I hear it all the time.
“I don’t have the time to cook.”
“Healthy food is too expensive.
“The kids just wont eat it.”
I get it. Kids, work, family obligations, housework, laundry, who’s got a ball game/school event/concert. Throw in a traffic-snarling snow storm and the accompanying sore-back recovery time and, seriously, just call for a pizza or grab some burgers.
It’s cheap, fast and feeds the car load of people in time for the next round of errands, bath time, homework and bedtime. It’s just exhausting.
Feeding the people we love is almost as basic as it gets. It nourishes our bodies and our spirits. Think about how much stronger and healthier and happier you feel when grandma makes a simple pot of soup rather than that fancy meal from the impressive restaurant.
There is powerful magic there.
Granted, most of us don’t have even a fraction of the time that Grandma has but with a good plan and some very simple ingredients, you can reclaim your own powerful magic.
I’ll be teaching a class on this in the near future, but until I can get my own act together, here are a few magicians tricks:
- Have a Plan for the week. Write it down. Post it prominently in the kitchen. If you take a few minutes once or twice a week to plan out the next couple of days worth of meals — even if it’s only lunch and dinner that gets planned — you’ve already eliminated the daily “what the &^%* are we going to eat?” question. And, there’s a better chance that cereal for dinner won’t be the fallback position this week.
- Prep Lunch before you go to bed. Even better, make those sandwiches while you’re cooking dinner!
- Mason Jars. Or, some good, clear food storage containers. You can make a bunch of salads in mason jars, put them in the fridge and they’ll keep for several days. I promise. Keep the wet stuff on the bottom and the leafy stuff on the top and you’ll avoid showing up to work with compost in a jar. I use mason jars to keep soup, beans, salad, cut veggies, nuts and dried beans. If you can see what’s in the thing you have a much better chance of actually using the stuff.
- Prep Day. Pick one day that works for you and take a couple of hours to prep a bunch of food for the next couple of days. This way, you’ll have the fixings on hand to throw something together quickly. When I’m really on my game, here’s what I prep:
- 1 dozen eggs, hard boiled
- 1 organic chicken in a crock pot
- 6 sweet potatoes
- Make sure there are avocados ripening on the counter
- Canned organic chick peas and some beans rinsed and put into the mason jars
- Greens cut, washed and dried. I’ll buy arugula and baby spinach — no cutting necessary. and wash, cut and dry several heads of romaine lettuce. The key here is to make sure your greens are super dry before you put them back into the fridge so they don’t get all funky on you.
- Carrots, celery, cucumbers, all washed, cut and prepped. They go into their own separate containers ready to be snacked on or packed into lunch bags.
- Double batches of brown rice & quinoa.
- I keep a couple of boxes of organic chicken broth and vegetable broth on hand all the time for a quick throw-stuff-in-the-pot soup. Try to sauté some onions, celery and carrots, add broth, maybe some spinach, a bag of mixed veggies and some noodles. Slice one of your eggs into the pot to warm and, like magic, you have soup!
By taking two hours to prep these simple, whole foods, it frees up at least that much time every day for the rest of the week. I have a chicken that will feed us the night that I cook it and what is left I turn into shredded chicken for chicken salad, soup, or just chicken on a salad.
- The bones are saved and cooked down into a bone broth for chicken soup later in the week.
- The greens are ready to be thrown into breakfast smoothies or a salad with beans, vegetables and some quinoa.
- Sweet potatoes can be chopped into a salad or eaten as a healthy snack, or cut up as a side dish or smashed into a creamy soup.
- There are some hard boiled eggs for a run-out-the-door breakfast.
Do this and you’ll have a bit more sanity in the week!
Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potato Mixed Greens Salad
Serves about 4 (30 minutes)
1 head of romaine chopped (or about 6 cups of your favorite mixed greens)
2 cups shredded roasted chicken
2 sweet potatoes shredded (use a box grater or food processor)
2 cucumbers, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
a good handful of roasted pumpkin seeds
sea salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- toss shredded sweet potatoes w/ olive oil and sea salt
- Bake about 25 min – until crisp
- In a large bowl, toss greens, cucumbers and roasted chicken
- top with roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin seeds.
photo illustration by Bernadette Smith
Bernadette Smith is an organic gardener, life-long tree hugger and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach living in Patchogue, N.Y. She offers free 30-minute Health Discovery Sessions and can reached through Facebook or by emailing SimplyNourishedHome@gmail.com.