Make no mistake about it—I do NOT consider myself a good cook. I cook, and it’s edible, but it’s sustenance; it’s not art. That’s about it. So as I write this post, I have to clarify that this is not about cooking so much as it is about efficiency. Funny, huh? I even turn cooking into a time management post. But I thought this would be a perfect combination of the time management theme that I have been writing about for the past several posts and my 30-day challenge, which is to eat at least three nutrient-dense fruits and/or vegetables a day.
I said to my friend Hannah the other day that I hate to cook. Then I quickly corrected that. I don’t hate to cook, I hate to wait. When I am hungry, I want to eat NOW. Unless the food is already prepared, this “NOW” attitude could be problematic. So, for the most part, I try to keep my frig stocked with food that’s just minutes away from eating. This short post is about how I do that.
First of all, this 30-day challenge has taught me that I have to keep “the good stuff” available and ready to eat. It’s got to be as convenient to eat the good stuff as it is to eat chips and cookies and junk (and on another note, I have to keep “the bad stuff” unavailable—as in, not in the house!). As I began my 30-day challenge, I made a grocery list, and of course it included the fruits and vegetables that I like to eat, not the ones that I thought I should eat. Fortunately, I happen to like a wide variety of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. I focused on the brightly colored foods, knowing that these were the ones richest in antioxidants.
I bought enough fresh foods to last me at least a week. When I steamed broccoli, I didn’t just steam enough for one serving. No, I cooked the whole bunch of it so it was prepared and ready for other meals throughout the week. When I chopped veggies for a salad, I would chop the whole cucumber or bell pepper or whatever and store the various items in their separate little containers in the frig, so when ever I was so inclined, I could feast on my own instant salad bar. Whenever I turn on the oven, I rarely bake or roast just one item. I usually have a different vegetable on each rack. When I bake sweet potatoes or white potatoes, I always bake at least four and wrap the leftovers in foil for later in the week. I discovered that a hardboiled egg makes a salad much more filling to me, so I boiled several and stored them in the frig. Now, when I get hungry, I am more likely to make myself a large spinach salad with all the trimmings than I am to rummage around the pantry for some junk food.
You may be wondering, “Where’s the beef?” (For those who don’t laugh when you read that statement, it’s because you’re not old enough. It’s a line from a fast food commercial back in the ‘70s. I guess you had to have been there.) I pan broiled a couple of skinless, boneless chicken breasts (on another occasion, thin-sliced strip steaks) in a cast iron skillet (all meat is better cooked in a cast iron skillet in my opinion) and, after cooking, I cut them up into bite-sized pieces and stored in the refrigerator. When I had salad, I would add a little of the meat to make it a little heartier. Other meals, I would have a baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and a few pieces of the chicken or beef—just enough to convince my brain and my chewing muscles that I was indeed having meat with the meal. Quite honesty, it was sufficient. Eating this way started weaning me off meat as the main part of my meal and, instead, made it complementary.
For snacks, I keep baby carrots and hummus around. It is on the top shelf of my refrigerator. When I open the door looking for something to crunch on, it’s the first thing I see. I also keep other healthy snacks in plain view—walnuts, fresh fruit, etc. I find that keeping the good stuff in view is half the battle (the battle of choosing the good over the not-so-good, that is).
In short, you can see that I eat simply, but I do eat a hot, home-cooked meal most days. I just don’t happen to cook it right before I eat it.
Do you use this same style of cooking in bulk for several meals at a time? Or do you have another method that enables you to eat healthily without consuming all your time in the kitchen? Please do share in the comments!