This excuse was HUGE for me when we started investigating Paleo. I run a FULL day every day. Most days I get up at or before 5:30, and it’s rare for me to get home much before 7. With all of that working, I hardly wanted to devote what little free time I had to cooking meals. We previously ate LOTS of frozen meals and quick dinners of “something” over pasta. During the first few weeks of Paleo, we spent forever in the grocery store just figuring out what to buy and then another 4-6 hours cooking on the weekends. It was nice that all the food for the week was cooked, but that was still a large chunk of the weekend. This was not exciting, but no need to fear. It doesn’t last, and hopefully the tips to come in the following months will help alleviate that problem for other people. It does take a little bit of extra time and money at the very beginning to rid your pantry of the “old” foods and stock it with the new, but afterward it can be a fairly quick, not-so-expensive science.
After some practice, we quickly realized we mainly visited two areas in the store: meat and produce. There is the occasional quick stop by the canned goods and the coffee, but otherwise not so much. We eat very few things that come in a box, can, or jar, and if you stop to think about it, that’s really most of the grocery store. My times is now spent like this nearly every week:
-15-20 minutes before going to the store choosing our meals for the week and making the shopping list
-30 minutes tops shopping at the grocery store–the line is out of my control, however
-3-4 hours on Sunday afternoon cooking all the food for the week
In under 5 hours for the week, all of our nutritious, healthy, Paleo meals are planned, purchased, cooked, and packed in “to-go” glasslock/tupperware containers. Every morning I grab what I want for the day and stick it in my lunch box in less than 5 minutes. Know this is a healthy estimate too. This is when I’ve looked for new recipes I haven’t tried before. If I use “go to” meals that I’ve cook many times, I can walk into the store and purchase everything in 20 minutes and have all the food cooked in 2 hours. I don’t do this often though, because we like to have variety and try new things. Even at 5 hours, that’s really not a lot of time to have all of your food for a week. Think about it like this:
-Fast food runs are typically about 20 minutes. Do that 6 times in a week, you’re already at 2 hours.
-A typical frozen “TV dinner” takes around 6 minutes to cook. Do that 5 times in a week and you’ve got another half hour.
-Those quick Bertolli-type frozen bag dinners take about 15 minutes. Do that 4 times in a week, that’s another hour.
So we’re at 3.5 hours, and I haven’t even touched breakfast. I’m telling you with 5 hours you can eat healthy, nutrient-dense food. At this point, all of those “fast” meals are not really any faster than my method of healthy cooking and eating. An extra hour to an hour and a half a week so that you’re eating healthy meals rather than pre-packaged, preservative-laden, what is that, really? foods is worth it, don’t you think?
I’ve had people tell me they need to be able to just grab a banana and yogurt to eat on the way to work in the morning. Well, make a quiche, fritatta, or breakfast hash ahead of time. Put some in the microwave while you pack your lunch, and spend a whopping 5 minutes scarfing it down before heading out the door. That 5 minutes is negligible in the morning. Get up 5 minutes earlier. You can do it. I promise, and your body will be better fueled for the day.
The argument of “I don’t have time” just doesn’t fly with me anymore. This is harsh, but I’m going to say it: If eating healthy is a priority, you’ll find the time. You just do it. You make it happen, and you lay aside any lame excuse you’ve been using for years. If you “can’t” make time for it, it’s more than likely because you’re unwilling to make time for it. I have yet to meet someone who had an honest, genuine, can’t overcome it reason why they can’t choose healthy and nutrient-dense meals for themselves and their families. If that’s not where your priorities are, fine, but call it like it is. Don’t use something you can control as an excuse not to eat healthy meals. Just admit that eating healthy meals is not necessarily a priority at this stage of your life. That may be true. You might be running a schedule that ABSOLUTELY does not allow for you to spend 5 hours a week preparing meals, but I challenge you to ask yourself honestly and reflect on the reason. It may be a season in your life, or it may be time for you to re-evaluate some things. I know it was for me a year ago.
Whew. Hope we’re still friends. If you know me in real life, I can be harsh. That was a harsh moment, but one I felt the need to express just the same. Know I still love you.
Before I sign off from this post, some tips for quicker work:
-All of my time discussions include Awesome Husband Alzen as my partner in crime. I could not cook that fast if he didn’t help. Recruit a friend or family member to do this with if possible.
-If you’re going to do this, I HIGHLY recommend a food processor and blender. They are HUGE time savers. We’re the SLOWEST vegetable choppers in the world.
-Always plan your meals/shopping list ahead of time. It helps you stay “good” about healthy eating and makes shopping and cooking much faster.
-I cook in super bulk. This means we eat the same 5-6 things for the whole week, and I also make a huge portion worth that goes into the freezer. There are those occasional weeks where we truly don’t have time to cook, or there are other things taking priority. On those weeks I pull something out of the freezer and we get by on those items and quick meals.
All for now, but more to come.