Home Friday 5 5 Reasons You Can’t Make A Meal in 15 Minutes or Less

5 Reasons You Can’t Make A Meal in 15 Minutes or Less

by Erika Nicole Kendall

One of the funniest things I hear from people who want embrace clean eating, is that they want “meals that take less than 15 minutes to make.”


Don’t get me wrong, I get it. In today’s world, we’re tired, overworked, and we feel like we’ve only got about 15 minutes of standing-up time at home before we keel over… and many of us would prefer to use that time peeling off our work clothes and hugging our kids before we spend the rest of the night horizontal on the couch. Oy.

The ability to grab a pot pie, or tell your kids to grab a TV dinner (and heat it up themselves!), or roll through a drive-thru – you don’t even have to get out of your car! – has spoiled us. We’re used to things coming super quick! A few zaps, and boom! Four course meal. 30 minutes in the oven, and BAM! A whole meal. A casual ride on your way home and before you know it, you’ve picked up a giant meal, sometimes over 1300 calories, without even thinking twice. It’s become such a part of your ride home that you hardly even realize you did it until you’ve started eating.

In other words, I completely understand where the expectation comes from that this should take little to no time. It makes total sense to me that we would’ve crafted lives around the convenience of processed food, only to find that when it comes time to actually do the work of cooking, we feel like we’ve only carved out 15 minutes for that work. And, make no mistake about it, a 15-minute meal – with healthy fats, carbs, and protein – that’s enjoyable is totally possible.

But, for the average clean eater, it’s not gonna come that easily for you. And I’ve got 5 reasons why.

1) You don’t prioritize. All of the things that contribute to your ability to make a meal in 15 minutes require you to at least carve out a little time – maybe 5 minutes, maybe more – doing prep work. Doing some pre-emptive grocery shopping. Something. Anything. But, just like you haven’t prioritized more than 15 minutes for this thing that contributes greatly to your health, you haven’t prioritized time for this, either.

Cooking takes preparation. It also, as a beginner, requires time. Even as you’re learning, there are simply some skills that you won’t be able to accomplish as fast as your more advanced peers. Your knife skills might not be so great. Your seasoning skills might need work. Whatever! It took time to learn how to drive, it takes time to learn how to cook, and right now… you aren’t prioritizing either in the way you should.

2) You don’t know how to cook. There are tons of recipes that might require 15 minutes of you, standing in the kitchen, on your feet. You don’t know any of them, though, because you don’t know how to cook!

And, don’t get me wrong – that’s totally okay! But, like I said earlier, if you don’t prioritize that time for learning, when will you ever discover that you can bake fish in 15 minutes or less? When will you learn that a good seared salmon with a spice rub and a raw pepper salad takes less than 15 minutes? When will you learn that baking, broiling, searing, and boiling can all take little to no time to do?

Learning these kinds of tips takes exploration, something you have to do in order to cook better – and, for that matter, quicker.

3) You don’t meal plan. One of the best things you can do, as a beginning cook, is meal plan. It saves you money, because you’re not buying a bunch of stuff you’ll never use, only to let it rot. It saves you time, because you know exactly what you’re cooking that day, no wandering in the kitchen, looking into the fridge while rubbing your eyes, and groaning loudly because your brain is scrambled by 7pm. You’ve got a little chart that tells you what you’re doing that day, and that’s less time wasted on groaning loudly enough for your neighbors to hear.

Furthermore, meal planning saves you time because you can craft your meal plan according to your schedule. You know that Mini-you has practice that runs late until 7 on Wednesdays, so maybe you’ll make a simpler meal on those days oooooooor maybe you’ll do the prep work on Wednesday’s meal earlier in the week when you have a little more time. Quality planning saves a lot of time, energy, and stress. Committing the time to it weekly (or bi-weekly, depending on how large your fridge is) makes all the difference.

4) You think “dinner” has to be a fully-laid out four course meal, everything cooked to perfection. In fact, the thought of having a raw component to your dinner confuses you to no end. Ever consider a meal-sized salad for your dinner? Your protein, your healthy carbs and fats… all in the same bowl. The right dressing… yum.

Take it a step further, though. A cursory glance through some of my favorite food and recipe mags will show that very few dishes are cooked the way so many Americans are used to eating – with four separate items segregated from one another on the plate. Our favorite Italian dishes all have ingredients stunningly stacked one on top of the other. In fact, a large percentage of the most notable dishes from any culture’s staples are items all neatly stacked on top of one another. Another meal of brown rice, broccoli, and chicken breast? Switch that up, add some spice, and make stir-fry. Steak and vegetables? Why not steak fajitas, instead?

5) You don’t have a well-prepped pantry. A lot of the components of clean eating that can serve as filler or quick additions/stand-ins for less healthy options are, in fact, pantry items. Different kinds of rices, couscous, quinoa, beans, whatever – all of that can add some heft to (and subtract some cost from) a meal, making it more fulfilling and cutting down on the amount of time it takes to make it happen. That being said, look at your pantry and be honest – is it looking a little wack?

Luckily for you… this one… I can help you with. When you subscribe to the the BGG2WL Weekly Reader, an e-mail that sends every Wednesday and Saturday giving you the latest and greatest in what’s going on in our little community, you receeeeeeeive this:


A quick little e-book detailing just about everything you need to make flavorful, fulfilling, aaaaaaand quick meals for your family! Want to get started? Sign up below:


And, tell me – do you have a favorite 15-minute dish? Share in the comments!

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Jessica May 31, 2014 - 8:58 AM

U are sooooo right Erika. I take time out on Saturdays to cook food for my lunch es for work. I will even make jelly and guacamole for snacks too. Takes me about an hour and a half to make everything I need to make it through the week. Today I am making black bean and jasmine rice filling for burritos next week. Yum. I’ve tried to convince coworkers to do the same but they always complain that they could be relaxing or sleeping in the time it takes to prepare Lunches or Meals. Whatever, their loss. And if you’re tht tired all the time where u can’t take like 30 mins for prep work, ur definitely doing something wrong when it comes to ur health and body I think.

Rosie June 3, 2014 - 10:11 AM

I’m one of these people… I get home at 9:45ish every night and my fiance comes home at 10 which leaves me exactly 15 minutes to make dinner, but what? lol Waiting to see the responses.

Jessica June 17, 2014 - 11:32 AM

@Rosie…..I take time out during the weekend to make meals or have certain things prepared for dinners during the week. My hubby gets home between 7:30-8:30pm, depending on the day. If you have time on weekends, you may be able to do that. You could easily have veggies sliced and freeze them, then have a healthy rice/pasta cooked and put it in the fridge, and you can even chop some chicken or steak or whatever and freeze it. BAM, stir fry anyone? 🙂

Shannon June 5, 2014 - 7:27 PM

My fav 15 minute dish is what i call “my pinto bowl”-basmati rice under pinto beans under Plainville brand ground turkey”. atop all of that is a little white queso but lots of cilantro and fresh red tomatoes. yum!

(my pinto beans are slow cooked on sunday and eaten through the week)

Rachel June 8, 2014 - 7:59 AM

I agree with this post. I would have never thought i could make a meal without the help of a microwave in 15 minutes. Planning ahead, always having staples in fridge & pantry, learning slowly how to cook will make you move quicker than you thought possible. My favorite 15 minute meal is pasta or zucchini strands with whatever veggies I already have prepped or that need a quick prep. Then I add some type of simple seasoning. Last one I made: a bunch of swiss chard-stems and all- roughly chopped, lemon juice and zest, garlic, evoo, peppers, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper. Usually eaten with a side of fruit. I had pears so I sliced them up and that was dinner.

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