Wouldn’t it be nice to have all your meals planned out for the week, to eat plant-based meals that left you feeling great all day long, and to have all the food prepared ahead of time to save you time? Time and time again, I hear that switching to a whole foods lifestyle is too hard. Reasons like not enough time to prepare food, it’s too expensive, or the food is too bland to eat. I’ve heard it all.
I can’t control people’s taste buds (even though whole foods are much tastier) but I can provide tips on how to get you prepared to put together wholesome meals that taste great.
Adapting a whole foods plant-based lifestyle meant that I no longer bought processed food and I cooked everything from scratch. It was challenging to learn everything on my own including recipes, how to plan meals, and especially to save time in the kitchen.
If your motivation is to get healthier by eating cleaner but you feel that you are challenged in the time department, then use these tips to help you not only get organized with your meals for the entire week, but to create whole and plant-based meals that will taste delicious.
The first piece of advice I provide people is to purchase lots of containers for food. Food storage is essential when preparing your meals for the week especially if you are looking for ‘grab n’ go’ meals on the run. Since I can a lot of my food, I have a lot of mason jars on hand to use not only for food storage but it’s great for the environment. There is no plastic involved and you can use these jars over and over. It’s also a great way to save money if you are on a tight budget and don’t want to purchase glass containers.
This is how I use my mason jars:
Soup – I found it so hard to find soup containers that wouldn’t leak when I sent my husband to work with his lunch. Now, I just cook up the soup, put the leftovers in a large mason jar and just take and go with me wherever I go. All I have to do, is heat it up!
Salads – Now this is time saver. Art and I love taking our dogs on hiking adventures and picnics. The night before I prepare salads in a mason jar consisting of various vegetables on the bottom, some nuts and seeds, and then top it off with our favourite greens. No mess and it saves SO MUCH TIME!
Salad Dressings – Since we eat whole foods, we don’t consume any oil as it’s processed (it contains no or very little nutrients – IT’S PURE FAT!) so making our own pre-made salad dressings and putting them into small mason jars only makes sense. Most of them last in the fridge for 5-10 days.
Nut butter – I was never a fan of peanut butter (in fact it smelled and tasted disgusting) but since I’ve gone whole foods, I’m completely addicted to almond and cashew nut butter. It’s so easy to make. Just put the nuts in the blender (I use a vitamix) and it does all the work. In a few minutes you have nut butter that is creamy and delicious. Place in a mason jar and it can last up for a couple of weeks to 1 month in the fridge.
Vegetable Broth – I sometimes make my own vegetable broth from leftover vegetables but I usually buy organic vegetable broth cubes and make my own. I find that its less expensive than buying the broth from boxes and it only takes minutes to make. I use vegetable broth for making my soups, casseroles and for sautee vegetables to give it that extra flavour.
Overnight Oatmeal – Another great time saver! Just add oats and your favourite nut milk along with some spices and place into a mason jar in the fridge. Make sure that you stir it before leaving it overnight. When you wake up, you have hearty oatmeal that you can eat cold or heat up. Don’t forget to sprinkle it with some fruit.
Jam – I don’t use refined sugar at all as fruit comes with it’s very own natural sweetner. I’m always on the lookout for new recipes for jam to use on homemade bread made from whole grains. Fruit will last a while in mason jars in the fridge.
Nut Milk – I ditched the store bought organic almond milk about two months ago. Even though it’s organic, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. There are still ingredients in organic nut milk that are not whole which was my decision to give up the store bought non-dairy alternative and make my own. The process to make it is so easy and quick and mason jars are great for storing this product.
Smoothies – One thing that really saves me time is preparing my smoothies the night before or a couple days before I need to use them. Mason jars are the perfect fit as they can hold a lot of fruit and veggies for a large smoothie. They can be useful when I need a last minute smoothie after a workout or need a quick snack when I’m running out the door.
Infused Fruit Water – I’ve always been a big fan of drinking filtered water. There is nothing like it. It helps keep us hydrated, regulates our body temperature, helps detoxify our system, and so much more. I like to flavour my water with various fruits such as lemon, lime, orange, and even mixed berries. Using one fruit or various types, it releases so much flavour. Now that summer is here, I use herbs from my herb garden to mix in with the fruit to give it a burst of flavour. My favourite is lemon, strawberry, and basil.
This is a simple one. If you don’t want your food to expire than grab a marker and some labels and keep them handy in your kitchen. If you are making your own spreads or jams, then attach a label with the expiry date as a reminder when you have to finish it by. The same goes for leftovers. If you know the food will spoil in 3 days, then place a label on it so you know when to consume it. Also, put the older foods in the front of the fridge. This way, you make sure that these foods get consumed first so you don’t have to waste any food.
- Spend time every week looking for recipes. You’re probably wondering who has time to do this but it will save you time in the long run and you get to grow your meal planner. Go to your local library and pick up some whole food cookbooks such as ‘Oh She Glows’ or ‘Plant Pure Nation’, and reach for the sticky notes to mark off your favourites. If you spend time on social media, then set aside 15-20 minutes to look at some great web sites or blogs to get inspired. I set aside time in my calendar every week to look for new recipes, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Before you know it, you have a whole month’s worth of new recipes.
- Save your recipes. Not all people like using technology so grab a book to store all your favourites and store it in an easy spot. You can also hang the recipes on the fridge as a reminder each time you go to the refrigerator. I use an on-line menu planner called ‘Plan to Eat’ as it stores all of my recipe for me. If you’re on Pinterest, start your own pinterest board that includes all of your favourite recipes. It’s a great way to share all your favourites with your friends and family.
- Start a calendar. Once you have enough recipes, you can start adding to your calendar to what you want to eat every night. You can do this each week or plan it out for the entire month. If you don’t have an on-line calendar, you can simply print off pages from your google calendar and keep them in a booklet or keep them on your laptop, just as long as you can easily access them.
- Make a grocery list. People waste more time driving to and from the grocery store because they are not prepared. Think about how many times a week you do this and how much time you could save if you had a list prepared ahead of time.
- Plan for leftovers. If you have a family or are cooking for more than one person, you can save time by making batch loads of food. Plan to double up your recipe so that you can bring leftovers with you for lunch the following day. Another way is to make a little extra of everything, and if you don’t want it right away, freeze it.
- Food prep. Try to get in the habit of prepping food as soon as return from the grocery store. Wash your greens and fruit, chop up vegetables, cook beans and rice. Shred up veggies for salads and prepare some mason jar bottles wit salads and smoothies that you can use in an instant.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,