This simple tip makes my life a million times easier and is one of my favorites. I employ it weekly.
So often, I hear of families using frozen or “ready” meals because of busy schedules rather than cooking a healthier version at home. Here is your answer to that problem: buy some Pyrex* and learn to use leftovers! This is not a new concept. The new concepts is having a Cooking Day! (I like to give it an exclamation point because it really does become a fun event.) Pick one day, or two if you prefer, a week to cook some staples that you can mix and match the rest of the week. It’s so simple, and if you aren’t saying it already, you’ll be probably saying “why didn’t I think of that?” within the week.
Here are some staples I suggest:
1. Greens: lightly steam or boil some leafy green, such as kale, spinach, broccoli, collards, brussel sprouts, chard, turnip greens, etc. To reheat, simply drop into boiling water for 30 seconds, or lightly saute with garlic and red pepper flakes.
2. Legumes: I suggest using fresh or frozen legumes. Either way, I always blanch them to ensure I’ve boiled off any bacteria, etc (unless using canned, then I just thoroughly wash them. I only use Eden Organic** canned beans). Cook them until they reach your desired consistency, as reheating will not affect this. I love lentils, baby lima beans, great northern beans, kidney beans and green beans. To reheat, return to pot on medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
3. Protein: I usually boil a dozen eggs once a week. If you are vegan, you can prepare seitan or tempeh the way you prefer it (marinated, grilled, etc). I also have clients who cook a few breasts of chicken and/or lean red meat. I suggest doing this twice a week rather than just once so as to not be eating grilled chicken that is 5 days old.
4. Grain: I cook either a few cups of either brown rice or quinoa each week. To reheat, return to pot with a bit of excess water, and cook on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
5. Veggies: These are more of a prep item than a pre-cooked item. If you already have that onion chopped and bell pepper sliced, you are much more likely to throw it in a wok. Generally, I prepare a handful of veggies based on what I use the most consistently and what is in season.
6. Fruit: This is more for parents with children who need their fruit cut. I basically grab a piece of fruit or handful of berries and eat them – but if you prefer your apple sliced, do it on your Cook Day! and squeeze a bit of lemon on it and keep it sealed.
Throw it all together! Mix it up! Make a great stir-fry; Have beans and rice topped with salsa; Take 8 minutes to pan-sear fish and put it over the grain with a side of veggies; Make a yummy chef’s salad; Create a (whole wheat) pita sandwich. There are so many choices, and they’ll all be fast, because you’ve already done the hard work. Inevitably, there will be at least one day that you are cooking something new, but use that day to do a slow cook chili or stew! Once you’ve done this for 2-4 weeks, you’ll have a feel for what you and/or your family needs out of your Cooking Day, and your life will be so much easier – and healthier! You’d be shocked to see the difference in fat, sodium, and calorie intake in prepared meals versus home-cooked!
*Storing food in glass is far superior to plastic because of chemicals that leach into your food. Especially upon reheating! This Pyrex set is the one I use because of the no-leak BPA-free lids. But, more on that another day…
**The only canned beans I use are Eden Organic beans because the ingredients list only includes the beans, water, and sometimes salt and seaweed. The seaweed helps with flatulence, but does not change the taste and I rarely see any in the can itself. And, unlike most canned goods, these are BPA-free… but, more on that another day.
Please leave comments below on what you prepare on your Cooking Day!