Life hack – food preparation

monday blogs most recent blog post Jan 20, 2020

Working two jobs isn’t easy. I work full time in my local school district as a music teacher/choir director at an elementary school and part time for our local opera company as the children’s choruses director. My easy weeks are about 50 hours but I’m heading into an opera production. The next three weeks will be 65 – 70 hour work weeks.

Luckily this only happens a few times per year. But there is a silver lining. I have figured out how to eat healthily while working a monster schedule. It centers around food preparation.

Why nutrition matters

Nutrition matters for all of us. For those with long work days and/or stressful jobs, it matters even more. Nutrition is one of the five pillars of personal wellness (rest, movement, hydration, meditation/prayer/reflection time and nutrition). I like to imagine a 5 legged stool. If I take one leg off the stool, it can still stand. If two legs are off of the stool, the balance gets wobbly. The same is true for health. We can take allowances with 1 of the pillars at a time, but if we take allowances with 2 we end up getting sick a lot of the time.

I take nutrition very seriously. I didn’t always take it seriously or even think about it at all. But the last 12 years, I’ve been pretty careful. Since my surgery in September, I have had to be be very thoughtful about what I put into my body because not everything works for me.

We eat a plant-based diet, try to monitor sodium intake and moderate our soy so it’s something we only have 1 or 2 times per week. New on my watch-list is fat. It doesn’t matter what kind of fat or how healthy the source, I have to be cautious about total fat intake. This is relevant because eating out or living on frozen meals simply won’t work as well.

Besides, prepared foods aren’t typically as healthy as home made and eating out all the time can be hard on a budget (and a waistline). I found a solution! And I can promise you your wallet will appreciate this life hack as well as your body!

Easy strategy to eat right when you are busy

When I see a heavy week or month coming up, I count how many evenings I’ll be getting home late or have limited time to cook. Then I add at least 20% to that number because let’s face it; being busy also requires some recovery time. By adding in a few more meals, it gives me a few days of rest after a busy time before I have to cook when I might be more mentally fatigued.

For example, I know I’m headed into three weeks of production beginning this week for the opera La Boheme. My children’s chorus will be singing and we will all be spending a lot of time rehearsing with the adult chorus and principal singers.

The number of days I’ll be working 10-14 hours in those weeks is 16 (I don’t count weekends in those numbers because even if I work, I have more time at home to prep food). I plan to prep 20 dinner meals for 2 to prepare for this busy time. This covers me for the 16 busy days and 4 days after so I can recover.

How to make it work

But how? How can you do this!! Well… you get create with cooking methods. For the two weekends prior to production, I cook two meals at once and I double every recipe. I’ll cook one meal in the crock pot and one on the stove or oven at the same time. In the time you cooked one meal with multiple servings, your crock pot meal is put together. In one afternoon this weekend, I put together 16 meals not including the meals I prepped to eat that day. It takes about 3 hours.

I put the meals in the freezer and voila! We are ready to go!

My wallet is happy. We are still able to be careful about nutrition AND all of the cooking is done for the next three weeks. It’s win – win – win! We have a freezer full of prepared meals ready to go. Put in the fridge a day or two before you want it to melt it and simply rewarm it.

You can also warm it in a sink of warm water which melts the edges of the food. Then you can shake out the frozen meal into a pan to reheat.

One more hack… use a vis-a-vis marker to mark your food containers. Write the name of the food, when you made it and how to serve it (with rice, with bread, etc). The vis-a-vis will disappear with running water and you can re-mark your container another time.

You can use this if you have busy work schedules, busy kid schedules, or when you won’t have time (or want) to cook when you have company coming. It protects your health AND your mental health.

What is your favorite life hack? I’d love to learn what you do to make life more simple.

All my love!