5 Time Saving Tips to Eat Healthy during the work week

Let’s be honest, during the week it can be hard to fit everything in; work, laundry, walking dogs, cleaning, working out, seeing friends and or family takes up a lot of time and planning. So who the hell has time to meal plan and cook! And cooking delicious, healthy meals? What am I, Betty Crocker!?

I’ve had a few friends lately ask me if I am cooking constantly….follow me on Instagram and you’ll understand where they could get that idea. I post yummy food pics almost days a week, insta stories that show ingredients turned into what many have called gourmet meals. And while I am extremely fortunate to have a remote working situation, cutting out the commute and providing lots of flexibility to cook hot meals for lunch, I don’t in fact cook for hours on end. I wish I did!

The meals I’m making typically consist of whole-foods, very few things I’m using are packaged or bottled. Most sauces are homemade, seasoning is usually limited to dried herbs or fresh citrus and packaged or pre-made foods are rarely used. On an average week, Mike and I eat in 4 or 5 nights out of the week, including lunches due to the fact that I work from home and he usually heads home from a job at lunch. Depending on the day, I have anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes for lunch, as my work schedule is on east coast time and we are a meetings heavy organization, so I am on the phone a lot!

So, how in the heck do I find the time to eat in 90% of my meals, using fresh, plant-based, whole ingredients without spending hours prepping? Here’s a few things I do to ensure success on these fronts:

  1. Plan meals, as in what I will be making, before I go to the grocery store. I typically pick 3 or 4 meals I want to make so I know at least 4 or five meals will be covered (we usually have leftovers from at least two meals). When I know what I want the end result to be, I take the guess work out of weeknight meals, saving me time when I go to cook because all I have to do is pick one of the pre-selected meals.
  2. Prioritize what you already have first, veggies second. If you look around your kitchen and realize you have a lot of brown rice, make sure you’re incorporating that into at least one of your meals. If you’re starting from scratch, make the veggies the main focus of your meals.
  3. Stick to the grocery list. Once I have the meals I want to cook, I peek in my cupboards to see what I have, then make a list of the ingredients I don’t. When at the grocery store I try to stick to the exact list, so I don’t throw a bunch of junk impulsively into the cart. Just by sticking to the list alone, you will be amazed at the cost savings, plus you won’t have food spoilage!
  4. Pick a day to prep. Whether you have time on your weekend to set aside time to grocery shop and meal prep, or have to split the two up, I find it extremely helpful to find one night early in the week to cook two meals or at the very least, to prep a few things for the following night’s dinner.
  5. Use your time in the kitchen wisely. If I know I’m cooking something that may take a bit longer (sweet potato fries or baked cauliflower take some time) I’ll use the baking time to throw in or fold a load of laundry, vacuum or clean a bathroom, do some yoga or perhaps finish up some work. I’ll typically prep all veggies at the same time or use time while that nights’ dinner is cooking or sautéing to prepare the next nights meal. Time is precious, so use it wisely!

Here are a few sample meals I plan pre-grocery shopping, keeping all the above in mind.

These meals are made for two people, with many of them making enough for 3 meals, so I’ll have lunch a few days a week already made.

I love to cook and usually rotate a few tried and true meals every two or three weeks, as they are easy, delicious and really inexpensive. Once you start cooking more, you’ll get more and more comfortable with meal planning, knowing what goes well with what, using fresh ingredients to pack a punch (without the added preservatives, sugar, salt) and knowing your way around the kitchen, so cooking won’t seem like such a chore.

If you truly don’t like to cook, make sure you’re picking simple recipes, with only a few fresh ingredients, so preparing them will be easy.

Hope these tips help you during the week – Happy Monday!

Veggie to the Core – A Pre-Surgery Challenge

I’m having surgery on my ACL/Meniscus in exactly 8 days and I’m gearing up mentally, physically and food-wise. After a delicious breakfast of chia seed & berry French Toast with raw coconut, sesame & pumpkin seeds, we headed to the grocery store to stock up on meal-prep goodies.

Today, I’m prepping a Red Lentil Thai Chili, a Butternut Squash & Carrot soup, black bean & pepper enchiladas & a Red Lentil Peanut Soup (I’m using lentils instead of quinoa from the soup swap recipe) for post-surgery nourishment. Mike helped prep the veggies, since my knee was a bit sore from yesterdays outing to the Denver art museum.

Tomorrow, I’ll kick off a Veggie to the Core 7 challenge to get my body in the best pre-surgery shape possible. My surgeon has passed over a number of nutritional tips, leg strengthening and core exercises which I’ve been taking to heart since I found out I needed surgery. But, I’m kicking it up a notch for the next 7 days. I’ll post my veggie packed recipes that will load up on iron-laden veggies, high protein & calcium dense dishes, along with low-impact leg exercises to strengthen & core exercises to prepare for April 4th.

If you’re looking to get in on some veggie goodness, kick start a cleanse, want to follow my journey or create your own, feel free to follow me on my new page: Happy Kitchen.

Happy Sunday!

Weeknight Meatless Meals Made Easy

Weeknight meals can be tough, especially around the holidays. The hustle and bustle of the day, wrapping gifts, shopping, spreading holiday cheer, holiday parties, and festive outings leave little time to make a healthy, quick meal.

Because of all the running around during the holidays, it’s so important to keep healthy and I truly believe that health starts with nutrition and nutrition starts with what we’re eating.

To simplify: eating healthy meals packed with nutrients contributes to your health!

But who the grinch has the time to check off all the holiday to-do’s plus make a home-cooked meal!?!?!

This past week, Mike and I have been dealing with a few health issues (tooth infection after math for me and a follow up MRI visit to an orthopedic Dr. for Mike – outcomes are positive!) I got home from a business trip, and we are getting ready to put our investment property on the market, so have been particularly busy. But eating healthy is a priority, so I wanted to post our nightly dinners to show how easy it can be to whip up plant-packed meals in under an hour.

Falafels

Sunday Night Menu: Falafels, steamed broccoli & a pomegranate power green salad

Falafel Recipe

1 can 15oz chickpeas drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Tahini paste
1 1/2 cups of Kale
Pepper & salt (a pinch of each)
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon coconut oil for sauteing

Combine first 6 ingredients in cuisine art & pulse/blend to a paste (it’s ok to have some lumps). Add the flour. Form 4 patties with mixture. Heat oil in a saute pan. Saute on each side for 5 minutes, making sure they don’t burn.

 

Monday Night Menu: Sweet Potato Bake with a spinach salad

Sweet Potato Bake

Sweet Potato Mexican Bake recipe

2 small sweet potatoes
1 bag of mixed frozen veggies
1 tablespoon veggie broth
1 tablespoon water

Slice potatoes thinly and put on cookie sheet (you can toss with a bit of oil if you want). Cook at 375 for 20 minutes.

Sauce:
1/2 cup of Carrots
1/2 cup of Broccoli stems
1/2 tsp of garlic & onion powder
1/2 tsp salt & paprika
1/2 cup almond milk
4 tablespoons of dijon mustard
1 tsp of Tapatio (optional, but we like it spicy!)

Cook carrots & broccoli in a bit of water, until soft. Add veggies & the rest of the ingredients to cuisine art/blender and blend until smooth.

Put frozen veggies with broth & water in an oven safe dish. Top with sauce & once potatoes are done, overlay them on top of the bake. Turn oven down to 350 and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

Meatless Meals

Tuesday Night Menu: Mushroom & Tomato Stroganoff with Trader Joe’s Eggplant Cutlets & a Kale Salad

Mushroom & Tomato Stroganoff – Recipe found on One Green Planet (I used veggie broth & it turned out more like a tomato based sauce, but it was still amazing!)

I used Quinoa elbow macaroni & cooked some leftover Trader Joe’s Eggplant Cutlets – these are great and I usually get two-three meals out of the bag.

Szechuan Eggplant

Wednesday Night Menu: Szechuan Eggplant with broccoli & Yellow Peppers over Quinoa & a red leaf lettuce salad

Got this amazing Szechuan recipe from The Edible Garden – I altered a few things, not adding as much oil to cook/fry the eggplant. Instead I tried to steam it with a bit of water in the wok. I also added peppers & broccoli once the eggplant was cooked & the sauce was added (I like my veggies crispy). One more addition: sesame seeds. These are just great and add a bit of flavor & crunch.

 

Each and every one of these meals took less than 45 minutes to put together and were packed full of flavor, nutrients, and best of all homemade using whole ingredients. Yes, the cutlets & macaroni are processed – but I try to make the whole foods and veggies the center piece.

What are you cooking this week? Would love to hear about the meals, challenges or questions you have!

Happy Weeknight Cooking!