Monday, February 20, 2012

Making Time for Health

One of the biggest excuses I hear from folks I know who want to be healthier is lack of time. I totally get it! You work or go to school all day, you commute home, you pick up the kids, you run a few errands, and suddenly it's 7:00 and you're late for Jeopardy! (No? Just me?) Who wants to cook and then do dishes after all that?

You do! Trust me, you really do. And it gets easier once you make it part of your routine. Terry and I used to be very guilty of allowing a long day at work to convince us that eating out would be the best option. But not anymore; now we eat homemade meals at least six nights per week. No excuses!

A few of my friends and family members have mentioned that it seems like I squeeze a lot into my days. To be honest, sometimes I feel like it's too much, but I have learned a few time-saving tips that I feel help me make the most of my day. I'd love to hear your tips, too! Share below or e-mail me.

Making Time for Health
In the Kitchen
  • Plan ahead. I can't emphasize this one enough. It's true in any aspect of life, right? We plan ahead for meetings at work, outfits for vacations, and presents for birthdays, but very often it's 5:30 or 6:00 before we realize we're hungry and have no food in the fridge. But instead of calling your favorite cute delivery boy (?), try out these life-changing strategies for at-home meals.

    1) Plan your meals for the week and get the grocery shopping done in one fell swoop (or at least in one day, if you're like me and have to visit three stores/markets to get all the stuff you need).
    Trader Joe's for the win

    2) Plan your cooking strategy. Sounds silly, but it works, especially if you're new in the kitchen. Figure out how much time each part of the meal is going to take. If you have to, write it out (I write out my meal plans down to the minute if we're having company - feel free to judge). This way, you won't have your main dish ready while you're still chopping veggies for the side dish. If you have a roommate, significant other, or talented pet, see if they can help you with a small part of the meal to save you time. (Or you can make them do the dishes afterward, which is our house rule. :-)

    3) Make some parts in advance. If you know you're having a salad with dinner (or something that doesn't require heat), assemble it before you start on the other stuff. I've noticed that I sometimes leave the "easy" part of the meal to the end of my preparation, and then I either forget about it or I just decide to skip it because I'm ready to sit down to my hot meal.
    Pear, pecan, and spinach salad
  • Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers. I struggle with this one because my husband would eat the entire dish if I didn't stop him. I take it as a huge compliment when he likes my cooking, but a girl needs leftovers, you know? So I try to make extra - while I'm cutting and chopping and sauteing and baking anyway, why not double the recipe? Once the food is ready, I divide it into "lunch" or "tomorrow's dinner" containers immediately, and then Terry is free to eat as much of the non-containered food as he wants.
    Tomorrow's lunch is ready before we even eat dinner!
  • Make breakfast a priority. I mentioned in an earlier post that our breakfasts have evolved from cereal every. single. day. to a variety of well-rounded meals throughout the week. If you're stuck in a breakfast rut, here are a few easy options that will save you time:
    Granola: a great go-to

    1) Make pancake or waffle batter the night before. I'm a firm believer that batter gets better overnight anyway, but if you make the batter ahead, all you have to do is cook it. While it cooks, you can do your makeup, assemble lunches, get dressed (starting breakfast in my towel and finishing it in my work clothes is not a foreign concept around here), feed the pets, pour your coffee, etc. You can even pop the pancake/waffle onto a napkin or paper towel to eat on your way out the door (if you have a long commute like I do, eating in the car can be a rather luxurious change from the usual cursing at people driving too fast). 
    Whole Wheat Waffles
    Lisa's Banana Pancakes

    2) Make overnight oats in a portable container and eat it once you get to work. Bring along a banana to slice into it. Just don't forget to actually eat it.

    3) Throw the ingredients for a wholesome smoothie into a blender the night before. In the morning, press "blend" and sip on your way to work.
    Easy (and noisy) breakfast

    On the go!
  • Prep your food in advance. If you make or buy big containers of yogurt or cottage cheese, carrots, whole wheat pretzels, grapes, berries, granola, crackers, nuts, etc., (wash, if necessary, and) divide them up into small, portable containers right away. This way you can grab and go. Makes packing a lunch faster, too! Rachael Ray always recommends washing your produce when you get home from the store, but I've found that to be a time suck, except for heads of lettuce, which I rinse, dry, and store in big containers until I'm ready to use them. Anyone else try this trick?
For Your Body

  • Plan ahead. I know, I said this one already. Figure out what your week looks like and which days you're going to work out. Choose at least three to start if you're not already there, and build your way up. If you're going to be at work late every night, sorry, but you gotta wake up early and get it in before work. If you're like me and have a weird work schedule sometimes, pack gym clothes and run or go to the gym or do a classroom/office workout whenever you can. Folks who get a lunch hour - you could use half that time working out and half eating! (Another benefit: You'll feel far more energized to tackle your tough day/week if you sweat a little!)
  • Choose your workout wisely. As wonderful as it would be to complete a full, one-hour workout six days a week, it's just not always going to work out that way (<--pun!). Instead, choose effective workouts to help you complete something quick and and intense during those crazy days. I have quite the array of choices for you on my FITness page, or you can just Google "30-minute workout". (No guarantees on what you'll find in the Google-verse...)
For Your Overall Health
  • Learn to say no. Sometimes you really can't do it all. It's tough for me still, but I've learned to look at my calendar and honestly assess whether I can manage whatever is being asked of me. Dinners with friends, extra hours at work, attending your significant other's paddle tennis tournament - sometimes you have to say no. Hopefully the folks you're disappointing will understand that you will be there in spirit, and do your best to get there next time.
  • Schedule time for you. If you're like me, you can't relax until your to-do list is ta-done (<--did that work?). But I'm quickly learning that it's never going to be done. So I have to carve out time for fun. I literally write it into my calendar: watch TV with Terry, read, etc. My blog is a fun way for me to unwind, and I have worked that in to my daily routine (usually while my hubby does the dishes!). 
    I wish every night looked like this!
I would love to hear your time-saving tips and post a second time (including my favorite fast recipes) about this subject. I think time constraints are something everyone deals with on a regular basis, so let's help each other out! 

What's the most efficient way to get stuff done in a busy day? 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. FYI. Pancakes freeze really well. So now you can have them all week long. And defrost in the microwave really fast. Nom Nom. Great list! And I love breakfast. My must have meal.

    1. Great tip! I've never frozen pancakes so I'll have to try it. I'm the same with breakfast. Missing it makes me super grumpy!

  3. Well, I guess I can never say that I don't time to work out, do I?

  4. Those waffles look awesome!!

    A few years ago, my boyfriend and I started eating pretty basic dinners: protein + veggie + salad. It makes it SO EASY to eat a healthy dinner in less than 30 minutes. We do salmon a lot, chicken, pork chops with steamed veggies and a salad. Filling, delicious, easy.