The Nine to Five

For a long time I really didn’t understand why so many people had such a hard time eating healthy food.  I got up every morning, ate a bowl of oatmeal or leftover soup for breakfast, and later cooked a big batch of something for lunch and packed a portion up for dinner at work.  Once or twice a week on my night off, I’d make a nice dinner for my manfriend, complete with dessert (usually something decadent from Chocolate Covered Katie).  I mean, yeah, I snacked on popcorn or crackers after work most nights, and would have a beer or some chocolate if my shift was stressful, but all it took was a little time and planning to make mostly healthy choices.  I secretly thought that the rest of America was just lazy.  Sorry guys.

This was my routine for years, from the time I was a Brooklyn nanny working after school, to when I moved to Pittsburgh and took an evening shift call center job. I usually worked part-time and although I didn’t have many evenings free to be social, I did have a lot of time to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Fast forward to this February, when I accepted a new position at my job that requires me to work mostly during the day.  I have some flexibility, but it’s a basic Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm job.


This is Annabelle. I wish she liked cooking from this book as much as she likes eating the cover.

My routine is entirely different now and I don’t have it all figured out yet.  I get up every morning and make coffee and a big green smoothie.  I was beefing it up with a great protein powder from Arbonne for a while, but that’s not currently an option for various reasons, so now I’m adding oatmeal and a handful of almonds to give it staying power.  Lunch at work is usually leftovers or some basic grain/bean/veg combo, the usual stuff I make, although I do occasionally succumb to ordering in.  And dinner is where I struggle.  No matter what I eat for lunch or if I take an afternoon snack, I seem to always come home half-starved and ravenous.  So I snack.  Popcorn, cereal, leftovers, junk food…and by the time dinner time rolls around, I’m too full to cook (a reverse from when I got home and was too hungry to cook).  So I skip dinner and around 8 or so I realize I don’t have anything to take for tomorrow’s lunch and hastily throw a meal together.  It’s usually curried lentils or split pea soup, both of which I’m horrifically bored with, by the way.

I get it now!  This is why people don’t cook all the time.  You’re too tired and you forget to soak the beans before leaving for work and you end up making ramen and scrambled eggs for dinner or ordering sushi delivery, and then don’t pack a lunch and order Chipotle at work then next day.  I get it, I was totally spoiled.  So that brings me to this question:  What do we do about it?

Seriously, what are your strategies for cooking healthy meals on a busy schedule?  Share your wisdom with me, internet friends!

Here’s another picture of my bunny to reward you for your tips:



3 thoughts on “The Nine to Five

  1. Raymond says:

    I try and capitalize on the time I do have on the weekends. It doesn’t always work out, but I try to set aside time on a Sunday to cook all my lunches for the week (gumbo, burritos) and sometimes my breakfasts (quiche). Might not help with being horrifically bored, though, since it means I eat the same breakfast and lunch for four days. And dinners are a crap shoot; sometimes healthy, sometimes total garbage.

    I guess if you wanted some variety you could freeze things. Batch cooking and freezing, I feel like these are obvious and not helpful solutions, but it works.

  2. Penny Parsnip says:

    That would actually probably help a lot. Like, if I could get it together to cook some rice and beans on the weekend, I could do a lot of different things with them during the week for dinner. Maybe buying more frozen vegetables would help? All the fresh stuff often ends up getting fed to Annabelle.

    PS – Did you know you can edit other people’s comments? I just noticed this feature somehow. Kind of creepy when you think about it.

  3. Maureen says:

    Thanks so much for addressing this! I too feel lazy and lacking for not cooking healthy food, like, ever. And since my partner has crazy working hours now, even seeing each other for dinner, much less cooking it ourselves, is a challenge.

    Sunday cooking helps a lot, because you can be prepared for at least get the first few days of the week with some leftovers in the fridge. Also, being prepared with some healthy snacks to nosh on after work is key. If I open the fridge and find hummus and carrots, i’ll grab that…..otherwise I start foraging for whatever shelf-stable sugary stuff is around.

    This is the exact problem trying to be solved by the long list of books entitled, “20-minute meals (that your family will love!)”. People are busy and tired because they’ve already spent their most productive hours at their job and they’re trying to cram the rest of life around the edges.

    I can’t wait to hear what you figure out…..i’ll try it myself!

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