Do you struggle to eat well throughout the week due to fatigue or time constraints? Are you a slave to the kitchen or the takeout menus all week long? I love cooking for the most part, but many people do not. Either way, many of us simply have zero time on weekdays, or are too fatigued from illness to stand for that long, let alone prep three meals a day. When trying to eat healthily, whether for managing an illness, trying to prevent one, or simply wanting to feel better day to day, it can feel like cooking food is taking over your life.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Here are a few tricks to implement today to make eating well easier and more effective, and to get some time back for you to do what you really love.
Prep your ingredients
Pick one hour out of your week for food prep – chop veggies for cooking or for eating straight up, assemble smoothie ingredients so they’re ready to go, pack lunches, portion prepped ingredients for a few dinners like stirfry, soup, zoodles and sauce…if you’re going to cook it, you can probably prep it!
Cook in batches
Pick one morning/afternoon to cook up a few of your prepped ingredients. You do not need a whole day for this! Cook your meat/protein options for each meal (roast a whole chicken, make meatballs/burger patties, soak lentils), make a double batch of soup and freeze half in serving sizes of choice, maybe make some bone broth out of last week’s bones. Do any baking you need – snacks, breakfasts, desserts – so they’re super easy to grab all week and pack up for lunch.
Buy pre-prepped ingredients
If needed, there are usually options at the store to buy pre-cut veggies and fruit, (for instance pre-spiralized sweet potato or zucchini has shown up at places like Whole Foods), or prepped and frozen produce. This can make life easier in a pinch, but it is more expensive if you do this regularly, so decide what is more important that week – energy or money – and don’t feel guilty! I definitely use a lot of frozen veggies to make soup a snap, and frozen fruit is the easiest smoothie/breakfast/snack/dessert option there ever was!
Invest in some tools
Investing in a slow cooker/crockpot, a pressure cooker or an instant pot can save a lot of time and energy. I personally have a crockpot that makes my life so much more sane as I can cook broth or soup overnight, or throw some ingredients in the pot before I go to school and dinner is ready when I come home. These simple tools save time, money, energy and dishes. A food processor can also make food prep a breeze, as it can do all the chopping, slicing and mixing for you.
Many people find that having a set menu each week takes a lot of the stress out of cooking. Knowing exactly what ingredients you need, and knowing you won’t be running out to the store for added things can be immensely helpful, especially for those who are relegated to their house due to illness or fatigue. There are lots of menu plans available online for every different dietary protocol, or you can choose your own favourite meals to make every week.
Keep it simple
Some of the easiest meals to have throughout the week are simple salads topped with pre-cooked protein and a side of pre-cooked sweet potato or simple rice. All you have to do is grab a box of greens or a head of lettuce and your pre-prepped ingredients from the fridge! Meals need not be fancy – when you barely have the energy to get out of bed, or barely the time to eat, sometimes it is best to just get some simple ingredients in your belly to fuel you along. If you do need some flair, however, simple top your meals with a handful of fresh chopped green herbs – adding freshness, flair, and a whopping handful of healthful micronutrients and antioxidants.
Ask for help
If all else fails, ask for help! Ask a friend or family member if they can come over for a few hours a week to help you chop, cook, and portion. Or perhaps they can share a meal with you. There are also a few people out there who do this for a living – they will prep you a week’s worth of healthy food to your specifications and either deliver, or have you pick it up. This may not be cost-effective for everyone, but it can be astonishingly helpful when you’re really stuck – and you will be supporting another person in doing something they love.
Prepping food this way can also help minimize waste! When everything is being used up at the beginning of the week for prep, and you’re only buying the ingredients you need, languishing produce is certainly diminished as much more gets eaten each week, instead of hanging on for a month (sorry sad cabbage in my fridge!).
Writing from experience, I have definitely used every one of these methods, and continue to do so almost every week. I certainly find that if I don’t put in a little effort ahead of time, I am left wallowing and making poor food choices that whole week, so I try to stay on top of it for my own sanity and health.
I hope you try some of these food prep tips, and I hope they help you as much as they help me!
Happy cooking – Em