“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
I love the farmers market, but I realize that not everyone is a rain-or-shine regular like I am. When I talk to my clients about their challenges around buying fresh, local and seasonal produce, many people claim its time, or lack there of, that gets in the way of this healthy habit. So, in the spirit of Spring (new beginnings), I’d like to help you get time on your side by providing you with 6 ways to simplify your cooking – and get healthier while you’re at it.
1) Keep track of meals that are easy to make and enjoyed by everyone
- We all have simple “go-to” meals that we easily know how to make and that taste pretty good. When I’m strapped for time, I drain a BPA-free can of beans into a bowl, add some high quality extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and whatever vegetables or herbs that happen to be in my fridge or cupboard (like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives or even a leftover cubed sweet potato). You can serve this with a side of sourdough bread, a hard-boiled egg or quick cooking quinoa or millet for a simple, tasty 20-minute meal.
2) For those of you with families or roommates, rally the troops
- Everyone should share in the joy of cooking. Get the kids, roommates, partners, friends and/or neighbours involved. In fact, some of my friends had an arrangement with their neighbours to take turns preparing dinner for both of their families (it saved both time and money to share large meals together). To help others build confidence/interest, take out some interesting cookbooks from the local library or attend a cooking class in your area. (I’m actually putting one on in the Ottawa area on May 25th. Find out more here.)
3) Give days of the week a theme.
- It takes the thinking out of what’s for dinner and is one of the best strategies for busy families. Some popular examples: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Fish Fridays…(alliteration isn’t necessary, but it is catchy).
4) Cook once, eat twice.
- Spend half the time in the kitchen and the result is healthy meals for the next day or two, or however long you plan for. This also works with the theme idea (see #3) because you can use your Meatless Monday bean salad as a side (or filling ) for your Taco Tuesday. And always make sure to make enough for lunch the next day! (Pro tip: Chilli, stew, soup, and the like are easy to make in bulk and freeze for later.. see #6)
5) Opt in for a summer CSA vegetable box
- While not the most catchy name (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture), what makes this model so amazing is that it takes the thinking out of produce shopping. Your purchases are dictated by what the farmers have to offer – which in the summer is a lot – AND its delivered to a convenient pick-up location. I just signed up for a certified organic CSA with Rooted Oak because I love their customizable options and add-ons, such as bouquets of fresh flowers and even grass fed beef! They also offer a “young professional” discount and an affordability share for those struggling to purchase healthy fresh food. Find out more about Rooted Oak’s amazing CSA share here.
6) Instead of cheat days, turn to your freezer or designated healthy take-out restaurant
- There are some great restaurants out there that use local, organic and seasonal ingredients. So seek them out, read the ingredients, and have a few dishes in mind for emergency situations. Even better, freeze your leftovers (or stock a few prepared meals from specialty shops) so you’ll never be stuck for something healthy to eat for dinner.
I once heard the The New York Times journalist and best selling author Michael Pollan say that we find the time for things we value. So let’s value our health, longevity and local food by doing a little research and planning in order to get time on our side.