It's healthier to cook than it is to order pizza, even if you’re cooking a pizza. When you’re cooking your own food, you’re in control of your own ingredients. You know just how much fat, sugar, or salt is going into a meal. You know if you’ve used olive oil or butter. You know if you’ve used organic or conventional veggies or whole wheat or white flour. When you cook, you can make choices about your food that you can’t make if the guy down the street is cooking your food for you.
I hear from a lot of people that they just don’t have time to cook. I get that. I work a full time job with weird hours and I coach part time online. I write weekly blog posts and edit other people’s posts. I, too, must fight the siren song of the pizza delivery guy.
Here are 4 principles that you can start using today to simplify your meal prep. Just like with any new habit, start small. Try to add one or two of these principles at a time. If you’re eating takeout for every meal, try to cook one meal at home. If you’re cooking at home three times a week, see if you can up it to four. Keep it doable and give yourself a chance to succeed — if you overwhelm yourself with changes, it might feel too difficult to maintain.
Principle 1: Pay for convenience
If you can afford it, buy pre-chopped veggies and have groceries delivered. You can throw pre-chopped veggies into a salad or a quick stir-fry, or you can eat them as snacks throughout the week. Depending on your grocery store location/transportation situation, having groceries delivered could save you more than an hour every week. You can spend that hour cooking the food you buy! Removing obstacles removes excuses. If you balk at the extra cost of such choices, think about how much money you’ll save avoiding takeout!
Principle 2: Freeze stuff
Freeze servings of cooked grains, soups, and sauces that you can bust out during the week. Or put together freezer meals to be cooked in a crock pot while you’re at work. A great resource for freezer meals is The Family Freezer (formerly New Leaf Wellness). Their meal prep days are pretty intense and feed them for 3 months at a time. If you don’t have that kind of time, energy, or space in your freezer, you can make a week or two of meals at a time. Each meal takes between 5 and 15 minutes to prep, depending on how much chopping you have to do. Not feeding a family? Split the meals into multiple bags so that you can cook a smaller serving. That way, you won’t have to eat the same thing 8 times in one week...unless you’re into that...
Principle 3: Roast stuff
Meat eaters can roast a chicken or a side of beef that can be cut into all week. Anyone can roast a bunch of veggies to be added to meals throughout the week. My favorite quick veggie roast is cauliflower and sweet potato with rosemary from My Forking Life. It’s got veggies and carbs and it only takes about 35 minutes, including roasting time. Pair that with a protein and you have a complete meal.
Principle 4: Make extra
Make extra of whatever you’re cooking to be eaten as leftovers. If you’re making soup or stew, refrigerate or freeze (see principle 2) extra servings to be eaten at a later date. Cut up extra veggies to be used in snacks or salads over the week. For example, if you’re making cauliflower steaks for dinner, cut up some extra cauliflower to dip into hummus.
I hope that you find these principles helpful! Do you have shortcuts of your own? Let us know in the comments!