It has been a bit quiet on the blog-stead lately. Can I call it a blog-stead? Like a homestead, only a blog. Whatever. I have been totally swamped and life has been kicking my butt over the last two weeks. It is mid-semester crunch time and I have been more or less completely consumed with school. The only writing I have done recently has been academic (gross) and the only cooking I have done involves pressing buttons on my microwave. Complicating the matter is that I am doing a Whole30 and I need to be very intentional about what I am eating. It is good that I’m not a picky eater; I’ve eaten some odd combinations of random leftovers just because I don’t care and I’m hungry. I think I finally got it figured out though and this week is looking much better!
How to eat well when you don’t have time:
1. Slow cook. Everything.
A lot of recipes call for a bunch of prep work before the slow cooking part. I think the whole point is zero prep work. If I have to use more than my slow cooker, a cutting board, and a knife, I’m not interested. I often skip steps like browning meat before hand. I might miss out on flavor, but the time payoff is worth it. I just throw everything in there and go.
Roasts, chili, and soups/stews are all great slow cooker candidates. I’ve put chicken breasts in the slow cooker – easiest shredded chicken ever. Same goes for pork loin. You’d be surprised at all the slow cooker recipes out there – I’ve seen some for cake, meatloaf, and everything in between.
2. Make big batches.
If you are making dinner, make enough for several meals. Double recipes and throw leftovers in the freezer. If you are busy, there is a good chance that you will have to get used to eating the same thing over and over. So make sure you are making awesome things when you get the time to make something.
3. Cook when you can.
Often, I will throw some chicken breasts in my slow cooker overnight and then I have shredded chicken for the next few days. If I am home in the morning or evening, I will often use that time to roast squash or other prep work. It’s totally normal to roast squash at 6am, I promise.
4. Make components, not meals.
Cook meat. Cook veggies. Not together. Keep the seasonings simple and then you can combine whatever you want. This is a nice way to avoid eating the same thing over and over and over. 3 proteins + 3 veggies = 9 different meal combos. Meat + veggies + spices/sauces = whatever meal you want. It’s like putting outfits together.
Keep it Simple. Super simple. As much as I love to get fancy, a lot of my go-to meals when I am busy are super simple. Baked chicken and sweet potatoes. Burgers. Soup. Or recipes without a lot of “active time”. So maybe it’s some sort of baked dish that takes a little while to cook, but only 10 minutes to throw together. Any “hands off” time can be used to do other things.
A couple of my favorite simple yet delicious meals:
Mustard Salmon Fillet (or chicken thighs)
Spaghetti Squash with ground beef and pasta sauce (check your ingredients!)
Grilled steak and whatever side you want – sweet potato, grilled veggies, salad, whatever.
6. The one-pot wonder
Like the slow-cooker, only not. Fewer dishes = less cleanup = more time. Soup is great for this. You can saute any veggies you want, add your protein, add your liquid, simmer. Or any sort of stir-fry.
Here are some great and healthy one pot wonders! Bonus – most of these are very freezer-friendly.
7. Dedicate a prep day.
Do you have a few hours free on the weekend? Spending a little bit of time chopping veggies and meal prepping can save you tons of time throughout the week. If time is the issue and money is not, you can buy pre-sliced veggies to save on prep time.
Maybe you can spend an afternoon making a week’s worth of meals. Check out Once A Month Meals for some great ideas and recipes! They also cater to a variety of dietary needs.
8. Make a plan!
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Make sure you have the ingredients you need. Find your recipes. I like to know what the plan is for dinner every night so I’m not trying to come up with something when I get home and am tired and hungry. Or if I need to throw something in the slow cooker in the morning. It is a terrible time when you plan on making something in the slow cooker that takes a while to cook (like a roast) and don’t realize it until you get home and you have no dinner and no back-up plan for something to be prepared quickly. Which brings me to my next point.
9. Have a safe plan B.
Is there a restaurant that you know can accommodate your dietary needs? Or a grocery store nearby? I default to the hot bar at my Whole Foods. It is not cheap at all so I try not to do that very often, but it’s nice to know I have an emergency fallback. I also have a couple “safe restaurants” nearby. Do the detective work beforehand so you don’t have to worry about where to find food for those days when cooking is not an option or you forgot your lunch at home.
10. Keep some back stock.
Maybe that is an “emergency lunch/dinner” in your freezer. A meal you can just pull out when you are scrambling. I almost always have chicken in my freezer… I know that with a quick thaw, I can have dinner in about 20 minutes. I also keep a small stock of canned salmon and tuna. And that equates to being able to eat dinner in about 47 seconds.
What are your tips for eating well when you are constantly on the run?