Many people fear that moving towards a more healthy diet, or removing ingredients like gluten or dairy will result in them spending all their spare time in the kitchen... or spending a lot of money.
I do think it is important to get into the kitchen and cook from scratch when the time is available. However, I am also a realist. Sometimes we need short cuts if working late, or trying to juggle family, exercise and a social life. With this in mind, I have compiled a reference list of various different time-saving options which might be useful. This list will continue to update as I come across other solutions for busy lives.
Some of the more bespoke home delivery services won't be for every budget but if you lack time and are either working late or eating on the run then some of these higher end services may not cost you more than you are spending at restaurants and they will be much better for you.
NOTE ON PLASTICS: The impact that plastic contamination from foods and packaging has on health is becoming more widely recognised and while plastics used in convenience meals are considered 'safe for cooking', it will take some time before the regulations which control such things catches up to the science. I recommend transferring the contents of any 'ready meals' to a ceramic or glass container prior to heating to minimise cross-contamination which may occur.
NOTES ON REHEATING: Where possible/practical, use a saucepan/hob or the oven instead of a microwave to reheat foods.
It sounds obvious but supermarket delivery services are awesome for when we're busy or don't want to lug heavy items back home. Instead of wasting time purchasing sub-standard ingredients from depleted shelves late at night after work, allocate 20 minutes on a Saturday to plan 2-3 meals and snacks for the week and have your groceries delivered to your door on Sunday evening.
Create lists of your 'favourites' or even multiple lists so you can have all the ingredients for a few easy meals which you can add to your order quickly. Not sure about the others but Ocado is very convenient in that it lets you keep adding items to your order, when you (undoubtably) remember more items after the order has been placed. Most have an iPhone app so you can create and add to an order while on the move.
Cook - Home Delivery and 40 stores throughout the UK - some GF DF
Cook provide an extensive range of meals which are prepared by chefs at their premises in Kent and then frozen and shipped around the country. The food tastes as good as home cooked (perhaps better in some cases!) and is free from chemicals and additives. They do some gluten-free options. You can purchase single portions or meals for 2 or 4 which cook in the oven and/or microwave in around 45 minutes.
Keep a few in the freezer for those nights when you get home late or take single portions into work for lunch.
Ilumi - Home delivery, vacuum packed meals - GF, DF, NF
This company make a range of vacuum-packed single-serve meals which are free from Gluten, Dairy, Nuts and artificial additives, can be stored at room temperature for 12 months (e.g. in your desk draw at work, ready for lunch or a late finish). Order online and have delivered to your home or office. (I keep a supply at my office for those days when I don't have something prepared.)
They also do a few different gravy, stir fry and curry sauce options - useful to have in the pantry to liven up a quick 'meat and 2 veg' dinner.
Ilumi is also a great option for parents with sensitive children - send them to friends houses or away for a weekend with a few ilumi meals and you know they'll be well fed and safe.
Evolve - Paleo, clean, gourmet weekly food delivery - GF DF
Evolve offer a gourmet delivery service with a range of packages to suit various needs. This is fresh food cooked, snap chilled and vacuum sealed to be refrigerated and eaten within 7 days.
Total Diet Food - Nutritious gourmet daily food delivery - exclusions catered for
TDF offer a tailored meal delivery service which can cater a range of needs. Ingredients are sourced and cooked with care and delivered each morning ready for your day.