Eating healthy can be a b**** sometimes... making sure you're organised, doing a food shop, prepping what recipes you'll cook for the week ahead. The thought of it when you have a million other things to do can be super annoying and totally takes away the whole joy of eating healthy.
So here's my top 10 list of foods to prep / be mindful of in order to ensure your fridge is packed with the good stuff even when your days are hectic. Most of the time all it takes is an hour or two a week and changing your mindset from cooking for 1 or 2, to cooking for 6 or 8 (and freezing/storing the rest so you can rest at ease for the rest of the week).
1. Roasted Vegetables
One of my absolute favourite things to have in the fridge! Combine any vegetables you like - capsicum, broccoli, sweet potato, red onion. Chop them up into bite sized cubes and place onto a lined baking tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil, a sprinkle or dried oregano, a pinch of ground cumin, salt + pepper. Roast until golden and keep refrigerated in a container for up to 5 days. Add to salads, wraps, as a side to a protein, or even mix into a slice or savoury muffin mix!
Here’s my favourite Roast Vegetable Recipe to get you started.
Whether it be brown rice, red rice, quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth. Having whole grains cooked and readily available to use in the fridge can be a godsend when you’re in a rush!
Soaking grains prior to cooking not only results in nicer, fluffier grains, but it also increases digestibility and reduces the phytic acid content of the grain. Phytic acid isn’t necessarily bad - it actually works by binding to toxins in our system and removing them from our body. In doing this however, it can also bind to needed minerals and remove them too (so we don’t want to be going overboard with the stuff!).
To effectively soak your grains it’s actually very simple - all you need to do is cover the grains with clean, filtered water and add two tbsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the water. Allow to sit at room temperature for a few hours or overnight. When you’re ready to cook them, rinse and drain and proceed to cook as usual.
Need some ideas on how to use grains? Try this delicious spiced rice and grape salad.
3. Beans + Legumes
If you can tolerate them, eat them! Packed with fibre, plant based protein and healthy prebiotics for a happy microbiome.
If you find beans and legumes hard to digest, experiment with soaking the uncooked beans overnight and then rinsing and boiling in fresh water the next day (cooking times of different beans varies so make sure you look up the appropriate soaking/cooking time for your ingredient of choice). Similarly to what we do with grains, soaking beans and legumes not only increases cooking time, but it helps with digestibility by removing certain starches, enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid.
No problems with beans? Opting for the canned varieties is fine too (just make sure you check the label for additives and preservatives as well as ensure that the packaging is BPA-free and contains no nasty chemicals from the packaging process).
You can drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and keep in fridge to add to soups, wraps and salads, or you can whip up a batch of home made baked beans (will store for up to a week), or what about a delicious spiced yellow dahl? Options are endless.
4. Batch Made Soup / Curry
One pot wonders - it’s like the gift that keeps on giving! And you know what? Even if a soup or a curry needs an hour on the stove it doesn’t mean you need to stand there watching it the whole time. Put a lid on it, turn the flame to low and get on with other life admin tasks that need doing around the house. Once it’s cooked and cooled, portion out into containers and freeze for a rainy day.
Two of my favourite soup recipes are here and here.
5. Savoury slices/bakes
The easiest way to get rid of leftover vegetables at the end of the week? Chop/grate/puree them up and mix into a batch of healthy savoury muffins or a delicious almond meal loaf. These make for excellent lunch box snacks, heat and enjoy with avocado and tomatoes for a quick (and filling breakfast), or slice / wrap individually and freeze for when you have guests over.
A massive crowd pleaser amongst friends and when I owned my cafe was this vegetable and almond loaf. You’re welcome!
6. Smoothie Packs
Breakfast on the go? Rummaging around for smoothie ingredients at 6 am can be super annoying and chopping up fruit and veg into small cubes creates a such a mess. Set aside an hour one afternoon to do it all at the same time - use baking paper to roll up parcels of chopped fruit, handfuls of baby spinach and any other ingredients you want in your smoothie and have them neatly lined up in your freezer ready to go. Set up a row of jars near your blender which contains any extras you might want to add (spirulina, chia seeds etc) so that when you start blending, they’re easily at arms reach.
Not sure how to make the perfect balanced smoothie? Read my ‘smoothie master guide’ so that you don’t end up hungry 20 minutes later!
7. Overnight Oats/Chia Pudding
For some of us a smoothie just doesn’t cut it - we need to chew things to feel like we are actually getting a decent meal in. So what’s the answer? Save all of your glass jars and pre-prep your brekkie so that all you need to do in the morning is grab one and leave.
The trick to a delicious chia pudding is to combine the chia seeds with coconut milk, a tiny pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla and a little sweetener of your choice. You can either stir whole berries through it or garnish on top along with some chopped nuts, homemade granola, and fresh herbs.
If you’re tummy is ok with oats then soaking them overnight makes for a very comforting breakfast indeed. Similar to a bircher muesli, combine oats with coconut milk or a nut mylk of your choice - add cinnamon, vanilla and a tiny pinch of sea salt and sweeten if desired. Stir through grated apple or fresh fruit and top with more fruit, nuts, seeds, coconut yoghurt or even a dollop of nut butter.
8. Granola / Trail Mix
This is something which really only needs to be made once a month… and surprisingly takes much quicker than you’d think!
Preheat your oven to about 160 degrees Celsius and on a lined baking tray combine a few handfuls of mixed chopped nuts and seeds, and a couple handfuls of coconut flakes. Allow to brown - ensuring that you stir every 5 minutes or until coconut is golden. Once cooled mix through some chia seeds, goji berries, cranberries, cinnamon, vanilla… anything else you might like. Store in an airtight container and enjoy for breakfast, on top of smoothies/smoothie bowls, sprinkled on top of fruit or yoghurt, or even just on its own!
If your stomach can tolerate ferments, then they’re a fabulous addition to have in your fridge and super easy to incorporate into most dishes. I usually add sauerkraut to my morning breakfast plate or mixed through a salad. Kimchi is delicious as a condiment to any Asian dish and of course having a natural coconut or even water kefir or kombucha on hand is a bonus. You’ll be surprised at how much money you save when you start making your own fermentable foods - literally SO much. They don’t take long to make and then they can literally sit in your fridge for a month!
Feeling a bit overwhelmed with where to start? Here is a foolproof sauerkraut recipe to boost your confidence.
In my freezer I always have frozen pesto sauce and a tomato pasta sauce. Why make tiny portions of the stuff when you save so much time by just doubling (or tripling) the recipe?! Both pesto and tomato sugo can be used in everything from pasta, bakes, and even marinades.
Here’s one of my favourite kale pesto sauces that I used in a delicious pasta dish!
Having a healthy dip each week also encourages healthier habits - rather than grabbing something sugary from the pantry, you can avoid the sugar highs/lows by snacking on homemade dips and rice crackers or chopped veg. My favourite go to’s are hummus, olive tapenade, and guacamole.
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