I get it. You’re busy. We all are. As 20-somethings, we want it that way. We want to show the world that we have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. So, we choose to work late. We go to the gym happy hours. We occupy our lives with as much running around as we can, with as little time to ourselves as possible.
Frozen meals every day of the week? Sure. Wait, you forgot to go to the grocery store this weekend, because, you know, you were too busy? Cheetos and Diet Coke for lunch are perfectly acceptable.
And let’s face it – being in your 20’s means that you 1) want to look good and 2) everything else. Too many people think eating healthy means you’re either going to be waving goodbye to all your money, or eating nothing at all.
You need to treat yourself well in order to feel good about everything else you do. Why not start with your eating habits – ditch the chips, the frozen meals, the one-cup-of-yogurt-for-lunch and give cooking a try.
No one expects you to cook a three course meal of risotto, Brussels sprouts and a salad on your first try. But giving it a try is the only way to get started. Browse some recipe sites for some easy, quick recipes and get yourself to a grocery store over the weekend. You might be surprised, but actually purchasing fresh produce and meat will save you more money than eating out every meal or stocking up on frozen meals. Best of all, your body will thank you (and you’ll have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, too!).
So what’s good, quick and cheap to make? Here are a few things I like to cook that are healthy and easy to prepare:
Roasted Rosemary Chicken
I know, roasting chicken sounds like a pain and would take forever to cook. But this is one of my go-to meals because it’s simple to prep and you can let it go in the oven and do other, more important things. It takes maybe a max of 20 minutes to prep and another 20 to cook.
- A couple of chicken legs (go healthier by buying skinless thighs or drumsticks, but get ones that are bone-in for more flavor)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 4-6 sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed from stem
- Extra virgin olive oil
Short ingredients list, right? Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and start by finely chopping your garlic cloves and rosemary to a size you’re comfortable with eating. In a small bowl, combine the diced ingredients and pour enough olive oil to coat the dry ingredients with about a half inch of liquid. Mix and mash the ingredients well and let sit for 5 minutes. In the meantime, sprinkle your chicken with salt and pepper, enough to have visible seasoning on most of the chicken (note: you don’t need to coat the chicken in seasoning, just sprinkle it on). When your flavored oil mixture is ready, coat the chicken on both sides, enough to where your garlic and rosemary is spread all over the area of the chicken leg. Transfer your chicken to a baking sheet lined with foil and cook in the oven for roughly 20-25 minutes. If you’re worried about undercooked chicken, let it go for a few more minutes while you finish your glass of wine – better to be safe than sorry.
Fruit and Nut Salad
I used to hate salads. They were so unfulfilling, and frankly, there was so much chewing involved (weird, I know). Salads have taken on a reputation of being bland and boring in today’s world. But dress them up with some fruit, nuts and a tasty vinaigrette and – ta da! – deliciousness. This is what I’ve been nom-ing on lately:
- A couple handfuls of spinach
- Half a handful of dried cranberries
- Half a handful of pecans (go to your bulk section and buy the amount you want to save money)
- Couple crumbles of goat cheese
- Simple vinaigrette consisting of 3 parts olive oil and 1 part white wine or balsamic vinegar, with salt to taste (mix together right before drizzling on salad)
Salads are simple, because they consist of a couple steps: toss all the dry ingredients together and when you’re ready to eat, drizzle your vinaigrette or whatever dressing on top and you’re done. Craving some protein? Add some grilled or roasted chicken leftovers (hey look, a roasted chicken recipe is above this…) on top.
Simple Turkey Chili
Looking for something a little heartier that gives you a couple meals worth of leftovers (or to serve to your friends on TV night)? Chilis are simple to put together and something you can let simmer on the stove or leave in the Crockpot all day. They can be healthy, too. Here’s a go-to turkey chili I like to make when the weather starts turning cooler:
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 large onion
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1 green bell pepper
- 2 cans chicken broth
- 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
- 16 oz. can of red kidney beans
- Dried basil
- Dried oregano
- Tabasco (if you want)
- Chili powder (if you want)
It sounds like a lot, but this turkey chili is simple to put together. Just dice your onions, garlic and bell pepper and sauté them in some olive oil until they’re soft. If you’re not too fond of using a knife, large chunks are fine, but just remember to remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper. Sprinkle your ground turkey with salt and pepper and keep things moving until the meat is browned.
After that, dump the rest of your ingredients in – crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and kidney beans. If you have dried basil and oregano on hand, add a teaspoon of each. If you like things spicy, throw in the Tabasco to your heart’s content.
Bring everything to a boil on high heat, and then turn down to medium low and let simmer for 45 minutes. This also works well in a Crockpot on the lowest setting if you want to come back to something tasty after work.
Love or hate my recipes or want to share a recipe of your own? Tweet me at @rafiqelarculli.