Clean eating can make a huge difference for your health, strength, and fat loss goals, but we get that it can seem overwhelming and time consuming to forgo the convenience foods in favor of real, unprocessed ingredients—but it doesn’t have to be! Over the years, Honest’s trainers have developed a few time-saving tricks that make clean eating exciting, fun, and delicious. Here we go:
1. Buy good knives.
We can’t emphasize this enough. When people say they can’t cook, we have to ask what kind of knives they own. You’d be surprised how many people are out there chopping carrots with steak knives. A good knife is a joy to use—cutting fresh vegetables becomes a relaxing break instead of an all-out battle.
The secret here is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good materials—one of my favorite tool tricks is shopping at kitchen supply outlet stores. Any decent outlet mall will have one, and you can find really great knives for under twenty bucks. There are also great options online, and it will make a huge difference in your clean eating and cooking experience.
2. Be a loyal farmers’ market shopper.
You’ll often be rewarded with discounts, grateful smiles, and the immense joy of being greeted as a regular at your favorite farmers’ booths. Talking to farmers is the best way to get a feel for the change in the seasons, find out how long certain crops will last, and get the inside scoop on how the people growing your food love to prepare their own ingredients.
No idea how to prepare that mushroom? Confused about how to peel that huge winter squash? Ask your farmer! Once you’ve gotten a handle on greeting your farmer by name, ask them about the farm—and try to go for a visit! A lot of farms have volunteer days or CSA members’ events where you can trek out to the countryside for an afternoon of pulling weeds and wandering through corn. What better way to get inspired to use those new knives than to pick up real food from a real farm?
3. Eat the “Weird Stuff.”
Eat the “Weird Stuff” from your local ranchers at farmers’ markets, butcher shop, and supermarkets. Many stores are now carrying organ meats live livers, hearts, and tongues, and ranchers are usually more than happy to fill custom orders of the parts they might not bring to market every week—often at ridiculously low prices. Offal is full of healthy nutrients, especially when the parts come from ethically-raised animals, and they’re surprisingly tasty.
Find out what is cheap and available, then bring it home to experiment—there are tons of helpful tips online about how to turn hearts, tongues, livers, and cheeks into the most succulent meals on the cheap.
4. Get to know your spices.
When some people reach for processed foods, they are really reaching for concentrated, full-impact flavor. It’s no secret that canned soup and frozen meals are heavily salted and seasoned, and the transition to clean cooking can be a bit of an adjustment for some people’s overloaded taste buds.
The secret here is in the spice rack. Love Indian take-out? Try making your own garam masala—the staple spice blend of cumin, coriander, pepper, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and other delicious Indian spices. Craving pho? You can duplicate the savory Vietnamese flavors with star anise, cloves, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, bay leaves, and chili paste.
One of our favorite resources for these spice pairings is The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It’s full of tips on how to master herbs and spices from around the world and unlock the keys to improvisation with unprocessed ingredients.
5. The slow cooker is your friend.
Imagine having your favorite take-out foods ready and waiting for you when you come home from work—using real, unprocessed ingredients prepped in minutes in the morning or night before. Another plus—the slow cooker is hands-down the easiest cookware to clean. When you make baked beans from scratch (with a sum total of 10 minutes of actual work) there may be a ring of toasty, almost-burned sauce around the top—that will wiped off instantly with a sponge. Most slow cookers are also oddly inexpensive—you can get one brand-new for $20. Genius.