Thursday, June 3, 2010

How I Plan & Prepare Good, Healthy Food

By reader request, I am writing this post to describe my methods for planning & preparing good, healthy food.

As a teenager, spending time at a friend's house, I was amazed to watch them go to the grocery store every night to buy ingredients for whatever they decided they were going to have for dinner. When I was growing up, my mom always had food around. If we ran out of ketchup, oil or whatever else, she just went to the storage room to get some more. When she shopped for groceries, she bought extra of whatever was on sale. We planned weekly menus together, and my mom would make sure that we had all the ingredients in the house for the week's recipes.

Fast-forward to my adult life and changing over to a healthy high-raw, whole foods diet:

When I first decided to improve my diet, I had several things in the pantry & frezer, but I had very little in the house that was even slightly healthy. I also didn't have the budget to go out & restock my pantry with healthy food all at once, or even to restock it over a year's time. I started small, and I found myself going to the grocery store often to pick up more produce & a couple of other ingredients. I gradually started stocking my pantry with whole foods, pinching my budget to buy things in bulk as I saw it would be the only way for me to stop continually running out of food a few days before the end of the month.

Running out of money every month made me get creative with food. I had to figure out what to do with some carob, sunflower seeds & a few other random ingredients that I didn't have a recipe for. I learned to improvise, and it expanded the variety of what we ate.

Now, several years later, I have gradually built up a little storage in the basement, where I can go & get supplies if I have unexpected company, more almonds if I get a hankering for almond milk before I am planning to go shopping, etc. My menu choices are not limited, and my time is efficient, because I don't have to go shop for specific ingredients very often. It is wonderful!

Things that are usually in my pantry/basement:

*Almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax, chia, sesame seeds, coconut
*Olive oil &/or grapeseed oil, coconut oil
*Dry beans (black, adzuki, garbanzo, pinto, mung) and lentils
*Wheat, barley, rye, quinoa, buckwheat, oat groats
*Honey, stevia, palm sugar (coconut sugar), blackstrap molasses, dates
*Sun-dried tomatoes
*Alfalfa seeds for sprouting
*Greens powder
*Peanut butter, tahini
*Herbs, spices, RealSalt, balsamic & apple cider vinegars, vanilla, nutritional yeast

The freezer has an ever-changing variety, but always frozen fruits, and often grass-fed meats and portions of prepared foods that I can thaw for a quick meal or snack (well, it is quick the next day - after it thaws out).

The fridge & countertop produce bowl have any or all of the following:

*Raw milk
*Cultured dairy products (kefir, yogurt, creme fraiche, cultured cream cheese, cultured butter, etc.)
*fresh fruit: apples, grapefruit, etc.
*lemons & limes


The way I prepare healthy food varies depending on my schedule, my tastes, the seasons, and what I have in the fridge, freezer, pantry or garden, but there are some general things I seem to do all the time.

When I am NOT hungry:

*I put something in water to soak - like almonds or sesame seeds for milks, dry beans for cooking the next day, alfalfa seeds (or grains or mung beans) for sprouting, nuts to later season & dehydrate, etc.

*I grind a few pounds of flaxseed to keep in the freezer.

*While I am doing something else in the kitchen, I warm cream or raw milk & stir in the culture for various things like creme fraiche, yogurt, etc. Then it just has to sit until the next day & it's ready to go in the fridge.

*I buy fruit &/or greens in large amounts (sale prices help dictate the timing & availability of this) & divide them into smoothie-sized portions for the freezer.

*I make things like hot soups, nori rolls, etc. that take some time to prepare.

*I make things in big batches & save some for later: salad dressings, soups, muffins, kale chips, flax crackers, desserts that freeze well...

When I AM hungry (and/or short on time), I eat things such as:

*boiled eggs
*a smoothie (yogurt or kefir with greens, a little fruit, some stevia, and sometimes spices like cinnamon or ginger)
*a piece of raw cheese
*a simple salad (usually just greens, avocado & dressing)
*sliced avocado with sea salt & cayenne
*soaked, seasoned & dehydrated nuts or seeds
*a muffin or two spread with good butter or cultured cream cheese
*a sprouted grain tortilla filled with whatever is in the fridge: sprouts, greens, cooked beans, chopped veggies, raw cheese, avocado, etc. and seasoned with salt or salad dressing

Other things I do that make food prep easier include making a smoothie to drink or grabbing some raw crackers or seasoned nuts/seeds to nibble on while I prepare several other things. I sometimes like to take two or three hours to prepare a bunch of things all in one day.

If you want to eat healthy, you are probably aware that it will require planning ahead and spending some time in the kitchen, but it doesn't need to be a full-time job to shop for & prepare healthy food. :)