Sticking With It: Prep Day

Eating Paleo has required me to completely alter my approach toward cooking at home.  The past four years have not featured me at my dietary best – two of them were spent alternating between backpacking in Europe/Africa/Australia and crashing at my mom’s house, while the other two were spent in graduate school, where I was such a hot academic mess that I either forgot to eat or overate 100% of the time.  If I wanted to cook something (which I rarely did), I went to the store that day to pick up ingredients.  I learned this trick in Italy, where it is customary to put something on the table that was bought at the market today.  Now that I’m settled in Seattle, back in the workforce and following a nutritional scheme that makes eating out difficult, I’ve had to transition from a day-of-market lady to a stock-up-the-pantry kind of girl.

I’ve become obsessed with finding recipes that are not only portable, but delicious when served hot, cold, or at room temperature.  I spend a couple of hours every Tuesday (otherwise known as my Saturday) trying to figure out what I will want for dinner come Friday so that I can prep it out on Wednesday.  Then, I look at my calendar and figure out how many days and nights I’ll be out of the house for dinners with girlfriends, family lunches, or incredibly hot dates (HA! Clearly that last one is a joke.  Hot dates? Me. Please).  Once I know what and when I’ll be eating specific dishes, it’s time for the grocery store and from there it’s on to prep day.

From the moment I committed to Paleo and Whole 30, one thing became achingly clear: I do not own enough tupperware (and the tupperware I do have is decidedly uncool).  Nor do I have enough fridge space for everything I prep.  A Target store is opening up in downtown Seattle and I’m excited about it because it will give me instant, easy access to bulk tupperware.  Am I an adult or the biggest nerd of all time? You decide.

So… back to prep day.  Once a week, I devote a couple of hours to putting together all my dinners, prepping out my lunches, creating snack bags and baking a variety of egg muffins / bacon for breakfast.  My kitchen has become a science laboratory where I’m developing snacks that can be grabbed just as easily as my once-favored Greek yogurt when I’m on a mad dash to catch the bus that I’m probably going to miss anyway.  This week, prep day consists of the following:

  • Dinner prep: Chipotle Lime Pork Taco filling; roast/mash sweet potatoes; chop/flash steam veggies
  • Lunch prep: chop veggies; poach chicken; hard-boil eggs; Mango-Avocado salsa
  • Breakfast prep: egg cups; bacon prep
  • Snacks: homemade Lara Bars

Some things, such as sliced avocados or poached eggs, can’t be prepped until they are ready to be eaten.  That’s okay.  The purpose of prep day isn’t to get it all done in advance – it’s to make your life easier once the work week starts and everything starts to run away from you.  I portion out five work dinners as soon as they cool and put them on a dinner shelf in my fridge.  Lunch fixings (salad, soup, or taco components) are kept in separate containers, to be tossed together when I’m hungry.  Snacks are portioned and bundled for the entire week so that I can grab and go whenever I know I’ll be out of the house for more than a few hours.

From there, eating Paleo becomes easy.  I’ve put in the time, created some delicious things and am ready to enjoy them in less than 15 minutes (in most cases).  It would take more time than that to be served an entree at any restaurant in the city.  And it’s inexpensive – the beet salad I’m having for lunch tomorrow will be waaaaaaaay cheaper than a $12 salad plus tax and gratuity at the organic bistro down the street.

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