Let’s face it – on a low-carb diet you pretty much have to cook a lot of food from scratch. Most processed foods are high in carbs, and much of what we once relied on for a quick or simple meal is now out of the question. This can be one of the greatest obstacles to sticking to it – especially if you aren’t use to cooking, or like me, are not a morning person. Getting up and cooking an omelet (much less with interesting ingredients) is the last thing my cereal-loving self wants to do!
Aside from finding good low-carb alternatives to traditional products, there are some things you can do to make this a whole lot easier. These basically come down to 1) prepping your food and 2) vacuum-packing and freezing usable portions of meals or ingredients.
Chopping veggies ahead of time is probably the single most helpful thing you can do to make things go faster when it does come time to cook. Somehow having all my veggies (and meat and cheese) chopped ahead of time helps me overcome the inertia, throw a pile of veggies into a pan, and make that omelet or side dish for the evening meal – or throw together a salad for lunch.
The best time to do this is when you are not cooking – when you have a couple hours free on the weekend or evening, or when you’ve just come home from the grocery store. Chop all your veggies, and divide them into portions you’re likely to use. If you really want to get a jump on things, label your baggies or tupperware with the amount (1 cup) or the protein and carb grams ahead of time. This will make tracking what you eat much easier.
Veggies are not the only thing that can be prepped. You can cut meat into strips, cubes, or just meal-sized portions for later use, depending on what you plan to make. This is especially helpful if you buy meat or fish in bulk – it is much easier to divide it up into dinner-sized portions ahead of time, keep one or two portions fresh in the fridge, and put the rest in the freezer for later use. Don’t forget to label it!
Last but not least, cheese, herbs, and other similar ingredients can be diced, grated, chopped or otherwise processed ahead of time. You can also mix veggies, spices, etc. together if you know they will be used together. If you’re short on time, make your life easier by buying pre-chopped veggies, meat that is already cubed or in strips, or grated cheese. These products are a bit more expensive but can be worth it depending on your schedule.
Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk. This will save you time and money at the grocery store and give you more choices when you’re trying to decide what to make by having a well stocked freezer. The key to this approach is getting a good vacuum packer and freezing meat, seafood, cheese, tofu, berries, and other products, preferably as soon as you get home from the store, because later everything will be frozen into one big package and hard to separate.
Vacuum packers are inexpensive and easy to use. Here’s the one I have, which I would recommend to anyone. It takes only minutes to divide up a package of anything into usable portions, and raw meat and seafood stay much fresher in the vacuum-sealed bag, both in the fridge and in the freezer. I usually write on the bag with a permanent marker the contents, amount, and sometimes the protein.
While all this might seem like a lot of work, it’s really not much trouble to prep, package, and freeze your food ahead of time when you’re feeling relaxed and unstressed. This can be done once a week (or whenever you go shopping) – and then the rest of the time, cooking is is a breeze. You’ll thank yourself every time you have to cook a meal and all the ingredients are already prepped. Plus, if you have a vacuum packer and some good tupperware, you can make larger meals and freeze portions for future use, further cutting down on your cooking time and providing your own home-made frozen dinners for nights when you just don’t feel like cooking. Bon appetite!