Friday, August 23, 2013

Tips to cook with limited time

Hey everyone! Five consecutive weeks of nights down, one more to go. I'm still alive, still kicking, and still cooking. I've gotten some comments about how amazed people are that I'm cooking while working night shifts, and how people feel like they don't have enough time to do it. Not true at all. You can make simple, and delicious meals in barely any time at all. I literally shop and cook for one hour a week. That, along with then just picking out salads or veggies at the hospital cafeteria as I mentioned in my last post, is enough to still have healthy foods around all week. Here's two things that have made cooking super easy:

1) Glass tupperware - What a genius invention! I literally cook, refrigerate, and transport all in the
Chicken in glass tupperware
same container. I cook two servings per container, and then take the entire thing to work, eat one serving that day, and leave the leftover in the fridge in the call room for the next day. Afterward, I just bring the entire thing home and toss it in the dishwasher, it can't get easier. I remember how long it used to take when I cooked in a group to first do the cooking, then have to wait for things to cool before transferring to a container for people to take it home. I just cut out all the time.

Various spices from Penzeys
2) Pre-made spice blends - There's this store around the corner from me called Penzeys spices that sells tons of spice blends that are delicious, but let's be honest, you can buy spice blends from any super market spice aisle, and if you're being Paleo, the ones at Whole Foods are paleo compliant. Just try some random spice, coat your meat/veggies in it, and you're done. If you use multiple spices, then you can have several flavors going the same week. Especially since I'm cooking 2 servings per container, and 3 containers, I use 3 different spices each week.

I cook a week's worth of meals while doing laundry. Literally, I'll go out and buy the groceries while my clothes are in the washer, then come back, put my clothes in the drier, and then cook the food while the clothes are drying. All I do is coat the meat/veggies in spice blend and toss in the oven (if chicken breasts around 25 minutes at 425F). The food is ready and placed on my counter for cooling before my clothes are finished drying. Then after I get my laundry, I'll cover the tupperware and put the food in the fridge. If the containers are still warm, I might put pot holder under so it doesn't hurt my shelf, but other than that, it is done until I take it to work. So if you have time to do laundry, (which I hope you do, because otherwise you're stinky, and according to Kristen Chenoweth who is wise in many things... nobody likes a stinky witch. I'm sure the same applies for doctors.) then you have time to cook.

Do I supplement with eating out? Why yes, yes I do. Do I supplement with some store bought snacks? Yup. I'll write more about those later, but in the meantime, just wanted to show that there's always time to cook. Not having time isn't an actual reason, it is a random excuse because either you don't really want to do it, or don't know how. If the latter, now you know how! :-)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don't let an "all or nothing" mindset let your attempts just turn into nothing

In my last post about trying to be healthy in residency, I said that my mantra would be, "You can do anything, you just can't do everything". After my first rotation, I'm realizing that "anything" might be more limited than I originally anticipated. So, unfortunately, my tried and true habit of cooking a week's worth of healthy meals a week at a time has been put on hold, at least for now. Time for a new strategy.

So I'm 3 weeks into a month and a half of being a zombie doctor (no I don't eat patients' brains... I'm referencing being on night shift). During this run of being only up at nights, I discovered two things: 1) I want to go to bed immediately when I get home and sleep for the little time I do have, and 2) On my days off, a combination of having other errands and having a completely zonked out circadian rhythm usually means I'm ready to go grocery shopping at around 1am... which hasn't proved very effective.

Steamed veggies at California Hospital's hot food bar
Salad bar at California Hospital
I also got to thinking... wait a sec... why am I spending so much money on groceries when the hospital pays for my meals at the hospital cafeteria? It is like how Google and other tech companies provides incentives and benefits for their employees working long hours... except the difference is, they actually have good food, or more specifically, more healthy food options. I find hospital cafeterias, just to be lacking in variety, particularly in the department of healthy proteins. So, I learned to compromise. Instead of spending 3-4 hours a week planning a weekly meal, grocery shopping, and cooking, now I spend 1 hour running to the grocery store and buying protein that I then throw random spices onto and bake for 30 minutes while doing other things. I then take 1-2 servings to the hospital every night and combine it with whatever healthy options are available in the cafeteria. Although it's slim pickings, at least so far in every hospital cafeteria I've found at least a bare bones salad bar, and then usually at the hot food station, one of their meals will come with a side of vegetables. So I'll combine my protein with their salad/side of veggies and make my own healthy meal.

Usually I'm a go big or go home type of person... but in this case, I've learned to be in a "I'll use the resources around me to make something work" frame of mind. It saves me time, saves me money, and helps me keep my habits sustainable, because unfortunately, sometimes all or nothing... just turns into nothing.