I don’t have time to cook.
You’ve heard it. You’ve even probably said it yourself. Not having enough time to do things—cooking or otherwise—has become an increasingly common excuse as people become seemingly busier and busier.
But think about it: aren’t terms like “busy” and “not enough time” kind of relative? For one individual, being “busy” might mean working a nine to five job, then working another part-time job afterward, and finally, a blissful arrival at home at 9 or 10 p.m. For others, it might mean heading to work at 10 p.m., getting off at 6 a.m., sleeping for most of the day and then doing it all over again. And for the third set of people, it might mean not going to your standard nine to five job at all but working from home or taking care of kids.
So, if being “busy” means something different for everybody, how is it possible that people from many different walks of life simply don’t have the time to cook? Maybe not having enough time really isn’t the crux of the issue at all, but rather, cooking healthy meals on a regular basis just doesn’t seem like enough of a priority. Compared to tasks related to jobs, school, or childcare, it can be easy to forget how important the food that you put into your body really is.
Let’s put it into perspective.
No Time to Cook? Try Making Health Your First Priority
According to a 2013 study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, food is the leading cause of poor health in the United States.  To make sense of this statistic, a Tufts professor calculated that, essentially, twice as many Americans die each year from eating hot dogs or other processed meats (58,000 deaths/year) than car accidents (35,000 deaths/year). Many factors are at play here: unequal access to high-quality food due to socioeconomic disparities, systematic issues in the healthcare system, and a need for higher quality standards and better labeling in the food industry. Unfortunately, most of these factors cannot be controlled on an individual level and will require intentional effort and policy change to be remedied.
However, the way in which you can take charge of your health, even with all of these systematic issues, is by bringing that better health to your very own table with home-cooked meals.
So, maybe the problem isn’t that you don’t have time to cook but that you haven’t been making cooking one of your top priorities. Again, it’s understandable. Grocery shopping trips, chopping vegetables, cooking proteins—it all seems like a lot of work, especially at the end of a long day. But is it really?
Cooking vs. Takeout: A Time Breakdown
So, you’re tired after a long day, and what do you know? You don’t have time to cook. Some might choose to hit the nearest drive-thru, but even that requires some work, so many choose to order take-out—whether that be a mountain of Chinese food, pizza with breadsticks, or another pick from a local restaurant.
Time aside, you’re probably already paying more than you would if you were to cook a similar meal at home. Between restaurants hiking up prices to pay for ingredients and employee wages, tips, and delivery fees, you’re probably already losing $15, if not more. It’s okay, you’ll take the financial hit, you decide. You just really don’t have the time. So, you order take-out and then proceed to wait at least 30 minutes for it to arrive, significantly more if there’s a dinner rush. Interestingly, 30 minutes is enough time to prepare a healthy, quick, and easy meal.
The same goes for carry-out from a drive-thru. Though you save some money because you’re likely getting fast food, which is cheaper than most take-out, you’re still not saving that much time. Between driving to the nearest fast food joint, ordering, waiting in line, and then driving back, you’re likely still spending about 30 minutes on the entire process.
Also, since we’re talking about wasting time, think about that bar on your phone that tells you how much of your day you spend just texting, talking, or playing mindless cell phone games. The average U.S. adult spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their phones . Now that’s more than enough time to cook a meal—that’s even longer than the time it takes to cook a full Placemat meal filled with healthy, local ingredients for every dietary preference and occasion.
But, I was busy while I was waiting for the food to come. A very valid point, especially if you’re someone who works from home, or had just gotten back from work and wanted to squeeze in a workout or do some chores around the house. But are you this busy every day? Is every waking moment of your week consumed by something?
Even the busiest people likely have some time off during the weekends, and that’s the perfect opportunity for meal-prep. Cooked vegetables can be good for around three to four days in the fridge—the same goes for most proteins. If they’re stored in the freezer, many can last for up to three months . With this approach, eating a healthy meal is as easy as heating up food that you made. Still healthy, still local, but it takes even less time than take-out or a drive-thru.
And how about meals like oatmeal and eggs? They take no time to make but are packed with nutrients and can be paired with other healthy add-ons like natural peanut butter or berries for oatmeal and pre-washed spinach for the eggs.
Solving the “No Time to Cook” Problem
So, here’s what everything comes down to: the problem is likely not that you don’t have enough time, but a lot of the social myths of cooking have gotten to you too. Cooking doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming, and you don’t have to cook every single day in order to eat healthy meals. And, it’s still possible to eat healthy even when you don’t have time to cook with a few simple tricks like meal-prepping or buying pre-cut vegetables or fruits if needed.
Most importantly, the key to having time to cook is keeping your top priority—your health—in mind. It’s not about doing the impossible and hoping to magically add more hours to the day—it’s about changing what you do with the hours you already have. Remember: you probably have more time than you think.
With the 4th of July just around the corner, you’re probably starting to think about what you’ll be serving at a 4th of July party or bringing to someone else’s. Are you doing a barbecue? Corn on the cob? Hot dogs? If you are, you won’t be alone. Seventy-four million Americans barbecue on the 4th of July and 150 million hot dogs are eaten. [1,2]
And if you’re just giving up and ordering assorted pizzas—pepperoni, sausage, Hawaiian, you name it—you’re still not alone because the 4th of July is the second most popular holiday for pizza-ordering in the U.S.
But think about it: aren’t you getting a little tired of eating the exact same things every year? And with more people becoming vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to accommodate all of your guests—some can’t eat the bread, some can’t eat the meat. It’s a headache waiting to happen, but you still want to please all of your guests.
So, this 4th of July, try something different. And if you can’t part with your beloved barbecue or have a killer burger recipe, try adding one of these dishes to the repertoire in addition to your old favorites. These recipes are crowd-pleasers that work for individuals with a range of dietary restrictions. Most importantly, they’re easy to make—cooking doesn’t have to be stressful, intimidating, or difficult this 4th of July. Instead, it can be simple and will leave you with a beautiful and delicious dish that you and your guests can enjoy.
3 Healthy and Easy 4th of July Recipes
Red, White + Blue Galette
If you’re starting your 4th of July celebration earlier in the day, this recipe is a great choice for brunch. Plus, it’s gluten-free! To make prepare this dish, start with two cups of almond flour, which is high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and sweeter in taste than traditional wheat flour.  Watching what you eat might not be the first thing on your mind this 4th of July, but it’s nice that even simple, delicious crowd-pleasers can deliver some health benefits.
Next, add two tablespoons of melted coconut oil and two eggs. Finish it off with a dash of salt, a dash of cinnamon, a teaspoon of baking soda, and a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. Once you’ve mixed these ingredients together, roll this dough into a ball and set aside.
Now, it’s time to get started to on the most important part: the fresh fruits. Start by tossing together strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cinnamon, and salt, and set aside. If you’re looking to make this meal even fresher and support your community, try buying the berries at a local farmers market—you’ll be surprised at just how different they taste.
Next, place the finished dough on a piece of parchment paper, put another sheet of parchment paper on top, and roll out the dough into a thin circular shape. Next, place the berry mixture into the center of the dough, leaving a two-inch rim of dough around the edge. Finish it off by sprinkling goat cheese on top of the berry mixture for the perfect sweet and savory combination.
Before popping this all in the oven, cut the rim of the dough to the edge of the berries roughly every three to four inches around and fold the flaps into the berry mixture. Then, drizzle honey or maple syrup on top and put it in the oven at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Once it’s out, top it off with some fresh lemon zest, and enjoy!
In addition to offering a great, fresh, healthy, and gluten-free-friendly brunch treat, this galette has the added benefit of being red, white, and blue, which makes it the perfect addition to your arsenal of 4th of July recipes.
Fresh Dill + Peach Salad
If you’re looking for a way to add some freshness to the meal you serve this 4th of July, this salad is a great option. Because it’s a mix of sweet and savory, featuring fresh peaches, this option is great for either brunch or lunch. Who knows, maybe you want to serve it alongside the red, white, and blue galette if you’re looking to add another gluten-free, vegetarian, and potentially vegan option to your 4th of July menu.
To prepare this salad, start by tossing together one bushel of Laccinato kale that is thinly sliced and has the ribs left in. Combine this with arugula, four sliced peaches, one cup of halved cherry tomatoes, and a handful of finely chopped fresh dill. Finish it off with olive oil, a sprinkle of shallots, red pepper flakes, lemon, sea salt, goat or feta cheese, and a drizzle of tahini. If you want to make this option vegan, just leave out the cheese.
Again, the abundance of vegetables in this dish gives you the perfect opportunity to head to the farmer’s market to make this dish even more delicious and support your local community.
This option also highlights the idea that cooking can be made simple, and it doesn’t always have to be about exact measurements and following the given recipe to a tee. Everything is based on your taste and the tastes of your guests. This salad is great because it provides a rough guideline for what to add, but decisions about how much of the spices and vegetables you want to add are ultimately up to you. The most important thing is that you’re creating a product that’s easy, fresh, healthy, and filling for you and your guests.
Fried Rosemary Watermelon Salad
If you’re looking for a more unique spin on a classic salad recipe, try this one out. Again, since this recipe combines sweet and savory flavors, it can be a great option for either brunch or dinner. It brings a bit of the 4th of July spirit with the pop of color from the watermelon and takes advantage of the delicious sweetness of watermelon in the summer.
To prepare this salad, begin by frying the rosemary.
First, de-stem the rosemary sprigs in a small saucepan on medium-high heat with coconut oil and sea salt. Fry it for five minutes or until it turns brown.
To begin building this dish, spread two cups of full-fat Greek yogurt evenly on a flat plate or serving dish. You’ve likely heard about the benefits of Greek yogurt, like its high protein content, abundant probiotics, and easier digestion by individuals who are lactose intolerant. 
Because of the nutrients that it’s packed with, using Greek yogurt as the base of your salad not only provides a range of health benefits but also helps bust the popular myth that salads leave you feeling hungry after you eat them.
Next, drizzle honey or agave on top of the yogurt in any way or any amount you like. Add chili flakes and sea salt on top of the yogurt to taste.
Now it’s time for the star of the show: the watermelon. Add this on top of the yogurt any way you like—if you want to create a 4th of July themed design, go for it. If you’re in a rush to get everything ready, though, spread the watermelon any way you want. Finally, top it all off with fried rosemary sprigs, drizzling the drippings from the pan on top for added flavor. Finish everything off with poppy seeds, sea salt, and chili flakes to taste.
There you have it: a great, refreshing dish that you can serve as a stand-alone salad or as a side with other meals. Again, this is another option that’s quick and healthy and can please people with different dietary restrictions or preferences: gluten-free, keto, vegetarian, and potentially vegan if you choose to use your favorite non-dairy Greek yogurt and agave.
A Healthy 4th of July Made Easy
With the recipes above, preparing for your 4th of July celebration can be as simple as mixing some healthy, fresh ingredients together and serving up easy-to-make but complex-tasting meals that your guests will enjoy—and all be able to eat. This way, not only can you take charge of your health and fill your body with feel-good foods, but you can also put your money towards local farmers if you shop local rather than at large-scale corporations like pizza places or large supermarkets with pre-made foods filled with mysteriously-sourced ingredients.
The idea of community and patriotism is what 4th of July is really about. So, what better way to celebrate this spirit than by gathering with your friends and family and serving food that everyone can enjoy that combines old traditions with new simple recipes, all while supporting local farmers or shops? Enjoy these dishes and happy 4th of July!
What if we told you that some of the most common health issues in the United States—even the ones that seem completely out of your control—are preventable? You might have heard the saying that food is fuel but think about what happens when you put the wrong kind of fuel in a car—it doesn’t run well. The same goes for your body: if you fill it with beneficial fuel, it runs smoothly; if you don’t, you may end up with one of these common health concerns that are highly preventable through lifestyle choices.
So, if eating healthy, local, high-quality foods can be the solution to so many health issues, why aren’t more people jumping on board? It’s a combination of misinformation about the prices of healthy foods combined with food accessibility issues and increasingly busy lifestyles that make fast food and takeout seem like the easiest option. In the past when humans were hunters and gatherers or when agriculture first began, most everyone’s lives were centered on gathering food and using this fresh, local produce to sustain themselves. Now, individuals are so much more disconnected from the food they eat—getting food is as easy as picking up a microwave dinner off of a shelf at the grocery store or getting a dollar menu meal at your favorite fast food place. Yes, the fact that modern technology has made food so accessible in so many places is great, but with more disconnect from the food gathering and cooking process also come the perils of eating lots of processed foods: the negative effects of foods high in sodium, trans fats, and especially refined sugar.
So, it might be easy to say that some of the most common health issues can be prevented by filling your body with the right kind of fuel—with good quality food—but how do you actually do that? It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re going to eat healthy food or support small businesses instead of franchises, but if you’ve been at work for eight hours and might even be considering bringing some work home that night, getting a burger, fries, and a shake in that drive-thru seems like the best and most stress-free option. Or, if you’ve had a long week filled with work, carpools, or even tasks around the house, but are planning a get-together this weekend, ordering cheap pizza, stuffed cheesy bread, and wings from a popular franchise seems a whole lot easier than cooking for 20. And, of course, if you’re on vacation, eating out every day really seems like the best option, even if you’re staying in a home with a kitchen.
So, yes, it’s understandable: everybody is busy, and food of lesser quality often seems like the quick fix. But consider this: if you’re thinking about your long-term health, is the quick fix really what you want? Is a little bit of time saved now worth the risk for highly preventable health issues later? It doesn’t seem like it. But, again, the work creeps up and even the weekends are filled with work, errands, or chores, and it does sometimes seem like the quick fix is the best way out. What if there was just as quick of a fix that still allowed you to have healthy, high-quality meals made with local produce whether you’re travelling and staying at an Airbnb or hosting a weekend get-together at your house?
This is where Placemat comes in. Placemat’s goal is to change the way individuals eat by connecting local chefs and culinary professionals with meals in the comfort of your own home. The service brings neighborhood ingredients right to your kitchen with the purpose of improving the health of individuals by making nutritious food more accessible, personal, and intentional. We’ve explored how better nutrition can affect overall well-being and are working to tackle just a small part of a complex issue. Most importantly, we want to show that better health is accessible and affordable and can benefit not only the consumer, but also the producer. Placemat takes the perceived difficulty out of eating nutritious meals: booking is done through the website where it’s easy to select a menu that can accommodate any and all dietary restrictions—vegan, vegetarian, Whole30, Paleo, gluten free, or that one person who eats anything and everything, we’re talking to all of you. Our team reaches out to confirm the booking, and on the day of your event, a local chef arrives and prepares your customized, family-style meal for you in less than 90 minutes—we even do the dishes. We’ve already served healthy, affordable, and delicious meals to more than 4,000 people in Nashville and know that we will continue to grow. With this in mind, think twice about ordering mediocre pizza, wings, and soda for your next get-together and try something that can give you a taste of local cuisine, benefits local chefs and businesses, offers a healthy meal, and provides you some quality time with family, friends, or co-workers all in the comfort of your own home or at an Airbnb in a city you’re visiting.