Monday, June 25, 2012

Eating Better When You're Busy

In case you hadn't noticed, we've been really busy the last year or so - basically living in survival mode. Survival mode is that point where every bit of energy you have is directed towards getting through "right now" and the demands that life throws at you on a daily basis. It seems to be pretty common among special needs families, because the needs of our children are often so intense that there simply isn't time for anything else.

We're working on digging ourselves out of that mode, though to be fair, we're not sure how far out we will get - there is a lot to do every day, and just when we think we're getting things under control, something new pops up.

One aspect that we're working on first is eating. When you're in survival mode, eating out becomes common....because cooking would require time you don't have, or would require washing the dishes to have clean dishes to eat on, or because it's been a day of rushing from appointment to appointment and you realize at 2 in the afternoon that you haven't had breakfast yet (usually because what should have been a 30 minute appointment first thing in the morning with a doctor was 3 hours in the waiting room, 30 minutes trying to give a case history to a resident, and then having said doctor come in for 30 seconds, then waiting a half hour for a nurse to come do something, then another half hour for the doctor to come back again). Eating random food from vending machines is generally a fact of life for hospital stays - cafeterias there are not always open at convenient times, or they're a long walk and your child won't let you out of their sight long enough to get there (and in many places, parents can't get room service).

So yeah. Food.

Let me start by saying we're generally unapologetic meat eaters here. I need a certain amount of protein each day to really be at my best, and I'm a somewhat picky eater - I don't generally eat beans, legumes, or tofu. Acorn is pretty picky too (and protein is his weak spot), so we offer anything and everything to him (even things I can't stand) - at this point, taking whole categories of food off the table is not in his best interest.

I mentioned a while back that one of our goals is to eat more "real" food - namely less fast food, because we've already banished most boxed foods from our kitchen, along with all but a small handful of sources of HFCS. The question, then, is how to do that when you're already super busy.

Around here, a big part of it is turning out to be bulk cooking and freezing.

Breakfasts are one of our most difficult meals. Lunches can always be leftovers from another meal, but breakfast here is frequently on the road (we multitask a lot, and we have 20-60 minute drives to and from work). This weekend, banana bread and single serving "breakfast bake" was on the cooking menu:

This time I made 12 single-serve breakfast things. Eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns, with cheese on top. These triangle shaped silicone cupcake wrappers are actually a little larger than normal cupcakes, and work really well for this - the silicone lets them pop right out when you go to eat them.

  • Potatoes (probably 2 small-medium ones; if you shred too many potatoes, throw the rest in the freezer, or use frozen potato shreds meant for hashbrowns)
  • Sausage (I used 3 leftover bratwursts - you could use just about any sort of breakfast type meat here, or a meat-substitute)
  • Eggs. (I used 8 eggs for these 12 cups)
  • Shredded cheese (I used cheddar; about a half cup total)
  • Butter, salt, pepper
Peel and shred your potatoes. Squeeze the water out (or don't), and then put a bit in the bottom of each cup - you want enough to cover the bottom, but not a super thick layer). I sprinkle with salt and add 1/4 of a slice of butter. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes - you want them to be dry in the middle and starting to brown around the edges.

While that's baking, slice your sausage, and whisk your eggs. Add salt and pepper to the eggs to taste.

Remove the potatoes from the oven. Layer sausage into each cup (these triangle ones hold about 3 slices of sausage each). Pour eggs over the top of each cup, but do not fill more than about 2/3 full, because the eggs will puff. Top with some cheese - again, to your taste, but about a tablespoon each. Put them back in the oven for 20 minutes.

We let everything cool on the counter, then put some in the fridge for near term use, and some in the freezer for use later in the week or sometime the week after that.

To serve, put in the microwave for a bit, and then remove from the silicone cup and eat. We usually pack one of these with something more starchy (like a slice of banana bread), because they're pretty protein heavy.

All in all, there was about 2 hours of work today for these 12 servings plus 2 loaves of banana bread; that's 2 weeks of breakfasts, used up leftovers and things we have on hand all the time, and has got to be better for us than stopping for breakfast at McDonalds.


  1. They look great! I have to say, I think you have the right idea. It takes a bit of planning and a bit of time, but the savings in future health, time, and money is priceless!

  2. Wow, those look awesome. Thanks for this! Life around here is a lesser form of survival mode a lot too.

  3. Time is the big issue. I've been following several bloggers for a while now who talk about eating whole foods, and one counted her kitchen time recently, finding she spends 2-3 hours a day in the kitchen. There is no way we can find that kind of time - I'm already 2-3 hours short on sleep every day. So, I'm guessing we'll never make it to no eating out, and probably can't even keep it to once a week.