Are you looking for a simple approach to eating healthy meals every day without sacrificing time? Are you too busy to sift (or scroll) through endless recipes looking for something healthy to eat every night? Do you have little time for full on meal planning or the motivation to want to cook when there’s so much else going on? Then read on, as this post is for you.
When life is full and busy you need a method that helps you to eat well during the week, that saves you time, and has the flexibility to be spontaneous. At home, we’ve been using this method and eating this way since the spring buds started to appear and the days began to lengthen. So, I thought it would be good to share the basics right away, to give you an easy tool box to eating healthy regardless of whatever else is going on. This really is the best way to take control of your health and to ensure you have nutritious food options when you have a busy schedule.
Food prepping is the one essential tool in the tool box, as any of you who have read my Game Changers Guide will know. The idea is that it’s a lot easier to cook and eat real food during the week if you get ahead and prepare (and cook) some of the components the weekend before. Less prepping during the week means less cleaning up and you won’t have to waste a moment wondering what to eat. Plus, it will make your time in the kitchen more efficient, productive, and enjoyable.
The key is to focus on things that can stay fresh in the fridge during the week and can be used in a number of different meals. Some things can be cooked or roasted and others simply peeled, rinsed, or chopped. I generally also make two or three sauces that can be used for grain bowls and salads, or to dress noodles and sautéed/steamed vegetables. While many of the suggestions may seem basic (like peeling vegetables, or washing salads), believe me, these seemingly small tasks will make a huge difference when you need to get dinner on the table. I guarantee that you (and your family) will eat abundantly healthier with this method without sacrificing your time.
You’ll want to start saving glass jars and investing in a couple of glass containers with lids. These will provide you with a good visual overview of what’s in your fridge, whilst also storing the food in the freshest, safest possible way. It’s good to find glass containers that can be stacked easily to save space in your fridge, freezer, or pantry. You can use labels or marking tape if you want to date the contents. Plus, seeing all the colourful food reminds you to use everything you have and will spark ideas for making a quick lunch or dinner.
- Peel or scrub vegetables and chop into bite size pieces. For instant crudités, cut carrots or celery into sticks and store in jars filled with filtered water in the fridge (to stop them from drying out). Another great option is to quarter fill a jar with your chosen dipping sauce and push the sticks into the jar, so you have a healthy snack ready to go. This is a great option when the kids come asking and you are busy doing something else. I love the pantry almond satay sauce for this.
- Salad greens, spinach and kale: rinse, chop off the thick stems and store wrapped in a clean tea towel or cotton produce bag in the fridge, for quick salads and bowls.
Grains, pseudograins and lentils
Pseudograins (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat), whole grain rice and lentils can be cooked ahead and used in grain bowls, stir fried and salads. Allow to cool before storing in a sealed glass container in the fridge.
Chickpeas and other beans are great in salads, grain bowls, falafels and soups. Soak and pre-cooked dried beans/legumes and store in glass containers in the fridge. Or buy them pre-cooked and just rinse and store in the same way.
Having a batch of broth in the fridge is golden. I always try to make a pot on the weekend and store it in bottles in the fridge for quick weeknight ramen bowls and soups, or (as my favourite stand-by option) on its own, in a mug with thinly sliced spring onions, fresh coriander, a few slivers of tofu and a squeeze of fresh lime juice (with maybe a little fermented miso stirred in). Check out my Really Good Plant-Based Ramen for more inspiration.
- Sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroot (or other roots). Chop into bite size pieces. Brush with oil, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and roast on a baking sheet at 200°C/400°F for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool and store in a glass container in the fridge. You can mix roasted roots into quinoa or rice, blitz with Miracle Broth into a nourishing soup, or simply add them to salads. I usually bring them out of the fridge an hour or so before serving to take the chill off, but you could also reheat them for a few minutes in the oven.
- Courgettes, fennel, shallots. Slice the courgettes and fennel (roast the shallots in their skins). Brush with oil, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and roast on a baking sheet at 200°C/400°F for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly charred around the edges. Leave to cool. Slip the shallots out of their skins, place all the vegetables in a glass container, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and a crushed garlic clove. Leave to marinate in the fridge. A great addition to any salad or grain bowl.
- Broccoli, asparagus, green beans. Break the broccoli into florets, top and tail the beans, trim the woody ends off the asparagus and slice on the diagonal. Spread out on a baking sheet. Brush with oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Roast at 200°C/400°F for 20 minutes, or until golden. Sprinkle with a little tamari and fresh lime juice. Leave to cool before storing in the fridge. I like these with cooked noodles or black rice, or in broth bowls.
A nutrient dense, satisfying and delicious sauce has the power to transform the simplest of dishes into something wonderful, which is why I created this recipe resource containing 15 nutrient dense sauces that can be made in 15 minutes or less. Adding sauces to my prep repertoire has literally revolutionised the way I approach cooking and eating and I hope it does for you, too. I’d like you to think of these sauces as your secret weapon to optimal eating. Plus, they make putting a meal together crazy simple and are totally satisfying and delicious. You can use them in a multitude of different ways – as dips, dressings, spreads, marinades – you name it. I recommend having 2 or 3 of these sauces in your repertoire. You can thank me later.
I’m a devoted sauerkraut and kimchi eater and maker and always have a batch on the go to boost my gut health. Try my super easy Pink Kraut recipe and tutorial here (saved under the tutorial highlight icon). Eat it on salads, add it to a sauce or stir into a brothy noodle bowl, or any bowl. I also love it with sliced avocado on toasted sourdough.
Sprouts and Microgreens
Sprouting is one of the simplest, cheapest ways to provide yourself with incredible home-grown nutrition in your own kitchen. Check out my guide to sprouting at home here, or watch the tutorials (archived under Sprouting 1 & 2 highlight icons). I love the versatility of fresh sprouts and microgreens. You can toss them into salads or dips, fold them into grains, pureé them into soups, or even add them to smoothies. I also love using them as fresh finishings for stir fries or noodle/rice bowls.
These flaxseed crackers have almost become a signature recipe and are so great to have on hand. They are the perfect, nutritious compliment for any of your snacking delights – smashed avocado, fermented cashew sauce, nut butter, etc. Flaxseeds are loaded with nutrients. Just one tablespoon provides a good amount of protein, fibre and omega-3’s – so important if you follow a plant-based way of eating. They are ridiculously easy to make and cheap to create. You can find the recipe and tutorial here. Make these a weekly prep ritual – you won’t regret it.
These energy “spoons” are life-savers when you need a quick sweet snack (with no sugar crash) or post workout treat that are loaded with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Get the recipe and tutorial here (archived under tutorials highlight icon). I like to store a batch in the freezer and enjoy them slightly thawed.
Toasted nuts and seeds
Toasting seeds and nuts is the best way to bring out their flavour. For best results, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the nuts or seeds over it. Toast them at 150°C/300°F for 8-15 minutes, depending on the type of nuts or seeds. Stir halfway through and check regularly to avoid burning. You can use the parchment paper as a funnel to easily transfer the nuts or seeds to jars once cool. Toasted nuts and seeds keep well for a month or longer in the fridge. They are great for snacking or as a meal elevator over grain bowls, stir fries, salads, or as a nutritious topping for soups.
The End Game
This method is a tried and tested, fool-proof way to eating healthy when you don’t have the time for full on meal planning. I love this way of eating because it’s flexible and provides lots of good options by having a mix of cooked and raw ingredients, sauces and snacks. Many days I simply combine cooked grains, raw or roasted vegetables with greens in a bowl with one of the sauces and top with some toasted seeds or a ferment. It’s a good everyday meal bowl (or packed lunch) that can be varied endlessly depending on what’s in season and what components you have prepped. I’m not so focused on recipes in this journal post as it’s not how I’m eating right now, especially during the week. There’s time to get fussy later.
So, take a breath and revisit this list of suggestions for what to prep and recipe links. Obviously I don’t prep all of these in the same weekend. If you are new to this, take an hour or so in the coming weekend and prepare one sauce, one container of cooked grains, lentils or beans and one tray of roasted vegetables to start with. Preparing even just a few things from this method will lighten your week. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t have much time to devote to prepping ahead. One step at a time.
I’ve also created an in-depth and printable pantry staples guide for the best things to keep stocked in your pantry (and in your fridge and freezer too). With these items to hand, you’ll be set to make a multitude of meals, from simple to truly elevated.
I hope you draw inspiration from this post. If you want more ideas for what to do with your prepped ingredients, check out my Instagram account as I’ll be sharing more salad, grain, and other bowl ideas there.
Do you meal prep at home? I’d love to know all your meal prepping tips and tricks. Please leave a comment and share.