If you’re anything like me, you have plenty of weeks where you have little to no time to prepare healthy meals/snacks. Some people just throw in the towel and figure if they have no time, they will just grab take-out, go to the drive-thru, or grab something from their freezer. I like to think that I’ve come up with a happy medium for those weeks. I’m going to share some of the shortcuts that have helped me reach that balance.
The key: healthy food shortcuts from some of my favorite grocery stores. Healthy shortcuts = food items that are either already prepared, or have done all of the “heavy lifting” for you (i.e., chopping, peeling, steaming, etc.), so that you can easily incorporate them into a simple meal or snack. Healthy shortcuts are one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite working so much. Even though this may mean paying a little more for convenience items, I think it’s worth it in the end.
I’m on a budget – don’t get me wrong. But I also work a lot, and my husband works a lot, and we don’t always time to do everything we want to do throughout the week. I allocate a part of my budget to convenience items at the grocery store if I want to eat well but don’t have the time to prepare everything from scratch. Remember: You can’t do it all! Work, kids, school, healthy eating, exercise, relationships, family, friends…. the list goes on and on. The key is being able to recognize what areas you’re willing to pay a little more for. For me, healthy shortcuts are a big convenience factor that I’m willing to pay for.
Cauliflower Rice – although you can buy a head of cauliflower, chop and pulse it in a food processor, doesn’t it sound a lot easier to buy a bag of it already done for you? It’s SO much easier to toss this cauliflower rice into a pan with 1 Tb. EVOO and saute for a few minutes until cooked through. Plus, TJ’s version only has cauliflower and a little salt as the ingredients. Just the way it should be. Delicious! And so much easier.
Lentils – I love lentils, but I don’t love the amount of time it takes to cook them. Sometimes I just want to throw lentils in some soup or on top of a salad to add more protein but I don’t have the time (read: several hours) to cook dry lentils. Enter TJ’s Steamed Lentils, which are less than $3 and already cooked for you!
Brown Rice packets – when I food prep, I try to cook rice on the weekends if I know I’m going to use it for a stir fry or to add to taco bowls. When I don’t have the time, these brown rice packets from TJ’s save the day. Although you can heat the rice in the microwave in the packet, I like to remove it from the plastic and heat it on the stove (you can toss it in soup or in a skillet with veggies) to heat it up in a healthier way.
Hard Boiled Eggs – Another great, go-to protein source in our family is hard boiled eggs. I try to make my own most of the time, but the whole point of this article is for those weeks when you just can’t get it done. For less than $2.50, you can buy this bag of 6 hard-boiled eggs. They make it so much easier to get your daily dose of protein. Just chop them up and put them in a salad or eat along with a smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast. Remember, though, 1 egg only has about 6 grams of protein.
Organic Apple Slices – even I will admit this is a true lazy girl trick, but hey – I do what I can. I find that I’ll snack more on apple slices in they’re pre-cut and ready to go on my busiest days. This bag of apple slices is great to have on hand as a healthy go-to snack. They make for an easy and convenient travel snack, too! I have to have mine with some TJ’s Almond Butter : )
Tasty Bite packets – I keep a few of these on hand in the house to make a quick and easy vegetarian Indian meal when hunger (hangry!) strikes. Again – this is all about convenience and having back up options! Of course I’d rather make this from scratch. But let’s get real – who has the time to make an Indian dish from scratch on a weeknight? (If you do – I’m jealous!) Toss a packet of Tasty Bite’s channa masala, lentils, punjab eggplant, etc. with some of Trader Joe’s brown or cauliflower rice for a simple vegetarian meal when you have little time. I try to round out my meal with a big salad with tomatoes, cucumber and carrot to add some additional nutrients.
Organic Frozen Fruit – one of the biggest ways I trimmed my grocery budget and made room for these convenience items was to stop wasting fresh fruit and start buying frozen fruit for oatmeal and smoothies. I still buy plenty of fresh fruit (especially when it’s on sale over the summer), but I learned to buy the fruits we weren’t finishing throughout the week from the frozen section instead.
Whole Foods’ Guacamole – this is probably the hardest to stomach because although it’s delicious, it isn’t cheap. I love making my own guacamole when I can, but this is a great option to have on hand to throw on top of a salad, tacos, chicken, etc. throughout the week if you don’t have time. To keep it fresh – flatten it out in the container after using, put a very thin layer of water (enough to cover the guac), and store in the fridge. I dump out the water before serving and repeat the process all week long.
Frozen Greens – I love Whole Foods’ frozen kale and spinach because they’re easy to toss in a smoothie, steam for a side vegetable, or to de-thaw, sauté, and add to any dish. You can always find organic, affordable bagged options. Not only are they much easier to use, but you can ensure you have healthy greens on hand if you just keep some in the freezer all the time.
Are there any items I missed? I’m always looking to learn about healthy shortcut options! What are some of your favorites?