When the pandemic hit in spring of 2020, the inner Martha Stewart in many of us came to life — be it subconsciously or consciously. People started baking breads, making gourmet desserts, redesigning the interiors of their homes, and purveying diverse cookbooks. A large majority of restaurants and local take-out places were closed. Because we had such limited and unclear information about the virus, there was also skepticism around even getting food delivered at home.
I love cooking and organizing intimate dinners with friends and families at home. I assumed I’d be totally fine with cooking multiple meals when NYC went on pause. At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember saying to my husband, “We never need to eat at a restaurant again. I am loving this phase of creating every meal from scratch at home.” Honestly, those emotions didn’t last long. After three weeks, I sarcastically suggested we do a juice cleanse. I couldn’t go on this auto-pilot mode of constantly cooking, cleaning, and thinking about the next meal while making a grocery shopping list.
In the old days, my husband was on a plane 3-4 days of the week. I travel a fair bit for my books and speaking engagements too. Those days when we were home, I made sure we ate hearty, home-cooked, nourishing meals. There were also business dinners and lunches and social gatherings, so I treasured home cooking deeply. But cooking a few meals of the week versus cooking three meals every day of the week. That’s whole different beast.
I quickly had to figure out a method to this madness and find my balance in life. Neither could I afford to cook multiple meals everyday (with a job, clients, business, and writing commitments) nor could we just eat out; it’s not the best for your body or your bank balance. Because we eat Ayurvedically, which means 90% of my meals are prepared four hours prior to consumption, and there are six tastes, food science and food combinations that go into preparing every dish. Frozen foods, leftovers, mixing dairy with meat or dairy with fruits are pretty much a no-no in Ayurveda, hence a NO in my kitchen.
We have been doing intermittent fasting for a few years now. But when coronavirus made a home in NYC, fasting went out the window. I think we all rediscovered emotional eating, especially when food insecurity was at its peak. Remember waiting for two weeks to find a slot for online grocery delivery? And adding all kinds of nonsense to the list (We bought Oreos, which we hadn’t eaten in a decade) because you didn’t know if and when you’d find groceries again.
- First remedy: go back to intermittent fasting. We love it and one less meal to stress about.
- We chop up veggies twice a week, so it’s easier for me to cook fresh meals.
- While Ayurveda suggests cooking and eating only fresh meals, it’s not always practical. To the leftovers, I add fresh “tadka.” This adds prana to food and makes the meals nourishing.
- Instant Pot (I call it Mommy Deux) has been a savior in these times.
- Simplify cooking: While I go all out when we entertain, there are few items on the table for our day-to-day meals. According to Ayurveda, too many dishes equal too many ingredients and that can mess around with your digestive fire. This eventually leads to ama, which is toxins. Ama can be the root cause of illnesses.
Not everyone cooks seasonally or lives Ayurvedically. Do what works for you. But I do believe that we can ALL learn from others or at least draw inspiration. I spoke with two women who are busy, working moms and are also conscious about cooking healthy meals because it impacts both the budget and their body.
Priyanka Komala is a chief storytelling officer who lives in Washington DC. She serves as a technology leader in digital transformation projects. Komala hosts the Curryup Leadership video podcast to spotlight purpose-driven Asian leaders making an impact, sparking 100+ conversations. She is on a mission to embrace levity in life.
She says, “Being fit and healthy has always been part of my lifestyle. After having my baby, I wanted to feel good about myself and be a kickass mom, which meant getting back to shape in the right way. Meal prep is critical to eating right and making good use of the ingredients at home.” Komala has been inspired by people to eat healthy balanced meals, track macros, and make easy to cook dishes. It’s a learning process for her. Komala admits that when she doesn’t look at meal prep as a stressful, must-do process, she can whip 3-4 dishes under 90 mins. “On some days, when I feel I want to eat out I treat myself with a takeout.”
Deepti Singh, an HR recruiter as well a self-care writer, poet, yoga, and meditation practitioner, lives in Vancouver, Canada. Her method of prepping is slightly different.
“I cook twice a day, five days a week,” she says. “Each night, I prep for the next day, which includes soaking, cutting, chopping, grinding, or boiling (vegetables/pulses, etc.) as per the predetermined menu for the week.” Singh believes that prepping helps with portion control and directly impacts the budget. Home-cooked meals also influence the number of ingredients used.
“I have a sticky note on my refrigerator, (One Note on your phone can be handy too), which incorporates the meal schedule for the entire week, and the weekend grocery shopping is done based upon the preset schedule,” Singh adds.
Now that cities, states, countries, offices, school, colleges etc. are opening up, and we are all navigating the new normal, which includes not working from home 100%, a little prepping will go a long way in keeping the stress low and the family nourished.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin