Weighed Down by Convenience
Life has gotten too easy.
I grew up in a town so tiny there wasn’t a single stop light. Needless to say, we did not have the temptations of drive-thru convenience food at every corner. But somehow as adults workaholicism steered both Trish and I into the habit of consuming convenience food. Trish is vegan so we never became true convenience food junkies, as our fast food options were limited to Chipotle. But we got sucked into the world of prepared frozen food from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Turning 30 a few years back, my metabolism slowed down and work took priority over my active lifestyle, resulting in a few extra pounds. In addition I was consuming too much alcohol on a regular basis, a bad habit from my college days…
I’m not sure the exact moment we woke the fuck up and said we’ve got to stop eating this junk, but i think it came down to a finance decision. I remember leaving the grocery story with one bag of food and it was like $100, and being as frugal as I am something had to change. When purchasing convenience food you’re paying for packaging combined with the service of someone or some machine making your food. These foods also include excessive saturated fats and preservatives that no human should consume. The source of these foods are another concern: many are produced outside the US and imported. Just think of the environmental impact of packaging and transporting frozen food across the globe. Globalism at its finest. Either way, I’m getting off topic... The bottom line is convenience food is unhealthy, expensive and negatively impacts the environment. Unfortunately our crazy workaholic modern culture demands these products.
The first attempt to combat our convenience food habit was Blue Apron. To me Blue Apron is quasi-convenience food -- this service combines many of the negative things mentioned above but you’re doing all the cooking yourself and it always take twice as long as the instructions estimate. The true deal breaker with Blue Apron was a recipe that instructed us to deep fry zucchini blossoms. This and many other similar recipes puts Blue Apron in the category of junk food. Maybe other meal delivery services are better?
Where we are today: Well as far as adulting combined with workaholicism, not much has changed: we both work full-time and don’t have the shortest commutes. So our free time midweek is extra valuable. Our solution to avoid the temptation of convenience food is Sunday meal prep. Every Sunday we prepare grain bowls that result in five to six meals for both of us. Meal 1 is Sunday night dinner and the remaining meals are packed up for workweek lunches. The ingredients in the bowls revolve weekly, we try to combine three local fresh vegetables grilled on the BBQ or roasted in the oven. We change the grains weekly as well from the standard quinoa or brown rice to hearty barley and buckwheat. In addition to the vegetables we include avocado, nuts and fermented foods such as kimchi and pickled products as tasty, nutrient-dense toppings. Simultaneously as we prep grain bowls, we prep ingredients for vegetable soup for the slow cooker. The vegetable soup goes in the slow-cooker Monday morning and usually produces enough meals for Monday thru Thursday dinners. Altogether shopping and meal prepping will consume about 2.5 hours of your weekend but the benefits make it well worth the sacrifice.
Benefits of meal-prep:
Reduced weekly grocery cost
Increase in midweek free time for personal development
If you do it with your partner, it’s quality time together and a break from social media
Required investments for meal-prep:
Glass food storage containers (avoid the plastic storage containers -- there is mounting scientific evidence that plastic will kill you…) You can find a 24 piece set anywhere for about $40. I’d suggest getting two sets.
2.5 hours a week to grocery shop and prep
Little did I expect, making this lifestyle change has impacted our work weeks significantly. By not slaving away in the kitchen nightly, we have more time to spend exercising or working on projects around the house. Being more productive during the week has freed up precious weekend hours, giving us freedom to adventure more on the weekends. I’m finding the simple act of cooking my own food weekly from locally sourced vegetables is helping me nurture the connections with my wife, my community and the planet. When today so many people are having issues finding real connections, maybe the answer is at the local farmers market.
Note: Most of the meals we cook are vegan. On occasion we add fresh fish for a little additional protein. Adding meat to meal prep will add additional time to the process.