mindful living: eating mindfully, part 2

{from here}
last week, i talked about my own history with food. for most of us, food is a very integral and complicated part of our lives. this is especially true for us women, who are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about how we should look and how our food choices affect our bodies and our physiologies. i mentioned how, over the last few years, i have gradually shifted to buying and eating whole foods, which have been grown naturally (if not organically certified) & locally. today i wanted to mention briefly a few ways that i manage to actually get these foods into my body and how we are able to enjoy buying, preparing, and eating them in the midst of our busy life.

after getting married, paul and i began to do our grocery shopping together. it was fun, almost like we were playing house, as we browsed the aisles of our local save-on-foods (or occasionally the granville island market) together, planning the meals we would have that week. after moving to guelph last year, grocery shopping for me became even more fun, because i began visiting the beautiful and busy guelph farmer's market each and every saturday morning. usually i'd get up early and take the bus or my bike down to the market, browse the stands, and come back home with baskets and bags full of produce and locally-raised meats before paul even got up. for me, this was a time of the week where i could spend time with myself, getting up early (something paul does not do naturally, as he is more inclined to stay up until the dark hours of the early morning, working on his latest song) and cultivating my love for real food. since then, i haven't looked back; visiting the market every saturday morning is one of my favorite routines (now that we live in toronto, i am a ten minute walk from the st. lawrence market). i take my time... usually i'll visit every stall before i even start buying, to see what is available that week and what the prices are. i'll choose a bunch of carrots or a basket of tomatoes simply because they are an unusual color, or a variety i've never seen before. i'll ask the people manning the stands questions about their farm, or i'll ask them where they source their food from if they haven't grown it themselves. i'll introduce myself, i'll make friends. i'll talk to my cheese guy each week for a good five minutes (last week i was so pleased when i ran into him in starbucks and he recognized me and said hello!), sampling different cheeses and usually walking away with something delicious i've never tried before. sometimes i'll spend two hours getting our groceries for the week, but in my mind that's time well spent, and anytime i don't make it to the market, i miss it all week.

when it comes to preparing our food, i have encountered so many problems to solve since we got married. paul & i have very different schedules, and very different eating habits (he tends to eat three square meals a day, working so hard in between that he doesn't notice he's hungry until i come home from work and he realizes he hasn't eaten anything in six hours; i graze throughout the day on nuts and fruit...and chocolate...in between my meals) which usually results in his asking about dinner the minute i walk through the door, when it's often not something i start to think about until seven or even eight o'clock in the evening. also, i'm very picky about the state my stomach is in when i go for a workout. if there's no time for a run before we make and eat dinner, then i guess i'm not running that evening. or if there's an evening yoga class i want to attend, i try very hard to make sure i'm not too full for that either, so i'll try to wait until afterwards to eat, which sometimes results in us eating at nine thirty or later, or worse, eating something out of a box because i don't want to spend an hour making dinner that late. and i often have trouble with motivation, so if there's nothing i can easily grab for lunch when i'm on my way out the door in the morning, i'm not willing to take the time to put something together, and i'll end up wrecking our carefully balanced budget with a few too many meals out every week. so i've come up with a few solutions...

firstly, (almost) every sunday i make a big pot of quinoa, usually about 4 cups of it. if i have some veggies that i enjoy cooked, i'll roast them all at once in the oven at the same time (i love to do this with beets and bell peppers especially) and keep them, all cut up, in a tupperware in the fridge. if i've bought any leafy greens at the market, i'll wash and chop a bunch up and put them in a container too, and in this way i've got tons of different options for lunches each week, all grounded by quinoa (sometimes, depending on my mood, i'll make couscous or rice instead, but quinoa is definitely my mainstay). in the morning, i throw some of the grain in a container, top with whatever veggies i feel like having that day (beets & chopped kale, or cucumber, tomatoes, peppers...), throw in some cheese (i try to keep either goat's cheese or feta around for easy crumbling) and salt-pepper-olive oil-lemon juice to suit my taste, give it a toss, and throw it in my bag. i can change it up every day, but it only takes a minute or two in the morning to get it ready, which is perfect for me.

another thing i love doing, especially when the weather starts to turn cool & crisp like it's doing now, is to make amazing use of my crockpot. my crockpot was a gift from my loving husband for graduating university. and in spite of (or because of?) my new-wave feminism leanings, i was delighted with it. it's probably my most-used appliance. this is because although i don't always have much time in the morning, or in the afternoon before dinner-time, one of my favorite things to do before bed is to putter around in my kitchen. so i'll chop up a big bunch of root veggies the night before (carrots, parsnips, celery, potatoes, whatever i have around the house) and stick them in the fridge overnight. in the morning i can throw them in the crockpot with some stewing meat or a lamb shank, some stock, tomato paste (if i want) and herbs (usually rosemary, garlic, thyme, sometimes sage), and leave it cooking on low all day. then when i arrive home from work, our house smells divine, and dinner is there pretty much just waiting to be eaten. i'll sometimes add a little flour & butter to the stock in the bottom to make a saucy gravy (or sometimes i even throw it in with everything else in the morning), and we have instant stew, which is so incredibly delicious because the flavours have had all day to sit and blend together perfectly. and usually there's enough for leftovers the next day (because it's still nice to break up the quinoa routine once in awhile).

i also make muffins. i bake a lot of muffins, probably more than anything else. i try to make them healthy, using yogurt instead of full-fat sour cream to make them moist (i usually use this recipe as my base, because they rise up perfectly and they freeze & defrost really well) and using as much whole-wheat flour as i can get away with. like i mentioned, i love to putter around in the kitchen later at night, and making muffins in the evening brings me right back to that feeling of playing house. i have a collection of cute aprons (thanks to the lovely ladies in my family, who have gifted me every single one of them) and i choose one to don, which sends me right into a leave-it-to-beaver mentality. but the muffins aren't just for fun & games... they serve as breakfasts and snacks throughout the week. a day or so after i bake them, i freeze most of them on a pan in my freezer, and take a few out each night (putting them on the counter in my covered cake stand to defrost) so that they are perfect for slathering with butter or jam in the mornings, or taking to work to enjoy with mid-morning coffee. this has saved me a lot of grief on many lazy mornings when the last thing i feel like doing is cooking a real breakfast, and the last thing my stomach feels like doing is eating something big. muffins also save us from eating cereal six days out of seven.

developing these routines has helped my anxiety around food considerably. i can buy pretty much whatever i want at the market with the confidence that i'll find a way to include it in our weekly meals, and having these guidelines in place gives me the confidence to try new variations and new foods in the kitchen. it also helps me to know that usually we'll be able to have real food at every meal, regardless of whether that night i'm in the mood to be a 60s-housewife type, or more of a carrie-bradshaw-type ("i don't cook...i keep sweaters in my oven!") and it gives me enough leeway to ensure that, because of the limitless variations possible, it will be a very long time before i'm bored with my meal choices for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.


  1. I love this, probably because this is what my routine is like. I L-O-V-E my crock-pot, and generally also keep things for lunch that I can grab like greek yogurt and nuts, leftovers, granola, lots of fruit, etc. But, I still really love my crock-pot!

  2. I can relate so much to this ~ and I appreciate that you have kind of given validation that it's ok to be a "housewife" one night and a Carrie Bradshaw the next. I've always grappled with this a little, so it's nice to think of it as a strength rather than a weakness!

  3. I love reading your routine! I have my own, too, but I'm going to incorporate your quinoa routine into mine:) great idea.

  4. I loved reading about your tricks for cooking during the week. I think I am going to start making the quinoa/roasted vegetables for my lunches. It seems like a great, quick, and filling lunch.


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