Convenience foods are what they say they are: convenient. The trouble with convenience foods is that they’re highly processed and often come with a hefty dose of excessive packaging. For busy folks, moving entirely away from convenience foods might not be doable, but even replacing a few of the processed foods you normally buy with homemade alternatives can improve your health and help the planet! Here’s how you can make your own convenience foods at home.
This month is October Unprocessed, and what better time to talk about ditching chemical-filled packaged foods in favor of whole foods you can cook at home, right? It might feel like there’s no way you can find the time to cook from scratch, and the trick to making this easy on yourself if cooking in batches.
Why make a dozen muffins when it takes just as long to make two dozen? Keep some in the fridge to eat this week and freeze the rest for next week.
The same thing goes for pre-made meals. You don’t have to cook every night to ditch the TV dinners! Spend some time on a weekend and make a few large dishes that you can eat for the week. If possible, make some dishes that you can portion out and freeze for those times when you aren’t able to cook.
The idea here is to take advantage of any free time you do have to bank food in the fridge and freezer for the rest of the time.
Try a Swap!
Are you worried that you’ll get sick of eating that same pasta casserole for a few weeks in a row? This is where a food swap can come in handy. Get a few friends involved, and have each person contribute one or two large dishes. At the swap, everyone can bring containers and serve up their share of everything. You get lots of variety, some quality time with friends, and you save time and money!
Need some DIY convenience food inspiration? Check out these simple ideas on the next page!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by bark
You don’t have to give up convenience foods entirely to reduce packaging waste and help the planet. Here are a few ideas for quick snacks and meals that you can make in advance or whip up in a flash!
1. Homemade muffins – Muffins make a great snack or a breakfast on the go. Find a favorite recipe and bake up a bunch!
2. Bean Dips – Grab that blender and whip up a big batch of hummus or any other bean dip. You probably think of bean dips as snacks, but they also make great fillings for sandwiches and wraps when you need an easy lunch or even a light supper.
3. Fruits and Veggies – Who needs processed chips? Hit the produce aisle for carrots, celery, endive, cucumbers, or any other veggies that you like to dip. To make this easy on yourself, cut your veggies up into dippable sticks as soon as you get home, so you can grab them on the go.
4. Granola Bars – Granola bars are another easy on-the-go breakfast or snack. My husband loves these homemade granola bars. We like to mix things up by using different nut butters and dried fruits when we make these.
5. Dried Fruit – Speaking of dried fruit! Need a sweet snack with no prep time? Keep dried apricots, figs, cherries, apples, or even prunes or raisins in the kitchen.
6. Roasted Vegetables – Chop up some veggies, toss them with olive oil, and roast in the oven at 400 for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 15 minutes until they’re browned. Roasted veggies are great as a side, as a sandwich filling, or tossed into veggie broth for a quick, weeknight soup.
7. Smoothies – Keep some frozen fruit in the freezer and whip up smoothies at a moment’s notice! Just combine frozen fruit, ice, and enough vegan milk or juice to cover, then blend until smooth. Easy peasy!
8. Chia Pudding – If you have a sweet tooth, chia pudding is a healthy way to satisfy it, and a batch will keep for a week in the fridge. Just combine 1 cup almond milk, a teaspoon of maple syrup, and a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds and let it soak for at least an hour before serving. The chia seeds soak up the liquid and plump up to make a pudding that almost tastes like tapioca.
9. Kale Chips – Are you a potato chip addict? Try kale chips instead! They bake up fast and easy and will keep for a few days in a sealed container.
10. Frozen Dinners – Instead of cooking for just one meal, double that recipe, wrap up the extra in individual portions, and freeze them. Foods like soup, stew, pasta, and quiche will freeze and reheat beautifully, and it doesn’t take much longer to make a double batch.
What’s your convenience foods pitfall? Mine is dumplings. I love having premade dumplings in the freezer to snack on or use in soups.
Image Credit: photo by Becky Striepe