Question:

I’m a single bachelor, and I work about 60 to 70 hours a week, so I always end up eating out instead of cooking. I was looking for some 1-pot recipes that I can cook and pack up at work and eat at night as well. Any recommendations?

– Robert W.

Answer:

I’ve tried a few 30-minute meals recipe books and always found that including pre-cooked meats or already-diced ingredients was a bit of a cheat. But you’ve got to save time somewhere, and it often comes at an expense (of money) or in sacrifice of nutrition. My advice is to either prepare your meats and raw produce in bulk when you bring them home from the store, or buy a few already-prepped convenience ingredients.

One big-time saver is pre-cut fresh produce, such as a container of onion and bell pepper strips or a mirepoix mix of diced onion, celery and carrot. Frozen plain vegetables are simple to microwave or steam. No-salt-added canned corn kernels, sliced beets or diced tomatoes are simple to pop open, drain and add to an appropriate dish for a pop of color, fiber and vitamins/minerals.

Simple, healthy and easy-to-prepare meals often mean 1-pot cooking. For example, in a heated large stir-fry or fry pan, you can start by searing chunks of your preferred protein, add chopped vegetables, then pour in a bagged frozen meal and cooking until heated through when sauce is melted and starch (pasta, potato or rice) is soft. Voila two portions become three with less sodium per serving!

Starting a slow-cooker in the morning makes coming home to a finished meal easier. Choosing your recipe and prepping your ingredients the night before means just turning on the cooker and popping in your food before leaving for work. Remember that smaller chunks of food cook faster. You can adjust heat settings and total cook time for larger items like whole chicken breasts or pork loins.

See our article Inexpensive Meal Prep | Q+A for more tips.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.


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