Too busy to eat healthy? You won’t be after you learn this awesome time and money saving kitchen cooking tip! By using this one strategy, I’m able to eat healthier while spending LESS time and money than I would spend eating out at a fast food place. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a good cook to use this simple approach. It’s virtually idiot-proof.
So, what’s the secret to fast healthy meals? It takes doing the exact OPPOSITE of what you might think. You’re going to use a slow-cooker for fast meals.
How does this work? Keep reading to find out.
The Key to Quick and Easy Meals
In college I was broke and busy, but as a fitness enthusiast I needed ways to make healthy meals without taking a ton of time to do it. By cooking myself, I knew I could save a lot of money and keep my body in great shape, but I had to find a way to do it that would be easy enough that I could stick with it and not resort to “fast food.”
That’s why I would always cook my meals in a slow-cooker. I used (and still use) a slow cooker all through college to keep a ripped six pack despite not spending more than a few minutes a WEEK on cooking and preparing food. I would estimate I only spent a total of 30 minutes weekly to worry about prepping food.
The first big advantage of using a slow cooker is that, by getting a large one, you are usually able to cook several DAYS worth of food all at once. That means even if you invest 20 minutes (you won’t have to when you see what I do) to prepare a meal, that’s usually only 20 minutes invested every couple days.
Factor in it takes at least 5-10 minutes just to get fast food or order take out for a single meal, and you can see you’ve already started to save a ton of time.
But, you may be wondering about the fact that it takes anywhere from 3-8 hours to cook a meal in a slow-cooker. That seems a bit inconvenient compared to fast food, doesn’t it?
Well here’s the key, cook the meals before you need them. You can prepare the meal before bed, and then let it cook overnight. Alternatively you can cook the meal while gone for the day at work or running errands, and come back home to a delicious food. Slow cookers nowadays often have automatic shut-offs (highly recommended) that allows you to set it and forget it. That means even if you’re gone all day, you can be sure that the meal will cook for only as long as it needs to and then be set to stay warm until you’re ready to eat.
By cooking in bulk though, you’ll likely have so much food left over you won’t have to worry about cooking or preparing any food for several days at a time. For me, that’s totally worth the 2-10 minutes I spend on actually preparing most recipes.
Making Recipes Faster – Time saving tips
Meals cooked in slow cookers tend to be more delicious naturally due to their enhanced juiciness and retained moisture. Particularly for meats (although vegetarian dishes cooked in slow cookers are amazing).
But all that prep time doesn’t work out so well when you’re in a hurry. For myself as a broke and busy college student, I needed to find ways to prepare meals quickly. That meant usually after a long day of school and work, coming home and throwing some stuff in a slow cooker right before going to bed, and then waking up day to quickly transfer the food into some to-go containers to bring with me to school.
The key to making meals for a slow cooker in 5 minutes or less are as follows:
1. Use pre-packaged or pre-chopped vegetables. Alternatively, use a vegetable chopper to chop onions, garlic, and other vegetables quickly.
2. Don’t bother to brown meats on a stove or cut them up. You can buy pre-chopped meat if you want. They get cooked well enough without needing the browning (which is more for appearance) and they fall apart after cooking. Don’t bother to marinate either, you’ll see how they get flavored shortly.
3. Cook a lot at once, and then store the food in locking to-go containers so you have meals whenever you want them.
Avoiding Bland Meals – How to enhance the flavor
Use spices and sauces as either part of the recipe or after cooking to enhance flavor.
The secret for me is in the sauce, and there are plenty of sauces that only take a couple minutes to make that can take a dish to a whole new level.
My favorite sauce is a simple curry that can be poured over the top of a dish before cooking:
Curry Sauce Recipe:
- 2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk (available in cans in the ethnic/Asian food sections of most grocery stores)
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 clove of garlic (optional)
Blend in a small food processor and pour over dish prior to cooking.
Alternatively you may use:
Tumeric, cayenne, cinnamon, giner, gloves, and other curry ingredients as desired.
- Oregano, Basil, and or Parsley
Blend in a food processor and top food.