Today I want to share a few habits I have picked up over the years that have helped me enormously to eat better. Of course I still have days when fed is better than a perfect diet, but most days I actually manage to eat well (or well enough at least). So often chronic illness doesn’t only effect your energy levels, but also your diet and your budget, making it difficult to rely on pre-prepared food. Some of these tips may not be useful for everyone and some might be obvious to you, but I want to share them anyway. I feel like most tips for cooking efficiently are aimed towards abled people and focus on time management, rather than energy management.
However, if you are like me and you are home all day, but have limited spoons to spend on preparing food, most of those tips are useless. Which brings me to my first tip, which is that quicker doesn’t equal taking less energy. If you have a busy life you may want to get a meal on the table in 15 minutes, but if it’s spoons you’re short on that might not be the right approach. I find it helpful to decide what I want to eat for dinner in the morning, that way I have all day to prepare it and I don’t have to do everything at once. Doing a little bit here and there can be a lot easier to manage than cooking an entire meal at once. Choosing ahead of time also makes the decision making easier for me.
Another part of taking your time is the way you prepare your food. Options like the oven and the slowcooker cook your food while you barely have to tend to it. It may take a while to cook, but once it’s cooking you can sit back and relax.
Specially if you use pre-cut ingredients these methods take barely any effort at all. So many ingredients come pre-chopped these days, both fresh and frozen, and there’s really no shame in making use of it.
However if you do want to chop your ingredients yourself, for whatever reason, sitting down to do it can really help. I’m one of those weirdos who finds cooking relaxing, but the standing is still quite taxing, so I do whatever I can sitting down. In theory… I keep a bar stool in the kitchen, so I can sit at a comfortable height to my worktop, however, I can never sit still for long enough in the kitchen and it is currently home to plants. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty handy at chopping and it doesn’t take as much time anymore. If I do have to do something that takes up more time, I will often just do it at my desk.
Good equipment is also a huge help. I know how this sounds, but hear me out. By good equipment I don’t necessarily mean fancy or expensive equipment. For example, in my opinion it is more important that a knife sits comfortably in your hand than it is to have a high quality blade, specially if you can sharpen it yourself. And some of my favourite kitchen things are hand-me-downs and lucky finds. Really, a lot of it is older than I am. You really don’t have to spend a lot of money on a well equipped kitchen, just take your time and go thrifting.
I also like to have all my ingredients ready before I turn on the heat. Specially for quick things like stir fries or if I have more than one pan to tend to. Now I have the privilege of having a dishwasher, so I don’t mind getting a few extra bowls dirty, but even if you don’t there’s no excuse to not grab all of the spices you want to use beforehand, so you don’t have to scramble about. Nothing in the kitchen is more stressful than not being able to find that one herb while your food is almost burning.
Meal prepping can also be very helpful. And I don’t mean this in the sense of doing a weeks worth of cooking in a single day. If your spoons are unpredictable like mine, it can be helpful to do whatever you can whenever you can.
Truthfully, for me this often takes shape as making several portions while I need to make something anyway. I may have said I like planning, but I don’t think I mentioned I’m actually not good at it. Or maybe I’ve given up on it, I’m not entirely sure. Planning is hard when you don’t know when you’ll have the spoon to do something. Anyway, the point is, don’t stick to making just one portion. Of course some meals lend themselves to it better than others, but there’s no point in not making as much granola as you can fit on a baking sheet (or two). But there are also plenty of dinners that reheat well, so you can cook once and eat twice.
Lastly I recommend to just have a few go-to meals. Not only can they save on decision making, but recipes are easier to make once you get the hang of them. You don’t need to follow most recipes to the letter anyway, but not having to reference a recipe at all is always easier. On top of that you get the hang of the techniques (however simple or hard) with practice.
I hope you found this helpful.