If we truly want to heal and nourish our bodies, we have to take the steps to always have good food around, but this doesn’t have to be a chore; in fact, there are many steps we can take to make this much more fun and easy. I want to talk about some simple systems to introduce into your food repertoire to significantly reduce the amount of time you spend buying and preparing food, so you can spend more time enjoying your food and the rest of your life!
Find your go to meals:
Every person who regularly cooks for herself tends to have those five meals that satisfy the taste buds and come together quickly and easily. For me some examples are simple salads with canned fish, veggie soup with leftover meat scraps, stir fries, or what I like to call sloppy beef (ground beef simmered in broth with veggies and mustard). All of these things require minimal effort and time to prepare and can be made by things that I always tend to have around. When transitioning from the standard American diet where the staples are breads, pastas, and other grain-based foods, it is important to try new things to find out what can serve the function. I find that upping the amount of vegetables I eat, particularly things like squash or root vegetables can really complete a meal without having to add a difficult to digest, grain-based starch. So find the things that work for you! And look out for videos in the future of some of my quick-to-come-together meals.
Buy in bulk:
When you start to get a sense of your favorite healthy foods, seek out ways that you can buy them in bulk. Not only does this save money, but it’s one less thing to worry about during your regular shopping sessions. If you have a chest freezer (definitely recommended), you can even buy meat and vegetables in bulk. Having consistent access to high quality proteins was one of the biggest steps I made toward being able to eat well all the time. A freezer full of grass fed ground beef is a true source of food security! You can also buy big bags of frozen mixed vegetables or berries so that every day you can get all your servings of vegetables and fruits.
If you don’t have a freezer, there are dry goods you can purchase with long shelf lives. Simple things like high quality sea salt or raw apple cider vinegars are incredibly utilitarian and a good idea to always have around. Saturated fats like, ghee, tallow, lard, and coconut oil are all very stable at room temperature and are packed with nutrition. Even some canned foods like canned fish or coconut milk can be a good option.
I’ve been known to buy 25 lb bags of dried coconut. This not only meant I had plenty of coconut for adding to meals and making healthy treats, but it also encouraged me to start making my own coconut milk and butter from scratch. This is really an opportunity to get creative and to play with processing your own food.
Organize your kitchen:
After working in multiple professional kitchens, one observation I had was that the most successful kitchens are the one with enough space for the stuff they have. Novice cooks will often seek the newest kitchen gadget in an effort to make more delicious food. But it isn’t the hardware that makes a nice meal, it’s the care, love and attention that goes into seeking quality ingredients, preparing them respectfully and presenting them nicely that makes a meal truly nourishing.
In fact the most valuable kitchen asset is counter space. With plenty of counter space, you can work more efficiently. A bit of a kitchen minimalist myself, I always value space more than stuff. It’s really great that you got that 12 in crepe pan or quesadilla maker on sale, but do you really use it often enough to justify taking up the space? Will there ever be a time when you make it through that jug of rancid Jamaican jerk spice or eat that four year old can of spam?
As an exercise, you can take everything out of the kitchen and put it into another room temporarily. Live your life as you do and as you cook all your food, bring in the tools and pantry items you use and find an easy to reach place for the most commonly used items, trying to keep your counters as clear as possible. After a week or so, it will become clear what you actually use on a regular basis. Then, look at the pile of the stuff in the other room and see just how much you can let go of, then put the rest into storage or to the less accessible parts of your kitchen. If you have empty cupboards or space, let it be empty for as long as possible. Oftentimes we put things places just to fill space rather than with any intention. What you are ultimately left with is a kitchen that actually works. You won’t have to dig through mountains of pots and pans just to get to your favorite one. You will actually be able to find the things you are looking for quickly and easily. Cooking and especially cleaning will be magnitudes less stressful and there will be a sense of lightness and clarity that can only be achieved with minimal clutter.
Keep it simple:
We are in this for the long haul, and that means you need to find a way to feed yourself that is sustainable. You can’t be making elegant, five-course, fine dining meals every day. We want to enjoy our food, but it doesn’t have to be fancy to be enjoyable. In fact, I recommend keeping your meals as simple as possible most of the time. Challenge yourself to see how few ingredients you can put together to make something that tastes great. With flavorful ingredients like fresh herbs and medicinal plants like fresh ginger, turmeric and garlic or favorite sauces like mustards, tapenades or pestos, meals come together very quickly. If you are feeding a larger number of people, things like soups and stews are a great way to make simple ingredients go a long way, and they can be made in big batches to freeze some for later. Fermenting a large batch of vegetables into sauerkraut means you always have another way to add vegetables and probiotics to the plate. Humble vegetables like carrots, onions and celery are cheap even when organic and incredibly versatile and useful. Find the things that work for you without too much stress, and constantly seek to make them simpler.
It really is worth it to work for your food. As one of our most basic needs, it is something to which we should devote as much time as we can. We’ve become so distracted by modernism and technology that we’ve forgotten how gratifying and truly nourishing it can be to actively take care of yourself and prepare the food that goes into your body. Not only do you have more control of the quality of ingredients, you develop a relationship with the things that are going to become part of you, and you are inviting them in with more awareness and intent. You may get strange stares from the people who aren’t yet ready to do what you’re doing, but you can be grateful for the intimate awareness you have of your body and the foods that affect it.
There is abundant research on the power of practicing gratitude and its ability to inspire happiness. In order to really get the most out of your food, you should spend at least as much time appreciating a meal as it took to prepare it. After you finish eating, take a minute to sink your awareness inside and feel the fullness within you. Feel the food asking to become part of you and graciously accept its request. Sit in the feelings of gratitude and happiness for as long as you like and feel the deep, fulfilling energy that comes from true appreciation.
Author: Brad “Bee” Zayac B.S., C.N.C.
Psychology B.S, Certified Nutritional Consultant, CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, Permaculture Design Certificate