Wow, I could feel myself getting so defensive over this post. Then I got to the last paragraph. Why in the world do I think "start cooking wholesome meals made from real foods" translates into I must become a kitchen diva that prepares everything from scratch. You are so right. It's simple, really. Fruit/oatmeal for breakfast; a salad or soup for lunch; etc.
No matter how much I (or any one else) works/puts time into their priorities, you are absolutely right, we can feed ourselves wholesome food that doesn't have to take hours to make.Eliza makes a great point. We all have time to make our own foods, the problem is that we've been led to believe that cooking is always complicated, time consuming and messy.
It's the Kitchen Diva Syndrome. We're so bombarded by cooking shows extolling time consuming recipes incorporating ingredients that we have to go on a scavenger hunt for, that we think that's the only way to cook.
Now, I love to cook, and really love to get in the kitchen and challenge myself culinarily by whipping up an elaborate meal.
But, let's get real here, I'm a working Mom with two kids (one who is autistic) who's also trying to fit in exercise every day. Most of my "cooking" involves whipping up a family dinner in less then 30 minutes (oftentimes less then 20), and my personal breakfast and lunches usually can't take more then five to ten minutes.
Getting dinner on the table every night, and me fed every morning and afternoon means easy, low prep, and simple ingredients (I also don't have time to run to the store every day).
Some things are just plain simple. It takes less then a minute to peel and eat a banana for breakfast. Sometimes I like to spread raw almond butter on my banana and even when I do that, it's still less then a minute. Halving and seeding a cantaloupe takes virtually no time and preparing and popping oatmeal in the microwave gets breakfast ready for me in less then 5 minutes. Probably the most elaborate stuff I make for myself for breakfast are eggs. A couple of soft boiled eggs takes about 9 minutes to make and I toast some multi-grain bread while the eggs are cooking. An egg white omelet takes about the equivalent amount of time--which is still less time then it would take to get to a fast food joint and wait for them to prepare it.
Lunch is usually a salad. I buy the pre-washed mixed greens, shredded cabbage and carrots, add some raw almonds or cashews for "crunch", and I usually chop a whole red onion at one time so that it lasts me for a week. Maybe I'll slice up some cucumber, mango, avocado or pepper, and I make my salad dressings, in bulk, about once a week. I can usually throw together a salad and get back to work on my computer in less then ten minutes.
Dinner usually takes some planning, but a light sprinkling of salt and pepper (and maybe dried parsley) on salmon or boneless chicken breast prior to slapping it on a pre-heated grill pan gets dinner ready in less then 15 minutes. While the salmon or chicken is cooking I can whip up another salad or steam broccoli or asparagus, and maybe cook some rice as well.
Cooking once and eating twice is also a staple. Some foods naturally freeze well, so if I'm making a minestrone (essentially vegetable soup) it just behooves me to make a big batch and freeze half to have when I don't have the time to prepare minestrone from scratch. Italian girl that I am, I can't fathom the concept of using jarred tomato sauce, so when I make it, I make enough for three or four meals.
I'm also a huge fan of low prep time/long baking time meals. Do you know how long it takes to prep a chicken for roasting??? Less then five minutes. It takes a while to roast (depending on the size and hour or more), but I can be working, helping the kids with homework, exercising etc., while that's happening.
So, despite what you've been led to believe by the Barefoot Contessa, Martha Stewart, Paula Deane and other Kitchen Divas, you don't have to go to elaborate lengths to prepare food for yourself. You don't even need a recipe.
Like the Nike commercial says--Just Do it. You'll be glad you did.