The old adage “it takes money to make money” can also be applied to the concept of time. Think in terms of buying in bulk: it costs more up front but the price per unit is lower, so you save money in the long run. Invest some time on one day to plan and meal prep saves you time on the days when you are too busy and/or tired to think about what to eat. A good analogy is buying a larger container of something. I lost count of how many times spending a little bit of time in the kitchen working on meal prep has saved me the time and money of getting “fast” food, plus the calories/consequences of eating something that is unhealthy for me.
For example, the fruit salad in the picture took me approximately 15 minutes to assemble, yet it yielded a quick and easy snack that I have been able to just grab as I get hungry. Between myself and my husband, we’ll likely be snacking on it all week! A time investment of 15 minutes saved me way more than that in thinking about what to eat, then prepping it, and it kept me from eating less healthy food. When you have a yummy snack of something you like ready to go, you’re less likely to indulge in a donut, cookie or bag of chips from a vending machine. It goes without saying, really, but you should meal prep meals and snacks.
- Need to take it to the office? Separate the fruit into re-useable containers.
- Don’t have a fridge where you work? Get re-useable containers that have a built-in ice pack that will keep your food cold without a fridge.
- Work outside? Bring a cooler and food that doesn’t need to be heated.
- No matter your situation, there’s almost always a way to work around it and eat healthy. It takes a little pre-planning, yes, but I absolutely believe your health is worth the effort! 🙂
Believe me, I get that fast food seems convenient, because the name implies that it won’t take long and you’ll have a hot meal. But, how far out of your way do you have to drive to get there? How long are you going to sit in line and wait to get this meal that will have a detrimental effect on your health (especially if you eat it regularly)? If you’re getting your meal at the same time most other people do, it’s highly likely that you will be waiting in line for quite some time. The majority of times I’ve driven past a fast food joint during breakfast, lunch, or dinner hours, I’ve seen quite a few cars sitting in line waiting to get food. If you’re like me, you don’t have time to stop somewhere, especially in the morning – I’d rather have my meals planned & get a few extra minutes of shut-eye. If you plan breakfast you can simply grab and go without having to think about it.
Assuming you work in an office, get one hour for lunch, that there is a fast food place somewhat nearby and you have to leave to get your food, think of it this way:
- 20 minutes to drive to and from the drive through
- 10 minutes to wait your turn, order and get your food
- 30 minutes remaining to eat your food
It’s true that you may have plenty of time left to eat your food, but how much stress have you just endured to go get your food during lunch rush traffic? Sitting in traffic definitely stresses me out! Add in the stress of commuting to/from work, plus the stress of a typical 9-5 job and your cortisol levels will always be high! Elevated cortisol levels over long periods can negatively impact your health, especially if you have any type of hormonal issue (like hypothyroidism).
Instead of getting stressed out to go get your lunch, imagine walking into the break room, spending a few moments heating your lunch (if necessary), eating at a leisurely pace, then spending the remainder of your break reading a book, working on a puzzle, playing a game or doing something else that clears your mind. Imagine eating food that fuels your body so that you are more productive the rest of the afternoon instead of wanting to take a nap. Imagine how much money you’ll save on food and gas driving back and forth to a restaurant every day. Imagine how many calories you’ll save yourself. The average amount of calories in a fast food meal is 836 according to Consumer Health Day vs. approximately 565 calories in a meal you can bring from home – that’s 1,355 calories over 5 days just by changing your lunch habits!! Now let’s talk money: the average fast food meal costs $7 per person vs. $3 per person if you make it yourself. Over a 5-day work week that’s a savings of $20 per week for one person. If you have a spouse and you both switch to homemade lunches, you’ll save $40 per week. Assuming 2 weeks of vacation per year, that would be a total savings of $1,000 over the course of a year on food costs. Plan all 3 meals and snacks and you’ll save even more calories, time and money!
We all know that fast food is bad for us, but did you know that it causes inflammation? Did you also know that inflammation is an underlying factor in most diseases (including hypothyroidism)? While some inflammation is good, chronic general inflammation is not good for anyone’s health. Fried foods (and processed foods) typically contain AGEs, or advanced glycation end products that are responsible for causing inflammation.
So, if you’re stressed out all day and then you go get food that causes inflammation, you are setting yourself up for chronic illness. I use hypothyroidism as an example since I have it, and so do an estimated 20 million other Americans. With the typical amount of stress and inflammatory foods that we eat in this country, those numbers are not surprising. If the trend of more and more stress and eating fast food continues, these numbers will continue to climb. The good thing is that there are certain factors we can control. We can eat delicious, healthy, nourishing foods, take breaks and engage in activities that help reduce stress and keep our health in check.
Let’s face it: there will be times when you aren’t able to meal prep, or times where you’re tired of eating the same things over and over and you need a change of pace. It happens to everyone. Find healthier alternatives to going to get food. Go to a grocery store and buy a pre-made salad, order a salad at a fast food restaurant. Find a healthier place where you can get food quickly (think Panera or Chipotle). Make a pact with yourself that you’ll limit your trips to get fast food to once a month (or better yet, once a quarter). You will probably find that after eating healthy for a while you don’t crave fast food as much. Personally, I have even found that fast food doesn’t taste good anymore. Yes, there have been times where I’ve (reluctantly) eaten fast food because I wasn’t prepared. Like I said, it happens to everyone. Forgive yourself, move on, and do better next time.
Bottom line: if you plan your meals for the work week for the majority of the year, you’ll see a significant savings in calories, time, stress and money! The most difficult part will be creating the habit. Once you start doing it and you see the benefits, it will be easier to keep it up. If you need some meal prep ideas, see some of my recipes in the Fare section of my blog! Thanks for reading!