When long work days and hectic schedules become routine, the age-old question often comes to mind: When is there time to eat? Or should I rephrase....When is there time to eat healthy and on a budget?
I've found the easiest way to eat healthy is to skip the takeout food, head to the grocery and prepare my meals in advance. The last thing I want to do after a long day of work is spend an hour cooking dinner or spend too much money on a meal from a restaurant down the street. Choosing a few food staples that are versatile and able to be prepared in bulk is the best bet when you want to keep it healthy and inexpensive, so here are some of my favorites.
Let's start with breakfast. A personal favorite of mine is overnight raw oatmeal and packing it up in individual mason jars. I'll make a week's worth on Sunday evenings, and it makes eating breakfast a no-brainer during the week. You can add in some of your favorite fruits and nuts so it still feels like you are mixing it up. I usually just grab a jar from the fridge and head to work, which keeps me from giving into my Starbucks craving on a daily basis.
While breakfast items like oatmeal can be easy, lunch is the real challenge, especially if you work in a big city. As much as I love spending $12 on a salad, let's face it, it's not the best option for your wallet. Instead of breaking the bank, you can easily make a week's worth of delicious salads for roughly $12 (okay maybe a little more, but less than $25 for sure). If you're on an entry-level salary in a major city, it is practically a necessity to pack a lunch a few days a week. If you tend to get bored with leafy greens, here are a few more options.
All of my favorite lunches to bring to work can easily be prepared in advance. I like to make a big batch of quinoa over the weekend so I can use it as a base throughout the week in my lunches and dinners. I also buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store to cut up and portion into individual bags so I can easily add it to salads or sandwiches for protein.
If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you should try some turkey meatballs. Make a big batch one night, freeze them, and when it is time to pack your lunch, grab a few meatballs and pour a tasty sauce over them in a plastic container. I like to microwave the meatballs for a few minutes with a touch of water and keep the lid on to seal in the flavor. You can either pack some pre-cooked pasta (again, make some in bulk on sunday night!) or simply eat the meatballs on their own and bring a side salad. They are a great addition to any lunch, and won't leave you hungry for more.
Another easy and healthy meal is a thai-peanut bowl. My mom first made these for me, and now I can't get enough. You can put whatever you want in them, but I like to use quinoa or brown rice with hericot verts, zucchini, cucumber and carrots. Essentially you need a base of either rice, quinoa or noodles and then add whatever veggies and protein that you'd like. Top it off with a super-easy thai-peanut sauce, which is what makes this bowl so delicious. Once you buy the ingredients one time, you'll have quite a stock in your pantry so you can make it over and over again. Hooray for saving money!
Finally, another great option for lunch is a salmon filet, which you can cook off the night before. I like to pan sear mine for a few minutes on each side and the pop it in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on how well done you like the fish. I'll top the cooked salmon with a mustard dill sauce, which you can quickly whip up by combining mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon juice, dried or fresh dill, some chili powder or a few dashes of tabasco and salt and pepper. I'll bring the salmon into work the next day with a side salad or over a bed of quinoa (are you sensing a trend?!).
Keeping preparation and planning in mind, anyone can eat a healthy breakfast and lunch during the hectic work week, which means you can splurge at brunch on the weekend. If you're interested in any of my suggestions, you can check below for recipes of some of my favorites. Enjoy!
Overnight Raw Oatmeal
Combine 2 cups of rolled oatmeal with about a cup (you may need a little more) of almond milk, 1 container of greek yogurt and then whatever add-ins you would like. I usually add some agave syrup for sweetness and chia seeds because they are a good source of energy. You can definitely add any other seeds or nuts that you want. I then parfait the oatmeal mixture with frozen or fresh berries, cinnamon, nuts or apples in a mason jar. Makes four servings.
Combine one pound of ground turkey with two beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Add your desired seasonings (I like minced garlic, chopped basil and other dried italian seasonings) and a healthy amount of breadcrumbs, usually about a 1/2 cup. You don't want a super sticky consistency; you should be able to form meatballs easily. Put the meatballs into a dish and bake off in a 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of meatball.
In a bowl, combine a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter with the juice of half a lime, a few splashes of coconut water (or you can use regular water) and your desired amount of thai chili paste or sweet chili sauce. This adds a nice little kick to an otherwise very peanut buttery sauce.