As a "real food" eating family, something I hear all the time is "How do you find the time? I just can't do it, I'm too busy!". Well, I decided since I have heard this more times then I could count that I would just write about how I try to make the time. I want to take a moment to define "real food". To me it means that I know what all of the ingredients in my food are and I know where they come from. No processed junk! If you are still purchasing bread or other staple items there should be less then 5 ingredients (unless its obviously going to have more like a 9 grain bread or trail mix...). I would also like to talk about what I feel is a balanced diet. We try to eat as many raw fruits and veggies as we can, but they are expensive so we do have to limit what we consume daily. To make up for that we try to fill the gap with whole grains and other "fillers" like soaked dried beans, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice and potatoes/sweet potatoes. I try to make what I can from scratch and I try to keep our meals delicious and simple. Try being the key word! Its always a work in progress!
Ok, now that all that is out of the way, here is the only way I can make this happen. I plan ahead. This is the main thing that makes it possible for me. Every 2 weeks I try to write out a menu plan. I figure out what we have in the pantry, fridge and freezer and then I figure out what I can make. I do once a month grocery shopping so I also try to plan out which fruits and vegetables will be eaten first. For example grapes, berries, apples, tomatoes, greens... Those are eaten at the beginning of the month because they go bad faster. Citrus, potatoes, root vegetables .. Those are saved for later in the month because they have a longer shelf life. Once I know what we have to eat and when it needs to be eaten, I have a better idea of what I need to prepare for the next 2 weeks. If I don't do this it is much easier to fall back on the ever
Now that I know what we have, I begin to prepare food in advance. I do not like to make huge batches of food to freeze and eat throughout the month. If this works for you then it is an excellent way to make time for homemade food. It just doesn't work for me, I don't like doing it and we also don't have the freezer space. What does work for me is taking Sunday afternoon and getting a few quick things made for the week or sometimes 2 weeks. I make a weeks worth of breakfast burritos (the filling can be cooked overnight in the crockpot) for my husband so that they are out of the way, I might boil a bunch of eggs and put them in a baggy for snacks, breakfast "cookies" are usually made for quick snacks, muffins and sometimes if I know I have an extra busy weeks I will chop all of our salad stuff ahead of time and store it in baggies. I also really like to precook some chicken (plain roasted with salt and pepper) and cut it up into bite sizes. That is perfect for tossing in a salad or quesadilla. Making bread for the week is also really helpful and much easier then you might think. This is a huge help! I then have several items all ready to go when I need them.
Breakfast! This really is the meal that sets you up for your day. I find that if I don't take time for a good breakfast, I make less then good choices the rest of the day. Don't make it complicated though! Smoothies are a great, quick breakfast food with some toast. Don't have time to chop up fruit? Get some small freezer baggies and sunday afternoon separate your chopped fruit into single servings. Then you just grab, dump, blend. Simple and delicious. We eat a lot of eggs too, they are a good cheap protein! Fried, scrambled... They take less then 5 minutes to prepare. If you don't have time for that then you can cook up breakfast burritos ahead of time like I mentioned above. We warm them in the oven while we get dressed or sometimes eat them cold. Breakfast cookies are fantastic for a quick breakfast or snack, I know I already mentioned those too. They should have no added sugar and be filled with things like dried fruit, applesauce, chia seeds, flax... You can also quickly make oatmeal (not instant but real rolled oats) in the time it takes to make your morning coffee. Dump in your oats, your toppings of choice, poor boiling water over the top and let it sit. Drain it and add honey. Voila! Delicious breakfast. Crockpot oatmeal, fresh fruit, peanut butter toast, yoghurt... All good, quick real food choices to start your families day.
Lunch! This is probably our easiest meal to take care of. I try to make enough dinner each day to double as our lunch. When there isn't enough I grab some of the chicken I prepared on Sunday and throw together a quick salad. It is even faster when I have taken a few minutes on Sunday to get all of that washed and chopped. We also like quesadillas (with beans, rice and/or meat all prepared sunday) fruit with crackers and cheese, warmed up quinoa with veggies (prepared sunday). Sometimes if I have a really busy week ahead of me I will make a big pot of soup and we will just heat that up for lunch. We don't own a microwave so all reheating is done no the stove or in a toaster oven. I don't prepare everything I've mentioned every time on Sunday, I pick a few and go with those. I still find lunch takes me less then 10 minutes to prepare. These are all things you can throw in a container and take with you to work the night before as well.
Dinner! Dinner is definitely a little trickier and can take more time. Right now though I am going to focus on nights that involve simple, quick but tasty meals. Soup is a huge part of our diet. Bone broth has many health benefits and I make it every time I roast a chicken. If we have had chicken the night before I cook the broth overnight in my crockpot. Then the next afternoon I strain it and fill up the crockpot with lots of veggies, seasonings and rice, quinoa or buckwheat. We can normally eat off of that for a few days. If I have made pot roast for dinner one night then I will make something different from leftovers like veggie beef soup, french dips or bbq beef nachos. Enchiladas are usually really easy to make from leftovers as well. This not only makes my dinners easy and healthy but also help our food stretch further.
I would be lying if I said that eating real food didn't take longer. It does take more time and planning then the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) which is filled with lots of processed prepackaged foods. And who are we kidding, health aside, they are extremely convenient! I have had to make this a priority in our lives in order to make it happen. Some weeks are better than others but I do my best. With a little planning and preparation you can too!
How do you make real food happen in your house? What are your go-to quick snacks and meals? What do you find is easiest or hardest? I love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
Written By Happily Domestic Contributor: Brittney Thompson