Sticking to a healthy eating plan can be challenging at the best of times. Throw in a budget and a tight schedule and you’ve potentially got yourself a recipe for disaster. Rest assure, there are ways to ease the burden and ensure your lifestyle doesn’t interfere with your health goals. We chatted with Chef and co-author of the Real Food Kitchen, Cynthia Louise to find out how.
Ease the burden of food prep
We’ve all heard the notion that preparation is key when it comes to a successful diet, but sometimes slicing and dicing on your day off can feel like a chore. Start by having all of your ingredients in front of you, says Cynthia. That way you won’t be overwhelmed at the task at hand. She also recommends: “Put some music on loud and start chopping… This is a must when preparing food. It makes time fly by and you get all caught up in the present moment.”
Create fuss free meal plans
Deciding on what you want for dinner can be challenging, let alone trying to sort out seven days worth of meals. The solution? Go with what you’re craving, says Cynthia. “I make a note of all the dishes that crossed my mind from the past week, from there I look at what the recipes look like.”
Be sure to incorporate leftovers into your meal plan as they’re “king when you’re on a food budget,” and also factor in freezer friendly dishes. “Before you go to work, take your Indian dahl out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge to defrost. By the time you get home, your dinner just needs reheating on the stove,” says Cynthia.
Make friends with your freezer
Having a pre-cooked dinner ready and waiting for you when you get home is a sure way to ease the stress of cooking, but cheap and nasty frozen meals from the supermarket aren’t going to cut it. For a nutrient dense dinner that doesn’t taste like plastic, cook up a big batch of pumpkin soup or bolognaise at the start of each week and freeze in individual containers. Cynthia says curries, rice dishes, pasta sauces, homemade sausage rolls, Mexican black beans and baked beans are ideal for freezing. “Any bean and legume dishes freeze, so do lots of sauces, dressings, raw cakes and slices,” she insists. You can even freeze herbs and leftover cooked pasta!
Back to basics
If you didn’t have time to create a meal plan or prep any food for the week, instead of opting for takeout go back to basics. Think eggs, avocado, rice and oats – anything that’s versatile, cheap and which will deliver you the required nutrients. “My good old favourite is essene bread (you can freeze that bread too) with lashings of avocado, a pan fried egg and a sprinkle of chopped nuts and seeds,” says Cynthia. “In that I am covering all fats, fibre, carbs, sugars and protein… Saves me every time.”
Create a healthy relationship with sugar
Buying a chocolate bar every time those sugar cravings strike hinders healthy intentions and becomes costly over time. An alternative to this is coconut, advises Cynthia. It’s cost effective at around $2 per nut and is easy to grab and go once cut up. “Smash it on the floor to crack open [then] grab a butter knife and a tea towel – tea towel to hold the nut and the butter knife to leaver the hard flesh out,” says Cynthia. “You can then store the white hard flesh in a container and nibble on it every day – this will for sure stop the sugar cravings.”
Prolong your produce
Waste not, want not! There’s nothing worse than buying a whole heap of fresh produce, only to find it goes off before you make use of it. An obvious solution to this would be to buy as you go, but for some people it’s not really a viable option. If you want to make your fruit and veg go that extra mile, Cynthia insists: “Herbs get wrapped in a paper towel and put somewhere they won’t get crushed, apples and fruit in good containers, veggies to be stored in those green fridge bags and nuts and seeds in the freezer.”
Snag a bargain
While buying in bulk can certainly be cost effective, it’s pointless purchasing 5kg of grapes or two slabs of tuna if you’re not going to eat it. Instead, why not get your friends or flatmates involved and “split the kilos out,” encourages Cynthia. “When you buy in bulk… you buy in larger quantities and that’s a big saving, especially when your tribe gets involved.”
Alternatively, farmers markets are perfect for cheaper produce. And the secret to snagging yourself an even bigger bargain? Head there at the end of the day, says Cynthia. “Big deals are to be had when they are closing the stalls for the day – the farmers reduce beyond half!”
Image Via Dumb Little Man