At nutriFoodie, we know that life can sometimes get a little (did I say a little? OK, maybe a lot) crazy. Finding time to cook can seem impossible at times especially when you or your family are trying to eat healthy and nutritious meals.
Hear us out… these tips are not your typical “magic pill” type of solution-style time-saving tips. They are HABITS that you build over time, which will benefit you in the long run, unlike those “magic pill” solutions.
nutriFoodie’s goal is to help support you in making the most out of your time and nourishing you or your family in the best means possible. Plus, the added bonus of eating nutrient dense meals is the extra energy that comes along with it — something we could all use when we’re running around all day!
Here are my favourite and top 3 time-saving tips that will make your life much easier (and tastier!) with only a little bit of planning.
Tip #1: STOCK IT UP
I stock up my freezer and cupboards quite well in order to prepare myself for those crazy busy days. By doing this, I always have nutritious food on hand. You by no means have to have all of these ingredients to make a meal on the fly, but here are some key items that you could stock up on and why:
- Spices: a basic list would be salt, pepper, dried herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary), garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili pepper or cayenne, cinnamon
- Frozen fruits and vegetables: berries, mangoes, corn, peas, carrots
- Pulses: lentils, beans, refried beans, dried peas (dried or canned)
- Non-perishable starch: whole grains like oats, quinoa, barley, & wheat berries, or rice, pasta, gnocchi, taco shells
- Baking essentials: flour, baking soda, baking powder, yeast (I’ve definitely made homemade bread when I’ve forgotten to buy it!)
- Frozen meats: chicken breasts, lean ground beef, stew cut beef (frozen in smaller portions to make defrosting simple)
- Frozen shredded cheese: low-fat mozza & cheddar
- Canned goods: canned tomatoes, all-purpose tomato sauce, tuna, salmon, beans
- Boxed low-sodium soup stock or broth (I’m not a fan of the powdered variety, but if that’s what you can get and have on hand, it still gets the job done)
- And of course: onions and garlic (every dish starts with these beauties)
When you have an abundance of staple ingredients on hand, you can quickly boost the nutrition in convenience foods or whip up a meal in a flash. For example, try adding whole grains and frozen veggies to canned soup. Another idea is to supplement canned tomatoes and lentils into your next spaghetti bolognese. So many amazing meals can be put together such as chili, refried bean tacos, beef and barley soup, pasta casserole, stewed lentils or beans with rice, just to name a few!
Tip #2: PLAN AHEAD
If possible, set aside a couple hours somewhere in that hectic week to prep food for meals on-the-go. If you have kids, try doing it when the kids are at school, napping, after dinner or in bed; those 2 hours of prep work will have you more organized for the week with less time spent in the kitchen later.
- Design a weekly menu. Figuring out daily meals can be an added stress. So, why not make a weekly menu where you can decide in advance what will be on the table. Make it fun by including your family or roommates!
- Create a grocery list out of the meals you have planned for the week; this will save you time and money when shopping.
- Save recipes that work well and that the roommates/family loves. Create a recipe box to easily draw from using the staple items you stock up on.
- Double up your or your family’s favourite recipes and freeze. The next time you don’t have a meal prepared for dinner you can pull it out in the morning and it will be thawed by supper (see batch cooking below).
- Keep non-perishable snacks in the car to buy you enough time to get home and skip the drive-through window.
- Prep & chop fresh fruits and vegetables like carrot sticks in water or apple slices so that you or the kids can reach for a quick nutritious snack at home.
Tip #3: BATCH COOKING
What is batch cooking? Cooking a meal in batches so that you have extras on hand for those busy days. Because you know what… you’re already doing the work! Might as well just make the most out of that time and that mess 😉
Some examples of what I may do to save time:
- Cook extra protein (chicken breasts, ground beef with sauteed onion, lentils, etc…).
- Roast cheap or not-so-fresh vegetables (especially from the discount section).
- Make large batches of all-purpose tomato sauce that it can use for pasta, pizza, or curry bases.
- Make transformable meals. For example, turn a chili soup into a burger patty, or a sloppy joe beef mix into a shepherd’s pie (using leftovers in several ways is one of my specialties!).
- Purchase and use ingredients that are versatile; carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower can be eaten raw for snacks, turned into a salad with a few extra ingredients and used in cooked dishes & entrees.
- Make extra batches of the more time and work intensive dishes. The next time you cook a casserole or family dish like lasagna, make an extra batch and pop it into the freezer for those days you want a break from the kitchen.
Is this too much? or not enough?
We realize that everyone’s schedule will vary and that this may be a process of trial and error as you get your bearings and integrate some of these tactics.
If you find yourself thinking that you just want someone to help you figure it out, LOOK NO MORE. That’s what nutriFoodie is here for. With my nutrition education and cooking expertise, I can come into YOUR kitchen for an in-home cooking demo which will be packed full of tips, tricks and skill-building to make your prep faster and your meals more diverse and enjoyable.
Want to get help in your kitchen and get organized?
Now if you find yourself completely lost with how to start meal planning or preparing your own meals at home, or even if you want a little break, check out my Meal Planning Basics Guide.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- The basics of meal planning that accomodates your schedule, preferences & cravings, without holding you down to specific ingredients or recipes
- How to stock-up your kitchen to help you make quick, easy and flavourful meals
- Cooking tips on different proteins, including legumes & fish
- How to structure and set-up your meals to meet your nutritional needs
- 10+ meal ideas that optimize the use of your pantry & freeze
- PLUS weekly meal planning template!