Pressed for time? Feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done before you even factor in the extra ‘chore’ of cooking? You're not alone. One of the most common reasons people say they don't eat healthy is lack of time or the knowledge to prepare a proper meal.
A new survey reveals that 28 percent of American adults don’t know how to cook, while 21 percent feel they don’t have enough time to cook and 25 percent don’t want to clean up afterward. At the same time, a whopping 84 percent of parents in the U.S. admitted that in the past week, they’ve served fast food to their kids for dinner.
Sadly, the U.S. also holds the unattractive title of the nation consuming the greatest amount of processed, packaged food. Americans eat 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food, and they consume more packaged food per person than their counterparts in nearly all other countries. Packaged food may include ready-to-eat meals such as frozen pizzas and microwave dinners, and sweet or salty snack foods.
How are we going to get out of this mess?
The first step is to educate ourselves and those around us about the importance of following an eating plan focused on fresh, local, in-season produce, natural proteins (such as wild salmon, pasture raised poultry and grass-fed beef) and adequate amounts of good fats, such as olive oil, avocado, coconut oil and raw nuts in moderation.
And in order for change to happen, we must clear up the misconception that everything surrounding healthy eating (grocery shopping, cooking and sitting down for meals as a family) is anything but a fundamental part of the foundation of well-being for all.
Then, the fun part begins: an education and exploration into the enticing world of culinary art! While it can be daunting for someone without cooking experience to prepare a healthy dinner, rest assured it does not require a culinary degree or hours in the kitchen.
In my book, Paleoista, you’ll find a section called an Hour in the Kitchen, in which I outline how, in just two, one-hour sessions per week, enough food can be made to last you and your family three to four days.
Here are my top 10 time-saving tips for fast and easy food prep that will save time and reduce cost without compromising flavor. After all, it doesn’t have to be a choice between eating healthfully and enjoying food that tastes great.
Look at your calendar
Will the whole family be dining together every night? Or will there be occasions where you’re at a late soccer practice with the kids while your significant other is out of town on business? Factoring in how many portions will be needed at each meal will save on cost and prevent wasting precious time.
Once you’ve determined who will be where on which night, you can begin to formulate a basic plan; and if it feels comfortable to repeat the routine a couple of weeks in a row, so be it. Just be sure to vary the routine after a few weeks by swapping out veggies and proteins to avoid getting in a food rut.
Use easy-to-follow recipes
With all the free recipe blogs and websites these days, you don’t even have to buy cookbooks anymore! Browse recipes for the types of dishes you’re interested in, and choose a few basics (which sound good but aren’t too difficult) to get started.
Make two lists
Setting aside 15 minutes prior to grocery shopping will allow you to be more organized and shop more efficiently once you arrive at the market. Try making one list with ingredients for dishes you plan to make and another list with other essentials you need to buy.
Once home, put away and prep
The shopping may be done; but if you get home and leave a bunch of raw chicken, meat and broccoli in the fridge, you’ll still be strapped for time when you arrive home after the end of a busy day and everyone’s hungry. Instead, wash your veggies, rinse and spin salad greens and chop the broccoli and cauliflower. Flip on the oven and roast the chicken while simmering a pot of water on to steam a couple of batches of veggies. Throw together a handful of chopped onion, lemon and garlic and create a marinade for the grass-fed flank you bought, placing it in the fridge to let it sit overnight.
Reviewing this simple scenario, you can see how easy it can be to prepare several different dishes in a short period of time. Then, all that’s left to do is portion out some of each dish into BPA-free plastic containers and pack them in a thermal to-go tote. Your whole family will be set for the office or school with healthy food to fuel them all day long.