Time-Saving Cooking Tips for Healthy Writers

I knew for certain I loved writing when within weeks of committing to the craft my kitchen looked more like a college dude’s than a health conscious adult’s. What should I make for dinner? Let’s see… We have mustard, ancient beer and an entree formerly known as fish. I think. (Ew.)

“Hello..oh…oh…? Is anybody in there?”

Writing like crazy and with gusto is a great thing. Starving ourselves or existing on cereal, Pop Tarts and fast food, not so much. As we’ve discussed here before, our brains require a healthy, balanced diet for proper function. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my creativity and works-in-progress, I’ll take any effective tool I can get. Whether you’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo or simply wish to up the ante on your wellness, the following tips can help.

10 Time-Saving Ways to Cook Your Way to Better Writing

1. Dust off your crock pot. They aren’t just for savvy grannies anymore. I was living in Paris with a kitchen that consisted of a pop-out burner and a cooler when my mom suggested a slow-cooker. They are the time and money-saving bomb. Recipes for particularly brain-healthy options: Salmon, Veggies & Rice, Quinoa Red Lentil Soup, Chicken with Kale

2. Prepare large batches. Make a big batch of veggie-loaded lasagna, turkey meatloaf, soup or chili to last you several days or more. For healthy frozen meals, freeze single or family-size portions in secure containers. This Whole Wheat Spinach Lasagna is one great option. For you gluten-free folks, use sliced zucchini or brown rice lasagna noodles.

3. Stock up on frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at their nutritional prime, so they’re at least as nutritious as produce-bin items. For healthier throw-it-together meals, add frozen greens or mixed veggies to pasta sauce, leftover mashed potatoes and soups. To add brain-healthy nutrients to oatmeal, add frozen or thawed berries while cooking.

4. Freeze leftover and over-ripe fruits and vegetables. Freezing changes the texture of fruits and vegetables, but maintains their freshness. Freeze peeled bananas and other fruit for use in smoothies. For an ultra-filling smoothie, blend 2/3 cup frozen blueberries with 1 banana, a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds and 1 cup of Greek yogurt or milk. Chop up leftover greens, such as kale and spinach, for use in sauces, soups and smoothies. Bonus: No thawing required.

Berry smoothies knock OJ out of the park.

5. Freeze batches of cooked grains. Preparing large batches of brown rice, wild rice and quinoa then freezing single or family-size portions in freezer bags can cut an hour or more of cooking time, plus cleaning time, from your days. You can also purchase pre-cooked frozen whole grains at most grocery stores, which cost more, but save time.

6. Become a one-pot rockstar. There are zillions of healthy one-pot recipes available, which reduce prep and cleanup time significantly. (Hallelujah for that!) For some delicious, nutritious ideas, check out these Healthy One-Pot Soup, Stew and Chili Recipes at Epicurious.com.

7. Give your restaurant leftovers healthy makeovers. We all dine out occasionally, sometimes due to an empty refrigerator. When you do, reserve leftovers to work into a healthy meal the next day. Roasted, steamed and seasoned vegetables work well in soups, pasta and rice dishes. Leftover meats can be diced up for salad topping and sliced up for sandwich filling. Breads (preferably whole grain) can be dried and crumbled into breadcrumbs for use in meatloaf and baked, chicken parmesan.

My favorite use of leftover Indian food: whole grain, veggie-loaded, chicken tikka pizza. Stir tamarind chutney into tomato sauce for added zest.

8. Stock your pantry with healthy staples. Whole grain rice and quinoa mixes, whole grain pastas and canned goods, such as diced tomatoes (which aren’t typically as nutritious fresh during winter months), reduced sodium beans and organic soups, such as Amy’s brand, provide nutritious meal additions without a soon-coming expiration date. To save shopping time, purchase healthy pantry staples online. Organic Kingdom, True Foods Market and even Amazon provide useful options.

9. Keep healthy foods readily available. Fill an attractive jar with nuts or trail mix and a bowl with ready-to-eat fruit to keep in your kitchen. If you’re prone to salty food cravings, nuts, low-fat or air-popped popcorn, pickles and olives provide healthy alternatives to potato chips. For sweet teeth, turn to unsweetened dried fruit, fresh fruit, berry-filled yogurt or small dark chocolate bars. Less healthy treats are okay in moderation, but they shouldn’t take center stage.

Move over pretzels. How scrumptious do these look?!?

10. Shop with a list, then stock, cook and chop. Take a list for your one-pot-wonder or crock pot recipe, plus healthy staples, to the grocery store once per week—or whenever you can. Once you’re home, begin cooking a meal. While it bakes, stews or simmers, chop up fresh fruit and vegetables, or boil grains for those freezer options in #5. Turn on relaxing music and have fun with it. The couple of hours shopping plus food prep can take is a worthy investment that will save you time, stress and brain fog.

Lastly, ask for help as needed. None of us go it alone, in writing or life. Your loved ones want to support you and so do I. So, any questions? Challenges? Tips to add? Thoughts to share? My blog living room is yours, too. :)

Leave a comment

35 Comments

  1. I have a problem remembering to eat since I eat when I am bored. I jump right on my computer and don’t look at the clock again until 10 AM or later!
    Bagels work for me and I still have trees loaded with huge apples, but there is 4 inches of snow this morning. The 2 huge buckets I hauled in yesterday, maybe the last..
    I do keep nuts on the counter and that really helps.
    Great advice August!

    Reply
    • Sounds like you need a timer, Susie. LOL I find that eating a good breakfast before I dive into writing helpful. Stay warm and healthy! And make a snow angel for me. ;)

      Reply
      • I had thought of a timer! Hahaha! I used to think that art was my passion and yet every year I dragged myself to my drawing board to do an illustration for our Christmas card. I can’t wait to start writing. I start early and work until bedtime! :)
        I will make a snow angel for you! Hard to believe we were basking in the Cali sun only days ago! Love it!

      • I totally relate! Though I can’t write well past 6 or 7pm, unless I want to rewrite my butt off. ;) Can’t wait to see the angel!

  2. Great post August. I love my crockpot! I’m always looking for ways to reduce kitchen time during the week and I love cooking! :) But other things require attention taking away from the time I have in the kitchen.

    Reply
  3. Great post as usual August and right down my alley as I really need to re-structure my life so that I eat at regular intervals, take daily exercise and go to bed earlier.
    When I ‘m deep in the throes of writing, I can become quiet obsessed and worry the muse will desert me if I don’t stay up until 5 a.m. Along with that I get cravings for binging on the oddest things. How like a pregnancy writing a novel can be!
    Since I’m a former Home Economics teacher I should know better, but we don’t always take our own advice.
    Thanks so much for the great tips and the reminder to eat good hearty food. You are correct – the brain functions better if it is well nourished!
    MaryElizabeth Coen @goddessmeca

    Reply
  4. Oh boy. Crock pot? Really? I had one many years ago, but it was so ugly, got rid of it. Still … it made the house smell wonderful, like I’d been cooking all day. Well, technically that is cooking all day. Extra housewife credits. OK, maybe I’ll go check out crock pots and see if they’ve made design improvements. You’re absolutely right about needing creative shortcuts. Even though I write in the kitchen, time just disappears, and cooking often is last minute and thrown together.

    I LOVE your picture of the berries, although it makes me a little sad that berry season here is coming to an end. We’re still getting fantastic grapes though, and then … back to imports from heaven knows where.

    Thanks for the good tips and the reminder to keep feeding the brain, without which writing does not happen.

    Reply
  5. Excellent post :) When Hubs is home we eat like (very healthy) kings, but when he’s gone (at least one night a week, usually two or three) I eat…um…bread *shame*. Or some form of bread like pasta.

    Tonight I’m actually going to make quinoa (which is my favorite right now!) and rapini with olives. But I really have to remember to get out my crock pot next time. We have one and hardly ever use it unless I have a work pot-luck (and then I only use it to keep the food warm – I rarely make it in the crock pot).

    Reply
  6. Crock pots are my saving grace. I actually have three in different sizes. I can make anything from bread to dessert in them :) Some of my best writing time is when I should be cooking dinner, so by preparing early in the day, I have that extra time in the evening free to work.

    I don’t know if you have Costco in the US, but they sell a bag of mixed fruit (peaches, pineapple, and strawberries) that makes a really great snack or for a mixed fruit smoothie.

    Reply
  7. Practical and possibly stomach saving tips for writers. I am a big fan of cooking too much and having leftovers. And the crock pot rocks too.

    Reply
  8. I so needed these tips. Thank you! Love the crock pot idea – especially with the change to fall. Dusting it off today.

    Reply
  9. Is #11 “Order Out”?

    And anything I cook in my crock pot (besides chili) gets thrown out. I think my crock-o-pot is cursed.

    Reply
  10. Just brilliant and perfect and just what I was looking for :D

    Reply
  11. Celery and ranch is my go to snack. And sunflower seeds!

    Reply
  12. Great tips! Thanks, August!

    Reply
  13. My fave cooking appliance is my Cuisinart Pressure Cooker. The recipes in that booklet have become staples in my house and there is no faster way to cook beans or large batches of pulled pork.

    Reply
  14. Love the suggestions, August. I keep intending to learn how to use my crock pot more, but I tend to forget all about it. I need to make a better effort because I will often choose not to eat if there isn’t something I can grab quick.

    Reply
  15. quick is critical for me. my crock pot is my friend. In fact, I just bought a bigger one, ecen though I live alone. allows me to cook in bigger quantities

    Reply
  16. I love to eat, August, which means out house is never short on food. I always have a good breakfast (my fav meal of the day) and I always cook a good supper because, well like I said, I love to eat. Lunch is where I fall down. It’s always been my grab whatever meal and by mid afternoon, I definitely feel the lack of good nutrition.

    Reply
  17. What’s interesting is that when I get to writing a lot and start snacking on whatever’s in the pantry (usually starches), I have a mid-afternoon slump where my brain just stalls. I definitely do better when I take a decent break and make something healthy. I love those smoothies especially! Great tips, August.

    Reply
  18. Wow, I need to save this post to my desktop because with the holidays approaching I need all the help I can get. We were down to mustard and margarita mix last week. I just got grocery shopping done and did get frozen veggies, a big bag of apples, and ingredients for some healthy recipes or ones that would make big batches. Working on my chili right now! I made it using the tomato sauce my dad froze from his garden veggies. Yum!

    Reply
  19. I’m a huge crock-potter in the winter time. I make EVERYTHING in there: soup, chili, brisket, casseroles. The only trick is you need to have your meat defrosted in the morning — assuming you are using meat! :) That’s usually where I fail. But you aren’t kidding about the empty fridge. Before my computer died, I took a photograph of our fridge. My poor, sad, neglected family.

    But sometimes you are just on a role, you know?

    Reply
  20. This is such a great list! I love fruit but wont stop to eat as it can take time to peel, cut, etc. I find if I spend the time to make a gignantic bowl of fruit salad (laced with nutmeg and pineapple juice – yum!) that it will last for days and I’ll scoop it out and eat with gusto.

    Reply
  21. I think I figured out this morning that frozen fruit is definitely the way to go for me. I buy fresh, then forget to use it and it goes bad, which makes me mad at myself. Frozen will last a whole lot longer, and you say it’s just as healthy :-) Yay!

    Reply
  22. Quite often on Sunday I will mix up a bunch of stuff to quickly prepare during the week. I love the meatloaf and lasagna ideas. I do those a lot. I also use my crockpot a lot. It’s great for slow cooking meats in addition to soups, stews and chilis. It’s also a great way to have a hot breakfast ready to eat in the morning. Oatmeal is awesome when it’s been cooked all night!

    And you can freeze the left over soups for another time. Double the goodness, half the work!

    Great tips!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Reply
  23. These are great tips for anyone! Love the idea of freezing over-ripe fruit for smoothies. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Reply
  24. createeng

     /  October 28, 2012

    Very informative post, August. Thanks for reminding me that I need to eat and write healthy. :)

    Reply
  25. I never thought of freezing rice and wish I liked olives. My snacking habits are awful :) Thanks so much, August.

    Reply
  26. Great tips! Smoothies are a staple in my house. My freezer is a warehouse of over-ripe bananas, blueberries and strawberries!

    Reply
  27. Very creative post, August. A healthy writer is a productive writer, right?

    Reply
  28. Excellent pointers August! Thanks for the suggestions and the links.

    Reply
  1. Time-Saving Cooking Tips for Healthy Writers « August … | Health Advice
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