As a full-time elementary school teacher, a part-time personal trainer and nutritionist, it can be very difficult to balance my work life, my own workouts and extracurricular activities at home, and continue to eat a healthy raw vegan diet. At one point I did think it might be virtually impossible, but I am living proof that it can be done. I am going to give you the inside secrets to how I do it. Some may say, “well, you are not a mom”, but one of my colleagues at work is a mom of 4, and if she can do it anyone can. I am going to include some of her inside secrets to her success as well.
1.Plan your meals: Write a list of ingredients, purchase everything on the week-end, and Know which days of the week you will need a quick meal. Make more than you need, and save the rest for lunch the next day. Know that if you have to dehydrate something that will take 3 days for example, plan to start the process on Monday if your meal is on Wednesday. Spend a few hours on the week-end preparing your dips such as guacamole and hummus, raw vegan bars, as well as quinoa and other salads so that you have some easy ‘go-to’ foods to put in your lunches or to prepare with dinner if you are in a bind.
2. Cut the cost of expensive ingredients: Read flyers to see when there are sales on nuts and seeds. I buy pumpkin seeds, almonds and cashews, 5 lbs worth at a time, in bulk, when they are on sale. Then I put the amount that I need for the week in mason jars and the rest in the freezer to preserve their freshness. If kept in the freezer for more than 2 months they may get freezer burn, so plan to use them in recipes and for daily snacks before then. I have never had them go bad and it’s only Mario and I in our household. I also buy bananas when they are really ripe for a sale price. Ask the manager of the store for a discount. Then I peel the bananas, cut them in half and freeze them in a ziplock bag. They make great additions to smoothies. They thaw really quickly and can also be used in raw chia puddings and other delicious recipes.
3. Freeze your smoothies in the evening: If you want to eat healthy and you know you wont have time in the morning to make a vitamin packed breakfast and lunch, prepare everything in glass or stainless steel containers in the evening. I go as far as preparing my smoothies and freezing them. This helps to preserve the active enzymes in chlorella and Spirulina, ingredients that I often put in my morning smoothie. If you take the smoothie out an hour before you go to work, it should be the consistency of a slushy. Sprinkle coconut on top and it’s as if you are eating a treat.
4. Leave soaking (nuts, seeds, and grains) to the daytime: so that they are ready when you get home. If find that when I get home my nuts and seeds or rice have been soaking for 10 to 12 hours and are ready to either make into non-dairy milks or put in the food processor to make cheeses and spreads as well as additions to my favourite recipes. For grains like wild rice, I often begin the soaking in the dehydrator overnight and by dinner time the next day I have a delectable grain to add to my favourite side of veggies.
5. Keep sliced fruit and vegetables in the fridge: This will help with those afternoon lows when you get home and want to eat the fridge. Trust me, I’ve been there, when I wanted to eat everything in sight. If they are ready to eat in the fridge with some sides such as humus, a handful of nuts, or some non-dairy yogurt, you will fill up on wholesome foods instead of empty calories. Cutting up your kids fruits and vegetables will also increase the likelihood that they will eat them for snacks at school. 9 times out of 10 when I offer my kindergarten students a fruit or a bar, they choose the fruit. I haven’t done an official research study; these are just my own daily observations when working with kids.
6.Pickle and ferment fruits and vegetables: I like to purchase fruits and vegetables, when they are in season and a lot of them. This month, cabbage is on sale everywhere you go, or so my grandmother tells me. Why pay $10-$20 for a bottle of organic sauerkraut when you can make your own with something as simple as cabbage, salt and water? Just last month, beets were on sale, so I bought 3 5lb bags. A friend gave me her mother’s recipe for canning and preserving beets. I altered the recipe to make it virtually raw, but not 100%. You can find this recipe in my next post!
7. Try one new recipe each week: Have your go-to recipes the rest of the 6 days a week, and one day a week try something new. This makes finding new ingredients not as overwhelming, and you may find that you will discover or embark upon a new family favourite. Mimi Kirk’s Spanish Gazpacho is one of my favourite go-to recipes. I make a double batch and put the rest in the freezer for another day.
8. Keep your house and workspace neat and organized: Do things right away instead of leaving them to pile up. There is nothing worse than a pile of dishes. This simple task will help you to better manage your stress. It is as simple as doing the dishes as you make dinner, or replacing the paper towel roll as soon as it is bare. If you come home to a clean kitchen, you will be more likely to feel like chopping up vegetables for your next meal!
9. Incorporate your passion into your everyday work: I love to run, and keep fit along with being raw vegan, so I decided that I would become chair of the health and wellness committee at work. With a team of teachers I plan, organize and host fitness events at the school, as well as teach a boys and girls fitness club at lunch. Lucia at the school is a mom of four and you can imagine that she is really pressed for time, so we decided to run together at lunch a few times a week. Even just organizing a healthy potluck once a week or asking someone to walk the stairs with you a couple times a week at lunch can really make a difference and allow you to incorporate your healthy lifestyle into your day!! We don’t care that we come back to the classroom full of sweat. My kindergarten students have gotten so used to me running at lunch that they often ask me when I get back “How was your run?”
10. Find supports and friends that are interested in the same lifestyle : Seek out interesting places and new foods at the supermarket. Lucia and I often share new recipes and interesting facts that we have learned about nutrition on our lunch runs. Juliana Jade and I often go to Kensington Market and try new foods in the health food stores. This past summer I threw a raw vegan potluck at my house for fun. Surrounding yourself with people who enjoy the same things as you will help you to keep motivated to continue on your raw vegan journey!!