I love food. But even I often feel like I just cannot be bothered to actually make a full meal, lunch, breakfast or snack from scratch. I know eating healthily is good for me both mentally and physically (and spiritually – we’ll talk about emotionally another time…) but it’s very hard to do if you are short on energy/money/time/all of the above. And unfortunately, the people who are most likely to benefit from a healthier diet are the least likely to be able to have one. Throw in a few allergies or intolerances, and you are looking at a minefield of difficulty about something which is pretty necessary to our entire existence. And that’s not even scratching the surface of all the good/bad food related hang ups we may have. It’s all a bit exhausting. So in my various different life circumstances and challenges, I’ve come up with a few tips that might help make it all a bit less icky and a bit more manageable.
Firstly, just to clarify what I mean by ‘healthy’. There’s a whole host of icky connotations around particular food being almost morally good or bad dependant on fat/sugar/caffeine/dairy/gluten…. etc content on a health basis. I’m going for the general idea of including some kind of fruit and veg, eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, a bit of cake won’t hurt kind of thing. It’s more about the process of making food and clearing up that I’m concentrating on for now. And if you are, for example, vegan because you are morally against eating animals or the conditions they are kept in, more power to you. But I would gently remind you that you can’t look after anyone else if you don’t look after yourself, including the bunnies. So if it is proving very difficult, you are allowed to stray for a while, you can always try again later when you’re in a better place. On to the bullet points;
- For when you are super exhausted, there are some great store-cupboard instant meals that you can keep in when you just can’t face doing more than boil the kettle or microwave something for 2 mins. I’m talking instant porridge, dried/dehydrated fruit, nuts, microwave rice/pasta/soup and packets of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, tinned sardines, cured meat, …. Have an investigate of the fancy ones, it’s worth paying a bit more if you can for better ingredients. Places like Amazon often have multi-packs for your favourites, and kids food is available too. See our Magic Meals Self Care Support Gift as an example.
- Next level up is your standard fridge/frozen ready meals, we all know about those, and the quality has vastly improved. I would suggest going for vegetarian options even if you are not veggie, just because they have a higher proportion of veg! You may need to top up the protein content though, for example Leek & Potato Soup is great, but stir in a bit of cheese to melt into it and pop some nice hefty bread on the side and you will feel more nourished.
- If you find buying fruit just results in a decorative bowl of shrivelled…. was that an apple? Then juice and smoothies are such a good cheat’s way to enjoy them, and they keep much longer. If you find the sugar high a bit much, just have them with a main meal and it will balance out.
- Your new friend The Freezer can still help you make better meals even if you are up for a bit of cooking, by storing ready chopped fruits and veggies just waiting for you to make them into a culinary masterpiece! It’ll cut the prep time down and it keeps so much longer than in the fridge.
- If you have fridge and freezer space, try planning a few meals in advance, and doing a Big Shop like your Mum used to do – you can get it delivered, avoid the supermarket, and not have that hangry horrible nothing-in, don’t want to go out, eugh feeling.
- If you feel like it on a good-energy day, try making a dish with multiple portions even if you live on your onesie, as there is such satisfaction in microwaving food you already made yourself and having something home made without doing the work (again). Particularly handy if you know you have a busy period coming up, or you can tell you might be due a dip in energy.
- One pot meals are super handy for not getting bogged down with washing up (or the thought of washing up) even if you feel like cooking.
- If you can afford it, investing in a food processor might help with chopping your own fruit and veg, cutting down prep time. You can still freeze it yourself for later. Similarly, if you can get a gas hob, they are so much quicker and easier to cook with. If you can get a dishwasher you may have hit the jackpot. If not, bung stuff in a plastic sink bowl to soak in hot water and suds for later.
- Try not to get caught up in ‘should’s. You know the ones. ‘I should make more from scratch’ ‘I should stop getting take-away’ ‘I should go do a big shop and save money’. You are the best judge of what works for you. If the idea of a giant supermarket fills you with dread, is the anxiety worth the saved money? You are the only one who can decide, and you don’t have to justify it. If you hate sprouts, just don’t eat them even if Aunt Beatrice keeps telling you they will make you immortal. Do what works for you
Hopefully there’s a few things there that will help. I’ll be putting a few recipe ideas up too which follow this general theme soon. The most important thing, as always, is to be kind to yourself, you’re doing the best you can.