Eating healthy, complete meals with a crawler/toddler around the house becomes a challenge.
I can not count the times I completely skip a meal or just gobble down whatever’s on the table (bread, bananas, cookies… yum, cookies) instead of eating something decent because I have no time, but, there are a few tricks I’ve validated that I want to share to help you avoid this by making meals a bit easier and faster.
Most of it it’s prep time: try to pre-prep as much as you can and store it in one-time portions. In our case the biggest life saver has been storing meats prepped. We go to the grocery store and when we come back we portion and season every meat we bought. And by we I mostly mean manfriend because he’s the meat expert around here.
We use vinegar, olive oil, coriander, onion, oregano, culantro, ready to use complete seasoning (I love Badia), pepper and tons of garlic. There can never be enough garlic.
But sometimes I have do the meat prepping alone and I’m not as fond of the task so I admit I cut it short by like, most of it. If you can’t season the meat before storing it (I understand you, it’s ok, it’s all ok) at least put the correct portions in ziploc bags and drizzle them with vinegar before freezing. It might be that my grandmother has drilled it in my head but vinegar makes all meat better; it cleans it killing all the nasties in it and it also serves as a tenderiser.
- Cut peppers and store them in portions.
- Store garlic grounded or minced in the freezer.
- Puerto Ricans use sofrito which is basically the win of cooking. You can try making one with your favorite ingredients. We store portions in the freezer and thaw them to always have some handy.
Another huge life saver is good food choices. You can’t eat the bad food that you don’t buy, so even though it’s tempting, stay away from frozen fried or to be fried foods. Substitute those for healthier (and who are we kidding, they are still frozen foods but! It’s better than eating the bowl of ice cream) choices.
I found bags of frozen fajita beef that are cut and seasoned that have saved my life. I throw them in the skillet with some (pre-cut!) colourful peppers, drizzle some honey-garlic BBQ sauce over the whole thing, cover it and ten minutes later it’s done. I can serve it with rice, potatoes or *gasp* fajitas! There’s also chicken strips and so on.
I also like Velveeta skillets, which yes, boxed food, but oh THE TASTE. And you use your own chicken (or meat) too so you can avoid the fake protein. These are extremely satisfying so I highly recommend them for those long days when you get home in a hurry, starved and have to fix something ASAP or you risk fainting.
Pastas are a great, fast choice on their own too. You can basically use any leftover meat and combine it with pasta and ta da! Meal.
Which brings me to: invest in good sauces. Seriously, it will save your life. You don’t need ten different choices, but a couple of great sauces can be the ticket to a delicious, EASY (and in most cases cheaper!) meal. My choices are Worcestershire sauce (and I buy the cheapest one I can find -it’s not even a dollar- because I’ve never been to Europe, I don’t know what the good one is supposed to taste like), a good Teriyaki sauce (I like one with roasted garlic) and a good BBQ sauce (manfriend loves one with honey in it). And then I try to always have a good, classic spaghetti sauce and a nice white sauce.
Two of those are enough to make your life easier and tastier. Season anything as you would and then drizzle it with the sauce. I like to add a little touch right before finishing too for an extra boom.
If possible always have some fish standing by in the freezer. Fish thaws fast, gets seasoned with practically nothing (salt, pepper. That can be it) and gets cooked in a few minutes. It’s also healthy, does not pack bad calories and you can pair it with a huge salad and feel happily satisfied.
Last but so very not least, you need greens! A strong variety of lettuce (roman, french) in good condition can last a couple of weeks in the fridge, so when you can, pack up on some fresh greens so you can always have some go-to main salad ingredient. Salads are the win because you can add virtually everything to it and it will still taste right; fruits, almonds, croutons… look around and toss it in there, then gobble up.
That’s it. As you can see, I didn’t invent anything new, in fact it is all about using common sense. Then again when you have to run with a few hours of sleep for over a year the practice of common sense gets reserved for the parenting part of the brain and it’s harder to use it on food.