For the last week, I’ve been sick. Coughing and sore throat sick. Not wanting to cook sick. The idea of eating isn’t really high on my list, even though I know I need to.
I remember when I was sick back in Los Angeles and married at the time, that my ex-husband (who didn’t really cook) would resort to bringing me Jack in the Box food. It didn’t taste very good and wasn’t really appetizing to me, but I had no energy to make anything myself so I ate it. Later on, when I lived alone, those were the days I resorted to opening a can of Campbells soup.
So now, how do I deal with illness when I live alone and I’m gluten intolerant and I’m committed to eating real food that is local and traditional? I plan ahead.
Even though I’m single, you wouldn’t know it from the way I cook. I don’t cook for one serving. I cook enough for 2 to 4 servings. I freeze my leftover meals in single serving portions. Those are for the nights that I’m either really busy, or sick. So I know that there is usually a variety of foods in my freezer to keep me going. Right now I have homemade chicken soup, beef soup, a sausage and collard soup as well as chili. There is enough variety to keep me satisfied and its easy to defrost something in the microwave and finish heating it in a saucepan. Little work, lots of benefit.
Its easy to do. When I am making something, I just make sure that I make more than I need. I eat what I want for the night, use those disposable Glad or Ziplock containers and freeze meal size portions. Its also very economical. Much more so than buying frozen dinners or cans of stuff with ingredients I can’t pronounce.
Recently, Slow Food USA had a $5 slow food challenge. They challenged us to make a meal for what you could pay at a fast food place. $5 per person. More than 30,000 people took them up on the challenge and succeeded. The challenge is not, as it turns out, cooking food cheaply. Its the time we spend preparing it. Its the challenge we face after an 8 hour day, and an hour commute each way to cook something quickly, cheaply and nutritious for ourselves and our families. What it takes is not money, it takes time.
And time is usually the item we have in the shortest supply. The way we gain the time is by planning.
Beans are cheap and economical when you buy them dried and in bulk. They are more expensive, but more convenient when you buy them canned. Of course you have to also factor in that canned beans are high in sodium. If you think you will want beans for a meal or two during the week, start them Friday night when you get home. Add dried beans to a bowl, cover them with water and leave them to soak overnight. In the morning, drain the beans, put them in a large saucepot, cover them with water and leave them to simmer for an hour or two in the morning while you make breakfast. After, you can freeze them in portions or utilize them in a recipe.
Roast a chicken Saturday. Have some for dinner, reserve the rest of it for other dishes (perhaps combined with the beans) for other days of the week. Reserve the bones for a soup you make the next week (freeze the bones, use whatever vegetables you have in the refrigerator).
Use your slow cooker. Make chili’s, stews, and other things. Make a lot of it. Slow cookers are great since you can leave them unattended. They can make very inexpensive cuts of meat tender and tasty. Portion and freeze the leftovers.
When you go shopping, spend some time, prepping your vegetables. Wash and cut them up. Lettuce and other vegetables will keep for a much longer time if you store them with paper towels to absorb the moisture. If your vegetables are already prepped, how hard it is to steam broccoli or saute something?
Taking time to do the prep will give you nutritious and easy meals during the week, or when you are sick.