One of the challenges we see in clients at both our Auckland and Hawkes Bay BePure clinics and in the BePure community is taking the principles of eating whole real food and turning it into an enjoyable sustainable lifestyle.
We don’t want you slaving away in the kitchen every spare moment. Nor do we want healthy eating to cost us all our available resources. It’s not practical and it’s a sure fire way to ensure we only stick to a “plan” for a short period of time. Let’s face it; when we use up all our stores in terms of time, energy and finances it is only sustainable for a certain period before we rebel and feel disheartened.
It’s something we’ve seen time and again. So, we’ve compiled this blog to show you ways to save time and money when preparing your food, without compromising on nutrition or taste. Our philosophy focuses on eating nutrient dense whole foods that support your health while reducing inflammation and illness. This means avoiding gluten, refined grains, refined sugars and highly processed vegetable oils.
It’s not our intention to be dogmatic and to never eat foods that contain sugar, alcohol or other less-than-ideal foods. These foods are fine if they don’t form the basis of our diet. Meaning for most people, enjoying them occasionally works well. It’s not our intention to suck the joy out of living - although you will see that eating healthy food can be delicious and enjoyable - but to give you the greatest amount of energy to let you live the life you want.
So let’s get started…
It can be helpful when looking at meal planning and prepping to spend some time figuring out what it is that you personally struggle with. For some people it’s time, while for others it’s cost. In this blog we’re going to lay out each challenge to eating healthily in a sustainable way and offer solutions for each problem.
The biggest weapon against time shortages is spending one or two sessions per week meal prepping. Meal prepping is anything you do when you have a chunk of time that will save you time when you don't.
Part of the meal prepping process is taking the time to plan your meals and prioritising shopping and cooking into your weekly schedule to ensure you have food that is easy and quick when things get busy. There’s that saying “a penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The sentiment is true here. Every minute of meal prep is worth hours of stress and time later.
We advise clients at both our Auckland and Hawkes Bay BePure Clinics to spend their Sunday shopping and cooking a few staple items that will see you through your busy week until Friday when you have more time again.
The premise is to ensure you have something quick, tasty and healthy on standby to stop those impulse purchases and chocolate bars consumed when ravenous hunger takes the place of rational thought. Let’s face it. We’ve all been there.
Meal prep can mean different things to each person, so it is important you find a routine that works for you. Essentially, it should save you time in the kitchen and make it easier for you to eat healthier during the week.
If you always find yourself in a hurry to get out of the door in the morning and your breakfast currently consists of a takeaway muffin, then preparing breakfast will help you.
Likewise, if you struggle to get dinner together because you work late, you should focus on preparing dinners.
1. The weekend cook up
Either day of the weekend is good for spending some time in your kitchen. If you’re a shift worker or work weekends, figure out another day that suits you. Before heading out to the shops look through your favourite recipe books and choose 3 or 4 items that you want to eat and that will keep in your fridge for several days. Write a list of what you need and head to the shops. Look in your area for a weekend farmers market. You’ll be able to get a good deal on seasonal produce and the growers can suggest new ways of cooking different vegetables.
After you get home from the markets/butchers/supermarket turn your oven on. A full oven is obviously the most economical way to use power, so bulk prepping your food items will also save you power.
• Roast two chickens or a tray of chicken drumsticks. One for dinner that night, and another for shredding for protein for salads, sandwiches or snacking. Chicken will keep in airtight containers for 3-5 days. Any extra can be frozen in snap lock bags for 3 months. Freezer chicken is great for taking out and adding to soup as it cooks or omelettes for extra protein.
• While the chickens are in the oven, roast a tray of mixed vegetables. Pumpkin, kumara, cauliflower, red onion, courgette and brussels sprouts are all delicious hot or cold.
• Lastly, make one giant salad without the dressing. Veggies like kale, cabbage, carrots, red onion, spinach and sprouts are hardier than tomatoes and cucumber which can go a bit soggy. Keep this giant salad in an airtight container without dressing on it and it will keep for over five days. Our green slaw is a great example of this.
These three items require less than 30 minutes hands-on prep time. When they are all done it means making lunch each day is as simple as taking a serving of salad, roasted veg and chicken, mixing them together and adding a splash of olive oil and lemon juice.
2. Other items to meal prep
Hard boil a carton of eggs. Eggs keep in the fridge for one week in their shells. Eggs are a great, portable snack and are delicious with a pinch of salt and pepper.
One big pot of soup or stew. This is especially great for lunches if you have kids and leftovers or other meal prep items get used in their lunchboxes. Having a stash of soup in the fridge means you can add a tin of tuna or sardines, some chicken or some eggs and you have a perfectly balanced meal.
These quinoa kale and kumara fritters are portable and delicious.
Bulk soak and cook one different gluten free grain per week. If you cook a big batch of buckwheat you can make these berry pilaf’s or use buckwheat with some veggies and protein of choice.
3. Embrace tins
Soaking and cooking from scratch is easier for our digestion. But tinned beans, chickpeas, lentils or black beans are far better than the takeaway store on the way home. Opt for BPA-free tins and choose brands with no added ingredients. Similarly, tuna, sardines or salmon tins can be thrown on top of any salad to provide you with protein. Again opt for BPA free tins and look for sustainably sourced and organic brands wherever possible.
4. Turn your slow cooker on when you leave in the morning
Nothing is more time efficient than having something cook while you aren’t there. You get to come home to a warm cooked meal that requires no effort other than dishing onto a plate. Try assembling the ingredients in your slow cooker the night before and storing in the fridge. The added bonus here is you’re essentially marinating your meat and vegetables overnight. Then take the slow cooker out of the fridge and turn on as you’re leaving.
5. Double cook meals
When you have time to meal prep make two servings of each meal. Then you can eat the leftovers in the next couple of days or freeze for later. For instance, make enough shepherds pie or casserole for two dinners instead of one.
6. Use your freezer
Your freezer, like your oven, is most economical when full. If you’re short on time, cooking more and freezing meals for later is a great idea. Just label your food so you know how long it’s been in there. As a general rule, cooked meat will last for 3 - 6 months.
When vegetables are in season try blanching them in boiling water, cooling and then freezing in snap lock bags. If your veggies are par-cooked, they will take less than 3 minutes to cook in a hot skillet.
Turmeric and ginger will keep for much longer in the freezer and can be grated while frozen, then returned to the freezer. Much less wastage and the active components of ginger and turmeric stay fresh!
Another handy tip is to use your ice cube trays for things other than water. Preservative-free Pesto will only keep in the fridge for one week. Make a big batch and freeze into your ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop out and store in a freezer-safe bag or container. One ice cube is equivalent to one tablespoon. This is handy for adding sauces to recipes straight from the freezer.
You can also freeze leftover bone broth into ice cubes and add to soups, curries or stir-fry's.
7. How to save money
One barrier to eating well is the perceived cost; that eating ‘clean,’ ‘paleo,’ or ‘healthily’ will leave you bankrupt buying the foods you think you need to have. In an ideal world yes, we would be eating organic, grass-fed, and free-range ‘superfoods.’ But we shouldn’t sacrifice ‘good enough’ in pursuit of perfection.
There’s no reason to reach for eye fillet steak and expensive thin stemmed broccoli when organ meat and leafy greens will do the same job. Some of the foods that are the most nutrient-dense (organ meats, eggs, and vegetables), are also the cheapest.
8. Grow your own
The cheapest way to enjoy fruits and vegetables is to grown your own. In particular, leafy greens are easy to grow and seeds are incredibly cheap. In contrast, one bag of spinach is often $4 and might last for three days.
9. Avoid expensive extras
We know that foods like haloumi, chorizo, bacon and nuts can be healthy and tasty additions to your diet. We certainly don’t need to avoid these foods due to their fat content as wisdom from the 80s and 90s might suggest. But the fact is, these items are more expensive and aren’t nutritionally necessary. Choose one flavourful item you love per week. So choose haloumi one week, and chorizo the next.
10. Avoid eating out often
Eating out can be an enjoyable, social interaction. We aren’t here to tell you that you can never eat out again. But, it’s expensive if you’re doing it frequently. Having a plan and being prepared means you will be less caught out and having to buy lunch or dinner regularly. Bringing food from home is cheaper and you have the added bonus of knowing exactly what is in it.
Save your money for those special occasions and go out and enjoy it.
11. Shop at your local farmers market
Urban centres, in particular Auckland, are littered with them, and they often have wonderful produce for a fraction of the cost of a supermarket. The Oratia farmers market had New Zealand tomatoes for $2.99 a kilo. New World had the same product for $8.99 a kilo.
12. Buy frozen produce
Frozen produce is generally viewed as having less nutritional value than fresh produce, but this just isn’t the case. Even if the nutritional value was slightly reduced, eating frozen produce would still be better than eating no produce at all. Buy a few bags when they go on sale, and you’ll always have some vegetables on hand. There are also some great organic frozen vegetable brands available. Check the freezer at your local health store.
13. Buy cheap cuts of meat
The slow cooker is the friend of the budget-conscious. It is also time friendly as hands-on cooking time is minimal. Cuts of meat such as beef cheeks, stewing meat, and chuck steak can be placed into a slow cooker and left on their own while you go about your day.
These cuts are chewy because they’re full of sinew and gristle which breaks down in the slow cooker to provide you with essential nutrients like collagen.
You can also buy standard beef mince instead of premium - the fat content in standard mince is fine - especially if you are a protein/fat type. Similarly buy chicken drumsticks or nibbles instead of chicken breasts or other prime cuts. You’ll be saving dollars on the kilo.
14. Buy tinned fish
Tinned fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and salmon all provide ample amounts of omega 3 fatty acids – the fantastic anti-inflammatory fat that’s credited with providing health benefits from improved brain health, to decreased joint pain.
Don’t worry about the bones in small fish. These bones are perfectly edible and are also a great source of calcium. Cheap, convenient, sustainable, and healthy – you can’t go wrong.
15. Cook in bulk
In addition to buying in bulk, cooking in bulk can help keep costs down as well. It’s sometimes cheaper to buy large quantities of products than to buy them in smaller amounts. Divvy up leftovers into portion-sized leftover containers and freeze for a quick meal when time is tight. One staff member here at BePure swears by working off a fortnightly budget. If you do one big shop once, lasting a fortnight, you have more money to use for specials that come up. Then you leave some money aside to top up fresh produce as you need it.
16. Become friends with your food suppliers
Your local butcher can be a financial godsend. You can support local business while asking them questions about the cheapest cuts of meat and how to cook them. Many butchers will also process 800g of mince and 200g of liver together for a 1kg block of minced meat if you ask. Adding liver to your diet is not only a nutritional gold mine, but it reduces the cost of your meat overall.
For many people handling liver is a big barrier that prevents them from eating it. Doing it this way eliminates that and kids get it several times a week without realising.
Similarly, talk to the produce people at your local market. They can tell you what’s coming into season and what's finishing. You can meal plan to account for this.
17. Reduce snacking
Once you adopt a whole foods way of eating, and you figure out what your unique body needs to function, you will have stable energy throughout the day and can usually (unless you’re exercising a lot, pregnant or breastfeeding) get by on three meals a day without snacking. This cuts down on the variety of foods you need. Not snacking also saves you time.
Sometimes all it takes to overcome the idea that healthy eating is necessarily expensive is a bit of creative thinking. There is absolutely no reason a healthy diet has to contain superfoods such as quinoa or maca powder.
It’s great if you can afford organic, free-range, and grass-fed everything. We know this is the gold standard, but it this isn’t possible for you, there’s absolutely no reason your diet has to be less nutritious.
So, there you have it. Some tips for making healthy eating affordable and time efficient. If you have any questions or ideas please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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We are all unique. Our genetics, our environments, our lifestyles, our emotional wellbeing. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness or a single solution to your health concerns. If you want to learn more about your personal health story, Ben is touring to 30 cities around NZ presenting his new, 'What's Your Health Story?' seminar now. Learn more here.
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