There’s no disputing the simple fact that cooking from scratch takes time. It is not as convenient as ordering out, driving thru, or heating up something from a package, box or can. That’s just life. I used to be a person who said I didn’t have time to cook. I have a demanding job that requires a lot of overtime from me. Add in going to the gym and my yoga classes and it becomes even more challenging. Oftentimes, I get up around 5 am, am at work by 6:30, head straight to the gym or yoga after work, and don’t get home until 7:30 pm. I’m so sleepy that I usually fall asleep before 10 pm. I could easily use this as a reason not to cook for myself and to take any of the more unhealthy options for my meals. That’s what I used to do. It’s one reason I used to weigh almost 300 pounds.
Other people have even more demands on their time. No matter what obstacles we face, there are other people out there with even more obstacles who are doing just those things we claim not to have time to do. You don’t find time; you make time. It’s all about priorities. As Americans, we are obsessed with convenience. And look where it’s gotten us. I think it’s high time we actually spent time working on the foods we eat, not taking the easy way out. Where there’s a will there’s a way. If you want to do something, you will find a way to make it happen. If you don’t want to, I can’t make you and nobody else can either. There are so many benefits to cooking your own meals though, I encourage kitchen-haters to try to change their outlook about cooking. You may find you enjoy it afterall if you give it time!
The way I’ve found that works the best for me is to do as much as I can on the weekends so I have very little effort to put in during the week. I’ve come to really enjoy cooking and I find expending the time planning and preparing to be more than worthwhile. This weekend, I have documented what I do to help you get ideas for your own lives. This is what works for me.
6:30 am, I wake up. Since I’m an early riser all week as well, I generally wake up long before my alarm. At 7:00 I am at the park picking up my basket from Bountiful Baskets Food Co-Op. I usually stop for an iced green tea on the way home, and then get set in my kitchen for a few hours of prepping. I turn on some music and prep some veggies!
This week, I got the Organic Basket and the Asian Pack:
I have a few things leftover from last week, and I make sure to prep those. Pre-cut veggies will save me a lot of time later in the week. If I want to make a salad, a 15 minute project can easily be reduced to less than 5 minutes if the veggies are already cut. All you need is a cutting board, a knife, a few kitchen towels and a bit of patience. Here’s my prepping station:
After rinsing your veggies, it’s very important to dry them off. They will keep much longer if they are dry in an air-tight container than any other way. I actually find that my prepped veggies last all week and beyond whereas my un-prepped veggies sometimes don’t make it through a week. If you don’t think you’ll use everything fast enough, you can freeze most vegetables and fruits. Here are the veggies I prepared Saturday morning:
Make sure to use a sharp knife (not serrated) to chop your lettuce. This will help the edges stay fresh and not turn brown.
Now I can easily add these to a salad or stirfry.
I separate the flowers from the stems because I like to steam the flowers and use the stems in stir-frys or soups.
I like to separate the scallions into the green part and the lighter part as well. The green part, I usually use in salads and the white part I use like onions in stir-frys or sautes.
Behold my handiwork! I’m finished with this by about 9:30 (and I’ve also done all the dishes and cleaned up my kitchen) before the boyfriend even wakes up:
*A note about plastic: The last time I posted a picture of my prepping, somebody gave me a hard time about using plastic. I would like to switch to all glass or pyrex, but I haven’t done it just yet. Never let perfect be the enemy of the good. I don’t heat up the plastic or put hot foods into it, so I think this is probably relatively safe. I’m not perfect, sorry!
I still had some energy for prepping, so I made a new recipe with the Daikon Radish I got (click the photo for recipe):
So that’s about 3 hours of my time spent in the kitchen before 10am. I’m relaxed, I’ve listened to some good music and spent some time with my thoughts, now I’m off to the rest of my day. I’ve saved myself a ton of effort later in the week.
Woke up around 9 and went out to brunch with Carnivorous Boyfriend. (At The Good Egg, had a really yummy Caprese Omelette, mmm) Then we went grocery shopping at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. The rest of the day, I spent cooking and doing other chores around the house.
First off, made some vegetable broth for a recipe I wanted to make later. This article had some good advice for making your own broth: 7 Tips for Full-Flavored Vegetable Stock. You know, my biggest help in cooking is Google. I wasn’t really taught how to cook. I’m self-taught. In the age of the internet, I don’t think anyone can legitimately make the excuse that they “don’t know how.”
I had a lot of celery and red onions I wanted to use up from previous weeks baskets, which was another motivation for making this stock. Bye Bye celery:
While that was simmering, I baked some vegan blueberry strawberry walnut muffins. Pretty much like THIS RECIPE, except adding blueberries, walnuts, and using 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 oat flour:
Now breakfast is taken care of for the entire week!
Also sliced up the cantaloupe I got in my basket yesterday:
And made some Black Bean Hummus. One of my favorite lunches to have at work is to bring a bunch of cut up veggies, some Ezekiel pitas, and hummus. All the better if the hummus is homemade. Really easy to make, just 1 large can black beans rinsed, 1-2 tbsp tahini, juice from 1 lemon and 1 lime, cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like the heat), 2 cloves of garlic, salt and a little olive oil. Could add water if you want it runnier, but I like it very thick. Much tastier and cheaper than any store-bought hummus:
All that before my stock is finished! About an hour and a half total spent in the kitchen.
For dinner, I wanted to try a new recipe, Vegan Tom Yum soup. I made a very large batch of it and stored the noodles separately from the broth so they wouldn’t get mushy. I made enough to have for 5-6 more meals later in the week either lunch or dinner.
And that’s all folks. My week will be a lot easier because much of the work that goes into cooking from scratch is done. Breakfast is taken care of as well as lunch and a few dinners. Other nights I will likely have a great big salad (using already prepped veggies). I may end up cooking something else one night this week. I really enjoy cooking. It’s an artistic/creative outlet for me and and I get a lot of relaxation out of it. But just like anyone, life gets in the way sometimes so I help myself out by taking the time when I have it on the weekends. And it’s not like I spent all weekend cooking either. I also went to a party, took a 2 hour yoga class, did all my laundry, cleaned, watched TV, and watched 2 full length movies with my sweetie. Make your time work for you!