The blog we wrote a few weeks ago What Should I Eat To Be Healthy? (Start With These 3 Things) has been read by over 20,000 people - clearly a tricky topic that many of us come up against!
One of the main challenges we see in our BePure Clinic clients and being discussed in our BePure Community group is taking the principles of eating whole real food and turning it into an enjoyable lifestyle that we can easily maintain around 80% of the time.
Very few people enjoy spending their free time in the kitchen. For some (especially our working parents!) home cooked meals, everyday is not practical and if things aren't achievable that's a surefire way to ensure we only stick to a “plan” for a short period of time.
For a little inspiration, we’ve compiled some ways you can save time and money when preparing your food, without compromising on nutrition or taste.
So let’s get started!
Meal planning is rated by every health coach because it does make life easier. But that doesn't mean it's always easy. When looking at meal planning and prepping, it can be helpful to spend some time figuring out what it is that you personally struggle with. For some people, it’s time, while for others it is cost. We’re going to lay out each challenge to eating healthily in a sustainable way and offer solutions for each problem.
How to Save Time
The biggest weapon against time shortages is spending one or two sessions per week meal prepping. Meal prepping is something we do when you have a little bit of time, that saves 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 life gets busy.
1. The Weekend Cook Up
Days off are the perfect opportunity to spend some time on food preparation. Before heading out to the shops look through your favourite recipe books—or read some of the recipes on our blog—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.
To save money, look in your area for a weekend farmers’ market. You’ll be able to get a good deal on seasonal produce and many growers are also passionate foodies, we loved having a chat and learning new ways of cooking different vegetables.
- 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 seasonal vegetables. Roast pumpkin, kumara, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and brussels sprouts are all delicious eaten 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 BePure Green Slaw recipe 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 side of tinned tuna/sardines, some chicken or some eggs and voila, 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. Similarly, tuna, sardines or salmon tins can be thrown on top of any salad for protein.
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 (so great in these cooler months!) 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 it out of the fridge and turn it on as you’re leaving.
5. Double The Recipe
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 shepherd's pie or casserole for two dinners instead of one.
6. Use Your Freezer
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-fries.
7. Add In Supplements
While we may be eating well there are many factors that can still mean we aren't getting the nutrients we need to thrive on a daily basis. You can read more about these here and the quality of our soils here.
It’s a frustrating issue, but it is important (and possible!) to give your body the nutrients it needs for optimal health in other ways. Adding in the nutrients we need daily, like those found in our Everyday Wellness Pack, is a quick and easy way to fill in any nutritional gaps.
8. Grow Your Own
The cheapest way to enjoy fruits and vegetables is to grow your own. In particular, leafy greens are easy to grow and the seeds are incredibly cheap. In contrast, one bag of spinach is often $4 and might only last for three days.
9. Avoid Expensive Extras
We know that foods like halloumi, chorizo, bacon and nuts are delicious, healthy and very 'Instagrammable' in recipes. But the fact is, these items are more expensive and by no means the only healthy, tasty additions to your meals. Choose one 'speciality' item you love per week. Perhaps haloumi one week, and chorizo the next.
10. Avoid Eating Out Often
Eating out can be an enjoyable, social interaction but, it can be expensive if you’re buying breakfast on-the-go or dashing out of the office to grab lunch every other day. Having a plan and being prepared means you will be less caught out and having to buy quick meals regularly. Bringing food from home is cheaper and you have the added bonus of knowing exactly what is in it.
11. Shop At Your Local Farmers Market
Urban centres have them in abundance and they often have wonderful produce for a fraction of the cost—and a lot less plastic!—of a supermarket.
12. Buy Frozen Produce
While we love getting fresh, local, seasonal produce when possible, frozen produce is typically flash frozen close to where it was picked and often retains a fairly high nutritional value.
Buy a few bags (especially when they're on sale), and you’ll always have some vegetables on hand. There are also some great organic frozen vegetable brands available that can be much more affordable than buying organic fresh. Check out our Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen list to decide which ones you prioritise.
13. Buy Cheap Cuts Of Meat
Number 4 was our time-friendly trick, but the slow cooker is the friend of the budget-conscious. 'Tougher' cuts of meat such as beef cheeks, stewing meat, and chuck steak are cheaper but the sinew and gristle which makes them tough breaks down when placed in the slow cooker. This provides you with delicious, soft meats that contain many 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 way to do this is to buy bulk essentials on bi-weekly basis (checking out what's on special) and then topping up fresh produce as you need it.
16. How To Save Money
One barrier to eating well is the perceived cost; that eating ‘clean,’ ‘paleo,’ or ‘plant-based’ will leave you bankrupt buying the foods you think you need to have.
There’s no reason you have 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!
17. Reduce Snacking
Once you adopt a whole foods way of eating, and you figure out what your unique body needs to function (not sure, take our questionnaire here), you will have stable energy throughout the day. Reducing snacking cuts down on the variety of foods you need and can also save you (a lot of) time.
So that's it, our 17 tips to save you time and money. Sometimes all it takes to overcome the idea that healthy eating is expensive and use a bit of creative thinking. There is absolutely no reason a healthy diet has to contain only expensive superfoods (quinoa or spirulina) or speciality items (halloumi or chorizo).
It’s great if you can afford organic, free-range, and grass-fed everything. We know this is the gold standard, but if this isn’t possible, there are many ways you can maximise your nutrition in other areas of your diet. Adding in the nutrients we need daily, like those found in our Everyday Wellness Pack - is an easy way to fill in the gaps left by diet. Why? Read all about that here.