Save Resources and Get Organised – Preparation is Priceless!
By Jo Dance
These days so many of us are attempting to juggle too many things – an almost impossible dance we find ourselves in through no fault of our own. As a working mum of a very spirited 7-year-old, I can often lapse into feeling overwhelmed, constantly trying to keep all my balls in the air whilst knowing the importance of getting my own self-care. One way I help myself is by being fairly organised, (where and when possible that is). This involves doing lots of preparation and planning ahead, especially when it comes to our food.
So I’d like to share with you some of the things that help me save a little of my precious resources.
As a migraine sufferer, I am super sensitive to many things, so preparation is key. Dehydration and drops in blood sugar are some on the top of my list so I always have a little packet of nuts in my handbag in case I’m caught out. I drive locally quite a lot due to necessity and a flask of tea is my constant companion. My time in the car, whilst waiting for kids or stuck in a traffic jam, is an opportunity to get my fluids in.
Travel Mugs and Food Flasks
This leads me on to a bit of an obscure geeky obsession of mine, travel mugs!
For me, they have to keep the liquid hot for more than just an hour or two. I find screw lids totally impractical and much prefer a sipper, as I’m on the go a lot. Finally, they need to be able to be kept in my bag without spilling, and unfortunately, these are hard to come by in the UK.
My best discovery was an American brand called Bubba that I happened to stumble across many years ago. I still have the mug and it’s going strong, the only thing that needed replacing was the plastic seal lining on the lid. They are double wall insulated so your liquid stays hot for ages, and like most things worth the investment, they last for yonks, (no I don’t work for Bubba, honestly. If you don’t live in America it is possible to find them online, you might just have to shop around a bit).
That brings me nicely on to food flasks and a decent one isn’t that hard to find. Stainless steel is ideal, and I’ve actually had some success in supermarket versions. Surprisingly these have often turned out to be as good as a thermos or other named brand.
One tip I picked up a while ago was a real gem for me. Before putting your food in pre-heat the flask with some boiling water. Pop the lid on and leave for at least five minutes, this really does make a difference to how long it stays hot for.
I often fill mine with leftovers such as veg, a protein like tempeh, beans or fish and sometimes a little grain such as quinoa or organic short grain brown rice. I usually chuck it all in my steamer to heat it up, add in some seasoning like tamari or tahini, and there’s a super quick meal to go.
For steamed food (as opposed to soups) that you won’t be eating within the first hour or so, I recommend under cooking it a little, as the food will continue to cook in the flask.
The ones we get are called ‘Wrap-n-Mat’. I think several different ones go by this name, though I’m sure other brands are available. These are great for saving unnecessary tin foil or cling film. The former I use as little as possible then take it to the metal recycling, and the latter I have given up.
We find it increasingly hard to eat out these days. Unfortunately, not many places offer decent gluten-free, low-ish carb food that is also fairly high in good quality healthy protein. Another reason for making your own food and taking your trusty food flask!
I get that it’s not always possible to eat your own food when you’re out, especially if it’s a cold wet day and you’re on foot. But quite often there’s a nice opportunity to sit on a park bench all wrapped up and tuck into your lunch, eating more healthfully and saving money. You’re also getting a few moments out from your hectic schedule, a chance to eat mindfully and be nature too, (unless you’re stuck in the office or on a bus that is).
So doesn’t all this take huge amounts of headspace to plan and time to prepare?
As with pretty much anything new, it takes a while to adjust. There can be a massive effort initially, but once the habit is set it doesn’t take loads of willpower or time. Soon it simply becomes part of your daily routine.
A few things can really help you along the way, such as kitting out your cupboards with some travel-friendly storage items and decent re-usable containers. Yes, these things do have an initial cost, but they often seem like great value after years of regular use.
I also have cheaper things I use/re-use – one of son’s snack containers is actually a glass Neal’s Yard cream pot enjoying its second lease of life! Sometimes I get a box of 3 little glass jars (Kilner style) with sealable lids, which are great for things like yogurt in school lunch boxes (better for older children for obvious reasons).
I use other random jars in place of tupperware where I can, and my old coconut oil jars come in handy to store my goats kefir or a batch of pancake mixture.
Another factor that helps me to be more productive is bulk preparation. Whether it be cooking more than I need and putting a few days worth in the fridge or freezer. Or soaking a huge batch of nuts and seeds, drying them out and storing them in bags to refill my jars or snack pots with. I love having everything on hand when I want to use it.
A well organised kitchen
Having my dry food stored in jars work well for me. No reaching to the back of cupboard, dragging out a plastic bag which has been badly secured with an elastic band that then explodes tiny grains of quinoa, as you try to navigate your way out of an over filled cupboard. Yes, I speak from much experience on this one!
On the top of my kitchen cupboards, I keep a big basket with all my refills of spices, nut butter, and bags of nuts and seeds.
On the worktop, I have some smaller jars (my old miso ones were the perfect size). They contain the things I use every day. It’s handy if they are right in front of me and also reminds me to use them. At the moment I have turmeric, chia seeds, seaweed, a mix of activated pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds for sprinkling, almonds and brazil nuts (again these have been soaked and dried out). This is also where I keep my coconut oil, tamari, black pepper, salt and the vitamins that I sneak into my son’s drinks.
This year I finally got my spices organised thanks to my ‘efficiency guru’ (otherwise known as my Significant Other).
He bought himself some nice empty jars and lids, and went to the impressive effort of printing out his own labels for them. Now he has probably the best looking spice draw in the country!
I’m not suggesting everyone goes to these great lengths to organise your spices, just that it really does help to have things at hand in a way that you can get to them easily and use them with minimal effort.
Preparation Is Priceless
If you’re not already doing this kind of thing and you like the idea of it, but the prospect is perhaps a little overwhelming, have no fear. Yes, it will take some time and possibly money to set yourself up, create new habits and kit out your kitchen so it works really well for you. It is of course, in my humble opinion, well worth all the effort. You don’t have to do it all at once either.
To pardon the cliché – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
Or one of our family mottos, “Every day, chip away.”