We all make them. We feel the need to justify why. Why we didn’t go for a walk when and instead, sat on the sofa watching TV. Why we ordered pizza instead of getting the food out of the fridge and making a real dinner. Why we won’t follow our doctor’s recommendations. Why. Why. Why.
I can give an excuse as good as the next person. Only I hate excuses. For me, an excuse is something we use to avoid taking responsibility. I just can’t get this out of my head right now after reading someone’s excuses to a link a friend shared on Facebook about eating real food. You could say her excuses are good reasons for not being able to get rid of processed foods. Single mother, works long shifts, and has a limited budget. I know several working mothers who are able to prepare real food for their families with little time and money. There are things I’ve learned and I know I’ve shared with you that I’ll lay out again.
Preparation – The key to time management for any task is preparation. Plan your meals out ahead of time. Write down what you’re going to fix and when. If you aren’t adept in the kitchen with deciding what to cook, try the Saving Dinner site. Leanne Ely has menu mailers that you can buy that not only have recipes, but also have a shopping list. Just print it off and you are done. I like to listen to her weekly show when I can on BlogTalkRadio. Once they reach 100 listeners, a link to a free menu mailer is posted in the chatroom. Even if you aren’t logged in to chat and you are just in as a guest, you can still get the link when it comes up in chat. My husband is in Cincy through the week, so the bulk of my cooking is on the weekends when he’s home. I plan my menu for the days he’s home and I have a simple menu through the week when he’s not home. I plan for leftovers to take to work for lunch or I plan to make something different that I’ll freeze for my lunches. I try to keep my breakfast the same during the week so I don’t have to buy a lot of different things, just enough of the same things. Lately, my dinners during the week are smoothies. It’s enough to fill me for the rest of the night until morning. Once I have my menu, I prepare my shopping list. You can call me OCD if you’d like, but I break down my shopping list into parts: fruits/veggies, meat/fish, pre-packaged, bulk bins (I shop at Whole Foods where they have nuts, dried beans, grains, etc. in bins to buy in bulk – it’s cheaper for me to buy those items in bulk rather than in packages – 1 pound of dried beans is $1.69 versus a 12 oz can of the same bean at the same price), and dairy. I do this to minimize the chance of forgetting anything. After shopping, I set aside some time to do some food prep. I chop the veggies I’ll need through the week to minimize the prep time for meals. I’ll prepare things ahead of time like hummus to go with some raw veggies. I like getting whole chickens when I can (which I’m getting through our CSA). I can fix a whole chicken in my slow cooker. Just put it in there with some garlic, onions, spices, veggies, any combination you like. Once it’s carved up after cooking, I toss the bones back in with more water, more onions, more veggies, and more spices to make chicken stock, which I then freeze to use later when I want to make soup or need it to fix another dish.
Buy Only What You Need – I know we all have a tendency to stockpile food. I wound up tossing stuff in our pantry that I know we had for years when I discovered my gluten intolerance. Yes, I do buy extra from the bulk bins. But, my days of “Oooh, that looks good” and straying from my list are over. I’ve taken to buying frozen items like fruit and greens for my smoothies. Cheaper, you get more, and it lasts longer. I think my husband is happy that I’ve started buying more frozen fruit and veggies.
Grow A Garden – Seeds cost anywhere from a $1 to $4 for a packet. You might be saying, “But I live in an apartment.” So do I and I have containers on our patio right now growing tomatoes, peppers, melons, beets, carrots, broccoli rabe, and squashes. I think I lost my zucchini to a fungus. We’ll see how it turns out when I go out to trim it back more later. If you have kids, this is a great way to teach them about food, the value of sustainability, and get them out from in front of the TV and computers. When I was younger, we had a flower garden that we tended together. Granny liked to grow her own tomatoes and peppers in containers. Plus she had lemons, limes, and plums growing in her yard. Grandma and Grandpa kept a garden in their yard that they tended with Lelang. They always had fresh produce back there that they were tending. Not to mention banana and coconut trees. One thing I miss being back home is the free mangoes and other fruits from friends who had productive trees and more fruit than they could eat themselves.
Reduce The Processed Foods Gradually – It’s hard to make change and I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who relied heavily on those handy processed foods when I was sick. It was so easy to fix a frozen pizza or lasagna when I couldn’t be on my feet more than 5 minutes without extreme pain. Start with one meal a week. Instead of frozen pizza, plan something different for dinner that night. Do that for a couple of weeks. Then choose another meal to replace. Ditch the Hamburger Helper and fix some easy fajitas.
Change isn’t easy and it can’t happen when you make excuses. So ditch the excuses and make a change that your body will thank you for.