Many of us have crazy, busy schedules; yet we want to cook healthy meals for us and our family. Problem is, how can you balance the demands of the day with preparing healthy meals?
The key for me is planning and organization! Without them I’d be calling out for pizza a lot more than I usually do! Planning and organization make the following tips easier to implement.
1. Plan dinners for the entire week. Before I even head out to the store, I plan out the dinners I’d like to have in the week ahead. I ask my husband what he would like. I go through my recipe files, I write down necessary ingredients on my shopping list.
2. Shop for groceries the same day every week. This is what works best for me. It keeps me organized. I usually shop for groceries on Saturday mornings, early enough to beat the majority of the crowds! Plus, I just don’t enjoy going to the grocery store more than once a week to pick up forgotten items. I’ll end up filling the shopping cart with other things I really don’t need. That’s not very cost effective in my opinion.
3. Cook in bulk! I tend to cook a large dinner on Sundays. I either freeze leftovers for a later time, or my husband and I will eat the leftovers during the week for lunch and/or dinner. This means I have fewer dinners to create the rest of the week!
4. Always remember: the crockpot is your friend. The crockpot is a marvelous way to have a healthy meal without spending a lot of time preparing it. My husband and I love to make stews in our crockpot. I don’t even use a recipe! I’ll just throw in some stew meat, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes (with the skin on – saves time and adds nutrition), canned tomatoes, and lots of seasonings – pepper, garlic, Italian seasonings, etc. Sometimes I’ll add beans or a sweet potato, or some barley – whatever I have on hand and whatever inspires me at the time!
5. Keep the meals simple. I believe it’s very realistic to whip up a healthy and delicious meal in no time. Chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice isn’t difficult or time consuming to make. Just get the brown rice cooking and leave it be. Chopped up a couple of thawed chicken breasts and start cooking them in a pan with a touch of oil. Chop up whatever vegetables you like (or add frozen vegetables if you’re in a time crunch) and add them to the pan. Add whatever seasonings you like (salt, pepper garlic, ginger, soy sauce, curry, Italian seasonings, the list goes on!), cook until done. Viola! You just created a healthy and tasty dinner!
Sometimes my husband and I will share a plate of turkey, low-fat cheese, wheat crackers, and pears or apples. It’s so quick and easy, not to mention fun. Now all I need is a glass of wine and a deck overlooking the Mediterranean!
6. Delegate! Get the family involved. Have someone grab ingredients, shred cheese, chop vegetables, or set the table. It saves time and allows you to concentrate on what’s cooking on the stove!
I confess I really enjoy cooking, but there is one inevitable task that I will gladly delegate, and that is washing the dishes! I don’t enjoy washing dishes – at all! But amazingly, my husband doesn’t mind this task. He even offers to wash the messes I make with the pots, pans, and cooking utensils! Oh, good man! I will gladly cook if he cleans!
7. Prepare select foods in advance. I like to chop up an onion, a red pepper, and a green pepper and then freeze them for future use or on days when I’m pressed for time. The little bit of advanced preparation really does save time! There are other vegetables you can wash ahead of time, cut, and have ready to go. You can also use frozen vegetables. I usually have a bag of corn and peas in the freezer to add to dishes.
For meats, I tend to buy different kinds at the supermarket and them freeze them at home. I like to have a ready supply of chicken breasts, fish, lean ground beef, and maybe some low-fat sausage. I’ll also keep cans of beans or dried lentils in the pantry. Now I’m ready for almost anything!
I also like to thaw meats in the fridge the night before or at least in the morning before I go to work. Knowing what I want to cook that night lets me know what kind of meat to thaw. It all goes back to planning and organizing.
Finally, there are some days I just like to go out to eat with my husband or a group of friends or order that pizza. It’s just fun to do! And because we eat home most of the time, going out is even more special.