We all recognize the importance of eating right, but the demands of life cause many of us to forgo our health needs to merely keep up with our hectic schedules. Fast foods, TV dinners and other convenience foods end up replacing high-quality, nutrition-filled meals. Convenience foods, instead of supplying us with the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients our bodies needs, are filled with chemical, artificial colors and flavors, salt and preservatives. These non-food items do not provide the body what it needs to thrive and do not support our overall health.
Coming up with easy healthy food choices on the go can seem daunting, if not impossible. What many people do not realize is that eating healthy, in addition to improving your overall health and vitality, can save you money. The secret to good eating on the go that I have discovered is utilizing something you already have in your home — your kitchen freezer.
Countless food items can be cooked in advance and frozen. Meats, such as chicken, beef and pork, can all be precooked and stored. The same is true for grains and cereals, such as rice and pasta. Then when it is time to eat, these food items can be retrieved from your kitchen freezer and reheated. Add in a fresh vegetable or a small salad and you can enjoy a healthy home-cooked meal in minutes.
There are a number of tricks I employ to simplify my life, save money and reduce the time I spend cooking. All that is required is a bit of advanced planning.
It is Saturday morning and I am heading out to the local supermarket to do my weekly shopping. I notice that the store has whole chickens on sale. I already planned to get some chicken, so I purchase three — saving money right from the start. You might be thinking, “What is she going to do with three whole chickens?” Actually, you can do a lot with them — especially if you are feeding a family.
On Tuesday, I decide to make roasted chicken for dinner. Instead of just cooking what is required to feed my family for the evening, I roast all of the chickens I purchased. Once dinner is complete, and the remaining chicken has cooled down, that’s when the fun begins. Sometimes I will take the extra roasted chickens and place them whole into a gallon-sized freezer bag. This not only helps extend the life of your food in the freezer, but you can also label and date the bags to help keep your freezer organized. Now, I have the makings for an entirely new dinner down the road — no fuss, no muss. Just reheat and serve.
Has one of your problems been figuring out what to have for lunch while you are at work? Try taking the leftover chicken and cutting it into quarters or pieces. Then individually wrap each piece in parchment paper, plastic wrap or place the serving-sized portions into smaller freezer bags. In the morning, all you have to do is reach into your freezer, decide what you want, grab it and go. A quick and healthy lunch meal in minutes. You can even make an entire meal by putting all of the individual components into reusable containers and then toss them into your freezer. Think about how much you would save over purchasing the comparable frozen dinner at the supermarket.
What you can make and freeze is only limited by your imagination. You can precook spaghetti and freeze it, putting servings of your favorite sauce into small containers or even ice cube trays. Beef stroganoff, rice and beans, BBQ ribs, chicken wings, curried chicken, chili and rice pilaf — you name it, I have probably frozen it. Utilizing this method might take a little to get started, but after just a short amount of time, just by cooking extra portions once or twice a week, you will begin to develop a library of good and healthy food choices, all of which are homemade. No chemicals, no fillers, no preservatives — just good wholesome food.
I need to mention a few things about precooking and freezing foods. First are potatoes. Precooked and frozen potatoes never seem to come out right. Next are vegetables. One would think that you could cook broccoli, cauliflower or green beans and then freeze them like the foods we have already discussed. Vegetables that are fully cooked in advance and then frozen end up like mush when thawed instead of the savory nuggets they are. Vegetables require a bit of additional effort on your part, but the results can be very satisfying.
If you are considering freezing some veggies as part of your meal planning, here is a tip for keeping them nice and crunchy — blanching. To blanch a vegetable, you put them into scalding hot water for a very short time. When your veggies are done, immediately place them into a large quantity of ice water. This halts the cooking process. Blanching stops the enzyme activity in the vegetable. It brightens their color and helps to reduce the loss of vitamins and minerals. For best results, place your blanched vegetables onto cookie sheets in a single layer. Freeze them for about an hour. This allows the individual pieces to begin to freeze and you will not end up with one giant block of frozen food. Once the time has elapsed, they can be packaged up in a large bag, into small individual servings or be added to your lunch meal.
Eating healthy is something we all aspire to do. Crazy schedules, work, family commitments and other life events can often rob us of the time we need to prepare wholesome and nutritious foods. By taking just a few extra minutes once or twice a week to cook a tad more of the foods you are already preparing can be a lifesaver in those rushed moments. Foods prepared and stored in this way taste better than fast foods and any TV dinner on the market.
All that is required is a little preplanning on your part and a bit of freezer space. Then you will be well on your way to easily eating healthy on the go!