Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Time is Not an Excuse

I've been seeing a lot of questions about how to eat healthfully when you 'don't have time' to plan, shop and prepare your food.  I am not a mother and I don't have 3 active teen-agers and a husband to feed.  I, did, however, grow-up in that environment.  My mother and father worked full time.  My brothers and I held part-time jobs and were very active in school.  And we sat down together and ate dinner together as a family.   The dinner table figures heavily in my childhood memories and I believe that one family activity helped shape me more than almost anything else we did.   For we're southerners and if there's food and people in the same place, there's going to be talk.  And talk we did.   I learned to shape my thoughts and debate ideas with my parents.  I'm not classically educated, but today, I hold my own with many people who are.  I know how to think and I thank my parents for that.

But I digress.  Back to the time thing.  I think that in many areas of this country we're busier than we were 30 years ago.  I don't think that's a good thing, but it is our reality.  The "food" industry as capitalized on that and as they've increased their profits by shrinking the quality of what they sell as "food" our waistlines have expanded.  When I was growing up, we ate vegetables that had been harvested from our garden and canned for winter consumption.   We didn't eat this way because we were food snobs, but out of necessity.   There was a recession going on and food was expensive.   My parents, while working full time, planned and planted and nurtured a garden big enough to feed five people during the growing months as well as provide enough produce for preservation for the winter months.  My father did the gardening - prepping the soil, planting, etc.  We ALL did the harvesting.  And my mother, with my "assistance" preserved the food - either canning or freezing hundreds of quarts of tomatoes, green beens, english peas, corn, squash, beets, pickles, peaches, fig preserves, pear honey, blackberry jam.  And more.  When did she do this?  At night, after dinner, she'd fire up the pressure-cooker and go to town.   Did she complain "I don't have time?"  No.  She did what she needed to do to provide real food to her family.   

I'm not suggesting we plow up our yards and grow our own veggies - but if you can, do.  I am suggesting, however, that we need to rethink our priorities and put healthy food back at the top of the list.  And we know we can't trust Con-Agra to sell us real, healthy food.  We need to buy base ingredients as locally as possible and then prepare it ourselves.   Since most of us are busy, we need to plan how we're going to accomplish this.

Here's my plan for the week:   This weekend, I made yogurt for myself and baked sweet potatoes to enjoy this week.  Last night, I took leftovers from a meal last week and added some steamed broccoli from last night's dinner and portioned out two lunches.  Tonight, after dinner, I'll cut celery and carrots and prepare a yogurt dip for snack variety.   Yes, I'll be tired after working all day, then working out and then cleaning the kitchen after dinner.  But - I'm worth the effort of making sure I have a healthy snack of real food instead of risking what the food industry wants me to buy from the vending machine.

And that's the point - I'm worth the time and effort it takes to eat real, healthy food.  So are you and so are your children.  Re-think things.  What can you do in 15 minutes today to have a healthy snack tomorrow?  

When I was single and super busy, I did take some shortcuts:  Amy's or other high quality frozen dinners if I didn't have anything else for dinner.  That's preferable to McDonald's.  In fact, a peanut butter sandwich is preferable to McDonald's - if you're not allergic to peanuts.  Stonyfield plain yogurt with granola or Kashi is preferable to Pop-Tarts and takes about 2 seconds longer.  Not everything we eat has to take a long time to prepare.  Think about what you can eat that requires minimal effort.  

Try, if you can to block some time on the weekends to cook for the weekend.  It doesn't have to be gourmet:  plain baked chicken or turkey, sweet potatoes and broccoli.   All told these dishes will take about 1 hour to prepare and you've got lunch for a week.  

Please don't misunderstand.  I recognize we're all super busy.  My time-constraints are far less than most people's and I appreciate that.  I also think that busy or not, with some planning and taking advantage of nature's own fast foods (fruits, nuts and veggies), we can eat healthfully.


  1. Sometimes I find I spend more time fretting about how I don't have the time, than I do to actually do it. I can make a pot of soup in little over an hour, but usually will stress for a few days over when I will have that hour. Quite silly. Now that I'm working again (woohoo!), I have to have easier/faster to eat foods on hand in general.

  2. I agree that it is about deciding on what my priorities are. Sometimes I just pout about that. . .

    Watching TV has never been a priority of mine. . . somehow it most often dominates the mere 3 hours I have between getting home from work and bed!


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