LiveLighter’s quick cooking tips for the time poor
Becoming time poor is the most unfortunate rite of passage into adulthood. One day, you’re a carefree kid, pouring 5 hours into building an epic LEGO city. The next, you’re a grown-up and having a breakdown because your cousin’s wedding invitation requires a postal RSVP and you don’t have a spare minute in the day to buy stamps.
Needless to say, when life gets busy, lunch and dinner can be a daily struggle. Which is why supermarkets are calling Uber Eats a threat in the competition for providing the ‘family meal’. I myself have called upon its services more than I care to admit.
While I may try to convince myself that takeaway burritos are actually good for you, in the information age, there’s nowhere to hide from your bad decisions. I’m all too aware that takeaway dinners are making both my body and wallet hate me.
That’s why I reached out to LiveLighter dietitian and Curtin University PhD researcher Amelia Harray to try and help me—and all the other time-poor Aussies out there—to eat better and save time doing it.
Beware of ‘healthy’ convenience meals
You might be thinking to yourself: I don’t need help, I get all my nutrition and save time with 4-minute microwave meals.
My workplace freezer is filled to the brim with these convenience meals, so I know they’re a popular choice for people who want to be healthier by bringing their lunch to work but don’t have the time to prepare the meals themselves.
Unfortunately, those ‘healthy’ meals can be concealing hidden salt and calories.
“We went to two major supermarket chains, and we surveyed 154 varieties of chilled and frozen meals,” says Amelia, who investigated these meals as part of LiveLighter’s Convenience Meal Survey.
“We found that only about a third … of these meals contained the recommended amount of fibre, and some of them contained as many kilojoules as a fast-food meal—so a burger, medium chips and a medium soft drink put together.”
“Some of the ones that were even described as ‘super foods’ or ‘super meals’ had far too much salt in them … so the fact that people perceive these meals to be healthy is quite worrying.”
Takeaways are often bad. Microwave meals aren’t great. So that leaves us with preparing our own food, which can be time consuming. But there are shortcuts.
One of the best ways to save time preparing your own meals is through smarter planning.
“I recommend people write shopping lists, so try and plan what you’re going to eat in the week and not just dinners but also am I going to take lunch to work? Do I have breakfast stuff?” says Amelia.
“And cooking on the weekend, so when you do have time, cooking and portioning out meals. So you can portion out some stew and rice and then pop it in the freezer or the fridge, depending on when you’re going to eat it.”
One of the things people love most about a microwaveable meal is that it’s already portioned and ready to go. You just whack it in, give it a zap and voilà!
Putting aside some time on a Sunday to cook up and portion out some healthy meals gives you that convenience throughout the week. And doing it yourself means you can make it healthier and control the salt content.
Save time with canned and frozen fruit and veg
At an old job, my work bestie had dedicated an entire desk drawer to canned food. It looked so funny that I promptly dubbed it his ‘zombie apocalypse survival kit’.
But it turns out the last laugh was on me when his lunches were quicker and much healthier than mine.
“Keeping frozen vegetables or tinned vegetables with no added salt in the cupboard or freezer is great because they’re affordable, they don’t go off—not quickly anyway—and you can add them to things,” says Amelia
“Keeping cans of corn or legumes, such as four-bean mix, just in their drawer at work is a great option. Or microwaveable plain brown rice is another great thing—it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and it’s a really nutritious option.”
So what sort of lunch would you make from cans? Amelia suggests mixing a microwaveable brown rice with canned tuna, four-bean mix and a grated carrot. You can also add a dash of olive oil or vinegar if you want a little extra flavour.
“A simple lunch like that has lots of fibre and lots of nutrients that keep you full.”
Frozen vegetables and fish fillets are another way to save time cooking a healthy meal. And it works out cheaper than a convenience meal per kilo.
“The frozen convenience meals varied from $5 to $25 a kilo, and you can get frozen vegetables for $1.60 a kilo or frozen fish fillets for $6 a kilo,” says Amelia.
Let LiveLighter help
If you’re like me, one of the biggest hassles and time sinks in the day is choosing what to have for dinner.
Save yourself half an hour of Googling recipes each day by stopping by the LiveLighter website. They’ve got a heap of lighter, brighter recipes and even entire meal plans for the whole family. They even serve up leaner versions of all your favourites like pizza, burgers and chicken parma. Even my beloved burritos!
LiveLighter’s dietitian-approved recipes have already done the hard work sorting out the nutritional composition, so you can feel good knowing you’re eating the right stuff. You’ll notice that their recipes have lots of colour, which not only looks great on the plate but helps you get a big mix of nutrients.
“If you’re eating a variety of colour, you’re more likely to give your body a bigger variety of nutrients,” says Amelia.
“So it’s a really great indicator of making sure you’re eating a healthy diet.”
LiveLighter’s resources are free and available to everyone.
So let all of us time-poor people make a pledge together to steer away from that drive-through, resist the urge to cheat with Uber Eats and make healthy choices that can save us time and money.