt-Free Sweet Treats file and make some of those goodies. I usually have a combination of both ready for when hunger strikes! I always make large batches and freeze the extras.. that way I'm not tempted to eat more than I should be and convenience of course.
Here are some helpful hints:
Crock pot, crock pot, crock pot. I use this weekly. You can "cook" large quantities of healthy food with relatively little leg work. I say "cook" because really you're just exercising your abilities to chop and throw. Chop the veggies, throw 'em in the pot, 8 hours later... every thing you chopped and threw magically becomes dinner.
Invest in a good knife set. The right tool for the job saves a lot of time and headache. If you've been cutting your vegetables with a steak knife, I totally understand why you're about to throw in the towel. But before you do... knife set :)
All of these steps require some sort of storage. You should have so many containers that they need their own drawer/cabinet. Pyrex containers are by far the best I've found (I try to stay away from plastic). They come in all shapes and sizes and are dishwasher safe!
I know cooking, baking and meal prepping isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea, but there's multiple benefits to taking on the challenge. You'll save calories and equally as important- MONEY! Following these steps should make the process easier for the less than motivated meal prepper :)
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