Saturday, February 5, 2011

You've Got to Make Time for It...

Remember when you were little, and somehow in your backpack, magically - there was a packed lunch with all the right things for a wholesome balanced meal?  When you came home from school and the snack was ready for you to enjoy? When dinner was prepared fresh and hot, and all you had to do was wash your hands before you ate?  
Yeah, I miss those days too.  Getting healthy, well balanced meals in with your busy schedule is difficult!  Here are some tips and tricks to help you manage your time more efficiently so that yummy wholesome meals are a part of your every day life again.
Tip One:  Plan ahead - take 30 minutes to sit down and look at your schedule week to week, figuring out when you can eat at home, when you’ll be eating on the run, and what nights you’ll be able to put dinner on the table.  Even plan what you’ll be cooking so that when you make your grocery list, what you need to purchase to cook the meals can be added to the list.  And I know this sounds silly - but write it down in your planner, so that you actually PLAN on doing it.
Tip Two:  Take a Business Mindset Home with You... create a “grocery inventory” of goods and items you regularly purchase.  Print it out on the same day of the week each week and do an inventory - hopefully BEFORE you’ve run out of your staples, being sure to check off what you need to purchase.  Add a “Miscellaneous section” where you can write down any extras - for example, items that you need for the recipes you’ve chosen for the week, or toiletry items that you don’t purchase every week.  Go shopping on the same day each week, making it part of your “household routine.”  
Tip Three:  When you get home from the grocery store, do any pre-preparing you can. Pre-chop veggies for meals, wash, rinse, and dry fruits and veggies, separate bulk items into single servings, etc.  
Tip Four:  Put the ingredients for the meal you are going to cook together.  I use a plastic “shoe box” and gather all canned, dry, and cold ingredients together, pre-measured and ready to go.  For example, if my recipe calls for tomato paste, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 tbsp garlic powder, I measure the cheese and garlic powder, grab the can of tomato paste and whatever else the recipe calls for, put it all in the same bin, and put it in the fridge until I’m ready to pull it out and use it.  This cuts down the time I spend in the kitchen when I’m ready to cook.
Tip Five:  If you eat on the run a lot, be sure to purchase food that lends itself to this type of life style.  For example, healthy grab-n-go items like granola bars, almonds, bran muffins, go-gurts, meal replacement shakes like Ensure or Boost, cheese sticks, protein powders, etc. 
Tip Six:  If you are able, store some go - to items in your work refrigerator so you always have healthy snacks available to you.  It’s important to have a “combo” of food groups when you snack as this is more filling and nutritious, so go for quick and easy things, like cottage cheese and bananas, pre-measured apple sauces and yogurts, bread and peanut butter.
Tip Seven:  Make your on-the-go meals the evening before so that when you are rushing to get out the door the next morning, all you need to do is remember to grab it from the fridge.  I put my car keys in the fridge with my meals until I got into the habit of going to the fridge before I left the house, so I wouldn’t forget the meals.
Tip Eight:  Double your recipe, so that you and your family have left-overs for the nights you don’t get to cook. 
Tip Nine:  If you are having, for example, Spaghetti Bolognese and Tacos in the same week, cook all the meat at the same time, and separate and put aside what you need for the next meal.  This can be done with rice, pasta, meat, salads, etc.  Look for ways you can prepare for your next meal as you’re making this one, so that cooking the next one will be that much easier.
Tip Ten:  Take advantage of your local grocer’s deli department.  Most stores have a soup buffet, prepared rotisserie chickens, sides and veggies that only need 5 minutes in the microwave before they are ready, salad bars, and more.  On a night when you are short of time, it’s okay to let them do the cooking for you!

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