Ingredient readiness makes healthy homecooking so much easier! Fresh baby spinach is one of those things that’s ALWAYS on hand in my fridge. Its flavor and texture are very mild, and it’s an easy way to add healthy greens to so many dishes. But if you don’t store it right, it can quickly waste away into a slimy mess in the bottom of the veggie drawer!
Here are my tips on storage to keep spinach fresh as long as possible.
So New Year, new you? Thinking of quitting sugar, quitting processed food, eating more real food, trying gluten-free, grain-free, or going Paleo? I’ve done all of those, and while I’ve landed on a real foods, mostly-veggies-and-meat formula, I’ve collected quite a few tips that work for a wide variety of healthy diets.
Making the switch from convenience food — whether from restaurants or frozen meals — to a whole-foods/real food/homecooked lifestyle does have a learning curve, but once you learn a few tricks and practice them until they become habits, it’ll be a breeze!
Set yourself up for success by trying a few kitchen stocking and ingredient tricks. Here are all my best “tips for eating healthier” and “meal plan” posts:
So, you know you should eat a healthy breakfast every day, but those ready-made convenience foods — cereal, bagels, yogurt — make it so easy to load up on low-nutrient carbs that it’s hard to get out of that rut. But that rut is what makes you hungry again before 10 o’clock every morning!
I’ve previously shared ways to keep veggies on hand for quick, easy additions to healthy meals; today I’m going to show you how I stash proteins for the same convenience.
They say if you have healthy food on hand, you’ll eat it. But that’s not necessarily true. Faced with nothing but “ingredients,” it’s often tempting to just order pizza or go out.
And let’s be real: we’ve all chosen that road more than once! But if you keep those ingredients in an easy-to-use form, it increases your odds of actually cooking at home! I’ve written before about 30 things I always keep on hand for easy healthy meals, but this post is going to focus on what I keep in the freezer, with some tips and how-to’s.
Homemade sausage may sound daunting, but it’s really amazingly simple! To make bulk or fresh sausage (as opposed to link or smoked sausage), you just buy ground pork, chicken, or turkey, add some spices, herbs, and maybe a little something else; mix it all together, let it chill for a while, and then freeze or cook it. It ain’t rocket science!
If you didn’t get groceries yesterday, do that today. Doing ingredient prep before the first day of your new diet is probably the best thing you can do to start off strong. I like it better than prepping full meals, because it opens up more flexibility on a day-to-day basis. And it’s not as time-consuming on the front end, while still saving you time when you fix your meal.
You don’t have to do it all at once; do it over two or three sessions if that works better for you. Do you like company in the kitchen? Invite some! Prefer solitude? Put on your favorite music and tell everyone else to stay outta your way!
Ingredient prep suggestions:
- Chop enough onions to last you two to three days. If you’re not already adept at dicing an onion, here’s a how-to from SimplyRecipes. Dicing onions would be a good thing to practice and get comfortable with, because this is the first step to just about every savory dish.
- Nuke one or more sweet potatoes, and dice them.
- If you’ll be using hamburger: Cook up some hamburger, and/or form it into individual patties; store both in the freezer. Divide the cooked hamburger into one- or two-serving baggies for quicker, easier thawing.
- If you’ll be using cooked chicken, and you didn’t buy it already cooked: Roast some, grill some, or cook some in the crockpot. Divide the cooked chicken into one- or two-serving baggies for quicker, easier thawing.
- If you’ll be using bacon: Cook a batch in the oven.
- If there are any spice mixes you want to make, mix those up. (My taco seasoning mix.)
- Hard boil some eggs, if you want to use them in your menus. (This handy glass egg timer ensures that your eggs are cooked just right, every time!)
- Making salads? Make one or two salad dressings. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to find links to my sugar-free dressing recipes.)
- Chop parsley and put it in a baggie in your freezer. Squeeze most of the air out. It keeps for weeks, and it’s easy to grab a tablespoon or a handful, as your recipe requires. No more chopping, no thawing needed.
Optional bonus task to start your new way of eating: If you’re doing Whole30, going Paleo, or drastically reducing the amount of sugar and carbs you’re accustomed to, you might want to subscribe to the Whole30 Daily – 31 days of support and encouragement in the form of daily emails ($14.95). Every day you’ll receive an email newsletter from Whole30, telling you what to expect at this point in your journey, and how to cope with it. I found it really helpful and encouraging, especially through the first two weeks, which can be rough!
Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.
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Two weeks to New Year’s!
Okay, Saturday and Sunday, you’re going to be doing some more experimenting in the kitchen, to help you prepare for the new, healthy way you’re going to be eating starting January 1!
I’m going to walk you through a couple meal templates (the soup method and the hash method) that will open up new possibilities for you, for healthy meals that are easy to throw together in a matter of minutes. So today, tonight, or early tomorrow, you’ll need to go grocery shopping.
The grocery list
- 3 medium white or yellow onions
- 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 large bell pepper – red, yellow, or orange
- 1 large or 2 smallish zucchini
- 5 oz. (or more) pre-washed baby spinach (or pre-washed and chopped kale, if you like kale)
- 1 or 2 32-oz. cartons of good quality chicken stock. Don’t buy the cheapest option: read the labels, and buy the one with the most protein.
- salsa of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free
- spaghetti sauce of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free (or homemade marinara, if you have it on hand)
- taco seasoning mix (or make your own)
- Italian seasoning mix (or make your own)
- olive oil or coconut oil
- already-cooked meats of your choice (see below)
- Wholly Guacamole minis
- any other vegetables you especially like, that come frozen: green beans, carrots, etc.
- spiralizer, if you want to make zucchini noodles. I like this one, which you can also get at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but there are other brands.
Get two or three of these meats that you’d like to experiment with:
- Already-cooked chicken. Make your own, or pick up a couple roasted chicken breasts or several thighs from your grocery store deli.
- Diced ham; buy one thick slice and dice it yourself if you can’t find already diced.
- Sausage, whatever flavor(s) you like. They can be pork, turkey, or chicken. Bulk sausage cooked and crumbled; link sausage cooked and diced.
- Cooked, seasoned hamburger
- Pulled pork, if that’s something you normally make and have in the freezer
- Bacon; cook up a pound in the oven. Then chop into about 1/2″ pieces. No need to break out a ruler!
If you want, go ahead and cook/prep all your meats.
You can also dice up the onion and put it in an airtight container in the fridge. (If you want to save that for later, that’s fine, too.) If you’re not already adept at dicing an onion, here’s a how-to from SimplyRecipes. Dicing onions would be a good thing to practice and get comfortable with, because this is the first step to just about every savory dish.
Tomorrow, we start cookin’!
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The grocery list shown in the image above is available as a printout at designsponge.