One of the biggest worries I hear from people who are wanting to eat a healthier diet is not having enough time to prepare food at home. I totally get it – I know what it’s like to work full time, spend 2+ hours commuting each day and getting home only to realize that cooking is the LAST thing I feel like doing.
Finding the time to cook can seem like a challenge, but it’s also really important for a lot of reasons, including your health and your budget. You will also know exactly what is in your food and where it comes from (I choose local, organic, non-gmo whenever possible). You can ensure you’re getting all of the proper nutrients and not so much of the stuff you don’t want, like saturated fat and preservatives. Oh and you’ll save a lot money!
“If you do not make time for health you will eventually have to make time for disease.”
If you want to prepare more meals at home but think that you can’t fit it in your busy schedule, here are a few tips for finding time to cook. Thirty minutes to make a healthy home-cooked meal is not that much when you consider the great effects it will have your physical health – and your wallet!
Have a plan
The first and absolutely the most important step to finding time to cook at home is to have a plan. Figure out what meals you will be preparing each week. This will allow you to put together a shopping list for all ingredients you will so you can go to the store once. Going to the store with a plan is very important so that you don’t too much stuff or worse – buy stuff you won’t use that will end up going to waste. Plus, if you know what you will be buying, you can get in and out of the store much faster, leaving more time for actual meal prep.
Consolidate all of the chopping
If you know all of the meals that you will be making each week, or at least for the next few days, you will know what vegetables need to be prepped. So when you make dinner tonight and you already have the chopping block out, go ahead and get all of the other vegetables ready. Peel the carrots, wash the lettuce, chop the onions, slice the bell peppers and mushrooms – you get the picture. Store all of your veggies in separate containers for easy access when you’re ready to prep the actual meal.
Cook staple ingredients ahead of time
Using grains like rice, quinoa, or lentils more than once this week? Cook as much as you need for the entire week at the same time. For example, sometimes I know I will be using quinoa for more than one meal in a week. So the first time I make quinoa, I make enough extra so I don’t have to cook it again the next time. It’s already prepared! I also like to pre-cook lentils and brown rice since those take a while. I’ll get them cooking while I’m preparing an entirely different meal. Then by the time I’m cleaning up after dinner, they’re ready to pack away in the fridge for use later on in the week. I was already in the kitchen cooking, and it didn’t take long to get it started. This tip can save you 45 minutes from meal prep later in the week!
Make soups, sauces and dressings in bigger quantities
There are certain things that I always make in large quantities. I typically make marinara sauce and soups in giant pots so that there are plenty of leftovers. Whatever we don’t eat within a few days goes into individually sized storage containers. These items store well in the freezer and are easy to bring in a lunch or thaw out for a super quick homemade meal.
If you don’t have time to cook every single night, then don’t! Make extra food when you do cook, and save the rest for future meals. When I worked in an office, I brought my lunch almost every single day. It was usually leftover food from the night or two before.
Leftovers doesn’t have to mean boring. You can turn leftover food into an entirely different meal with just a little creativity. For example, if you had tacos one night, maybe you use leftovers for a taco salad later in the week.
Choose easy cooking methods
There are a ton of one-pot recipes out there that let you throw all of the ingredients into a pot and then dinner is ready. If you’ve already prepped your veggies ahead of time, you can throw everything together in a couple minutes right when you get home from work. Let it cook while you’re taking care of other tasks. More recipes here.
And never underestimate the amazing power of the slow cooker. Same thing goes here – if you throw everything in the crock pot in the morning, dinner is ready when you get home. Check out some awesome vegan slow cooker recipes here.