Time and $ Savings for Wholefood Eating
This blog is inspired by the workplace wellness event I did this morning. The aim is to take the principles of a whole food diet and give practical ideas that make it an enjoyable and sustainable lifestyle for every budget and time constraint. Slaving away in the kitchen every spare minute or feeling overwhelmed by food preparation every time you eat can quickly turn something positive into a very daunting task. Also eating healthy should not cut into your savings. It’s not practical and means you only end up making changes for a short period of time before it becomes unsustainable and disheartening.
In case you haven't read any blogs before, I'll let you know my food philosophy focuses on nutrient dense whole foods that nourish your health and happiness and also reduce inflammation that promotes illness.
I do advocate for the avoidance of gluten (yes I realize there's bread in the basket below - gluten free sourdough is fine from time to time), refined sugars, refined grains and industrial seed oils. At the same time I believe its what you do on a daily basis that affects your health, not what you do sometimes.
For many people having a beer or fish n chips once in a while is fine, just as long as its not dinner every night. Life is about enjoying and getting too caught up in what you are eating can become every unhealthy as well. Quite likely though once you embrace a wholefood diet your taste buds and cravings will change as the body is getting the nutrients it wants for energy and happiness. In my experience for every processed food a person desires, there's always a real food alternative that will be enjoyed just as much or more without the negative side effects.
From this morning's round the table conversations; time and cost and sourcing seem to be the biggest issues people face when switching to a wholefood based diet. I hope this blog will offer a few helpful solutions.
Saving Time Lets face it we live in a time poor society - many of us between sorting family life, working and keeping up with day to day chores allows for little time for relaxation let alone time for food prep.
My best suggestion here is to spend one, maybe two sessions per week meal prepping. This means prioritizing time to plan your meals (maybe you do this with your family after dinner once a week) and setting a time to shop and cook into your weekly schedule to ensure you have quick and easy food available when things are busy. For an example - I know that in New Plymouth there are Farmers Markets on Saturday and Sunday so depending whats on over the weekend I go to one of these markets and get the produce etc I want.
Then go to the butcher and choose the meat or the fish. When I get home I might roast two chickens - one for lunch or dinner, and another for shredding for protein for salads, or bulking other meals during the week. Chicken keeps in airtight containers for 3-5 days. If there's extra it can be frozen in snap lock bags for 3 months. You can use this freezer chicken for adding to soup as it cooks or curries. After the meat is taken off the frames I add them to a large stock pot with 2L of water and a couple of splashes of apple cider vinegar and leave to simmer for at least 4hours.
I now have a delicious bone broth for a soup base or curry.
During the time the chicken is roasting I also cut up and roast a tray of mixed vegetables. Whatever is in season - kumara, pumpkin, cauliflower, red onion, garlic bulbs, and brussel sprouts can all be used hot or cold - add to omelettes for an easy dinner, bulk out soups, serve with avocado and pesto for lunch. Typically I also make a big raw salad that includes beetroot, kale, cabbage, carrots, red onion, spinach etc (I avoid tomatoes and cucumber as they tend to go soggy) Store in an airtight container with lemon squeezed over and it keeps for around four days. So when your hungry all you need to do is grab a bowl or maybe you have put into individual airtight containers already and add your dressing (olive oil, mustard and apple cider vinegar shaken up is easy and can keep in a jar in the fridge for a week), avocado or the shredded chicken or a boiled egg.
This means for roughly 30mins prep (depending on whether the kids are helping out) I have most lunches sorted for the week and a couple of extras to bulk out dinners Find a meal prep routine that works for you. You will be surprised at how much time you can save eating this way and it will be a lot easier to eat healthier during the week without the stress.
Prepping what you struggle with is a good start - maybe its breakfast because you end up resorting to a takeaway coffee and muffin. If you struggle with dinner because of work hours, focus on batch cooking dinners. Preparation is key to a healthy, wholefood diet and will stop impulse purchases and convenience foods being a go to as hunger takes the precedent over rational thought. Invest in a slow cooker if you don't have one and turn your slow cooker on when you leave in the morning. You arrive home to a warm cooked meal that required no effort. If mornings are really tight put the ingredients in your slow cooker the night before and store in the fridge. Take the slow cooker out of the fridge, add some bone broth and turn on as you’re leaving. Eggs are a nutritious, portable snack that are delicious with a pinch of salt and pepper (can add chili if you like some spice). Hard boil a carton of eggs as they keep in the fridge for a week in their shells.
Make a big pot of soup/stew that you store in the fridge. Its a easy lunch or dinner when you are busy and you can add some fresh herbs to mix up the flavour combination.
Soak and cook one different packet of gluten free grain per week (if you tolerate grains well). If you cook a big batch of say, buckwheat it can be served with roast veg, dried out and made into buckwheat crackle (healthier alternative to rice bubble biscuits) or made into breakfast by warming with a few tablespoons of coconut cream and cinnamon. Make your own dressings or 'flavour enhancers' - Different spice combinations or dressings can make a huge difference to the same base ingredients. For example the roast vegetables you made in bulk could have a basil pesto stirred through one night, a balsamic and olive oil dressing another night and maybe topped with a dukkah spice blend for a lunch. Your freezer is most economical when full (your oven as well). Cooking in bulk and freezing meals is a great idea. Remember to label your meals so you know how long it’s been in there. Consume within six months. If you have vegetables that are favourites, when they are in season try blanching them in boiling water, cool and then freezing in snap lock bags. Par-cooked veg will take around 3 minutes to cook in a hot fry-pan or you can add them straight out of the freezer into smoothies. Nuts, seeds, turmeric and ginger will keep for much longer in the freezer and the active components stay fresh and no mold grows on them! Preservative-free sauces and pesto's only keep in the fridge for one week. Make a big batch and freeze in a ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop out and put in a freezer safe bag or container. General rule of thumb - One ice cube = one tablespoon. You can also freeze leftover bone broth into ice cubes or raw chocolate. Saving money (a dollar saved is as good as a dollar earned) So often the major barrier people perceive to eating well is the financial cost. In my ideal world eating organic, free range, grass-fed would be standard practice but in saying that there are wise, financially savvy choices that will give you the same outcome no matter your budget. There's no necessity to eat eye fillet and heirloom tomatoes when organ meat/slow cooked cheaper cuts of meat and leafy greens are just as or maybe nutrient-dense.
Avoid expensive extras - many people get caught up in the latest marketing craze or 'superfood' that must be added for great health but comes with a heavy price tag. For sure many of them do carry certain health benefits but they certainly aren't the golden ticket to great health. Maybe you choose one 'luxury' item a week and then keep the rest based around seasonal, local wholefoods.
Grow your own - Of course the cheapest and most satisfying way to enjoy fruits and vegetables is to take the time to grown your own. Herbs and leafy greens are super easy to grow and the seeds or baby plants are really cheap. If a few of you do this you can crop swap between yourselves as well which prevents food wastage and you overdoing say your feijoa bounty.
Eating out may be quick and easy but certainly isn't wallet friendly. Save eating out for special occasions. By following the tips above for prepping meals means you wont be caught out and having to do drive through on your way home from a busy day. You make a vote with every purchase you make - if people stopped buying the 'rubbish' that lines many of our supermarket shelves it wouldn't continue to be produced. Supporting farmers markets is a great way to purchase delicious fresh foods at often a fraction of the price compared with big chain supermarkets. This also guarantees you will be eating seasonally and your food will be more tasty; as it is freshly picked or made without all the added extras (like preservatives etc).
Getting to know your local food suppliers like the butcher or produce growers is a great way to support local business as well as finding out how to best cook the cheapest cuts of meat and what produce is coming into season and what's finishing. You can plan your meals in advance to account for this.
The slow cooker makes the wallet happy too as it make cheaper cuts of meat like chuck steak or bolar roasts that are typically chewy because they’re full of sinew and gristle into soft melt in you mouth morsels, which also provide you with essential nutrients like collagen.
Tinned fish like mackerel, sardines, and wild caught salmon all provide omega 3 fatty acids (valued for its anti-inflammatory properties) The small bones are edible as well providing calcium. So it seems that frozen produce is viewed as being less nutritious than fresh produce, but this isn’t always the case. Often frozen produce has been picked and snap frozen retaining its nutrient value where 'fresh' produce has sometime been in cool stores for months and artificially ripened. Eating frozen produce is definitely better than eating no produce at all so if this is a more economical option for you buy a few bags when they are on sale. My local health store now stocks organic frozen veg so check out yours. I sincerely hope this blog have given you a few helpful pointers that are practical in helping you embrace a wholefood diet. Food should be a fun and enjoyable part of life!
Remember being prepared and creative with food often cuts down on expense.
Having a raw maca, cocao, spirulina bliss ball for snack may be appealing but certainly isn't a nutritional requirement for a healthy diet!