Make It Healthy, Make It Fast

FAst

It’s Sunday… but Monday’s coming! Putting together health conscious meals takes a little planning and effort. Even with decades invested in natural and clean eating, Jack and I are in a season of life that makes putting food on the table fast a necessity… and because we choose to eat fresh and natural – it’s a challenge! Most weekdays we are pressed for time so new strategies are now in place that help save time and money. Working, hanging out with family and friends, exercise, maintaining a home and garden, being involved in a community….we want to do it all. The following tips may seem minor but trust me…. they buy us time in the overall scheme of things. Here are some shortcuts that I’ve found helpful.

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When bringing your fresh greens home from the grocery store or market, take some time to prep your veggies for easy use throughout the week. Remove all wires and bands that are securing greens. Use your salad spinner basket to place greens in and fill with very cold water and let soak. If leaves are too large to fit in a large spinners basket, cut in half. Cover veggies with cold water, rinse after about 10 minutes and refill. I do this 3 times or until water runs clear. I usually do this while tasking in the kitchen. You can spin them dry and place in produce bags or keep them in the spinner with the lid. When I use produce bags, I also put them back in the fridge with a plastic bag so as to catch any extra water from draining out. They keep nicely for 5 -6 days. You then have fresh greens at the ready for smoothies, salads, or cooking.If you prefer cooking legumes from scratch for the best flavor and best savings, I have found that they cook really well in a crock pot after they have been soaked (for soaking instructions see February 2 post, Bean Basics 101 for details). After soaking, drain the soaking liquid, place beans in the crock pot, add kombu seaweed (optional) and enough water to cover (about the length of your thumb). Cover crock pot and turn on low setting and let cook until tender, about 4-5 hours. Add veggies and seasonings at the same time, to mix things up, but remember not to add salt until the beans are soft.

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At the risk of sounding like a food snob, other than homemade granola, you won’t find any packaged breakfast cereals in our pantry. We need more nutrients and substance in the morning! The problem is every minute counts before heading out the door. Who has the time to cook up a nutritious meal at 7 am? I have found it extremely helpful to have something accomplished for breakfast the night before. One of the easiest breakfast plans is to put steel-cut oats in water (3 cups water to 1 cup steel-cut oats) and let them soak until morning in the pot they cook in. In the morning add a handful of raisins and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, turn down, cover and cook 20 minutes while you’re getting ready for the day. This along with a green smoothie is our “go to” breakfast. Our routine is; Jack cleans up from dinner while I prepare something for breakfast for the following morning.

If Green Smoothies are on the menu for breakfast, fill your blender bowl the night before, with fresh greens, the liquid of choice and any other ingredient that isn’t frozen and won’t discolor. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning add the rest of your ingredients and whiz away, blending up an exotic nutrient rich smoothie with time to spare!

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Have something accomplished for dinner, after breakfast. Pre-soaking rice, layering food in the crock pot, defrosting chicken, scrubbing potatoes, washing veggies….whatever and however small a step, it helps! As insignificant as this tiny baby step seems…. knowing what’s being served for dinner and having the ingredients on hand, streamlines eating in.

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Be creative with leftovers! Use up what’s already cooked and sitting in your refrigerator! Turn your leftover cooked whole grains into a salad, or croquettes. Make a big fresh green salad and chop leftover salmon, chicken or cooked and cooled beans on top. Add vegetables and chicken to those leftover noodles that are sitting in the fridge. Scramble eggs and chop veggies, then add to leftover rice for fried rice. Leftover stew and mashed potatoes? Make a shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes on top of the stew. Leftover roasted veggies….turn them into a soup with added leftover whole grains or noodles. Discover that leftovers can be the start of a new favorite recipe.

Whenever possible, make ahead proteins for the week, on the weekend. For instance cook up 2 different kinds of beans, cooked chicken and any other protein that your family enjoys. Either toss them in the freezer or refrigerate if they will be used within 5 days. A little protein goes a long way when added to whole grains, pasta and vegetables.

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Anytime I’m making a freezer compatible meal or soup, I multiply the recipe. The little extra time it takes for preparation is so worth it! You can enjoy a care-free day knowing you’ve got dinner done, just add a salad. What is freezer compatible? Just go to your local grocery store or natural foods market and look in the freezer section to get ideas!

I’ve heard it said, “Most people work hard and spend their health trying to achieve wealth. Then they retire and spend their wealth trying to get back their health.”

Thankful for good food and good health,

Amy

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12 Comments on “Make It Healthy, Make It Fast”

  1. Great tips! Although I will say it’s hard to spend after dinner cleaning up AND prepping something for the AM. I love the leftovers ideas! We can use that all the time!

    1. Ah but it’s worth it to me and allows me time the next morning for a quiet time and exercise. I keep it simple and fortunately my hubs cleans up dinner 🙂

  2. Wonderful tips! Thanks Amy! I’ve never thought of prepping breakfast after dinner, but I think that’s such a Great idea! Especially with little ones that go to school. Anything to to save some time on that end is helpful. Love your blog.

    1. Thanks Bethany for stopping by and commenting. It’s always great to get feedback. I’m hopeful for you that some of these tips will streamline feeding your family healthy. ag

  3. Thanks for the great tips. It’s true a bit of forethought
    for a meal or the week of meals leads to better quality meals.

    I will get right on the steel cut oatmeal–
    your ratios look good. I have had trouble cooking it in the past.

    So thanks for putting together these well organized & useful tips
    they will put to good use!

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