Great food is simple. It’s in the creaminess of my favourite comfort food ~ Risotto. It’s in the orange zest in the classic French Madeleines I love baking. And yes, it can even be found in Kale; in its crunchy sweetness.
Great food requires little effort, few ingredients, and minimal seasoning.
I’m a foodie by nature. It’s in my blood, in my Taurean sensibility. By nature, I’m a lover of beautiful things. Things that matter. Comforting things.
But for me, food hasn’t always been about eating simply. When I was married, I would cook ridiculously complicated meals; slaving over a meal that almost always required every burner on the stove and resulted in a four-course meal. Why I ever did that, I’ll never know. Maybe it was my preconceived notions about being a wife, or it was just me being me — someone who enjoyed cooking and cooking for others.
Nowadays, I cook for one. I cook to eat well, and feel well, and I’m much more mindful about what I put in my body. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve honed my awareness of food. What works, what doesn’t, and what leaves me feeling like garbage. On rare occasions, I enjoy eating the garbage foods. Hey, I get cravings too! Pizza, dark chocolate, and Madeleines all manage to get on my radar. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit I enjoyed things that were sweet, decadent, and deep-fried. We all do.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about eating simply is that it doesn’t require great cost, time or energy. A beautiful, healthy meal can be prepared in minutes. Most of mine are done in under 20 minutes.
The Basic Principles of Eating Simply
1. Quality is a priority.
While you’ll find me shopping No Name products, I still am very vigilant about the quality of the products I choose to consume. When I buy meat, I buy organic when I can. I read labels; I check ingredients. I’m a conscious consumer.
As for budget? I spend roughly CAD 200-250 per month on groceries. That’s to feed just me. This usually includes organic items, kombucha, and lots of fruits and veggies. I usually make a shopping list but never meal plan. I loathe meal planning. And go figure, I’m a planner by nature. But meal planning? It melts my brain.
2. Grow your food awareness.
Growing your food awareness is about honing your intuition about what your body needs and doesn’t need. It’s about removing restrictions and making peace with food.
This is about becoming aware of what makes you feel good and what makes you feel awful. It’s about intentionally listening to your body and making a note (mental or otherwise) of what your body thrives on and what it doesn’t like.
Although I’ve naturally embraced my intuition with my eating habits, little did I know that there was an entire intuitive eating movement. A movement that exists to take the pain, shame and guilt out of food and make it easier for us to respect our bodies and embrace our wellbeing.
3. Keep only the good and beneficial and remove the rest.
One of the core beliefs of minimalism is removing all that doesn’t serve us and keeping what matters most, the things, beliefs, and intentions that bring us joy.
When I divorced, the first thing I did was let my ex take all those “extra” kitchen gadgets. You know them – the waffle maker you use once a month, the nutribullet that sort of works but doesn’t really, and the electric lemon juicer that frustrates you more than using a fork and picking the seeds out.
I wanted simplicity in the kitchen so I could focus on creating great meals from fresh ingredients. I no longer wanted complex, stressful meals in my life. Nor did I want to lug out a ten-pound kitchen appliance to do one small task, then have to wash all twenty pieces of it.
It even goes so far as the food and ingredients I use. I keep as little junk and packaged foods as possible in the kitchen. And I’ve trained myself to know that healthy eating can be as quick and easy as ordering a pizza or reaching for frozen processed food.
So you see, you can eat simply and healthy without stressing about it or taking hours to cook it.
The Grocery Shop
I try to do a weekly shop, but because I prefer the freshest veggies, I will also shop throughout the week. I have two grocery stores that I can walk to in 5-10 minutes.
My grocery shops consist of purchasing two to three veggies, a protein (tofu, beans, fish or chicken), two to three fruits, garlic and other herbs, and eggs. And on occasion, I’ll buy dark chocolate, and yes, potato chips (usually Miss Vickies).
Where do I shop?
Costco for things like organic chicken broth (love the Kirkland brand), Himalayan pink salt, pepper, other spices, eggs, organic chicken, dates, quinoa, shallots, olive oil and coconut oil. I rarely buy fruits and veggies as I find I have to eat them too quickly before they go bad.
Bulk store (Bulk Barn in Canada) for nuts, almond butter, short grain brown rice, dark chocolate, and honey.
Grocery store for fresh fruits and veggies, almond milk, tofu, organic chicken, canned beans, garlic, fresh herbs, and goat cheese. My fave stores in Canada are Longo’s, Sobey’s, Goodness Me (for organic), and No Frills for discount stuff.
What’s in my pantry?
- Beans – black bean, kidney, chickpeas
- Short grain brown rice
- Organic chicken broth ( I still haven’t found a veggie broth that’s not too acidic or tomato flavoured)
- Almond butter
- Nuts – walnuts, Brazil, dry roasted almonds
- Granny Smith apple x 2-3
- Bananas x 2-3
- Berries – usually what’s in season or available
- Lemons x 2
- Kale, collards
- Arugula (rocket)
- Leaf lettuce
- Bell peppers
- Shallots (I cook mostly with these instead of yellow or green onions)
- Organic chicken
- Frozen tilapia or ahi tuna from Costco
- Organic tofu
Related: Books: Healthy Eating
A sample day of eating simply
Brekkie – Bob’s gluten-free oatmeal with walnuts, chia seeds, maple syrup and almond milk, a cup of green tea
Snack – a handful of almonds and water
Lunch – salad with beans or buddha bowl, more water
Snack – half an apple and a tablespoon of almond butter, more water or afternoon herbal tea
Dinner – half chicken breast, brown rice, sautéed kale, more water
My fave on the go meal when I’m working my part-time job?
Buddha type bowls!
Here’s an example (pictured above):
Brown rice, black beans or tofu, diced bell pepper or cucumber, handful arugula or chopped raw kale. Season with Ginger Miso Vinaigrette by Simply Natural or Olive oil, lemon and salt/pepper
Usually, I’ll batch cook brown rice or quinoa to use throughout the week and chop kale, and peppers when I need them. I store them in glass containers I have from Ikea. I used to use plastic Tupperware but moved away from them after hearing all the BPA stories.
Fave snacks for at home or on the go:
- Go Macro Vegan bars – my faves are: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter
- Almond butter
On weekends, I’ll treat myself to bacon and eggs, or French toast. And I’ll have coffee.
French toast for one
- 2 slices whole-grain bread
- 1/4 cup coconut or almond milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, usually 1/8 tsp each
- Pinch salt
Whisk it all up in a rectangular glass dish, soak toast for 2 minutes a side. Coat non-stick pan with coconut oil.
Cook for 5-6 minutes, 3 min per side and serve up with Maple Syrup!
Eating simply shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t stress you out. If meal planning is your deal, then go for it. I find it just doesn’t work for me. What you put in your body should follow your principles and intentions for how YOU want to live your life. It should bring you some enjoyment, whether in the making, the eating, or both. The most important principle of eating simply? Being mindful and tasting each bite you put in your mouth. Yes, food is for energy but it’s freshness, vibrancy, and the magic we put into preparing it should all be enjoyed. That’s how you thrive and stay healthy.