Television channels continue to show a range of programmes that basically encourage us to be part-time chefs. Apparently, we can all do it if we try just a little bit more.
These programmes do not interest me. ‘Cooking’ involves too many ingredients, too much equipment, can be expensive and time-consuming. While I like the idea of making meals from scratch, I have made enough lasagne and carrot cake to know that I do not find cooking fun or relaxing.
As part of an effort to simplify my life I have decided to minimise the amount of time spent preparing food, including time spent thinking about meals, shopping and cooking. While I want to eat well, I do not want to spend a lot of time and money on everyday meals.
After trying some ready-to-eat meals I have found a few that I like in terms of taste and convenience, but their nutritional value can be questionable and their calorie content can be excessive.
I now stick to simple, everyday foods that are easy to prepare, are relatively inexpensive and allow me to meet my nutrient requirements.
Breakfast – overnight oats made with fruit juice, dairy-free yoghurt, banana
Lunch – two slices of wholemeal bread with some type of protein (such as homous, boiled eggs, baked beans, tinned sardines), fruit juice
Dinner – rice and beans/lentils with added veg (like frozen peas, grated courgette) or vegetable soup with added rice/pasta – throw in uncooked rice/pasta because it cooks as the soup is being heated (add a little extra water if using soup to cook the rice/pasta)
Snacks – milk, fruit, herbal tea
Using the nutritional information found on the food packets (eg: the nutritional panel on the side of my packet of oats) I have determined that I am meeting my protein and fibre needs, while not exceeding my calorie requirements. To meet my vitamin and mineral needs I must remember to eat a good variety of fruit and vegetables, whether fresh, frozen, tinned or dried.
While I am not vegetarian, I eat mostly vegetarian meals for health, cost and sustainability reasons. I have a kitchen cupboard stocked with tinned foods and dry foods, like oats and lentils, which make up the basis of most of my meals. The fridge contains milk, juice, fresh fruit and vegetables and frozen vegetables.
My food choices give me enough variety that I do not feel like I am eating the same thing over-and-over. I have chosen foods that I like so I still enjoy my simple meals. I occasionally browse the supermarket shelves for something new or different. When I eat out at a restaurant or café I choose something that I do not cook at home, like seafood or dessert.
Changing my diet has taken some effort in regards to considering the best way to meet my nutritional needs with simple meals. I do not aspire to cook like a TV chef. I need healthy meals that do not take much time or effort, so that I can concentrate on other pursuits (that I enjoy). A ‘back-to-basics’ approach to food is working for me.