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?
Great looking meals and ideas Laura! I think the selection in some of the supermarkets is fantastic these days, you can pick food that takes a few minutes to heat up and have a lovely, healthy meal. The innocent veg pots are fab, I also like the ‘Kirstys’ range.
I’ll have to look out for the Kirstys range! It does make a big difference to have some options like that available :-)
This is such a great post for people who are stuck on time to be healthy. If I am strapped for time it is omelettes, fried eggs on toast, salads or porridge all the way. Not the fanciest of meals but they do the trick :)
Oh and smoothies – how could I forget ;)
Sometimes meals don’t have to set the world alight to be nice and do the trick when you are short on time!
I had one of those “Skinny” Covent Garden soups the other day (the “greens” one) and it was really tasty. So easy and perfect because I had had a huge lunch and just fancied something quick and small as I wasn’t that hungry.
I am such a fan of scrambled eggs with anything throw in as an easy meal, or like you said having a tin of salmon or tuna handy. It’s just about a bit of preparation and not panicking when you’re in a rush.
I totally agree, that’s why I like having that list on my fridge so I don’t panic thinking I don’t have anything decent to eat!
I’m with you Laura, great post;)
As well as the above excellent suggestions I would recommend a pressure cooker(not the same as a slow cooker) for cooking dried beans and pulses(soak them the usual overnight way first) in record time!
I’ve heard loads about pressure cookers! Definitely need to try one out!
Some goods tips and tricks in this post! When I make soups I make enough for at least 2 meals and if I am roasting some veg for dinner I also think about the next day and whether I should roast something else at the same time.
For quick meals I use carton of lentils or chickpeas from Sainsbury’s (organic), I just wish I had Waitrose or M & S close by so I could grab some healthy meals from there once in a while. When I want to make a quick meal I tend to use eggs a lot, so I would have an egg salad, such as this one: http://www.behealthynow.co.uk/healthy-meals/crunchy-egg-salad-with-avocado/ or omelette.
Keeping a list of quick and easy options on the fridge is definitely a good idea and I will work on creating this list now, thanks!
I always use those organic lentils or chickpeas from Sainsburys as well! I also wish I had a Waitrose a bit closer, I do have an M&S which is awesome but can get expensive ;-)
Sainsburys do portion sized frozen bags of mixed veg to microwave. I think they’re normally cheaper than Birds Eye. The carrot, broccoli and sweetcorn is really nice and makes getting an extra bit of veg with my meals much easier. A batch of homemade tomato sauce is really handy to have with rice, pasta, veg, potatoes etc throughout the week.
I used to get those quite often in the past, I think I need to start buying it again!
I love the covent garden soups. I always keep some in the fridge for days when I just don’t have a lot of time. Of course homemade soups are better, but they really aren’t that bad at all I don’t think. So may great flavours too.
I think I need to start keeping a stash in the fridge as well!
I love cooking things like soups, stews, curries and chilies when I know I am going to be short on time. I also like you suggested cook a big pan of quinoa up and keep in the fridge for go-to lunches and dinner. I also make sure I have things like rice cakes and hummus in the house that I can eat for lunch or a snack when I’m super busy.
Great idea with the rice cakes and hummus. Hummus used to be a staple in my fridge but I keep forgetting about it for some reason!
I like soups- I do make my own but at the moment I am very pressed for time, so sometimes we buy a carton to have for a weekend lunch.
I like batch cooking too- such a good use of time although we only have a small freezer so can’t do too much of that!
I would be so lost with out my extra freezer, although at the moment it’s full of frozen breastmilk lol!
I love the quinoa and lentil pouches – so tasty!
They are great aren’t they! So useful :-)
Such great tips! I use a massive slow cooker to make this on mass then fill up my freezer and I love marks and spencer salads for quick and easy meal that are filled with goodness not rubbish:)
I have two slow cookers now, a small one and a large one, maybe I need to start using the big one again for giant cook up sessions!
I’m a sucker for the Look What We Found range on evenings when I simply don’t have time and I’m onyl feeding myself, which sound quite like the Ilumi ones, except their diary free choices limit me greatly. Now I’m off to check out the Ilumi range, thanks for the tip!
Hope you enjoy the Ilumi range, I’ve never heard of Look What We Found so just about to google it!
Great post, I’ve been short on time lately since moving house, I’ve definitely been buying a lot more food out and more packaged foods. I think batch cooking and leftovers are definitely the way to go, I made soup on Sunday and I’ve had it every day for one meal, which is ideal.
That’s just what Ive been trying to do but for some reason I never seem to make enough for the whole week! I made a red lentil, kale and tomato soup this week which was delicious :-)
This post was an excellent idea – I’m often caught out at university, despite most nights preparing a salad to take with me to campus! I’ll have to look out for some of these in the nearby shops next time I’m stuck.
Glad the post was helpful! I ate so badly at uni, wish more of these options had existed when I studied!
I think its really great that even after you have had a child you still think about the best choices for you and what foods are best for you. You are totally right in not trying to be ‘perfect’ because no one is! but choosing the best most healthy option you can is a great way to do it! Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks! Eating healthy changes your whole lifestyle!