Convenient Foods for Inconvenience Haters

Posted On Thursday, 05 May 2016
Convenient Foods for Inconvenience Haters

My husband and I are always busy. We enjoy cooking, but we have so many projects going that sometimes it's tough to prepare a healthy meal in a hurry.

Both of us have daytime careers. We also have after-hours activities; I dance and sew while he writes.

Fortunately, we only have dogs to depend on us when we're not meeting deadlines. Over the years, we've eaten many ready-made meals from Trader Joe's and freezer pizzas. But, we haven't owned a microwave since 2005, which drastically cuts back on our convenience food options.

With my health scare at the beginning of the year, it was time to make some dietary changes… fewer preservatives, less processed food, even more produce. But, we're busy people and it is hard as hell to cook every meal from scratch without losing valuable production time.

I know many of you feel me on this one. How the devil can we eat healthy when it takes so long to make meals?

Here are the four solutions in our household.

First, we get organic produce through a subscription delivery service and have for the last five years. Substitutions are possible if the subscription offers something on my allergy list or if we're tired of getting carrots every week.

I get the box inventory a few days before delivery so I can do some meal planning.

It’s certainly helped us branch out with the vegetables we consume. I now eat turnips, parsnips and kale. If a veggie won't taste great raw, we usually try baking it with olive oil drizzle, salt and pepper for the initial tasting.

Root vegetables frequently get treated like potatoes; mashed or baked or tossed in the slow cooker with meat. I skip the weeks we travel.

I spend about $25 every two weeks for a small box of produce.

Second, we order complete meal components from another delivery service. I grew up eating organic food, so I get organic meal delivery once a month. There are even companies that sell Southern, vegan, home style and other meals. The box arrives with pre-measured ingredients. The origin of the produce is listed on the side of the box. Recipes are included so we can make meals again on our own.

Having kits reduces prep time. Each meal we've made takes 20-45 minutes to prepare, 20-30 minutes to cook. The kits are exciting. My husband and I will take turns preparing the meals or we'll double team the meal project. The ingredient containers and ice packs are reusable, and the packing material is recyclable.

It can get expensive but costs less than dining out. Each meal costs $10 to $13, and you get six meals (two servings of three recipes) in one box. Some meals are large enough for us to stretch into another meal.

Third, we plan ahead for crunch time. Both of us keep very good track of our projects, so we know when not to prepare food. That's when we hit the store for a veggie tray and some cheese and crackers. We'll get the best freezer foods we can find, shopping organic as much as possible. Another option is to stock up on organic soups and imported Italian pasta.

If we can reduce the preparation time to firing up the stove and plating the meals, we can focus more on the task at hand. We have a list of go-to options for crunch time and usually take one break to prepare an inconvenient meal to clear out the mental cobwebs of continuous work.

Finally, we order takeout. We're particular with our takeout because we're trying to eat healthy. On rare occasions we'll order UberEats, a restaurant delivery service that has ready-made meals available in ten minutes.

Another option is to call our neighborhood Greek restaurant and order the same plate we have since 2003. I know they've been around since 1948, so they're using modern conveniences to recreate family recipes. The Mediterranean diet is great for the body. They don't deliver so we have to put on our tennis shoes and walk a few blocks to pick it up. We usually need the stretch break at that point. A good neighborhood restaurant can always save the day.

Knowing what you want to eat ahead of time takes a lot of stress out of the process. Don't feel guilty about not wanting to spend four hours in the kitchen a night.

Assess the work ahead of you. Survey your food options. Know your go-to groceries. Spend a little time meal planning. Write it all down so you know what comes next when you're bleary-eyed from production.

You'll find that dinner isn't always inconvenient.

Pamela Moore

Pamela was labeled as a genius as a child, and her curiosity and problem solving ability were encouraged. With a Liberal Arts degree from University of the Ozarks in Arkansas, she packed up her husband to move to sunny Los Angeles. She spent almost a decade applying those problem solving skills to help doctors improve their practices, then transferred those skills to working with a small business executive.

Pamela spends her days with her "assistants," two rescue dogs. She's fitness motivated, both studying and teaching dance. She's always learning something new, which serves her well as a producer for RadioMD.

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