Today, it seems as if everyone is pressed for time.
But cooking a big meal from scratch, every night, takes time. This is precisely what we don’t have enough of. If you’re like me, you need every extra minute you can squeeze out of a day. This site is devoted to non toxic living. So I like to give my readers information on clean eating, and how to make this doable.
In my house, we eat mostly organic food. So I can’t decide to order a takeout dinner if I need a break in the kitchen. Since I’m chained to the stove, I’m always looking for shortcuts.
Easy Healthy Organic Meals
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I’ve found a few valuable time savers. I’ve also learned how to save money. Now, I spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, and much less time running around looking for organic staples.
I’m sure you’re already aware that it costs more to eat healthy. At one time, I spent more than I could afford on organic food. This created a situation where I ran around looking for bargains. Then I found Vitacost, an online health food store. It’s 45,000 items are sold at a discount.
Now I have a lot more time. All the healthy things I need are readily available in one spot. Vitacost prices are usually much better than at my local grocery store. Plus, this huge online health food shop offers really generous price cuts and special coupon codes.
Easy Healthy Meals Prepare
Anyway, once you buy your food, you’ll need to prepare it. Here are 15 ways to save time cooking, so you can spend more time doing the things you should be doing..
1. Don’t peel potatoes. You can get away with this only if you’re buying organic. I’d never suggest doing this with conventionally grown potatoes because they are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce items with the highest amount of pesticide residue. So these need to be scrubbed, rinsed and peeled before eating. But with organic potatoes, you don’t need to peel them, even if you’re making mashed potatoes. The skins actually add texture, flavor and vitamins. You’ll also find that fewer potatoes go further, since you’re using more of the potato. I make sure to cut off any black or rotting spots before dicing.
However, if your potato skins are green, you’ll need to peel them to remove this green layer, which is mildly toxic. You also don’t need to peel organic carrots, since the skins are rich with vitamins.
2. Don’t cut chicken breasts or tenders. If you’re making stir-fry chicken, it is optimal to cut tenders into small pieces before frying. But you can get away with skipping this step. A few years ago, on a night I needed to work outside the house, I came home and started dinner very late. I put a whole chicken breast in the pan and slowly cooked it. When it became translucent, I took a bamboo spatula and cut the meat into bite-size portions. After adding premixed Thai spices, coconut milk, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes, it turned into a delicious Massaman curry.
3. Super easy chicken broth. Sometimes I don’t have time to boil chicken bones and collect the broth. Sometimes I don’t have chicken bones in the house. There is a way around that, when a dish calls for chicken broth. I stir fry one boneless breast of chicken with an onion. When it’s translucent I add water and cook it thoroughly until the meat is soft. No one has ever complained about my “chicken broth.” I use the meat in soup, made from the broth.
Sometimes I even make a huge pot of soup, simmering chicken breasts for a few hours in the crock-pot to make the broth. This is much easier than using a whole chicken and then discarding the bones. To this broth I add chopped carrots, a Vidalia onion and serve it over noodles. The breast meat is extremely tender and tastes delicious in the soup.
4. Use one big pot. I try to do this, especially on the days I need to work. It’s amazing how many one-skillet recipes you can come up with. With a little adaptation, you can make nearly anything in one big skillet. When pressed for time, I’ll make my own version of shepherd’s pie in a skillet. First I cook the (unpeeled) potatoes. Then I put them aside and fry one pound of (grass-fed) ground beef with spices added. When it’s just about cooked, I add a package of (organic) corn. The potatoes are served on the side.
5. Find 30-minute recipes. These quick meal ideas are found all over the Internet. Take some shortcuts and see if you can make your own version in less time. Ming Tsai is one of my favorite chefs and he’s written a book about quick and easy one-pot meals.
6. Teach your children to cook. My daughter loves to cook. It’s something she’s been doing since she was 10. At 12, she was able to make an entire meal. For me, it’s a luxury to take a night off from cooking.
7. Roast butternut squash. This vegetable will slow you way down. There’s no quick way to peel butternut squash. Last Thanksgiving, I found a much easier way. We cut the squash in half in roasted it in the oven. Then we scooped out the flesh. The end result was much less watery than if we had chopped it and boiled the chunks.
8. Freeze peppers. Peppers go bad quickly, sometimes just days after you buy them. I’ve gotten in the habit of dicing and freezing peppers in little glass jars. Then, when a recipe calls for peppers, I have some on hand. I always keep a little jar of Thai green chilis in the freezer. They are very hot, so you only need a couple. By having these in the house, I never have to make an unplanned trip to the store to get them.
9. Turn off the stove. If you’re making a side dish, such as rice or potatoes, you can bring the water a boil and cook them for a few minutes. Then you can turn the stove off, do something else, and finish cooking later. I do this when I need to run an errand and don’t want to leave the stove on when I’m gone. Or when I’m alone in the house and need to take a shower and don’t want to leave a cooking pot unattended.
10. Save large jars. These are almost like gold in my house. They are perfect for freezing leftover chicken soup or other types of soup. (Just don’t fill the jar to the top because frozen food expands.) Then, on a day you’re really busy, you have a healthy, non-processed frozen dinner.
11. Don’t buy too many perishables. These will crowd your refrigerator and you may forget you have them. It’s much better to be able to see a clear path inside the fridge, so you know if you need to buy more or if you already have enough.
If you find yourself throwing away a lot of food, it might be worth it to invest in a low-cost meal planning service, which gives you a weekly printout of your grocery list. You take this to the store and then come home and then cook the healthy delicious recipes on your weekly plan. This will quickly pay for itself (and more) if it helps you cut down on food waste.
12. Keep a bowl of baking soda nearby. I know someone who keeps a little bowl of baking soda and a tiny spoon beside her sink. She mixes this with water to remove the pesticides from non-organic fruits and vegetables.
13. Go online. A few clicks of the mouse always beats a trip to the grocery store. Also, many items, such as GMO-free soy sauce substitute, organic coconut oil and certain spices are much less expensive if you buy them online. As you already know, Vitacost is one of my favorite “grocery stores.” This is where I buy my raw organic honey, since I don’t know of a local farmer who sells this. Recently, I’ve also discovered Pureformulas. This is another good place to buy healthy foods and supplements. One thing I love about Pureformulas is that all of its discount items ship for free.
14. Shop off-peak hours. You’ll have more time to cook, and more time for other activities, if you avoid crowded grocery stores. Never, if you can help it, shop on Saturday afternoon. You’ll may also get caught in traffic if you stop in after school lets our or after 5 p.m. on a weekday.
The best times? Early in the morning or late at night, about a half hour before the store closes. Of course, if you live near a store that’s open 24/7, you’ll have all night to shop.
15. Shop near the end of the week. If you have just one day to grocery shop, make it on a Thursday or Friday, preferably early in the morning or after dinner, when you aren’t likely to run into crowds. This is when you’ll get the freshest produce, as deliveries typically happen late to mid-week. This is often when meat is delivered. You’ll also have the best chance of finding organic meat. In my area, Thursday is a big meat day. If I wait until Friday, the organic chickens delivered the day before are usually long gone.
By not returning to the grocery store, just buy a single item that wasn’t in stock during your first visit, you’ll have more time to spend in the kitchen or doing other things you enjoy.
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