For the first two to three years of MyLifeRunsOnFood.com, I was partially or fully unemployed. My hours were spent writing cover letters, resumes and recipes. The food blog enabled me to have a routine, stay creative and hopeful. The recipes created during that time period, continue to be my favorite meals.
During that time period, I recall a conversation with several friends about how process food isn’t as fast as preparing a home cook meal. Then there’s a lone voice among us who disagreed with us as she explained, “…for working families… it’s difficult to prepare healthy meals, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or a food co-op…” I was curious about her statement. Despite being unemployed, I wondered if my concept of time management around healthy eating was within the realities of single parents and families working full-time.
In Spring of 2012, I accepted a full-time design position. The following summer, I discontinued my local CSA membership, because the time spent cleaning the vegetables on a weekday was time-consuming and the pick up locations and times didn’t fit into my new schedule. Today, visits to the farmer’s markets are almost never. Grocery shopping is weekly, and I’m careful to avoid multiple trips to several locations for ‘special ingredients,’ such as a butcher, tea and coffee shops, bakeries, seafood markets and scheduling time to pick-up organic produce. I’ve always known it’s time-efficient to plan a weekly menu, but I’ve returned to buying groceries in one store.
My recipes are changing, too. These days, I’m relearning how to cook hearty meals within 30 minutes, and that’s including prepping time. My only day to leisurely create recipes is Sunday, but there’s an hour dedicated for preparing ingredients for weekday meals, such as cleaning and seasoning chicken breasts, roasting or steaming vegetables and cooking grains.
My grocery list includes frozen pre-cooked shrimp to quickly thaw and add to salads for instant protein. A container of hummus is always bought, because it’s quickly used for an open-face breakfast sandwich with toasted bread, a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, fresh black pepper and occasional avocado slices. The other day, garlic powder was purchased to reduce the time of peeling and mincing fresh garlic. Cheese is brought grated, crumbled or slivered to reduce the preparation time of a dish. Instead of visiting a fish market during the weekday, frozen fish fillets are stored in the freezer (Most seafood arrive in grocery stores are frozen). Instead of waiting 45 minutes to cook brown rice, Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro and barley are equal healthy substitutions. And, store-bought harissa sauce is my favorite condiment. It’s instant flavor for stir-fry greens, egg or pasta dishes.
Last Spring, a Harissa Tomato Sauce dish with roast shrimp, asparagus and chickpeas was made. If planning this pasta as part of a weekday meal, save time by roasting asparagus, precooking the pasta, and dicing the celery and onion. Once all ingredients are prepped, it’s an effortless weekday recipe.
I now understand my friend’s opinion about working people having less time to leisurely create healthy recipes. I look at households with kids in awe (parents are true superheros), because I’m always learning new tips to improving my time management between working, exercise, meal planning and getting a good night’s worth of sleep… for only my boyfriend and I. Although, I feel blessed to have have a full-time job, I miss the farmer’s market, because it was a fundamental source of creativity. However, looking at my weekday calendar, I see fewer hours to prepare time-consuming recipes, but in those small spaces I’m quickly adapting to creating healthier ‘fast-food’ recipes.