Eating Well for the Working Person

How to Get the Maximum Nourishment When Time is at a Premium

My wife and I changed our diets more than two years ago, and we have worked out a system for preparing food which I think other people could benefit from. Eating well when everyone works a full time job and there is no one at home to prepare food is a tricky proposition. This is how we do it:

On Saturday morning we decide what we want to eat for the rest of the week. We generally plan on one or maybe two meat dishes and two or more side dishes. We’ll be eating each of the dishes all week, so each recipe needs to make from four to eight servings. Once we have the recipes in hand, we inventory the refrigerator and the pantry and make up a shopping list. The shopping is usually done by noon, and the food gets cooked on Saturday or Sunday evening. If it’s done efficiently, cooking usually won’t take more than four hours.

The dishes we like to cook include beef in Barolo, clay pot catfish, cherry encrusted roast leg of lamb, chicken pot pie, pork shank with apple glaze and sauerkraut, coq au vin, pork chops with au gratin potatoes and string beans, sauerbraten and prime rib roast. We also make a lot of soups including borscht, minestrone, cioppino, and classic tomato soup. As you can see, we eat well!

The most difficult place to eat well is at work. We all spend a lot of time there, and if your office is like mine, they’re not raising grass-fed cattle between the cubicles. My system requires a soft-side insulated lunchbox and several sets of glass containers with resealable plastic lids. Pyrex makes a nice line of these. The largest of the containers fits squarely in the bottom of the lunchbox. I also keep some 8 ounce mason jars with plastic lids for beverages, and a variety of small plastic tupperware and plastic bags for things that don’t need to be heated. I don’t use microwave ovens, so I donated a small convection oven to my office. An average meal in a glass dish takes 20 minutes to heat up in the convection oven at 250. Conventional and toaster ovens will take a little longer.

On a typical work day I start by packing up a dinner in a large glass container. A serving of the main dish and two heatable sides will usually do it. Next up is breakfast which I make every morning while I’m putting the lunch box together and then reheat at work. This is usually bacon, sausage, steak or liver with a fried egg and half a piece of toast—this I will take to work also, where I will heat it up to eat there. Last to get packed are a piece of fresh fruit, a glass of milk or yogurt, a salad if I’m taking one, and any condiments that I might want with the other food. The whole process, including cooking breakfast, takes about twenty minutes.

Variety is the key to enjoying a good diet, so it is crucial to keep an ample supply of wholesome foods around the house. We always have fresh, raw milk on hand, homemade yogurt or kefir from that milk, a variety of good cheeses, salami, olives, pickles, fresh fruit, homemade mayonnaise, salad dressings and bread.

The most difficult part of making most of your own food is what to do when you’ve had something four days in a row and you’re tired of it. If you don’t feel like having the dinner you prepared, leave it for the next day and make a meal out of sausage, cheese, bread and pickles. Hard working farmers in old times took many quick meals from these naturally preserved foods; we can too.

Doing your own cooking does not have to be an exercise in self-denial; treat yourself to delicious food and rich sauces! My homemade meals are the envy of my coworkers. While they are eating Subway, I’m having beef in Barolo with garlicky mashed potatoes and a fresh salad. After a while, food preparation becomes part of the natural rhythm of living. My best wishes to you—enjoy the cooking and enjoy your food!

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2008.

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