If there is an epidemic in our society that affects our health, it’s not obesity, and it’s not even stress. It’s time management. No matter how advanced we are as a society, no matter how far scientific research has come, the one thing we can’t do is create more time. We all have the same 24 hours to sleep, work, cook, eat, exercise and manage our stress.
As a mom of two, a loving wife and a successful entrepreneur, I can relate. In reality, though, the busier your life seems, the more important it is to simplify it.
Simplify Your Life Week starts this Friday, Aug. 1, and I believe we can all be happier and healthier by going simpler. Here are eight ways you can do just that.
1. Simplify meal planning. Buy similar foods and change flavors throughout the week. If you buy ground beef, make hamburgers over the weekend, tacos on a Tuesday and any leftover ground beef can be frozen for a pasta Bolognese sauce the following week.
2. Makeover your kitchen. At least once a year, take everything out of your refrigerator and cupboards, wipe down the shelves, wipe off bottles and jars and check expiration dates. When you put it all back, reorganize. Keep vegetables together in the crisper drawer, jellies and jams on the same door rack, group fruits together, etc. A cleaner, leaner kitchen helps make mealtimes easier and can keep fresh, healthier food more readily available.
3. Save time and money. Use family-friendly meal planner websites and apps like 6 O’Clock Scramble — simply put all the ingredients you have on hand into the app and it will generate several recipes you can make using those ingredients. Another tip: Purchase tuna salad from the deli, then add two cans plain tuna to stretch it out. These small steps get nutritious meals on the table while also helping your pocket book.
4. Decorate your plate. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to put a balanced plate together. It starts with fruits and vegetables, then fill out the other half of your plate with ¼ lean protein and ¼ starch, like shrimp and brown rice. This is a simple way to get the portion control without overthinking and satisfy your cravings without the guilt.
5. Avoid becoming a short-order cook. Anytime you are cooking for more than one, you’re working with people’s food preferences. The reality is you don’t have the time to make customized meals. If someone is a vegetarian, make sure you have high-protein plant-based foods, like beans, tofu or tempeh around. When you’re having barbecue chicken, simply grill tofu or tempeh for your vegetarian.
6. Do a “quick prep,” for healthy grab-and-go. Over the weekend, clean and chop produce for salads and snacks, hard boil eggs, cook whole grains like faro or quinoa to throw in salads, slice cheese, etc. Portion your items out into individual containers. You’ll have lunches together in five minutes flat and, with everything ready to go, it's easy to eat healthily every day.
7. Don’t be a hero. There is no gold medal for an exhausted and overwhelmed parent. Ask for help when you need it. Family means everyone has a role, whether it’s setting the table, helping put groceries away, or preparing lunches for school — everyone can participate in something.
8. Make a to-DON’T list. If you're still finding you lack the time to complete these steps, you may have a bigger problem. Begin saying no to things that you really can say no to so you can have more time to nourish yourself and make family a priority.