Yep, this is one of my long and boring posts...Take from it what you will. My goal: to provide you with real world, practical applications and "how do I get through this without eating grilled chicken over salad every day!?!?" along with some commentary (no ripe avocados at the store?! Never fear!) Feel free to discuss, start swapping ideas, recipes, food, whatevs!!
One of the keys to eating healthy is being prepared. I say “plan your work and work your plan.” With Paleo food, that means stocking your refrigerator, your freezer, your pantry with the things you’ll need and want to eat for the week and beyond. Connect with others in this challenge and swap some meals (we did this 2 years ago back in the Zone days and it kept me away from food boredom).
I will say this: I am amazed at how many things freeze really well, including but not limited to: tomato meat sauce, mashed cauliflower, curry, soups, frittatas and more. The more you can do and have prepared/on hand the less tempted you will be to grab junk food. Right now we have the following in our fridge/freezer which will make these next 45 days so much easier: Several portions of Chicken Tomatillo soup, several portions of curry, quite a few frittata pieces, Charles’ “Paleo Kits” consisting of sautéed red cabbage and grilled salmon, some portions of pot roast with veggies, and I’m sure more! These weren’t all cooked in one day…rather, whenever we’ve made something, we’ve always been sure to make extra extra. Yes, we do love to cook, so cooking isn’t really a “chore” for us. Not everyone is like us we realize. But even if you can’t stand the kitchen, doing some smart planning, always buying more than one portion size, or when you do cook making sure you cook up a vat of whatever it is to freeze leftovers, well rest assured your life will be a ton easier.
Planning ahead will make all the difference, and will save you from having to cook all the time. Charles will be the first to admit that he could eat the same thing every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and would love it if our freezer contained 287 servings of curry. Me, not so much. I have to have diversity. Which is why I like taking leftovers and using them in a different format for the week and not eating the same thing day in and day out. Here’s kind of a weekly planner - with your shopping/staples list - of some items you can make and “recycle” later in the week – with different flavors or accompaniments. A way you could apply this? Take a basic burger for example. Sure, you can have straight up burgers as leftovers, or you can chop up leftover burgers in eggs, saute' up with some tomatoes for a tomato meat sauce, turn them into asian lettuce wraps, etc.!). Get creative! For purposes of this posting, this plan of attack listed below is an attempt to maximize the “leftovers” you have for the few recipes we throw out, and (hopefully) saves you from having to cook and prep/chop all the time. Don't like to chop/prep? Spend the extra moolah on already chopped stuff, or go the Jeff Hayes route with the Slap Chop.
This plan is assuming you are cooking for 2 people in the house. Single? Here’s a novel idea: share this planner with a friend, where one of you cooks 2 or 3 things and the other cooks 2 or 3 and split up the meals. Or invite some friends over for “cooking day.” Or make them all yourself and have TONS of leftovers!
□ At least 2 lbs grassfed ground beef, bison, or ground turkey/chicken (for meat sauce) (makes 8 servings)
□ 2 dozen organic eggs from pastured hens (Frittata will use at least 12 eggs) - along with whatever meat you want to add to your frittata. Suggest about 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts or lean steak.
□ At least 2 lbs pastured/organic chicken breasts
□ At least 2lbs salmon filets
□ At least 1 lb pork chops
□ 1-2 lbs sausage (chicken, pork or other sausage – just check the ingredient list)
□ 2 heads cauliflower (used for mashed cauliflower – freeze the extra you don’t use!)
□ Zucchini (use in frittata, grilled veggies and meat sauce)
□ Mushrooms (use in frittata, meat sauce and stir fry)
□ Yellow (crookneck) squash (use in frittata, grilled veggies and meat sauce)
□ 2 medium sized spaghetti squash
□ Onions (always have these on hand)
□ Tomatoes (for salad)
□ Garlic - always keep this on hand!
□ 1-2 bunches of broccoli (we like getting the kind with the stalks, as we shred the stalks and make broccoli slaw)
□ 1-2 bags of broccoli slaw (refrigerator section in produce area)
□ 2-3 avocados (if your store has no ripe avocados, look for the Wholly Guacamole brand in the fridge section – seen it at publix – no preservatives! Whole Foods also makes a great one)
□ Salsa (get the all natural kind, or make a vat of your own)
□ Salad greens
□ A few apples (I like Granny smith)
□ Some strawberries/blackberries
□ Flat leaf (Italian) parsley
□ A few peppers of your choice (bell, hot, habanero, whatever - use in frittata, grilled veggies, meat sauce)
□ Lemons (great acid to use in dressings and marinades)
□ Any other veggies you particularly like
Aisles (many of these are staples you will already have on hand):
□ Nuts (almonds, walnuts, whatever your heart desires – just not peanuts: they’re legumes!)
□ Olive oil (but you should already have this on hand)
□ Coconut oil (again a great staple to have on hand)
□ 2 cans tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano tomatoes, though they are canned and will have some kind of citric acid added. Pomi makes the tomatoes in a box – and most varieties have no additives)
□ Red wine, balsamic and/or cider vinegar
□ Gluten free chicken broth (check ingredient list..or better yet make your own - can but the organic free range stuff in bulk at Costco)
□ Canned chipotles in adobo sauce
□ Wheat-free soy sauce (tamari)
□ Fish sauce
□ Dijon mustard (great emulsifier for dressings)
Cooking day! Make each recipe to have at least 8 servings.
- Tomato meat sauce (recipe on website here) (stovetop or crockpot)
- Spaghetti squash (bake in oven – simple instructions here)
- Frittata (recipe on website here) (stovetop and oven)
- Grilled chicken, grilled salmon, grilled vegetables (cook on grill or indoor grill pan). I suggest a dry rub on any or all of these, or a marinade of simple garlic/lemon/olive oil.
- Mashed cauliflower (stovetop) – recipe here.
Here's my suggested plan of attack:
1. Chop all the veggies for the frittata, grilled veggies and spaghetti sauce (30 minutes prep)
2. Prep and marinade the chicken (5 minutes prep – let marinade for a few hours)
3. Sauté veggies for frittata, and bake in oven (10-15 minutes prep, 30 minutes or so cook time).
4. Brown meat and garlic for meat sauce (10 minutes)
5. Simmer all veggies in meat sauce (no active work – stir and let simmer for at least an hour, or let cook in a crock pot for hours)
6. Bake spaghetti squash (5 minutes prep, 45 minutes cook time)
7. Cook mashed cauliflower (5 minutes prep, 20 minutes or so cook time)
8. Grill chicken, salmon and veggies (45 mins cook time for all – cooking things in batches)
Your active work time here for ALL of this cooking is less than 2 hours. And you’ve now made a lot of food for the week!
So once you’ve made those items for the week, you can repurpose them in a variety of meals for the week. Here’s a rough example of how you might plan your week:
MEALS FOR THE WEEK
Breakfast/lunch – Big omelet with mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, topped with salsa and guac (20 mins prep and cook time).
Cooking in the afternoon.
Dinner – Some of that freshly grilled chicken with vegetables, and top it off with some chimichurri sauce (recipe here), and maybe a few berries and nuts as “dessert.”
Breakfast – salmon scramble (using grilled salmon from Sunday) sautéed up with some of that broccoli slaw mix, topped with guacamole (5-10 mins cooking).
Lunch – salad with leftover grilled chicken and veggies (made on Sunday), balsamic/olive oil vinaigrette or salsa as your dressing.
Dinner – leftover tomato meat sauce over spaghetti squash, ½ apple with some almond butter
Breakfast – leftover frittata, almonds or avocado
Lunch - leftover salmon, mashed cauliflower, small side salad, handful of nuts
Dinner – Leftover chicken used for quick spicy chicken & vegetable stir-fry (5-10 mins cooking – chicken is already cooked so it cooks up super fast!). Here’s a recipe idea.
Breakfast – simple scrambled eggs & bacon with sautéed veggies and fruit and avocado or nuts(5-10 mins cooking)
Lunch – Chipotle Chicken salad salad (using chicken from Sunday cook fest and chipotle sauce – use chipotle sauce like you would mayo, and add in some chopped up granny smith apple and walnuts. Serve over salad greens!)
Dinner – pan seared pork-chops with mustard/caper sauce (recipe idea here), oven roasted garlic broccoli (recipe here) (make enough for leftovers!) and whatever fat you want (20-25 mins cooking)
Breakfast – leftover frittata topped with guac and salsa
Lunch – out with co-workers – do something like a turkey burger, no bun, side salad and sautéed mushrooms/onions - see if they have a side of guac
Dinner – Leftover tomato meat sauce over spaghetti squash, whatever fat you want
Breakfast - turkey sausage sautéed with onions and peppers, guacamole (5-10 mins cooking)
Lunch – leftover pan seared pork-chops with caper/lemon sauce, leftover oven roasted garlic broccoli and nuts
Dinner – out for Mexican! Order fajitas with extra veggies and guacamole, no rice, beans or tortillas.
Breakfast – basic scrambled eggs with veggies and curry paste, berries and almond butter.
Lunch – Grilled salmon salad, balsamic vinaigrette, walnuts on salad
Dinner - Tomato meat sauce and spaghetti squash. Fruit topped with nuts for dessert
Assuming 2 people in the house followed this plan, at the end of the week, you’d still have (most likely – really depends on your portion sizes):
- at least 4 frittata portions
- at least 2 tomato sauce/spaghetti squash portions
- at least 2 portions of salmon
- some leftover mashed cauliflower
- and probably some other veggies that went unused
This is just a sample I made up and is somewhat similar to how we live our life at Casa Mayfield. The basic premise is to devote some time on the weekends or some night to cook up a bunch of stuff to have on hand. With rare exception, we pretty much never cook a meal without leftovers (except for scrambled eggs...they're so quick and easy to cook). If you’re going to cook, make it your job to create leftovers! (p.s. – curry ALWAYS tastes better the next day…just saying). With those leftovers that you can freeze, you now can cook up two or three meals on Sunday the following week to add to your culinary delights. Or if you're going to be out of town, know you have at least a few days worth of food when you return to get you through. See how this works? Thoughts or comments on it?
Stay tuned: we are hoping to do a little cooking basics get together, recipe swap/potluck, or something like that in the near future.
What about you? How do you go about preparing and planning for meals for the week?