A few weeks delayed, but here is the last part of the series on the cost of healthy eating. So far, we’ve talked about how to shop for healthy foods on a budget and the cost of making foods at home from scratch vs buying pre-made foods. I didn’t go much into eating out, but my guess is that it would be pretty difficult to eat out 2-3 meals per day each week for less than the $40 spent on groceries in that post.
Today, I’ll show you a little bit of how you can make healthy eating a part of your busy schedule because, let’s face it: even if we know it’s cheaper (and healthier) to make food at home, it seems much easier to pick up something already made for you. However, it only takes a little planning to make healthy foods the fast and easy choice.
An hour or so on the weekend can leave you with a fully stocked fridge ready for the week ahead:
When you get home from the store, wash and cut vegetables to make them easy to throw into lunches or dinner recipes during the week. I usually peel all my carrots and cut some into carrot sticks for lunches and some into smaller pieces for roasting. Broccoli also gets washed and chopped. Store carrots in a container with water to prevent them from drying out or getting soft. Store cut broccoli in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
While cutting vegetables, you can be cooking rice for the week, which really requires no hands-on effort. One serving of rice is 1/4 cup dry, so I generally boil 2 cups of water and cook 1 cup of rice. That leaves me with enough rice for 4 lunches, which I store in individual portions to make things even easier. Dry beans also take minimal time to prepare – simply soak in a pot of water overnight or ~8 hours, rinse, add new water, and boil for about 1.5 hours. You can then keep some in the fridge for the week and freeze the rest!
I use this recipe for bread – it takes about 10 minutes to mix up and then just needs to rise. I used to make the 2 loaves and freeze one but I don’t eat bread enough to finish a whole loaf before it goes bad. By making the dough into rolls, I can freeze them all and just put 2-3 in the fridge for the week so they’re thawed when I want them.
So, what can you do with all these foods to make healthy eating easier?? For lunch, I grab one of my containers of pre-cooked rice, add 1/2 cup beans and some chopped bell pepper (which can also be done in advance), and heat it for about a minute while I fill a bowl with spinach, salsa, and avocado. Add the rice + beans and you have an incredibly filling, healthy lunch that took less than 5 minutes to put together.
Sometimes I have to eat dinner away from home, so I can use pre-cooked quinoa or rice and make something like a burrito bowl that is good cold or hot. You could even cook chopped chicken breast on the weekend to easily add to something like this.
This also works with rice/quinoa, sun-dried tomatos, chickpeas, lemon juice, and roasted eggplant (which can also be made ahead).
Having broccoli, carrots, and other veggies pre-chopped not only allows me to prepare dinner faster, but saves me time by not having to clean a cutting board. I just toss some of the pre-chopped veggies on a foil-lined baking sheet (now I don’t have to clean the baking pan either), give a little spray with canola oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 400 to 425 for 15 minutes for an easy, healthy side dish.
Those are just some of the ways you can make healthy eating easy during the week. What are some of the things you do to make meal prep easier?