Get cooking with this tip – plan ahead, but not too much! Today’s post is for all of you who want to provide your families with healthy, wholesome food every day, but just can’t quite figure out how to find the time to cook.
I feel your struggle! I spent over 20 years building businesses, raising kids as a single mom and taking up the slack when my employees were sick or on vacation. I was determined to have a social life as well. Every minute of every day seemed jam-packed. Sometimes I felt like adding one more thing would be the straw that would break me.
While I’ve shifted the way I live over the past couple of years, I just had two physically grueling weeks moving and consolidating 2500 square feet of office into under 500 square feet. We didn’t hire movers so there was a lot of lifting, carrying, loading and unloading. I am tired. Perhaps that’s why I’m thinking about the little things that make it possible for me to throw together a meal quickly.
One of the things I do is plan ahead a little, but not too much. How does this help me? This morning planning ahead means marinating some chicken legs. I know that this will make the meat more flavorful, and I know that prepping it this morning means all I have to do this evening is pop them in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes.
Now that I’m in the kitchen, I realize I’m starting to get hungry. It’s midmorning and the perfect time to throw together a one-pot meal I can run to for lunch today and tomorrow. I grab an onion, olive oil, an orange bell pepper, a couple of summer squash, and some ground turkey. This will be an evolving dish. I haven’t yet decided on the flavorings.
I clean all the vegetables, slice the onion and while it’s sautéing in olive oil, slice about a third of the bell pepper and one of the squash. I add them in stages to the onion and sprinkle with salt & pepper. After a few minutes, I push all the vegetables to the outside of the skillet and place the ground turkey in the middle to brown. Periodically I have to break it into smaller pieces with the spatula. During the time in between stirs, I finish slicing the bell pepper and the other yellow squash.
I don’t need the pepper and squash for my one-pot meal, but knowing that when I come home from work tired, I sometimes just can’t get my mind around cleaning and chopping veggies, I recognize that prepping these now means I am more likely to cook them for dinner this week, or dip them in hummus for a healthy snack.
NOT having too specific a plan for the squash and bell pepper helps me not feel overwhelmed. All I need to do right now is stir my one-pot meal and slice these puppies. Then I’ll put them in one of the many plastic containers I keep in the cabinet in precarious stacks that fall on Ben’s head when he opens the cabinet doors. I like to think of this as reflex training. I can usually manage to catch them as they fall. Ben just thinks it’s annoying.
I finish off the one-pot meal by adding some frozen English peas, a handful of shredded Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano cheese blend, salt, pepper, and a little water & let it simmer for about 12 minutes. While the timer runs on the 12 minutes, I have time to pop the chopped veggies into containers and put them in the refrigerator, then clean up the kitchen.
When I get home and am already hungry I won’t have to think about what I’m going to cook, all I have to do is turn on the oven and throw the drummies on a baking sheet. In the same amount of time I would spend driving to a restaurant, ordering, and getting my food, I’ll have cooked chicken. I can pair that with a piece of fruit, a salad, sliced tomatoes and cottage cheese or raw vegetables dipped in my favorite dressing and have a healthy meal without cooking anything else. I’ll also have time to steam asparagus or broccoli while the chicken bakes.
As a backup plan, I’ll have whatever is left of my one-pot meal. I can stretch it by adding some fresh kale, pasta or rice. Or I can throw together a frittata full of turkey, vegetables, and cheese. The key is not being too attached to a specific meal plan so that my mind is free to see all the possibilities instead of the impossibility of pulling off whatever plan I had that may no longer work.
Have another tip? Please share it with us in the comments below.