Times when cheating is bad: the SATs, your wedding vows, and fast food disguised as a home-cooked meal. Times when cheating is good: push-up bras, using the boys room when the girls room has a line around the block, and getting real food on the table when you’re too busy to see straight.
If you’ve read any of my blog posts before, you’ve probably gotten the picture that I lead a busy life. I see patients, write books, take the kids to the beach, blah-blah-blah – and I still manage to feed my family real food.
Do I have super powers? Possibly. Am I a master at organization? Definitely.
One of my favorite things to do is get tips from other highly organized, efficient folks to find out even more ways of saving myself time so I can enjoy the things I love to do. So in the spirit of sharing, here’s…
9 top tips for CHEATING real food on the table
#1 – Cook once a month
Folks who’ve got this real food thing mastered do not cook every day – at least not any that I know. The very best way to ensure you don’t get caught with your proverbial pants down is to have ‘fast’ food at your finger tips. By this, I don’t mean having Domino’s on speed dial.
Instead, I suggest that you learn the art of batch cooking – on days when you’re feeling particularly motivated have a cook-off. Don’t ever make 1 casserole when you could make two or four. When you’ve dragged your food processor out, chop a freezer full of veggies so you can grab and go when you have exactly no minutes for preparing a weeknight dinner. While you still may end up cooking more than once per month, batch cooking will save you tons of time.
#2 – Make a plan
While the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, the best laid plans of real foodies mean you are less likely to get takeout, have an over-priced poor quality restaurant meal, or eat frozen pizza yet again.
I always scoffed at meal planning until I tried it myself. I quickly learned than getting your week organized when it comes to food will not only save you HOURS each week on saved trips to the grocery store it also saves you money and spares you from eating a bunch of junk.
If you’d rather have someone plan your meals and shopping list, check out my classic and paleo Real Food Meal Plans here.
#3 – Master online shopping
I am a HUGE proponent of buying local, but I am also a major advocate of simplifying my life so I have time to do the things that matter most. You know what sucks time? Going shopping. Not to mention, every time you go to the store or even the farmer’s market you end up buying extra stuff you didn’t need, draining your wallet while you’re at it.
Each week my local, seasonal produce is delivered to my doorstep in a farm box. They also bring my raw milk, local honey, and grass fed cheese too.
Then I use Amazon Subscribe and Save to automatically receive staples like wild caught tuna, organic maple syrup, avocado oil potato chips, toilet paper, toothpaste, trash bags, and more. This stuff comes at regular intervals that I determine based on my family’s usage.
Finally, as an Amazon Prime member, I pay a small annual membership to have things I need delivered with free shipping to my doorstep in two days. Brilliant. Fish sauce, sea salt, coconut oil, even my kids’ shoes.
While this may come off as a consumerist and not particularly a green-living choice, this is one of my biggest time saving tricks, and I like to think that the amount of gas I save in trips to the store compensates for the boxes that they use to ship my stuff.
#4 – Buy in bulk
Just like above, buying in bulk saves on frequent trips to the store – as well as unnecessary packaging. We are about to receive our second quarter steer directly from our farmer saving us 20% off our grass fed beef, eliminating multiple trips to the farmer’s market, while directly supporting our farmer. We also buy butter by the 40 pound block, coconut oil by the gallon, and big bags of rice and quinoa from bulk bins.
#5 – Marry your slow cooker
My crock pot makes magic in my kitchen. It takes no more than 10 minutes to throw ingredients in that puppy in the morning, and then come dinnertime there are delectable smells wafting around my house and a delicious dinner waiting as if June Cleaver had been slaving away all day.
I also keep a slow cooker perpetually bubbling away with chicken or beef bones, ensuring my kitchen is well stocked with nutrient dense bone broth – the cornerstone to any foodies best sauces, soups, and other savory dishes.
#6 – Try pressure cooking
Here’s one I just learned about and am super excited to try. Did you know you can take a frozen hunk of beef from rock solid to melt-in-your-mouth delicious in less than 90 minutes? Me neither, until recently I learned about the wonderful world of pressure cooking. I’m ordering this one, and I’ll be sure to update you more as I explore all the possible ways my new pressure cooker is going to save me even more time.
#7 – Delegate!
Got a husband (or wife or partner)? Give him/her jobs like grocery shopping, vegetable chopping, or kid entertaining.
Got kids? Ditto.
Got money? Hire someone to help you – cook, clean, or watch the kids.
Got friends? Organize cooking play dates or trade a dish of enchiladas for a couple of jars of sauerkraut.
#8 – KISS
Most folks know the acronym Keep It Simple Stupid – and while I’m pretty sure you’re not a dummy, the first three letters still apply.
Sometimes scrambled eggs and toast are perfectly acceptable for dinner – especially when the eggs and butter come from pasture-raised hens and cows, respectively and your toast is sprouted or sourdough. Kids are often happy eating the same school lunch day after day, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Make yogurt on your countertop. Choose simple recipes over complicated ones. Keeping it simple saves time and stress.
#9 – Practice 80/20
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not actually Wonder Woman. And sometimes I even buy frozen pizza or eat at Chipotle. Is someone going to take away my real foodie badge? I don’t think so.
Part of living this real food lifestyle is finding balance. Trying to be perfect 100% of the time is not only impossible, it’s also maddening and exhausting. So if you’re striving for perfect, lighten up and eat a french fry. A bit of PUFAs every now and then are not gonna kill you.
What are YOUR best real food cheater secrets?