I believe that stress is cumulative, stress from work, stress from commuting and stress at home compound and can take a toll on your mindset. The only stress that doesn’t add to those mental stressors is physical stress from working out.
I have been my happiest and most productive at home and work when I have been in the most physically fit. On the contrary when I have gotten out of shape it has brought my productivity and happiness down.
I have had a stressful job for most of my career. For the majority of my working life, I have been in middle management. I have had deadlines and schedules to meet to ensure that the business makes the bottom line. My work also takes an average of 11.5 hours out of each day when I add in the commute. That leaves very little time to spend with my family or exercise. We have learned efficient ways of living our lives to maximize the precious little free time we have during the workweek.
I wrote last week of Sundays being the first day of our workweek and each Sunday we have a routine that prepares us for the week ahead. One aspect of our Sunday routine is prepping our meals for the week so we don’t have to worry about cooking each morning or evening. My wife and I take a few minutes, survey the ingredients we have available in the house and make a list of the foods we want to prepare for the week. A quick trip to the grocery store on Sunday morning and we begin the process.
Our meal prepping not only saves us time that allows us to maximize our personal time but it also saves us money on healthy food. Being short on time could lead you to making quick to prepare and less healthy processed foods or even worse on your pocketbook and waistline, dining out. The process also ensures we have healthy food each day to take for lunch which keeps me from having to eat out.
The bread maker
I was given a bread maker probably 15 years ago. The machine sat in my kitchen and was only used a couple of times for the first 5 years. Over the last decade we use the bread maker an average of twice a week. I would guess that most people who own a bread machine rarely use it, we used it so often that we actually wore it out. I was able to take it to work and get it repaired with a little welding job.
Each Sunday we prepare one or two pizza crusts with the bread maker. We buy flour in 25lb bulk bags for about $7. We start the bread maker on the dough setting at about 3:15PM and it is ready for eating by 6PM. The process is fairly easy and only takes a little bit of work to knead the dough and roll it out.
We buy pizza sauce and cheese from the store and add in some in season vegetables to top it off. Each pizza is four meals for our family and it total costs us about $3. That equates to 75 cents per meal, helping us reach our goal of $2 per meal over the week.
Homemade Sourdough Bread
Prior to making the pizza crusts each Sunday, I normally make fresh sourdough bread from scratch. We had been buying artisan bread from the store for many years for about $5 a loaf. Early in 2018 I decided to try making fancy bread at home not just to save a little money but for the satisfaction of doing it myself. I created the sourdough starter from some Greek yogurt and milk and have kept it going for almost a year.
Instant Pot Soup and Stew
We have used a crock pot for many years to make stews, pot roasts and soups. The old 6-quart crock pot just didn’t leave enough left overs so I had been looking for a larger one. We had also heard about the instant pots and during the Black Friday sales, we scored a 8 quart instant pot at half price for $79.99. We have already begun to put it to good use.
This weekend we used the instant pot to make butternut squash soup with the remaining squash from our garden this summer. Butternut squash are very hardy and can last many months in storage after harvesting. The instant pot is great for these types of meals, it took just over 30 minutes including meal prep before enjoying the meal for lunch.
One of the more delicious uses of our fresh bread are grilled cheese sandwiches to go with the soup. I learned awhile ago that a waffle maker makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches and with basically no mess.
The instant pot is also great for making larger meals with plenty of leftovers for the week ahead. In about an hour, I was able to make a full 8 quarts of beef and venison stew. For ~$12 we made 10 meals to enjoy for lunch and dinner for the week ahead.
Blendtech Blender & breakfast smoothies
I have to be at work fairly early each day, usually leaving the house at 5:45AM. To maximize my sleep and minimize the hassle, I have been making breakfast smoothies on Sunday for a couple years. I use spinach, carrots, bananas, protein powder and some assorted frozen fruit to make a healthy breakfast the not only doesn’t cost much, but is very easy to eat on the go. The $400 investment for the blender was a hard decision to make but it absolutely beats a normal blender leaving no chunks and taking only 1 minute.
Finally rounding out the meals for the week ahead, I made a lasagna to increase the variety for the week ahead. It took about one hour of prep and about as long to cook but it was well worth it.
Meal prep on Sundays relieves the stress of having to make meals each day before or after work. It is very hard to live a busy life throughout the week, eat healthy, save money and have time for working out. Without the time we take each Sunday to prepare for the week ahead, we surely wouldn’t be able to enjoy quick and delicious meals each day for lunch and dinner.
Food is the 2nd largest expense for our household (about to become the first after I kick the mortgage to the curb in a few months) and we target $2 per meal per person on average. It is hard to stay below $126 each week while eating healthy mostly organic meals, our meal prepping routine is the only way to even come close.