A big part of eating more whole is, obviously, weaning yourself off of processed/packaged meals. Frozen foods make up a huge part of these already-prepared meals – your frozen burritos and pizza rolls and those little diet meals that cram the freezer of the refrigerator of your office break room. Sure, there are some much-healthier alternatives available in the frozen-foods aisles, such as the Amy’s Organic line. But they can be pricey, and I just prefer eating fresh food, so I’ve gotten to the point where I pretty much avoid those aisles entirely (except for my Ezekial Bread!) and opt for freshly-made meals made by me.
Yes, the downside to eating meals that you’ve cooked from scratch is that preparing them can be time-consuming. It definitely helps if you enjoy cooking – or can learn to (just add wine!). But you don’t need to be eating intricate three-course dinners every night to eat fresher and healthier. Here are some practices that I found helpful as I worked to wholly eliminate frozen meals from my life:
1. Do it a little at a time
If you’re eating a diet that is primarily frozen right now, then going cold-turkey is going to feel incredibly impossible and overwhelming. Wean yourself off slowly. It might take you months or the entire year to do so effectively, but you’ll get there. You could start by focusing on one meal at a time, such as lunch, and reducing your frozen-food dependence gradually. If you’re relying on TV dinners for lunch every single day of your work week, try replacing two of those meals with freshly-prepared, whole-foods-based meals. If that goes well, go up to three home-cooked meals the next week, and then, when you’ve conquered lunch, move on to slowly working on dinner. The key is to maintain a forward momentum that may feel challenging but that is not so overwhelming that it’s going to cause you to throw in the towel.
2. Have keep-it-simple standards
There are always going to be nights of the week that are crazy, you’re out of leftovers, and there is no way in hell you’re going to be able to cook some elaborate meal when you get home. This is to be expected and totally ok! These are the nights that you whip up one of your quick standards. What has mine been for years? Nachos. It’s not the most nutritionally virtuous meal in the world, but it’s delicious and I love it and could eat it four nights a week if necessary without getting sick of it. If you’re thinking this is a standard you’d like to adopt, too, it’s as simple as finding a good tortilla chip (I love Garden of Eden’s non-GMO, organic tortilla chips, especially the blue-corn kind), throwing them on a cookie sheet and topping them with cheese and diced vegetables like onions, fresh jalapeños, and tomatoes, baking them in the oven at 400 degrees to your desired doneness, and serving them with some black or refried beans. ¡Delicioso!
Another simple meal concept? Any kind of protein – pork chops, chickens breast, hamburgers, beans and lentils – served with a roasted vegetable and some fruit. Done! Sometimes I think we (myself definitely included!) make meals more complicated than they need to me
3. Cook to have leftovers
This is pretty much a no-brainer, but the bigger the serving capacity of the meals you cook, the more likely you are to have leftovers. Obviously, if you live with a large brood, the likelihood of leftovers is perhaps impossible. However, certain meals, such as slow-cooker items or homemade soups, do generally have a greater capacity for leftovers (just throw more stuff in the pot!) than other items, such as a filet dinner (though filet is certainly worth it!).
4. Stop buying them!
And of course, the most effective way to quit doing something is to remove it from your life entirely. So avoid the frozen-food aisles. Don’t replenish your stash; or, if you’re trying the weaning-off method, only buy what you will realistically need to complete that process. Yes, there will probably be at least one night when you’ll be standing in front of your freezer all craving-stricken with no frozen nuggets or French-bread pizzas or cheesesticks in sight, and you’ll be frustrated and pissy as all get-out that you are even attempting this seemingly impossible task of eating whole foods. But then you’ll remember the value of leading a healthy, less chemical-laden life and how that’s important to you, so you’ll quit your pouting and reach for some quinoa or that pork loin you’ve defrosted. And you’ll cook. And you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be as tedious or as time-consuming as the processed-food-industry giants would have us think it is. It actually is pretty fun!