What an odd title for a post about food prep, but it applies perfectly. Everything that we do which involves a combination of time, quality, and cost will have a trade-off. This means that you can only pick two of the three at any given time.
For example, if you subscribe to plant-based meal delivery services, you will save time on shopping/meal prep and will receive quality, nutritious food, but at a significantly higher cost than if you prepared it yourself at home.
Similarly, when you prepare food yourself starting from wholesome ingredients (dried beans and legumes, raw whole fruit and veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds), yes, you spend more time preparing quality food, but you not only experience a lower cost once you find your groove, you also have the peace of mind knowing that you are feeding yourself and your family food that positively contributes to their health and longevity.
At the same time (if you’re so inclined to this line of thinking), you can know that you are helping to reduce the demand footprint on foods that are inherently unhealthy and/or whose manufacturing or packaging practices are unhealthy, inhumane, and globally unsustainable. (I’m here to help YOU become healthy. Your reasons for choosing to eat more plant-based whole foods instead of animal products in your daily lifestyle are your own, as are mine.)
Because you’re here, we can assume that you have made a decision to invest some time to control your food to better control your health (congratulations!! best. decision. ever.). Lowering your food budget is an added bonus, and the more time you’re willing to invest, the more money you will save. Eating well from your own kitchen will also improve your long-term finances because you will be taking an active role in avoiding the need for costly medical attention and prescriptions by strengthening your body’s immune system to proactively combat preventable medical conditions … not to mention the temporal (time), emotional (mind), and monetary ($£¥,etc.) costs associated with them.
Now all of this may intimidate you. Most of us usually feel intimidated when faced with new territory, especially those that require us to challenge our preconceptions. That new territory is most uncomfortable when those challenges require effort to change existing habits/practices and learn new ones. Don’ t freak out on us here … it’s normal. It may intimidate you, but don’t let it frighten you. You can do this.
Bottom line is “you do you”. For example, if you have money, but absolutely zero time, a wonderful option would be to subscribe to a whole-foods,plat-based meal delivery service. If you have some time and a little extra cash, use canned beans; if you have time but prefer the lowest cost, go with dried beans. In either case, the most important things is that your don’t get frustrated and wind up driving up to order a loaded chili-cheese baked potato at Wendy’s (confession time – this was one of my old favorites, but no longer).
If all you can do right now amounts to heating a can of organic beans in a saucepan with some added wholesome seasonings, and plopping it on a baked potato or organic taco shell with some shredded vegan cheddar (and topped with some green onion and/or steamed veggies if ya wanna get fancy nourishment) … your rock, and you can eat that meal without guilt, knowing that your body is better off than it would have been with the Wendy’s lazy mass-market food alternative which is laden with excessive salt, sugar, fat, and artificial additives. See what I mean?
When no current health ailments need Sickcare medical attention, I’m a big proponent of baby steps, and recognize that it takes some longer to walk, and then run, than others. But if you have a personality that needs to see results quickly or your become disinterested, OR have a medical issue that can worsen in the near future without dietary change, yeah, I strongly recommend a full kitchen reset and start on your whole foods plant based journey 100% now (yep, I mean this very second … no games with your health, please).
Pick a day and DO it, and be sure to let your doctor know so that they can monitor your prescriptions; some prescriptions may need to be reduced or eliminated due to you enabling your body’s normal healing systems to repair your body through nutrition instead of masking symptoms with prescriptions. I learned this the hard way. After a couple of months of guiding my brother to better nutrition, he became increasingly light-headed and faint. A trip to the doctor later proved that plant based nutrition works. His light-headedness was caused by taking prescribed blood pressure medication when his body no longer needed it, and his doctor told him to stop taking that prescription. SUCCESS!!! Popping veggies is so much better than popping pills!
Let me know you’re increasing your plant based food intake, and I’ll cheerlead you along the way. I kid you not. I cheerlead, in the most comical way I can muster. (That’s me, Jazzminion, and my wonderful, sexy hubby, Joe.)
My husband and I have full-time jobs that I calculated consumed about 65 hours of our waking hours a week (getting ready + work hours + commuting), not to mention the inevitable shop talk at night and evening email checks.
Add to that the competing time with extra-work events, family, and friends, so we often wind up doing a combination of food prep strategies. As an example, some weeks, we use canned beans (organic, BPA-free cans); others, we use dried. While our goal is to always use organic dried beans (good+lower cost = quality food in more time), sometimes, the best we can do is organic canned beans (good+more costly = quality food in less time). However, every time I’m caught using a can of organic beans has been an opportunity to learn better strategies at personal and food prep time management. Don’t worry … the mysteries of our lessons learned will be revealed sooner than you think
The biggest lesson: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Once you become acclimated to thinking about what you’re going to eat in advance, you’ll find yourself putting beans to soak at night, throwing them in the slow-cooker in the morning with some pre-chopped onions and peppers to let them do their magic while you’re at work, and when you get home, you steam some raw veggies and reheat some grain or starch that you made and froze on a previous batch-prep day. 15 minutes is all you need for super fast, fresh and nutritious meal … when you take the time to plan.
As you can now see, we can adjust the time and/or money we put into food prep as needed. The one thing we will not trade off or compromise on–and neither should you–is food quality, which for us means our ability to eat only foods that nourish our bodies without causing harm. Tenet 1: Whenever possible, DO NOT COMPROMISE ON QUALITY (whole-food plant-based nutrition, organic, and non-GMO whenever possible).
Money was very tight when I started on a whole foods plant based diet a few years ago, so I began the transition by gradually replacing pantry and fridge items as they expired or depleted. So when I ran out of canned or packaged food, I started buying the whole food and carved out a few extra minutes to prepare it. For example, the first time I ran out of mayonnaise, I learned how to make my own using whole foods, plant based ingredients (it’s really only nuts or soy with lemon juice, mustard, and a little oil … and it’s so much more tasty) and the bad-food to good-food ratio started shifting from there. As a few extra dollars permitted, I made small leaps and bounds, and after time, only healthful food exists in our kitchen. I’ll repeat … be patient. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.
I will not lie; the initial cost may be higher than you may be comfortable with. Why? Because we have been taught throughout our lives to stock our kitchens with foods suitable for the Standard American Diet (SAD), which contains unhealthy–and sometimes not even real–food. Unfortunately, it’s what we know, it’s what we grew up with, but it’s not healthy and needs to be changed for our long-term health.
It’s not our parent’s faults, either. They adopted the food of their contemporaneous culture, and we ate what they were taught, and now it’s our turn to teach our parents a better way to eat. As you learn, Share the Health with them, too.
While it is ideal to do a full kitchen reset and get rid of every unhealthful food item at once and restock everything with organic whole foods, if you cannot afford that (as I couldn’t), take it at the pace you are able, but always be mindful of the goal. You do you. We are all trying to take care of our health and the health of those we feed and help as best we can. Ubuntu and all that beautiful stuff.
Transitioning to a whole-foods, plant-based kitchen, and learning new cooking methods will take more time than you anticipate. It’s new. Be patient with yourself. You didn’t learn how to walk, talk, reason, or socialize in a day, and changing our dietary lifestyles may at times feel like you’re starting over with food. In a way, you are. And this is a VERY good thing.
Challenge your preconceptions of what “healthy food” means, learn how to efficiently make it, and LIVE HEALTHY!
Have ideas you’d like us to write about? Add a comment below!
Welcome to your happier, healthier life!
- BPA-free cans aren’t yet determined to be harm-free. Manufacturers are always looking for cheap, BPA-free alternatives, but that doesn’t mean that the chosen alternative may not turn out to be harmful over time. Organic, non-GMO canned goods will be the best currently-available option in the face of changing industry.
P.S. A heartfelt thanks goes to JSO, who initially showed me the time-quality-cost paradigm many, many, many moons ago. I’ve been applying it everywhere ever since.