Working a shift other than the “normal” 9 to 5 can create road blocks with meals. I work in healthcare and the days I pick up a replacement shift of 11am to 7:30pm can really throw a wrench in my meal planning. Thankfully, there are some pretty creative ways to work around that so you get the maximum nutrition on limited time.
Meal planning is your best friend. You decide a time or day of the week to do all of your prep and organization of your lunch and dinners. I pick a day off that I can dedicate 3 hours. That’s it. Three hours is all is takes. That’s less than 30 minutes an entree. I go through my trusted recipe books written by creators I know can cook. I decide what I want and make a shopping list. Here’s where a pantry of every day items comes in handy. I’ll get into that in a few minutes. I go shopping and come home and get to work.
Shopping can be inexpensive if you stick to whole foods like fresh broccoli, crisp red peppers and tender sweet carrots. The expense comes in purchasing the processed items which you don’t need. They’re good in a pinch but you’ll get way more bang for your buck with fresh produce, whole grains and legumes.
So back to the pantry. I always have canned beans, brown rice, farro, quinoa, couscous, diced tomatoes, lentils and pasta in my pantry. These are items that can stretch your dollar and create healthy meals. My herbs and spices are always abundant. I use granulated garlic and onion powder, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger (both ground and fresh) and miso paste for salt. I also have Kombu and dulse (seaweed)flakes for a salt substitute. These are also great when you’re making chickpea “tuna” salad or cradles cakes. For flours I have oat, almond and sprouted spelt. I love the almond and oat for cookies and I make my own rolls with the spelt. A pantry is essential regardless of your lifestyle. There will be times you want to make something quick and having grains and spices on hand will make life a lot easier. Pasta can be made with sauce or toss in some of your prepped cut vegetables and make a cold salad. Lentils are great on a salad or a powerhouse in a soup. Couscous cooks in five minutes. Just sauté some vegetables and you have dinner in less than 15 minutes.
A typical day of meal preparation starts with my rolls. I mix sprouted spelt flour with silkened tofu, baking soda, sea salt or miso and my own “everything” bagel combination. That’s it. It makes the best rolls. While those are baking I prep my vegetables. I always roast sweet potatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, and purple potatoes. They’re a staple for my veggie scrambles in the morning and my brown rice bowls. I roast what ever other vegetables I’ve picked up. This is a great time to try a new vegetable either at the grocery store or from a farmers market. I then cut up fresh bell and yellow peppers, cucumbers, red onion, shredded carrots and red cabbage. Roasted red peppers are a nice addition. Those are put in containers placed in my refrigerator for me to create quick salads or another grain bowl. The whole idea is to just get these items prepped and roasted or cut up if using fresh. Once this is done, and it only takes an hour, then you can set your bowls or mason jars up for the week and start crating your meals. Now you have meals for every day you just grab and go. An example of what I make would be that I take a bowl and add a grain like brown rice or farro. I then add my colorful peppers, green onions, red cabbage, shredded carrot, chopped kale and maybe some broccoli. You just made a Buddha bowl. You can put your favorite dressing on the side or maybe mix some hummus on the side. Change it up and use different grains and make a variety of bowls. The goal here is when you work these odd shifts, your meals are ready to go. You don’t have to reach for a super sugar packed energy bar or a carby bagel to get you by. I get it. I’ve been there. Salsa and awful chips or a banana and peanut butter sandwich because you have no time. Enough of that. Pick a day and create these nutritious bowls.
Don’t forget to pack some snacks. I will roast a can of chickpeas in a try fry pan with some paprika and a little maple syrup (local, of course) and keep moving that pan around until you have crispy chickpeas. Those are also great on salads or your bowls you have prepped for you ready to go. You can cut up some carrots, cucumber or celery and have that with hummus. Fresh fruit is always recommended. Either make a fruit bowl for yourself or pack some berries, an apple or whatever your favorite fruit is.
It sounds like a lot of work but once you get used to it and it becomes a routine, you’ll be glad you made the investment of time. If you dedicate one time and one day a week, you’ll make your life a lot easier by incorporating healthy meals. This also make shopping less of a hassle because you’re using a list and doing it once a week. Now you have more “YOU” time.
Don’t stress about the shift. Make the shift work for you. Have these meals ready to go and share the information with your other second and third shift friends and before you know it, you will all be sharing tips and techniques on how you make this work for you. Plantbased is a wonderful lifestyle. The food is colorful, fresh, abundant and delicious. Share the knowledge and share a meal. The power in food is in your hands.