“What are some food products/shortcuts you have found that still retain nutrients and vitamins, don’t add preservatives, store longer, and can cut down on your prep time?”
“When I’m rich and wealthy…”
This is how Drew, Charlie, and I start many conversations. “When I’m rich and wealthy, I’m gonna have a separate closet just for my shoes…” “When I’m rich and wealthy, I’m going to have a cottage in Ireland…”
When I play this game, I wax eloquently about the floor plan of my home (two story library! astronomy tower!), how much I’d travel (a lot), and how my cooking will be elevated.
Because dang is cooking this way expensive. You try taking out starches from your meals and see how your grocery budget expands. We rely on bread, rice, and potatoes to fill our stomachs without draining our wallets, and when they’re gone… it gets harder.
But the cost of cooking fresh extends way beyond the money. I spend ~10 hours each week researching and cooking food for the three of us. Drew spends another 3-6, helping with prep and cleanup.
Out of Drew, Charlie, and myself, exactly 0 of us have ever won the lottery, married money, or reached beyond (lower) middle class. We’re shopping at our neighborhood chain grocery store like the rest of you and fitting food prep in between clients and at the end of long days.
This isn’t a complaint. Even being able to consider going on a journey like this is a wonderful thing, but it is a reality that must be taken into account.
And this is why (was the trip worth it? we’re getting there) any place I can save a little time without effectively pouring salt or sugar down Charlie’s gullet, I am all in.
[Now, full disclosure, while I have some experience (in what feels like a previous life) preparing food both professionally and personally for folks with limited diets, I am no registered expert on these matters. There’s a lot I have to learn, and it’s possible some of this may change.]
Beans — I used canned beans. The thought of soaking all of my beans from scratch has a sentimental hold on me because my mother always prepared her refried beans starting from dried pinto beans. But it’s honestly not how I want to dedicate my mental space right now. So low sodium canned it is for black, pinto, and canneliini beans and chickpeas.
Tomatoes — I do like using fresh tomatoes occasionally, when they’re in season, but often a can of Italian tomatoes is a more efficient option both for time and money. (Italian tomatoes chosen because the US has super lax labeling laws, so stuff I don’t want often sneaks into tomatoes packed in the US.)
Frozen Veggies — Some veg, like carrots and onions, I use in so many different ways that it just makes sense to get them fresh for maximum versatility. But sometimes, things like green beans or broccoli are easier to use, store, and keep frozen (and flash freezing preserves more nutrients, too!)
Curry Paste — Charlie has taken a liking to green curry, which is a super win for me, as I think it’s delicious and I love that it’s in my meal rotation, as well. However, I do not currently have the time or resources to make curry paste from scratch every time I want to make a Thai curry. So Thai Kitchen’s curry paste is a lifesaver.
Canned Fish — Tuna and salmon are both green lit for Charlie, but Drew has a strong (strong) aversion to fish, so cooking it in the house is not an option. By getting the fish canned, not only do we reduce the smell, but we gain in the time and budget departments, too. (Do spend a little extra time in researching, however. Canned fish availability can vary, and not all are made equal in regards to mercury content or sustainability.)
“When I’m rich and wealthy…” I will have more time to devote to prepping more foods myself. I can preserve my own lemons, and cook down and freeze five different kinds of broths, and make my grandmother’s famously surprisingly delicious fruit cake that takes 6 months to prepare… But for now, we take what we can get—and eat surprisingly well for that.