We all have to eat. And the higher the quality of food we put in our bodies, the better we will feel. In response to our very busy lives, meal subscription services have taken off in popularity. Despite the criticisms that they are expensive, have too much packaging, and don’t quite give you the choices you’d like, they are still a great way to get reasonably healthy meals without the planning. Grocery stores are beginning to carry instant, complete meals as well, both cooked and ready to cook.
Make your own instant meals
But, instead of paying high prices for ready-to-cook meals, how about making your own. They will be fresher and certainly taste better. It just takes planning, and even if you don’t consider yourself a cook, you can learn to prepare fresh wholesome meals without a lot of prep time or a lengthy list of ingredients. Cooking can become an interesting part of your life instead of a chore.
Planning is key but keep it simple
Planning is always the hardest part, but if you get in the habit of going to the market once or even twice a week, whether farmers market or grocery, it’s not so hard. Simply purchase whatever vegetables look freshest for the week. Or grow your own. Maybe you take a day on the weekend and prep everything. And most of all, keep it simple. Save the elaborate meals for when you have time on the weekend to spend more time in the kitchen.
First, make sure to stock your pantry with basics so you don’t have to purchase herbs, spices and seasonings every week. Here are some staples to start with:
- Good quality olive oil
- Balsamic and cider vinegar, rice vinegar and mirin if you like to cook Asian
- Sea salt
- Black pepper for grinding
- Maple syrup – try to find grade B. Deeper flavor, less expensive
- Fresh garlic
- Grains: rice, quinoa, other grains you love
- Pastas: couscous, orzo
- Broth – chicken, vegetable, beef, bone
- Canned beans of your choice – garbanzos, pintos, black, navy
Seasonings on hand
Seasonings: chili powder, cumin, dried basil, smoked paprika, garlic powder
For perishables, keep basics on hand such as ricotta, plain yogurt, cheeses of your choice.
Let’s get started with this chopped salad. Shop and prepare it on the weekend, and use it through the week for a quick healthy lunch or dinner side.
The key to this salad is to make the base of any vegetables that will hold up for a few days after being chopped.
- 1 c. finely chopped broccoli
- 1 c. finely chopped cauliflower
- ½ c. slivered brussels sprouts
- ½ c. chopped sweet peppers
- ½ c. grated carrot
Mix and put in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
When ready to eat
Take out a half cup of the chopped salad and add onion, cucumber, nuts, dried fruits, seeds, cheese or any other ingredient that you have in the fridge. You can add cooked chicken, rice or even leftover pasta. Different ingredients can make it a totally new salad every day.
Dress with your favorite vinaigrette or creamy dressing. Or, simply brighten with a splash of lemon, lime or orange juice.
Or, make a stir-fry
Even though the recipe is for a fresh salad, you can also stir-fry the mixture. Add protein of choice to make a complete meal.