THE BLOG
10/13/2014 11:03 am ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

The Simple Guide to Cooking for the Week in 3 Hours or Less

Chris Gramly via Getty Images

I'm a health and wellness professional who dislikes cooking. An inconvenient truth.

Over the years, I've created a weekly cooking system that minimizes my time in the kitchen while maximizing my health. I'm going to explain it, so you can benefit too.

I use this easy system in the name of three values:
  1. Nourishing my body with delicious foods
  2. Maintaining a body that aesthetically, I feel great about
  3. Living a very full life in which I hardly think about food or how my body looks

People often tell me they feel defeated about the prospect of balancing all the above factors. This week one woman even declared, "I've just given up."

The thing is, we basically know what we should be eating (kale, etc.). But with such busy lives and a whirlwind of information out there (and maybe some body image issues on top of it), we don't know how to sustain it.

So, people oscillate between extremes: eating "poorly" (whatever that means to you), then getting restrictive with calorie counting, juice cleanses, and even crash diets. Repeat cycle.

Luckily, my clients and I are living proof that you don't have to choose between either:
  • Eating healthfully and having your regimen suck up too much energy, or
  • Forgoing your health and body transformation goals so you can attend to life's other responsibilities

Isn't that liberating?

A key bridge between eating healthfully for a day and doing so for life is habit. Instead of spending energy stomping on the gas then peddling the breaks, habits allow you to hit cruise control and relax.

My process is filled with healthy habits that will get you "on track," so to speak -- and keep you there.

Without further ado, here's your guide to cooking for the whole week in three hours or less.

Early week: Schedule it (5 minutes)
  • Schedule an hour in your calendar to grocery shop for next week's recipe ingredients
  • Reserve two 30-45 minute time slots for cooking during the following week. Spread the slots out by a couple days. I usually cook on Sunday and Wednesday nights, which keeps a constant flow of fresh food in my fridge

Tip: Schedule your grocery shop for when the store will be the least busy (more relaxed that way!).

Mid-week: Prepare (25 minutes total)
  • Select recipes for the following week -- around two to three mains and several sides. I peruse food blogs, and sites like Recipes.com. Make sure the dishes will keep well in the fridge, since you'll be eating leftovers. For maximum time-saving benefit, look for recipes that involve under 20 minutes of active prep
  • Save recipes for future inspiration. Do this in digital format using a Pinterest board or Pocket. You can also print out hard copies -- I keep a binder in my kitchen filled with recipes stored in plastic sleeves (remember those?)
  • Make a detailed grocery list so you're prepared when you hit the store. I use the Shopping List app, or email the list to myself

Tip #1: If you don't know where to begin the recipe search, choose one in-season ingredient and search for recipes built around that item.

Tip #2: Limit your recipe search phase to 10-15 minutes. Don't get lost in the food-blogosphere!

Weekend/early following week: Shop, Make, and Enjoy (2.5 hours total)
  • Buy your groceries
  • Cook your food! Cooking time can stretch if you're not fully focused, so set a timer and challenge yourself to finish within a certain period

Tip: Make your cooking scene fun. Crank up the tunes, pour yourself a glass of wine, or light some candles.

There you have it! I hope this system empowers you to choose health. In every sense of the word.

Let us know in the comments: What are your tips and tricks for making healthy eating feel effortless? I would love to hear them!

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