Since Finley was born my life has changed completely. I used to have more than enough time to prepare a healthy meal, but now I have a newborn to take care of I often struggle to find time to eat the food let alone make it! Healthy eating is always going to be high on my priority list, but sometimes you find yourself in the position of needing to simply make the healthiest choice possible in situations or times in your life when you can’t eat ‘ideally’.
Whether your lack of time is due to other factors, it can really de-rail your good intentions if you don’t get a handle on it. One huge thing for me was accepting that I can’t eat ‘perfectly’. As I said, sometimes all we can do is make the healthiest choice available to us and remember that a better, but not perfect choice is preferable to making a really crap one. Takeaway ring any bells?
What I’ve found over the last couple of weeks is that healthy eating when you are time challenged can fall into three different approaches: prepare ahead, quick and simple or spend more money. There definitely seems to be an exchange where time saved = more money spent in general terms.
I wrote about preparing food for the week in my Sunday cook up post which includes a list of the kinds of meals you can prepare ahead of time. Of course all of this depends on you having an hour or so to cook it all on a weekend, however that hour or two spent will not only save you time during the week, it will also save you money! When using this approach its very useful to meal plan for the week as well.
Even just making a pan of soup for lunches can be quick and easy. My favourite way to do this is basically to throw a load of veg and some red lentils in a pan with veg stock, but my anti inflammatory lentil soup and thai pumpkin and sweet potato soup are also delicious. At this time of year roasting up a tray of squash and brussels sprouts as well as cooking a pan of grain like quinoa to keep in the fridge can be handy too.
Don’t forget how handy a slow cooker can be too! I’ve started pinning lots of healthy slow cooker recipes here, but watch out for some of my recipes coming soon. I’m trying to make as many as I can that don’t require any pre frying or browning of meat, dump the ingredients in and let it cook is what I’m looking for right now!
Quick and simple
So many healthy meals can take just a few minutes to make! Scrambled eggs or an omelette, a salad with tinned salmon, tuna or mackerel or some tinned beans, a microwave baked sweet potato with topping, stir fries etc. I have a list on my fridge of quick and easy meals I can make as a reminder whenever I feel stuck. I try and always keep cartons of beans and lentils and canned fish in the cupboard and a bag of spinach or salad in the fridge for lunches. Frozen vegetables and beans like soya can be useful for throwing together stir fries or adding to omelettes.
Spend more money
To be honest this is where I have been mostly over the past 8 weeks! Although it can be hard there are a few good options when it comes to buying pre made meals and snack options and for me, the extra money I’ve spent has been worth it as I feel I’ve been able to eat fairly well and not get too stressed with having to prepare a meal, even a quick and simple one, from scratch.
Innocent veg pot meal
Ilumi chickpea tagine
Marks and Spencer Avocado and Feta Salad
Generally I don’t like cooking food in the microwave however it has been a lifesaver for me the last few weeks! The ‘ready meal’ type options I have been eating include:
- Innocent Veg Pots
- Ilumi meals (often with some steamed veg on the side) – these have been brilliant, especially for when we’ve been in hospital with Fin! You can place a big order to be delivered and as they are in foil packs they don’t need to be refrigerated. Really love these!
- Ready packs of quinoa or rice that you just microwave – I love the quinoa and lentil one from Waitrose mixed with cubed feta and pre washed salad from a bag
- My Goodness Range meals
- Marks and Spencer Salads or meals – I usually just have these as a ‘treat’!
- Refrigerated soups like New Covent Garden
Of course not all of these are super healthy by a long shot but I feel they are a good option when faced with having to make the healthiest choice when time is really tight and the prepare ahead or quick and easy options just aren’t realistic.
Other tips and tricks:
- Be prepared with a couple of the ‘Spend more’ options handy. This means that you should have no excuse no matter the situation! Some frozen steam packs of veg and a few Ilumi meals will keep for ages and serve you well in an ’emergency’.
- Meal plan
- Do your grocery shopping online – I had been really worried that I would get almost out of date produce but so far it has mostly been fine and is really helpful for making sure I have some ingredients in the kitchen for when I can go for the prepare ahead and quick and easy options!
- Keep a list of quick and easy options on your fridge and make sure you keep those ingredients in stock (eggs, feta and tinned fish are stables for me along with a bag of greens or salad)
- Cook once eat twice (or three to four times!) – whenever you are in the kitchen making something you might as well make extra of whatever it is. If making a salad for lunch, prepare tomorrows at the same time. Eat leftover stir fry the next day etc
What healthy ‘cheat’ meals do you go to when time is tight? Which approach do you use the most? What tips and tricks do you use?