It’s common to feel time pressured these days as we rush from home to school to work to gym to social (phew) with barely a break in-between. Healthy eating and even healthy living in general often gets put on the wish list - something to focus on when there’s more time or to start next Monday! The only problem is there’s never going to be more time, at least not any time soon if you’re a parent or even if you have a hectic career. Therefore we need to figure out how to make healthy eating a part of our full and busy lifestyles.
How to save time and money eating healthily, even when busy
You can do meal planning for the week ahead without much effort — even while watching TV! All you need to create a shopping list and plan for the week ahead is a pad and pen, or the notes app on your phone. Making lists on your phone has the advantage that it’s always with you so why not set up a new meal planning note that you can edit each week, wherever you are.
Plan which meals you’ll eat on which days through the week, but stay flexible about it. While listing the days is useful because it reminds you of other commitments, you can easily switch things around if you want to. What you‘re looking for is a basic roundup of potential meals so you can get all the ingredients in one shopping trip instead of wasting time on top-up shopping.
Plus it’s good to be flexible in case certain fresh food you buy needs using up sooner than you thought! Rather than waste food and therefore money, simply switch some of your meal paln days around.
Creating a meal schedule also highlights how often you eat out during lunch breaks at work. Most fast food is not the healthiest option, so swapping out one or two bought meals for those you take from home can benefit your purse as well as your body. If you make your own packed lunches then you are totally in control of the ingredients and can ensure they are super healthy.
Of course you can always add a few pre-prepared meals to your shopping list for lunches if you want to. Just remember to choose healthy options, such as non-GMO, organic, vegetable-based meals to make sure you are getting nutritious wholesome meals.
Facing hours in the kitchen after a busy day is daunting. It’s when you’re tired that unhealthy eating is most attractive. One answer is to cook more than you need on days when there’s more time for meal prep and you’re less tired.
You can either freeze what you don’t need, or pop it in the fridge ready to use as the base for dinner the following day. You can even make portions to take to work to heat up in the staff microwave, if you have one.
An example could be a delicious plant-based lentil cottage pie. When making the pie, cook way more of the lentil, saucy part of the meal than you need for the main dish, then use what’s left to create more meals such as a quick pasta bake. All you have to do is bulk out the sauce with veg (if there isn’t quite enough), simmer some pasta until it’s soft, then drain the pasta and mix it with the heated-through sauce. Grate some vegan cheese on top or create a creamy cheese-like sauce with nutritional yeast, mustard and plant-based milk and pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Now you have the cottage pie you intended to make, but also a pasta bake! You can save portions in the fridge or freezer for lunches and dinners at a later date. You can even store more of the lentil sauce part and use it with spaghetti for a vegan style spaghetti Bolognese or as a topping on a baked sweet potato. You can do the same with many more sauce-based dishes.
Cooking like this will save time and also ensure you stay on track with your healthy eating goals.
Frozen and pre-prepared foods
Including a few dishes that come ready cooked and prepared is a lot different from relying on ready-meals. Rice veggies are one example, with cauliflower rice being a popular choice. You can use the likes of cauli rice or broccoli rice in place of ordinary rice, with tossed salads or as a quick lunchtime meal on their own. You’ll save time in the kitchen, and in terms of health and nutrition over many other quick lunch options on a workday.
Frozen veggies are also a fine alternative to fresh ones. They contain all the nutritional value of fresh vegetables (maybe even more since the shelf life of fresh veg is very short) but without the need for extensive preparation. Plus they’ll last a lot longer which can help to prevent food waste.
Save time at the chopping board by using frozen prepared veg such as chopped onions or peppers, and include side servings of frozen mixed vegetables with main meals. These days, freezing methods ensure that lightly cooked frozen veg retain the texture and taste of their fresh alternatives.
Frozen vegetables that are frozen soon after picking will retain their nutrients. Lightly steam them to save as much of that nutrition as possible.
When you’re crazy busy, healthy eating is even more important as it gives you the energy needed to maintain a hectic lifestyle. Figure out ways to sneak in more healthy options and don’t be afraid to use some pre-prepared food to save time. Your body will thank you for it!
Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my favourite plant-based meals: www.instagram.com/lyliarose
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Top 3 images: my own meals
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