Whilst I’m out and about at the various corporate offices I visit, I always make a point of trying to chat with the people I meet – one of the things I often ask is if they cook at home during the week and it makes me sad when, all too frequently for my liking, the response is something along the lines of “I don’t have time / can’t be bothered / I grab a takeaway on the way home”.
I completely understand that not everyone has the time, nor the inclination to whip up a chef worthy feast every evening (I know I certainly don’t!!) – especially when you’ve been out of the house for 12 hours or running around after children/colleagues all day. But, I also think there’s a difference between genuinely not having time and not wanting to MAKE the time – and only you can know which applies to you on any given occasion.
But here’s the rub – whilst that rotating weekday dinner menu of a bowl of cereal/ready meal/ takeaway/ tub of ice cream won’t cause any short term issues – and mean you don’t miss the latest instalment of Eastenders/Corrie/Love Island -in the long term it isn’t the best choice for your health (or your bank balance come to think of it!)
So what alternative options do you have at the end of a long day when you’re tired, your feet hurt from wearing heels all day, your meeting got moved to 5.30pm on Friday, you’ve just found out that you need to produce some Nigella worthy creation for tomorrow’s school bake day and you just want to flop onto the sofa with a Friends re-run? (it happens to us all)
Well these are the days when having some speedy, but nutritious time savers on hand can prove invaluable – both to your wallet and your health!
Let me give you some of my top tips!
Now I know the idea of meal planning or batch cooking can sound like something just for those super organised, Tupperware heavy folk who have shared family calendars and days of the week underwear BUT trust me, there are other ways! I bet you have a rough idea of what your/your family’s diaries look like for at least a few days right? You know that you’re away this weekend, out late on Tuesday night and having friends over on Thursday? Well put that knowledge to use when you plan/do your weekly shop – don’t stock up your fridge on Friday night, or leave it until Thursday lunchtime to decide on what you’re cooking for your friends later that day – that’s asking for headaches and potential wrinkles!
Instead, how about getting your groceries for the coming week delivered on Sunday evening, cook double on Monday evening so you’ve got a quick dinner on hand for Tuesday and then top up on any additional fresh bits and pieces you need for Thursday evening? That 5 or 10 minutes of thinking in advance (which can be done anywhere – my favourite place is the shower!) can save you a whole lotta time, money and stress later down the line.
Stock Speedy Saviours
By this I don’t mean things like Pot Noodles and Micro Chips (nothing against those occasionally though) but, instead, more nutrient dense cupboard options like pouches of microwaveable rice, grains and lentils, tinned tuna and beans, tofu, dried pasta and noodles, tinned tomatoes and one or two jars of good quality pasta sauce. Having a box of eggs, some form of cheese (I like Cheddar and Halloumi), milk and some salad in the fridge as well as some frozen vegetables in your freezer. Having these on hand will mean that you can have a decent hot meal on the table in under 15 mins – quicker than that takeaway delivery and probably cheaper too! For example, tuna pasta, egg fried rice, lentil dhal, frittata, macaroni cheese…..I’m sure you can think of a few too!
K.I.S.S (aka Keep It Simple Sailor!)
Quite often I think that people have this illusion that meals (especially dinner) have to/should be grand affairs – if you are one of them then let me let you in on a little secret….they don’t have to be!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with breakfast for dinner, reheated leftovers from the weekend or just a plate of good old beans on toast – nutrient dense doesn’t have to mean hassle dense! Consider things like scrambled eggs (I like mine with any smoked salmon I have hanging around) with wholegrain toast, a bowl of soup with a handful of pasta thrown in, leftover Bolognaise with a baked potato, a simple salad or a stir fry with whatever veg you have loitering in the fridge begging to be used …Sometimes the simple things really are the best!
By this I don’t mean the sort you can get from the famous “golden arches” – but homemade ones – you can make them with beef, lamb, pork, chicken or turkey mince as well as with things like fish, lentils and beans and kids love them (especially if you let them get involved in making them). Simply add the seasonings of your choice (e.g. salt & pepper, some chilli flakes, Tamari, herbs) to the mince/other protein, shape and then fry or bake! Use any leftover mix to make meatballs which you can either be part of lunch the next day or served with pasta and sauce another evening for a different speedy supper.
Now before you go hunting for one on Amazon, guess what?! We all have one inside of us! You know those days when you get home and it’s like you have a whole new “To Do” list to start working on which includes phoning your mum, ironing your outfit for tomorrow, putting on a load of washing etc? With a bit of “creative thinking” you can often get many of these done at the same time and not end up going to bed in the wee small hours! For example, pop your headphones in and call your mum whilst you do dinner prep or iron, put the washing on as soon as you get home so that it’s finished and ready to hang up by the time you’ve finished dinner, choose a dinner that can be cooked or reheated in a low oven whilst you bath the kids, make tomorrow’s packed lunches whilst you’re making dinner. If you can get multiple tasks done at the same time then you’re on to a winner.
Whilst there are some kitchen gadgets that end up just being dust collectors and space hoggers, there are others out there that are genuinely worth their weight in gold – two that I’m particularly fond of are the good old pressure cooker (now far easier and safer to use than they were years ago) and something that has become a bit more fashionable recently, a slow cooker. Between them they can help you have a multitude of different meals on the table stress free! For example use the slow-cooker to make porridge overnight or something like chilli or stew during the day and you’ll have a delicious, nutritious meal ready for you when you wake up or get home from a long day – bliss – especially in the winter. Use the pressure cooker and have a tasty tagine or a succulent rack of ribs ready in a fraction of the time they would otherwise take. They’re definitely gadgets that are worthy space takers.
I’m by no means saying that having the odd takeaway or sampling Deliveroo’s finest for dinner every now and then is a crime – but hopefully some of these tips will inspire you to reach for them a little less often than you might be doing right now.
Got some of your own time saving tips? Why not email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and help more people, eat better, more of the time!