Low Tox Life: How to cook more without losing any time

Kinderling News & Features

Alexx Stuart  is an educator and change agent who founded her website, Low Tox Life  in 2010 after seeing the lack of transparency in our food system, personal care and cleaning products.

She's built a movement that's non-judgmental, positive and thinks low-tox peeps are a force to be reckoned with! A columnist for Wellbeing magazine, she is also a sought-after speaker and consultant to businesses committing to change for good.

Following the great success of Alexx's Low Tox Life website, she has recently published a book - also called Low Tox Life - that Alexx describes as a handbook for a healthy you and a happy planet.

Alexx says cooking from scratch is one of the easiest ways to help people make better choices for their health and our planet.

'Cooking from scratch helps you maximise your time and output so that it feels effortless and doable.

Try these simple tips from Alexx:

  • If you’re making a stew, pastry, soup, bolognese, braise, roast, bake, lasagna, compote or biscuit (cookie) dough, never, I repeat never, make enough for only one sitting. Aim to make a double batch, or enough for a snack later, or at least enough to use for lunches the next day. 
  • Cook more rice, beans, lentils or mash than you need. These are easy things to ‘soupify’ the next day by adding a few different new ingredients to create a whole new meal. They freeze well too. 
  • If the oven is empty while you’ve got dinner on the go on the stovetop, or you’re making a salad, roast some vegies for the next night now! 

Listen to Alexx Stuart on Kinderling Conversation:

  • Get good at your repertoire. I know what I’m like cooking a recipe with a new technique the first time – I read, re-read, and take a hundred steps more than needed back and forth in the kitchen. Allow yourself the time to get good at something. Asian food was my big hurdle, but now there are a couple of dishes I can do with my eyes closed because I’ve made them plenty of times. Master a couple of different techniques or spice ratios, so that they’re committed to memory. Confidence means efficiency in the kitchen. 
  • Never chop a lone onion or leek. If you’re anything like me, there’s a psych-up to get started on making dinner – the big initial ‘chop’. Chop five or six onions and other common vegies, popping the extras in a jar or Pyrex container and freezing them so that at the drop of a hat you’ve got them to pop in the pan. No need to thaw them – while they soften, assemble everything else. 
  • Do like on TV! Get all your bits ready and chopped for adding effortlessly. A clear and organised workspace mirrors a clear and organised head when it comes to cooking. 
  • Make use of time pockets. While the kettle’s boiling for your herbal tea at night, pop some almonds in a bowl of filtered water with a teaspoon of salt to get their overnight soaking under way. The same goes for the morning when the kettle’s on again – strain the almonds and pop them in a 75°C (165°F) oven or in the dehydrator for the rest of the day – activated nuts for 3 minutes’ work. 
  • Plan your menus for the week, and group steps and ingredients so that you only have to prep them once. Why cut carrots three times in one week? Why make a pesto or a mash twice? Why cut five onions on five different nights? Menu planning gives you the ability to attack your week of food with military precision. It makes you think realistically about what’s achievable, which nights you’re not going to have any time, and so on.
  •  Know your braises and stews. People always marvel at my set-and-forget,  Choose-your-own-adventure Lamb Shoulder or my Mauritian Chicken Fricassee (recipe in my book), but un-rightly so! They don’t take hours, they take literally 5–10 minutes max. A few steps at the beginning, and then popped into a low oven while you head off to work, so they can simmer away all day – perfect! 
  • Learn to make awesome stock! Homemade stocks and broths are packed with minerals and nutrients, and offer great immune system support. They’re also the secret to making your quick sauces taste like they’ve been simmering for days. Save your bones from previous meals in the freezer so you don’t have to buy new bones to make stock
  • Join or start a cooking circle and smash the week’s main meals in an afternoon with friends in the biggest of all your kitchens. Everyone prepares one huge batch of something and everyone takes a family portion of each home. All your meals done for the next few days in one afternoon of catching up with friends? Genius. 
  • Outsource! We’re only human … There’s only so much a busy person or parent can do. It pays to outsource sometimes. If you have a cleaner, maybe they can cook for you on the day they’re cleaning your house (but be sure to pay them plenty more!). There are fabulous ‘real food’ options popping up everywhere for ordering. When outsourcing, make sure you ask if the meat comes from grass-fed animals or consider a vegetarian meal. I eat vegetarian at airports, canteens or office parties of clients. No one wins with intensively farmed animals, so if I don’t know where it’s from, I’m having vego that day. Outsourcing good cooking isn’t failure – it’s a strategy for those hectic weeks when you need backup! I love to cook, so I don’t outsource often, but when I do, I do like it to feel as if it were at least home-cooked by someone who also cares about the ingredients they use.

This is an extract from Alexx Stuart's new book, Low Tox Life, Murdoch Books, RRP $35.00.