Simply Real Health founder Sarah Adler is on a mission to teach people how to eat. Whether or not you’re a pro cook or have a jam-packed social calendar, her recipes and food philosophy can work for you. And no, this isn’t a diet plan! She sat down and talked with us about everything from the hows and whys of meal planning to the springtime foods she’s most looking forward to picking up at the market.
Better Food = A Better Life
For Sarah, the goal comes down to this: When you eat better, you feel better. And with just a little bit of meal planning, you can accomplish it while saving money and time. Having an idea of what you’ll make for the week means you won’t be throwing out food (and money), and it doesn’t have to take ages to come up with or execute. We’re talking three hours of planning and cooking, tops. Sound too good to be true? It’s not!
Where do you start?
Learn Seasonality: Seasonality plays a big part in Sarah’s approach to meal planning. Learning what’s in season at the moment means you’ll be enjoying flavors at their best. But that’s not all. In-season goods are generally cheaper (there’s that saving money bit again), and paying attention to what is on sale at the grocery store is an excellent indicator of what is at its peak. Eating with the seasons means you won’t get bored with the same thing over and over again — because who can keep that up long term? Every three months or so, there is a whole new bounty to choose from, keeping things fresh in every way.
Get Out of the Rut: Putting the same old stuff in your shopping cart week after week gets boring. And that often leads to discouragement. On top of that, choosing out-of-season goods usually doesn’t deliver the most flavor bang for your buck. Think about strawberries in the dead of winter. They taste way less vibrant, and they cost a whole lot more than those that hit the shelves in spring or summer.
Embrace Make-Ahead Meals: Make-ahead meals are such a boon for time-strapped folks. Learning a few solid base meals that can be tweaked a little — say, by choosing a different protein or sauce — is an awesome trick. It keeps things interesting throughout the week, without demanding a whole lot of your time in the kitchen. Knowing which dishes improve with age as flavors meld is another terrific strategy that can be used to your advantage.
There are so many sources for inspiration. Browsing Pinterest and making boards for each season is a terrific way to get inspired and stay organized at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a daily thing. You can gain a lot by simply flipping through a few cooking magazines just four times a year. It’s a quick way to learn how to cook with new produce that you may have never heard about before.
Keep It Simple
Success for Sarah is not about being strict and perfect.
Commit to buying enough food for only two to three days a week, and only bring home goods that you have a plan for. Or buy a reasonable number of things like kale, carrots and spinach that keep well for days and are also versatile. It’ll save you money, and you won’t end up discouraged at the end of the week when there’s a whole bunch of stuff in the crisper that needs to be tossed.
By not planning for every day, you’re building in flexibility. This means you can say yes to that impromptu invite to lunch or happy hour instead of having it in the back of your mind that you should be going home to the fridge full of stuff you bought. Getting comfortable living in this gray zone — the space between all or nothing — is a huge part of Sarah’s philosophy and what makes it a much more sustainable approach.
Sourcing Seasonal Food
Grocery stores, farmers markets, CSAs and online delivery services like Amazon Fresh are all terrific options. But really, the best place is wherever it is easiest for you, so you can be free to choose what fits best for your life.
Top Spring Foods to Get Excited For
We’re all in for a treat in the not-so-distant future as springtime foods start hitting the shelves. Some of the items Sarah’s most excited for are:
— fresh peas
— fish, especially halibut and salmon
Rhubarb is great because it works so well in both sweet and savory recipes and brings great color to the table. Making a quick jam or other topping with the pretty stalks elevate a simply prepared piece of fish or chicken. Another great idea is to use it in a simple syrup to have on hand for refreshing cocktails and mocktails.
It may be a little early for berries, but they’re such a fabulous choice. They’re some of the healthiest fruits out there since they don’t spike blood sugar, but are still great when nibbled on plain. Sarah suggests blending them into smoothies and topping off your next bowlful of oatmeal with a handful.
In a Nutshell
Sarah’s approach is all about navigating choices and selecting those that work with your lifestyle. If you’re interested in learning even more, consider picking up a copy of her gorgeous cookbook when it hits shelves on March 20. It’s chock full of tips, along with tons of recipes, from make-ahead meals to cocktails. You can also sample a three-day meal plan here, totally free of charge!
Do you stick to a meal plan during the week? How much do you take into account the seasons? Share your approach and tips with us in the comments!
(Photos by Jasmine Pulley)