Every week, I receive dozens of emails asking me the same questions: “How do you make sure you have Paleo or Clean Eating meals on hand all the time?” “I’m really busy – what kind of meals can I grab on the go?” “How do you cook from scratch every single meal?” The answers are simple: I plan ahead. I own a LOT of Tupperware. And I don’t cook from scratch more than twice a week (even someone who loves to spend time in the kitchen as much as I do would go a little nuts cooking more than that with a busy work schedule!). I’ve spoken before about the importance of meal planning and preparation when it comes to maintaining a balanced diet (and not being tempted by the bakery’s case of gluten-laden dietary disasters during your afternoon coffee break). Today, I’m going to walk you through the entire process, from meal selection to grocery shopping to preparation and packaging.
Some people are averse to eating off of leftovers – I am not one of them. I typically choose 3-5 dishes to make each week, making sure they are versatile enough that I’ll enjoy them for any of my three daily meals. I also make sure to have extra eggs, breakfast sausage, bananas, and trail mix on hand every week. Sometimes I choose all new meals to experiment with, sometimes I work with tried-and-true recipes, and sometimes I mix in new and old recipes (this usually depends on how much time I have to play around on prep day). This week, I chose to work with the following recipes:
This week, I also planned ahead for the meals I know I’m going to eat out – five shifts at El Gaucho = five nights in which I’ll enjoy either a 6 oz. top sirloin (no butter! no extra salt!) with a side of peppercorn sauce OR pancetta-wrapped jumpo prawns (no butter!) topped with golden raisin pesto.
There are certain things that I always keep in my pantry, as they are absolutely necessary for 90% of everything I cook at home. These ingredients include: coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemons/limes, bananas, a variety of raw nuts, almond meal, coconut flour, almond milk, paleo sriracha, sweet potatoes, and eggs. I stock up on organic chicken breast, sausage, chicken stock, canned coconut milk, pork tenderloin, and steak whenever I see a good deal at the grocery store (freezing whatever I don’t need right away). Everything else I pick up on an as-needed basis. This week, my grocery list looked like this:
White Chicken Chili: yellow onion, 2 – 4 oz. cans green chilies, lime juice
Mushroom and Sweet Potato Gratin: 7 c. mushrooms (any kind), parsley, green onions
Greek Meatballs: ground lamb, ground beef
Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad: dried/unsweetened cherries, 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, yellow onion
If you don’t have a stocked Paleo or Clean Eating kitchen, you will want to check out the recipes for more necessary ingredients. Don’t forget to pick up ample Tupperware for packing up and portioning your meals! Once grocery shopping is done, it’s time to do the fun stuff…
I run an incredibly busy schedule – between three jobs, marathon training, CrossFit, and an increasingly hyper-active social life, I have less time than I’d like to spend in the kitchen. I shoot for one or two days each week to prepare everything I’ll need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all week long. Let’s pretend I have enough time (about 3 hours) to make everything I need for a full week. Here’s how I go about it all.
1) Determine what recipes need oven time and which need stove-top time. This week, I have two recipes that need oven time (meatballs and gratin) and two that need stove time (Chili and Salad). Preheat your oven for the recipe that needs a lower temperature and get to prepping.
2) Prep (i.e.: chop, dice, shred, whisk, etc) every ingredient on your list and take out every pantry/refrigerated item (spices, flour, milk, etc.) that you’ll need. This makes executing your recipes super fast. You’ve seen how they whiz through everything on the Today Show, right? Try to emulate that in your kitchen.
3) Starting with the fastest dish, put everything together. This week, I mixed the handful of ingredients needed for the meatballs together and had them baking in under 5 minutes. I moved on to browning chicken for the chili before heating oil in a skillet to prepare the Brussels Sprout Salad. I was surprised to find the salad was finished before I had finished browning the chicken for the chili. I set the salad aside and began to reduce the mushrooms for the gratin. Once the chili had been put together and was simmering, I started putting together the gratin. The meatballs finished right around the same time, so I cranked up the oven to get it ready for the gratin. By the time it was preheated, I was ready to pop the dish in the oven. Twenty minutes in, the chili had finished simmering; thirty minutes later, the gratin was finished.
4) Let everything cool (if necessary). If you’d like to, you can pre-portion everything into Tupperware containers. Otherwise, store each dish in a sealed container until you’re ready to serve (or take out with you).
5) Meals for the week have been completed! You’re all set to enjoy everything – and only spent about an hour of active time while getting ready for the day, catching up on your DVR, spending some quality time on Pinterest, or working out in the comfort of your own home!