Eating healthy is too hard and too time consuming. It is so much easier to just grab some quick snack that is already made and get on with my day.
No, I haven’t gone crazy, and no it was not me who uttered those words. But I have heard every variation of this complaint when it comes to eating well. In fact I know that this is a big issue that keeps a lot of people from giving up their junk food lifestyle and eating healthy. People just don’t have time in their busy lives to sit there and prepare their own meals and snacks. While I am not diminishing all the hard working, busy people out there, I believe that everyone has enough time to prep their own food and snacks. I do it every week, and there are a ton of other bloggers out there who are just as busy as you that do it too. Check out Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean, who posts tons of pictures and recipes for her week of eating.
My point is that with a little planning and a little bit of time one or two days a week, you can make sure that you eat healthy the whole week. Sure, it does take a little effort, but I argue that the effort is well worth it in the end. Your good health counts on it! This week I am going to invite you into my kitchen and share some of the foods/tips I use to have a successful healthy week of eats for both Adam and I!
Plan it out. My number one tip for eating better is to take a few minutes and write out your menus for the week. I’m weird and I like to plan way ahead and have the whole week of dinners written out so I know exactly what I am making each night. You don’t have to write out a detailed menu for every single meal for the week, but creating a general plan will help eliminate the frantic 5:30 rush to find something to put on the table. This usually leads to throwing something unhealthy (think: frozen pizza) into the oven just to feed the hungry masses slobbering away at your kitchen door. When you have a rough plan of your meals it makes it that much simpler come eating time. I do my grocery shopping on Friday’s, so on Thursday I usually write out a weeks worth of dinner and then make my grocery list. I don’t do any fancy new recipes during the week and I stick to simple dishes. If I want to try something new I save that for my weekends when I have more time. Some examples of a typical weeknight meal are frozen fish (tilapia, salmon), steamed veggies and brown rice. Another favorite of Adam’s is a skillet scramble that usually consists of potatoes, eggs, beans, salsa, various spices, and anything else in the fridge that looks good. Keep it simple and easy and that will make your nights a breeze. No need to be a gourmet chef every night to eat well.
Pick a prep day. Like most people I work Monday-Friday and don’t have much extra time during the week. So I take one day over the weekend and I get as much food prep for the week done as I can. It usually takes me only about 2 hours at the most to get what I need to get done and for some of my prep I can do two things at once. A typical prep day will include making quinoa breakfast bars for Adam, hard cooking eggs for snacks during the week, making roasted chickpeas for lunches, cooking brown rice or quinoa for dinner sides, cooking dried beans, and cutting up vegetables for lunches and dinners. Simple steps like this make it so easy during the week to just grab the prepped food and be on your way. When I first started utilizing a prep day it took me a little longer to get everything done. But as I did it each week I got faster and more efficient at my routine and now it is just habit to get all the stuff done that I need to. Don’t give up if it seems like you are in the kitchen forever when you first start out, once you get your rhythm the steps will fly by and you will be done before you know it!
One magic word: LEFTOVERS. Seriously, learn to love and use leftover food. This habit alone will make your life 10 times easier. Plan to make a little extra food for your dinner and voila! You have just created lunch for the next day. Remember how I mentioned my best friend the slow cooker last week? On the weekends I make three big crockpot meals that provide us with leftovers for the entire week. I also make extra vegetables for dinners during the week and those also get used for lunches or as sides for another dinner. Leftovers have been a major help in our life and keep us eating healthy at every meal!
Now that I have given you my three biggest (and in my humble opinion most helpful) hints, I thought I would share my refridgerator/freezer/pantry with you to give you some visuals on how I stock/prep for the week!
First up we have my freezer:
I buy big bags of frozen fish (top left corner) from Aldi. This saves money and time because it is so easy to grab a piece of tilapia or salmon, season it, put it in a baking dish, cover and bake for 20 or so minutes. Remember, you don’t need to get all fancy for your week night meals. I also have frozen veggies, that I steam for quick sides. I also have individual bags of beans that have been cooked and frozen (top right corner). These are so simple to throw into any dish, from soups to scrambles to salads, and they are so easy to make in your crockpot. There are also some frozen pork chops that I make for dinner for Adam some nights (bottom left corner) and frozen homemade bread for Adam’s breakfast toast (bottom left corner).
Next up, my fridge:
Starting with the top we have a lot of eggs. We use eggs for breakfast, dinner, and snacks. We hard cook them, scramble them, turn them into omelettes or frittatas, poach them, pretty much any way you can eat/cook an egg we have done. Eggs are relatively cheap and they make healthy, quick meals! Moving on down to the next shelf we have parsnips and carrots that will be used for lunches and dinners and next to that we have those beautiful leftovers I mentioned earlier! On the bottom shelf and in the drawers we have more fruits and veggies (like broccoli, cabbage, beets, turnips, and pears) that will be used for lunches and sides for dinners. My go to method for veggies is to cut them up and then come dinner time throw them on a foil covered pan, drizzle some olive or coconut oil, season with whatever strikes my fancy, and roast them at 400 for 20-35 minutes. Simple, quick, and delicious. Also on the bottom shelf we have water (a must no matter what), almond milk for my breakfasts/baking purposes, veggie broth, oj, and hidden back there are some beers for Adam. A guy’s gotta have his brew! On the door, where you can’t really see, I have a variety of condiments such as mustard, homemade ketchup, hot sauce, salsa, jams, and other various things that can be thrown into recipes to make things taste delicious!
A quick glance at my spice cabinet:
I’m not going to name every single spice in my cabinet, because quite frankly I am a spice junky and have probably hundreds of spices! I have talked before about how important spices are to healthy eating because they are such a great way to season your food without adding unnecessary chemicals/calories to your meal. Start experimenting and find out what your favorite tastes are and once you figure that out you can even start making your own spice blends, like a taco or pizza seasoning!
And finally my cupboard/pantry:
In the top picture we have all my grains and flours. I use everything from brown rice to quinoa to lentils to steel cut oats. I also have almond flour (for gluten free baking), whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour. I also have raw almonds for snacks, onions and potatoes for meals, ground flax seed for baking, and various dried beans to be cooked. In the bottom picture we have mostly canned goods and stockpiled stuff like soups, peanut butter (a MUST in this household), loose leaf teas and various other baking supplies. Usually when there is a good sale on say pumpkin or diced tomatoes (fire roasted and no salt added are my favorite), I will stock up. This makes it easy to have them on hand to throw into any meal.
Now this is by no means all the food we have in the house any given week. We also have various other fruits and vegetables that are kept in different areas. Hopefully the pictures helped give you an idea of how of how to stock your own kitchen and some of the tips I use gave you some ideas of how to prep your own healthy eating lifestyle. Eating better does not have to be stressful as long as you just take some time to plan it out and stick to simple techniques. The easy act of just cutting up some carrots for lunches or adding an extra chicken breast for dinner to make leftovers can make a world of difference in eating better! So give a few of these tips a try and see how easy and beneficial it really is! If you already do your own prep day and have some tips/advice of your own, feel free to share with everyone! The more we talk with each other and share our healthy ideas the easier it is to change the way we eat and live!
Have a fabulous week and I’ll see you next Monday with a post about some of the meals Adam and I eat throughout the week!