Real Food = Time Well Spent

I just realized I spend over 3 hours a day getting our household fed, and that doesn’t even include eating time! Since switching over to real food 5 months ago, I bet I have doubled the time I put into meal planning, food prep and cooking. Having recently become an “empty nester,” I was on the lookout for new hobbies, not anticipating that food would become a major focus of my day.

One cool thing is that I meet 100% of my daily nutrition requirements, with the exception of vitamin E, through eating a real food diet of about 2300 calories a day.

Rom & I both work full time – with commute time, we’re out of the house from 8 to 6. The general plan around here is that we cook dinner 5 nights a week, with leftovers one night and dinner at my parents’ place on the other. Both of us have breakfast at home and bring lunches to work every day. We try new recipes and take our time over dinner, because we can!

I broke down our food prep time by day, week and month, and averaged it out. Keep in mind it’s not my goal to either save time or spend more time – I was only checking what our “actuals” are. Here’s how it looked:

Daily tasks include:

  • Make coffee and clean coffee press (at home)
  • Make coffee and clean coffee maker (at work)
  • Make oatmeal on stovetop and clean pot
  • Heat leftovers or assemble sandwiches for lunch at work
  • Wash lunch dishes
  • Package up evening meal leftovers
  • Prepare next day’s lunch in the evening: portion out individual servings, wash and chop vegetables, make salad, mix nice things into yogurt

The total time for this is 1 hour per day – and doesn’t include making or cleaning up after the evening meals, which is in the next section.

Weekly tasks include:

  • Prepare and cook dinner 5 times a week (60-90 minutes per)
  • Clean kitchen after dinner 5 times a week (low estimate 15 minutes per)
  • Make yogurt, bread and muffins weekly, clean up
  • Check grocery flyers
  • Do quick inventory and make weekly grocery list
  • Grocery shop, unpack food, re-package foods as needed (90 minutes)
  • Reorganize cupboards and fridge weekly to use up food better
  • Make espresso and clean espresso maker (several times each weekend)
  • Unload dishwasher as needed
  • Clean compost bin (we use bin liners)

If you average out the time taken to do these things, it is 1 hour and 45 minutes per day. I didn’t count the time it takes the bread dough to rise, yogurt to cultivate, driving to and from the grocery store, etc.

Next there are tasks I do only once or twice a month:

  • Monthly meal planning and master shopping list
  • Roast and carve meat for workday sandwiches, 2x month
  • Make soup
  • Make granola
  • Make meatballs for pasta
  • Clean fridge
  • Sort and put out recyclables

This group averages out to 25 minutes a day.

So there you have it, 3 hours and 10 minutes a day to feed ourselves. Who knew?

Here are things I don’t count:

  • Read cookbooks, find new recipes, organize recipes
  • Cook/bake for volunteer or work functions
  • Plan, shop, cook and bake for special occasions/entertaining
  • Eat and enjoy food!
There are 2 main things I’d like to add to my food prep routines:
  • Make beans instead of buying canned
  • Do own canning/preserves, and freeze seasonal fruit and veg (big goal)

Finally, there are things I plan never to do, as detailed here:

  • Grow vegetables
  • Raise chickens
  • Make cheese
  • and, oh yeah, worm composting!


  1. You have the energy to do all that you listed in this post because you eat real food. (o: I spend about 90% of my waking hours in my kitchen… at least that’s how it feels. Good thing I like my kitchen!

  2. I know I shouldn’t, but I always calculate how long it took me to prepare the meal + eating time + the kitchen clean-up time to see what the grand total is. It always amazes me how much time it takes. But it’s so worth it. I am learning to include more real foods, but I’m still wanting the whole process to take a minimum of time. I guess I’m on the learning curve.

    • After commute time, dinner is the main event here – I don’t really expect to get anything else done on week days. I’m sure that if I had more diverse hobbies, I would change my cooking habits!

  3. as long as you enjoy doing it that’s all that matters.

    I need to make more fully homemade meals, still using a lot of frozen prepared foods especially meat items.

    Gill in Canada

    • True, I do enjoy it. If I didn’t, I would definitely try to save more time. There are lots of healthy frozen foods out there. Is it that you feel squeamish working with raw meat? It took me a while to get over that!

  4. Annie

    I’m curious why if you’re cooking, husband doesn’t do the cleanup.

    Making cheese is actually not that difficult, especially if you do cheeses like soft cheese or a farmhouse cheddar. And it’s worth it. I still can’t figure out mozzarella, though. Sometimes it works and sometimes it is unbelievably nasty. I think I’ve given up on it. Pizza tastes just fine with other cheeses on it.

    And chickens take almost no work at all. I’m sure I spend less time on my chickens than I do on making coffee.

    • Hi Annie, We used to use that system – when one cooked, the other cleaned up. However, I clean as I go and he doesn’t, so it ended up being more work for me! Right now Rom cooks and cleans about 8 nights a month, and some of the meals last for 2 nights, so we are getting close to 50/50. My yogurt maker came with a bag to make yogurt cheese so maybe that will be my first foray into cheese-making. My parents and brother have raised chickens – I agree that it is probably not much work day to day, but I don’t use enough eggs to keep chickens, and am not dedicated enough to go through the butchering and plucking process. However, I have high regard for those who do it!

  5. Annie

    Oh, I see you said “meat chickens”. Well forget that. I raised some for “meat” but they are still running around the yard as healthy as can be.

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