Healthy Fast Food
Healthy Fast Food?
I have recently had a book published. While staging signings and speeches, I am keeping my day job. The big problem is eating. I have NO time for shopping and cooking and washing up. How do people in this situation manage to eat in a healthy way while keeping costs down? So far, I have been eating deli salads and fast food.
Try Once A Month Cooking
Look into making "freezer meals" by cooking 30 meals (or more) in one day. One great book I've found is called 30-Day Gourmet. I borrowed it from the library. It has great tips on the process, even if you choose not to use the recipes in the book. The system works. You'll save time you used to spend thinking about what you'll eat every night or time taken from short trips to the grocery store or dining out eating fast food. You'll even eat healthier.
I started a month ago and am pleased to spend more time with my family and am less stressed worrying about what to eat. If you can find just one day to cook per month you'll reap the benefits in more than one way.
Pack Your Meals
Your best option is to pack your lunch, supper, breakfast. Plan ahead. Raw veggies give you the best bang for your health. Current recommendations are 9 fruits and vegetables per day. Eating raw gives you needed enzymes that your body does not make. Without the raw enzymes we can not digest meats and cooked food and breads. Suggestion with a busy schedule like yours is not to eat a lot of sugary foods or beverages since sugar tears down the immune system. So pack whole grain breads.
Cook some meat and have two servings a day the size of the palm of your hand. Put everything in a small cooler. And don't forget your water and drink 8 glasses a day. Fill your water bottles in the morning then put them in your car and go. Nibble on nuts in between meal for essential fatty acids. Use olive oil salad dressings on your salads, which you can pack also! Good luck in your writing endeavors and good health.
A Quick and Easy Alternative
I am a full-time college student, I work part-time, and am a wife to a husband who does not know how to cook to save his life. We are on a pretty strict budget and for the above reasons, I don't have a lot of time to be cooking either. I started making Lean Cuisine's Skillet Sensations™ on a regular basis. They are done cooking in 10-15 minutes and the clean up is minimal. On top of all of that, they are very healthy. You can purchase them at any grocery store or at a Super Wal-Mart. They are very inexpensive at about $3.50 apiece, and they are made to feed two people. I hope this bit of info helped.
Ideas From Experience
As the author of fifteen published novels, I can definitely relate to the predicament that Laura finds herself in. I don't have a paying day job apart from my writing, but I am a wife and the mother of three children, with a home to run, shopping to accomplish, meals to cook and laundry to do. Combine all that with writing (on deadline) up to sixty hours a week, along with promotional and editorial duties, and I can hardly find a spare minute to think. Out of sheer necessity for survival, I've come up with some helpful habits.
- Post a small wipeable marker board somewhere in your kitchen, where you can write down items that you need to buy. Make certain to write down each item as it occurs to you during the week, so that when you go shopping, you can get everything you need in one trip.
- At the beginning of each week, write out a complete menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Or, if dinner is the only problem, just for that.) Try to come up with dinners that can either be thrown into the slow-cooker at the start of each day or cooked in large enough quantities to make two or more meals. One-pan dishes, such as meat and vegetable sautés, are quick, easy and delicious with a side of rice or pasta. Jot down after each meal on your list what main ingredients are required and, if these aren't in your pantry, add them to either your marker board or a separate shopping list. **Make certain to save your menu lists for future weeks, so that after a few months, you merely have to pull out an old list, complete with ingredients already written out.**
- Shop only once each week using your menu/shopping list, which should include those items on your marker board, either at a warehouse store or a regular grocery store. (I tend to trade off each type of store week by week; shopping at warehouse stores for bulk items and grocery stores for smaller items.) Buy all that you'll need for that week during that one trip, and also stock up on pantry items (such as spaghetti sauce, pasta, herbs, canned goods, etc.) that you'll require for future weeks. Once you get used to the "once a week" shopping habit, you'll find that you're generally stocked up for meals without having to make last minute trips to the store.
- Rely on your slow-cooker. You can throw the ingredients together in the morning in just a few minutes, leave it cooking on low all day, and return home to find your dinner ready and waiting. Singles can make great meals in a slow-cooker and freeze the leftovers for another night. Nothing could be simpler or tastier, and a salad or hot vegetable is generally enough to round the meal out.
- For quick, healthy and inexpensive stir fry meals, spend a weekend afternoon grilling and slicing boneless, skinless chicken and steak, and parboiling thinly sliced vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, snow peas, bean sprouts, onions, etc.). Place vegetables and meats into freezer bags to make single or family servings. When time to cook, heat a small amount of oil in a skillet, stir fry the contents of one bag, (you don't need to thaw it first), add soy sauce, sesame oil and Chinese Five Spice for seasonings, and serve over hot rice. The entire meal, including time for the rice to cook, takes about fifteen minutes.
- Pasta dinners are quick and easy to put together without having to buy prepackaged meals. Put some pasta on to boil, grill a boneless skinless chicken breast with seasoned salt and pepper, (or a few chicken breasts, as needed), and microwave some broccoli, carrots or favorite vegetable. Drain the pasta, add a little butter, milk and Parmesan cheese and stir. Dice the chicken and vegetables and add to pasta, mix together and enjoy. It's a great meal for one person, but if a group is being served, add a simple salad and some garlic toast and everyone will go away happy.
- If you have a freezer, make use of it by stocking up on a variety of meats and vegetables already portioned out for single or family meals in Zip-lock bags. Having food on hand and ready in the right amounts is a huge time saver.
My favorite nutritious food for a quick meal is soup--hot, hearty, wholesome and delicious. Soup is a one-dish meal. It may take an hour or more to cook, but only a few minutes of actual work time--cutting up the ingredients--and will simmer away, filling the house with mouth watering smells, as you do something else. Once you have the soup made, it will keep for a week or more in the fridge, ready for a quick, nutritious and tasty meal at any time.
About once a week, I make a large pot of soup (my soup pot holds six quarts). At mealtime, I heat a serving (or two for my husband and me) in microwave safe serving bowls. It takes me (or my husband) about ten minutes to heat the soup, cut up some carrots and celery for veggies on the side, and toast a couple of slices of bread. An apple or orange, or a few pieces of dried fruit, makes a pleasing dessert. If you are going to be away from the house at mealtime, the hot soup can be carried with you in a wide mouth thermos.
One of our favorite soups is mushroom-barley. Amounts are flexible, depending on your taste and the size of your pot. Brown some stew meat and cook until tender. Add beef broth and barley. Put in chopped onion, sliced celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper, thyme, marjoram and parsley. Simmer until barley is tender, about 40 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms and simmer just until they are tender.
Quick and Healthy
PB&J, an apple or orange, some raw almonds, and a toothbrush! You'll beat Jason from Subway any day! For variety, toss in dried apricots or such. There you have it!
Take the Next Step
- Once you trim the grocery budget, don't waste that extra money! Consider opening a savings account to start an emergency fund or save for some other financial goal.
- Continue to look for new ways to trim food costs. Visit our food & groceries section each week to get tips for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
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