There are three things that make cooking difficult:
1. You don’t know what to cook
2. You don’t know how or when to cook
3. You don’t want to clean up (huge thing for me!)
Currently I have to cook about 80-90% of my meals myself, both financially and because I’m following certain goals in terms of physique and performance in the gym & workplace.
The important part is that you can keep your cooking healthy, quick and on the budget during the week, so that you can enjoy the life on the weekends.
Let me introduce you to the routine (diet is 80% of the success, which is why you still see the same people in the gym not making any progress) that helped me gain 7.5lbs of muscle and lose 3.5lbs of fat in just 8 weeks. The details can and will vary for you, but it’s important that you understand the principles.
I don’t follow a specific diet and I think this topic needs to be highly individualized, but for example purposes I can show you how I operate, maybe you can take some inspiration and follow something similar.
I’m active about 5-6 days per week, which means I’m moving either in the gym, on my Pennyboard or on a bike. Now I’m currently in a muscle gain phase, so I need more carbs than other people, because my body is always recovering and rebuilding. So
if you’re trying to gain muscle, you can consume more carbs,
if you’re trying to lose fat, you should eat less carbs and
if you’re trying to maintain your body, you should be in the middle.
Bitehype action step:
- Calculate the days you’re active (walking to the bus doesn’t count! E.g. at least 45min. of light walking) and write it down.
The basic principle is, on the days you’re active, you can consume a bit more carbs on the days you’re not, you should eat less carbs, really simple.
What is more carbs vs. less carbs? I’d say two fists size of carbs is more carbs and one fist size is less carb. Maintenance would be just eating carbs once or twice, less carbs would be just once.
But should you just eat less carbs and leave the rest the same? No! When you’re doing low-carb, you have to do high-fat, in order to compensate. That means one good thing and one bad thing:
The good thing is: MOAH BACON! (Or avocados and nuts + seeeds, for my vegetarian and vegan brothas and sistas, #staystrong)
The bad thing is: Fat is more calorie dense than carbs and proteins, so you have to be careful with portioning. Just use common sense and listen to your body – normally your body can’t handle A LOT of fat very good, so this is a sign you should step back.
Bitehype action step:
- Think about fat sources you like and write them down (common ones: bacon, full-fat cream, avocados, nuts, coconut oil, etc)
Protein is easy, it’s the most expensive part of the diet, but also the easiest, most of the people like some kind of meat, chicken and/or fish. For now, just stick with what you like – I’ll explain more in the what to cook part.
What to cook
Most people (even my mother!) tell me a lot of times that they like cooking and have the time for it, but actually just don’t know what to cook. They are mentally busy with other things and can’t think of recipes they like or did in the past.
I have a solution to that problems: During the week, cook the same meals 4-5 days of the week.
Why and won’t I get sick of it?
The why is pretty simple, so that you’re not occupied with thinking about what to eat. The getting tired of the same meals part is a little more complex. Of course, if you cook bland stuff, that’s not tasty, you will get tired. The trick here is to use fresh ingredients and vary just a little from time to time. I’ll show you my favorite recipes in an instant, but you go first.
Bitehype action step:
- Write down 5 dishes that you can cook and love.
My favorite dishes (will get updated with links as soon as I post them):
- The Bitehype Stir-Fry (aka meat and veggies with salsa)
- Chicken a la Fey with fresh herbs in the George Foreman Grill
- Mixed salad with sardines
- 50:50 BLB Burger (which stands for Bitehype Lamb-Beef)
- Frittata Deluxe
- Bacon and Eggs (gotta love the simplicity)
How and when to cook
The how to cook part is easy if you have your five dishes from the last Bitehype action step. If you don’t know five dishes, check out my five above. This leaves us with the big “when to cook?” question. I normally spend about 30-40mins. with my cooking and about 5-10 mins with cleaning up, depending on the dishes. With some of the hacks which I’ll show you, you can do this stuff in less than 30! The ideal time for me has always between 7pm and 8pm. Your schedule might be different, but think about this way: The 30min. you spend today, is won tomorrow during lunch (+ you’ll eat a delicious meal!) – so you got it right: We’re always cooking for both dinner now and lunch the next day (no extra time needed)!
Bitehype action step:
- Set aside a 30min. window in your calendar today for a cooking session in the evening
Some people prefer to cook in the morning. I have done that too but I normally work or workout in the morning so that’s out of question for me, most of the time. Also that gives you plenty of time to spend the evening with whatever you like: watching series, reading books or just relaxing before bed.
A small but great “hack” is to involve your significant other in this process. You’ll spend quality time in the kitchen (not that kind), it’s super fun and you’ll both eat healthy. Plus it cuts down the working time for about 5-10 minutes, because you can help each other!
Bitehype action step:
- Send this article to your significant other! Bonus points for adding “I love you” at the end.
If you like cooking alone, that’s fine, too. I’ve heard from multiple people that cooking can be meditation and I tend to agree. Having someone in the kitchen helping you is always fun, though.
How to clean up the mess
If you’re like me, you’ll leave a mess in the kitchen after cooking. If you’re not like me and clean up as you cook, kudos, you have one less problem to worry about. You can stop reading now. All the others, class is back in session.
Cooking can be easy, with the right knowledge on how to handle the uncool parts like cleaning up. I’ve kind of perfected that method to the max, but I’m still adding new tricks to the toolbox.
My main hacks are using the correct cooking utensils (George Foreman grill, oven, cast iron, etc) and the correct cleaning utensils (dish washer, aluminium foil, parchment paper) at the right time.
Obviously if you don’t have a dish washer you have to clean up almost everything yourself, so the idea is that you shouldn’t use that many pans etc. Here are a few hacks you can use instantly:
- use parchment paper when cooking chicken and cook the chicken in the oven.
The parchment paper leaves the bottom clean and the chicken tender. After cooking you can throw it away and give the baking tray a quick wash. Pro Tip: If you’re really in a hurry or don’t want to clean at all – use double parchment paper. The top one will soak up all the oil and juices and the bottom one will help keep the baking tray clean.
Parchment paper for the win!
- use aluminium foil in your George Foreman, oven or even pan
This one isn’t my favorite, for health reasons, but I used it myself a couple of times. Especially fish tends to drip all over the George Foreman grill, so you want to make sure to really cover the edges around the meat/fish and throw it away after you cooked something delicious. Important: Wait until the foil has cooled down and the fat has solidified, that way it won’t drip in the trash either.
- use frozen veggies
The only fresh veggies I buy are tomatoes, bell peppers and other in-season vegetables that I will use that same day. The rest of the staples (broccoli, cauliflower, even carrots some times) are all frozen in my freezer. The reason for this is pretty simple: It doesn’t go bad, is fresher when prepped right and still has all the vitamins (it gets frozen the minute it gets picked up from the ground). If you live in any Western country, chances are your vegetables have had a long way to your home (from a foreign country, to a factory, to a truck, to a different country, to the customs place, to the grocery distribution center, to the truck, to the grocery), which leaves them with almost no vitamins.
- use a grill
If you have a grill (you know, the big BBQ type or even a small one – gas is always best and fastest), use it with all kinds of meats and burgers. Cleaning up the grill is super easy, rarely requires cleaning (make sure to scrub it every once in a while though) and makes the meat tasty. If you don’t have a grill, try to organize a George Foreman grill or something similar (see next point).
My grill on the balcony
- use a George Foreman grill or something similar
Any two-sided, electric grill will work. Especially chicken tends to be very soft and tender in the George Foreman (even tastier than in the oven, whaaat?!). Cleaning up is also very easy, since you can just throw the plates into the dishwasher – that’s it.
George Foreman grill
- clean as you cook
Often times you’ll have 5-10 minutes here and there where you wait for the next step of the recipe, use that time and clean up the stuff as you go. This is especially important if you don’t have a dishwasher. If you have one, just throw the dishes into the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen a bit. You’ll be surprised of how much time you can save with this process.
- use the dishwasher
If you have one, use it. Every day. Seriously though, this helped me so much in terms of cleaning up, especially if you cook a lot and you’re alone, washing dishes is easily the most annoying task in the kitchen, so I outsource it. To my dishwasher. If you don’t have one, use the tip above as much as you can, and buy one.
Bitehype action step:
- choose three hacks from the list above to implement this week
As you can see, it isn’t that difficult to cook and eat healthy, it just takes planning and some time. The good thing about this type of cooking is also that you automatically eat clean about 80% of your time, that means you can easily splurge on Saturday with a few beers and burgers or keep it simple on Sunday morning with bacon and eggs, without feeling guilty.
Like I mentioned above this is the “program” I’m using every day when I’m working, it helps me focus on the important tasks of the day and lets me just do in the kitchen and still enjoy my meals.
And you know what? It’s a very flexible routine, too. If your friend calls you up at 6pm and wants to hang out for drinks, go ahead and get those drinks. Just make sure you still prep the food either in the evening or the morning before work. And if you don’t want to cook for whatever reasons (everybody has a phase like this), just order take out or grab something healthy on the go. Cooking can be tiring, but it can also be very fun and rewarding as long as you make the effort of planning in advance!
Let me know how you liked those tips and about your hacks in the kitchen.