Some people like to meal plan ahead for a week or two at a time. I have friends that are able to plan ahead by 1 month. Everybody has an approach that works best for their family, personal food preferences, amount they like to cook, opportunities to get to the grocery store due to budget or location/schedule & how often they will be eating at home. I prefer to plan out for 3-4 days ahead of time. Anything more than that and I lose interest in what I have planned or I change my mind. I always have pantry staples so that I can make several quick meals to round out the week.
1) Buy or thaw out some proteins. Thinking ahead 3-4 days works best for me, any more than that there is a chance I will waste meat by letting it sit too long. I try to pick some chicken, some beef, some pork & some fish so that we get a lot of variation. At least one of those I plan to turn into a large recipe so that there are plenty of leftovers (for example: chili, pork shoulder, whole chicken)
2) Kid’s lunches:
This is not a “perfectly Paleo” list. This is my compromise with them for having a good attitude about Paleo, something crunchy like Sweet Potato chips in their lunch. My daughter usually just wants her refillable bottle of water, but it is still important to my son to have a “juice box” like the other kids. (He requests kale each morning for breakfast, a juice box isn’t going to hurt him.”
3) I buy these items each week:
These are our must haves, I can make a lot of meals and side dishes out of these.
Also, depending on season & prices:
4) I make a jar of 3 Minute Mayo & a jar of homemade salad dressing each week. Besides being great on a burger, you can make a very quick chicken/tuna/salmon salad if you have homemade mayo on hand.
5) I make toasted coconut flakes at least once a week, usually seasoned with salt & cinnamon. I usually bake 1-2 different Paleo-ish baked goods for my kids & hubby to snack on. Usually a muffin, a paleo bread, crackers, cookies or brownies. I favor almond flour, but am always experimenting with coconut flour so the snacks are able to school in lunches (nut-free schools). I am currently experimenting with ground raw sunflower seed powder as a one-for-one substitute for almond flour. Keep an eye on my blog for how that is going. (Idea from Paleo Parents & Fresh4Five)
6)I check my pantry and make sure that it is stocked. I always have:
7) My Everything-Went-Wrong-Day backup plan is a gluten-free pizza for the kids. I usually either have the pizza in the freezer (Udi’s brand) or just the crusts to be topped with some clean tomato sauce, cheese & veggies. I also keep a couple of Paleo freezer meals on hand for those kind of nights. (I order from Feed Your Vitality here in STL.)
8) Prepping your veggies ahead of time is a huge advantage. Bake several sweet potatoes at once in the oven or the Crock Pot. Turn your zuchinni, sweet potato, carrots into “ribbons” or “noodles” ahead of time. Chop/dice your squash, sweet potato, beets, parsnips, turnips & parsnips ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready. Stick a spaghetti squash in the microwave for 6 minutes or so & shred out the “noodles.” Seal them up in a container till you are ready for them and finish cooking in a saucepan.
9) Don’t feel like you have to prepare a masterpiece each week. We eat burgers and sweet potato fries each and every week. We usually have chicken legs every week. It is easy and the kids love them, so we just keep coming back to it!
10) Try to prep ahead for breakfasts. I sometimes make bacon, sausage, or burgers ahead of time so they are ready in the fridge. Put together an egg casserole or egg muffins. Make a bunch of Paleo pancakes, or muffins to keep in the fridge. You can assemble a pretty great breakfast in the same time it takes to pour a bowl of cereal if you have things ready and on hand. Add some fruit or veggies & dip.
I thought I already had this “not-really-a-recipe” posted on my blog, but I can’t seem to find it, so here it is. I am calling this dish “Weekly Sweet Potato Hash” because we eat it at least once a week. Usually the night that we are scrambling around in a hurry. I can have this ready in 20 minutes or so and almost always have the ingredients in the house.
Adapt this any way you want with whatever veggies you have in the fridge. You can also take the spices a lot of different ways. I really enjoy using Penzey’s Breakfast Sausage Seasoning or Tsardust Memories Seasoning for my hash. A little garlic, sage and paprika also gives it a nice flavor. Swap out the veggies, use ground sausage or pork instead of the links, or use bacon.
I like to cook my eggs separately and put them over hash on individual plates. I usually have leftover hash, so I can pack it away in the fridge egg-free!
If you are following a Paleo/Primal lifestyle with no grains and no sugars, squash and sweet potatoes are going to quickly become a favorite source of dense, complex carbohydrates. If you have heard that Paleo/Primal is a “low carb” approach, that isn’t entirely true. By nature of no grains and no sugar, you eliminate huge sources of high carbohydrate, processed foods. However, there are no “limits” to the amount of fruit, veggies & complex carbs, such as sweet potato, that you can consume. This is a part of the lifestyle that you have to figure out what makes you “Look, Feel & Perform” the best. Your insulin sensitivity, weight loss/gain/maintenance goals, gender & activity level will play a role in how many carbohydrates you take in at any give time. You have to eXperiment and see what works for you! (Stay tuned for “X is for eXperiment: n=1″)
At our house sweet potatoes, zucchini, yellow summer squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and butternut squash make pretty frequent appearances on our plate. Summer & Fall will bring some new and interesting varieties of squash to the Farmer’s Market. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things!
The biggest obstacle to getting the squash and sweet potatoes on your plate is the amount of time it takes to prepare them. The time is mostly hands off, but you have to think ahead and be prepared. I have recently found you can throw whole squashes & sweet potatoes in the Crockpot (washed) and set it on low for 6-8 hours. They are perfectly cooked and absolutely no work. No worries about cutting off your hand!
Sweet Potatoes can be cut up ahead of time, just put in a container and pour water over them. The smaller you cut it, the faster it will cook. Drain and use when you are ready!
Don’t be afraid to throw diced sweet potato into a a bowl of chicken soup or beef stew. They are also a perfect companion to an egg/bacon or sausage/veggie scramble. Dice into small cubes, saute in coconut oil/butter/bacon grease till soft, put off to the side in a bowl. Add to your finished eggs. This is a meal we probably eat once a week.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes or Sweet Potato Puree are a staple. Spice it up with different spice combinations so it doesn’t get boring. One of my favorites is adding a teaspoon or so of the adobo sauce that is in a can of chipotle peppers. Makes them warm and spicy, but not overpowering. Of course, butter and cinnamon are always a winner when it comes to sweet potatoes.
One of my favorite spices to use with sweet potatoes is Tsardust Memories from Penzeys Spices. ( Hand-mixed from: salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, marjoram. ) The garlic & cinnamon combo is a winner!
This is an excellent way to satisfy any cravings you have for pasta. Take the same elements you love in your favorite pasta dish and toss them with some spaghetti squash noodles. They are also a wonderful side dish to any meat by tossing with some olive oil/butter and sprinkling with some Parmesan cheese (if you can do a little aged dairy.)
Butternut Squash has a really earthy flavor that I think pairs well with bacon! And so does everybody else. :) Also, sometimes you can get lucky and find butternut squash already peeled and cubed at the grocery store. This takes a lot of work out of things. However, baking or putting it in the CrockPot a head of time will eliminate most of the drudgery behind peeling and shopping these things. My collection and experimentation with butternut squash is embarrassingly low. The truth is, we like the soup from Balanced Bites so much, that I stick with it. It is one of my hubby’s favorite dishes, and a great holiday dish. I served it at Christmas last year.
An excellent side dish is cubed butternut squash sauteed in bacon grease and then add crumbled bacon, onions & a few handfuls of fresh spinach to wilt at the end. It is delicious and filling! Don’t be afraid to throw some diced butternut squash into soups and stews, it will lend a buttery, rich flavor to the dish. It pair well with chicken and pork.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy acorn squash is simply to cook it and top with coconut butter/butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. The shape of acorn squash, make them a perfect vessel for filling with meat, and many recipes you find will lead you that direction. I topped an acorn squash with leftover Mexican Raisin Chicken and an avocado and it was a pretty delicious little dish. I need to add more acorn squash recipes to my blog! As I experiment this fall, I will come back and add some winning recipes! If you have any good ones, feel free to send them my way!
I love all things pumpkin! I stock up on canned pumpkin during the holidays so that I have it all year long. Canned pumpkin is one of the few “clean” canned foods available, so I am not going to lie: I always use canned. You will never find me roasting a whole one, unless we are making seeds for the kids. I take advantage of all the shortcuts I can get, and canned pumpkin is one of the few!
I wanted to give my readers a little peek into my kitchen. Just like everybody else, I am pressed for time in the kitchen. I do not use many processed foods, but I have a few things that verge on processed that I use regularly and don’t worry about too much. Maybe you will pick up a helpful hint or two and find ways to save time in the kitchen.
I have no issue purchasing prechopped vegetables. (Brussels sprouts sliced are pictured above.) I don’t always do it. A lot of times it depends on where I am shopping that week. They are a bit more expensive, but if that makes the difference between you eating them, and letting them rot in your crisper drawer, I say go for it! Trader Joe’s seems to always have some unique things available, but your local grocery has options. Explore! I frequently pick up cole slaw, broccoli slaw, butternut squash (in season), cauliflower, carrots & broccoli already prepped and ready to go.
There is nothing wrong with frozen veggies either, so use them if you want. (Frozen chopped purple sweet potatoes pictured above.) I found them at a local International foods market. I also found pureed purple sweet potatoes & chopped lemongrass in the frozen department. The labels are clean with no additional ingredients! Yay!
I use these onions (pictured in the canister above) from Thrive foods 90% of the time when I am cooking. Onions are in nearly every recipe I make with meat and veggies and it just saves so much time to use this product. I order this large container from Thrive, but you can get them at any grocery store or bulk food market. Just read labels to be sure you are buying a clean version. You simply throw the amount needed into some water and let them plump up a bit and they are ready to go.
Again, garlic is in most of my meat recipes so this is a big time saver. This product from Trader Joe’s is one of my favorites, but this kind of thing can be found at most groceries. Just check labels for icky ingredients. This one has California garlic and citric acid. I like that it comes in a small container and I quickly use it up, never have to worry about it going bad.
I try to keep a couple of these sausages on hand for quick meals. Again, Trader Joe’s has several different flavors available, but so do regular grocery stores. Make sure to look for Gluten Free and no MSG, you may find some additional sweeteners. These are great to slice up, heat and throw into a scramble, hash or salad.
I have said it before and I will say it over and over again: I LOVE PENZEY’S! (Tsardust Memories pictured above.) They have a wonderful catalog and website. Order from them, you won’t be sorry. Some of my favorite seasoning blends include Tsardust Memories, Breakfast Sausage Seasoning & Greek Seasoning. These are time savers because they are already premixed and perfect! You don’t have to grab 5 different bottles and measure out amounts when throwing together a 15 minute dinner. There are plenty of these types of mixes on your supermarket shelves (Steak Seasoning pictured above), just make sure to read labels and be sure they don’t sneak anything dirty into them.
Those are some of my most used “cheats” to getting meals ready quickly, but with lots of flavor.
Tonight’s dinner included a few of my shortcuts: sliced Brussels sprouts, Smoked Chicken Chardonnay Apple Sausage & Penzey’s Tsardust Seasoning. No specific measurements, I just sauteed the sweet potatoes & apples in coconut oil till tender, added the Brussels sprouts, seasoned with Tsardust Seasoning and added the sausage. The hubby grilled the sausages for a minute (along with some chicken breast for later in the week) while he watched the Rams game.
I am getting ready to start a 6 week Paleo Challenge with my friend Alex, of ReBorn Health, LLC. I am going to be eating pretty strict paleo, concentrating on whole foods with minimal ingredient lists. The biggest change for me will be limiting the paleo treats and occasional paleo-friendly processed things that creep in. Also, taking it easy on the dairy, nuts and seeds. Also, the husband is promising to stop bring dark chocolate bars into the house.
I like to menu plan, but it doesn’t work for us to do it too far ahead of time. A week is great. More than that, and I find that when it gets around to week 3 I am not in the mood to eat what I have planned and then it isn’t fun. I also like to wing dinner a bit. To get ready for this challenge, I have basically developed a list of the recipes and dishes that I am going to prepare over the next 6 weeks or so. These recipes are mostly recipes I have made before, so I have all the spices necessary. They also aren’t anything too fancy, so I can just get stocked up on pantry staples. I am going to go shopping to stock up on meat, but just hit the store weekly to get veggies. I like to vary the vegetables most nights anyhow, based on what was on sale or looked good.
I have my list divided out by protein categories, with some veggie recipes tacked on to the end that I might experiment with. Otherwise, I will just have a lot of salads and veggies on hand to accompany the dinners. I have included links where I could and tried to note what recipes might be prepared on the grill or crockpot.
When it comes time to plan for the week, I can just pick what looks good based on our schedule, thaw out the protein and get some veggies at the store.
Remember, cook more than you think you will need so you have leftovers. Eat leftovers for breakfast! Eat leftovers for lunch. For snacks. You get the picture.
These recipes are mostly compliant with the Reborn Paleo Challenge, except to double check your ingredient lists, especially if you are in the first week.
Eggs (using any leftover proteins and veggies)
Salads (using leftover proteins & oil/vinegar dressings)
This post is mostly procrastination to avoid the 14 loads of laundry and massive cleaning that needs to occur before my family gets here in about 24 hours. I have made a meal plan and shopping list for our Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas brunch contributions, though.
I haven’t included any links, but with any luck these will all turn out great. I will snap some pics and post proper links later. Merry Christmas!
Christmas Eve Dinner:
on the grill
Brussel Sprout slaw (from Paleo Comfort Foods)
brussel sprouts sliced thinly, bacon, dijon vinegar dressing
Cranberry Orange salad (also from Paleo Comfort Foods)
fresh cranberries and clementines boiled down
Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples (check out my last blog post)
cubed sweet potatoes, applesauce, cinnamon and butter roasted together
Christmas Morning while opening gifts:
Paleo Monkey Bread (Paleo Parents blog)
I can’t wait to try this “healthier” version of a childhood favorite…still lots of sugar but no gluten reaction…not to mention the processed food that is a refridgerator biscuit…oh my.
Christmas Morning Brunch:
Bacon, Egg and Sweet Potato Brunch Casserole (also from Paleo Parents blog)
Just another variation on the baked egg idea, I am modifying this one a little
Paleo Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Maple-Vanilla Frosting (from The Clothes Make the Girl)
After the 3 day weekend and a lot of traveling, I am pretty unorganized for this week. The hubby and I discussed and this is what we have come up with for our list of what we would like to make over the next week. Grocery list will have to wait till tomorrow…
Seafood Enchiladas (from Everyday Paleo cookbook) w/ avocado
Pork Chops w/ apples and asparagus …will wing this one
Sweet Potato/sausage/egg breakfast hash
Chicken Marabella (crockpot recipe)
Garden Fresh Meatballs (from Everyday Paleo)
Chicken nuggets (for the kids lunches) always experimenting with this one
Baba Ganoush (because I have eggplant and I miss hummus)
Now that the weather is cooler, I am dreaming of about every which way I can incorporate my pumpkin cravings into my paleo diet. A lot of experimenting to do. First up…Pumpkin Spice Lattes with coconut milk. Saving myself $3 a pop on this one. Yay! I love fall!
This week is busy, with school starting and various appointments. I am also trying to use up some of what is left in my pantry and fridge, for a fresh start next week. I just had a great discussion with a friend yesterday about how difficult it is to plan meals, grocery shop, then have the energy to come home and fix the actual dinner you planned. The biggest challenge with this “problem” is it is NEVER-ENDING! It comes around everyday. Possible solutions: crock-pot, freezing leftovers for future meals, accepting that dinner can just be a healthy “snack”…doesn’t have to be an amazing recipe creation every night.
Here is a run-down of how this week should go:
M- Bacon, guacamole, lettuce, egg, Udi’s Gluten free bread (this went two ways…a Bacon, guac, lettuce wrap & Bacon, egg, guac, lettuce sandwiches) I forgot to buy a tomato. This is a good example of how a snack can make a great dinner, very easily. When in doubt, add avocado! (Just a tip: I try to keep whole avocados on hand for slicing, but I also keep the already-made guacamole from the produce section handy in the fridge. If I have been to Costco recently, I will buy a multipack and keep them in the freezer so that I have some ready to thaw if needed. We have avocado/guacamole on hand 90% of the time!)
T-Hungarian chicken in crockpot – I am adapting recipe, will let you know how it goes and post later. Involves chicken, tomato sauce, onions and lots of paprika!
W-Sweet Potato, eggs, bacon – I didn’t get around to the egg baskets from last week, but am going to get it done this week! Recipe linked in blog post from last week.
R-Smoky Paleo Chili – I have a wonderful Smoky BBQ chili recipe that I need to adapt Paleo, add meat, take out the beans. I will post that soon, too. Uses chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, I have them frozen in single servings in the freezer. 1 can of chipotle peppers goes a long way!
F & Sat - family coming to visit, so we are eating leftovers (sweet potato egg baskets & paleo chili) and eating out!
The posts that my friends seem to enjoy the most are meal planning and dinner ideas. So here is the list hanging in my kitchen this week.
M: Grilled Salmon, veggie and sweet potato foil packets
(veggies = onions, zucchini, mushrooms)
T: Crockpot Chicken with 40 Cloves garlic, okra, salad
(old recipe adapted, probably only 20 garlic cloves, using a whole chicken)
W: Cashew Chicken Stew (using shredded chicken leftover from Tuesday) link below
R: Breakfast – Sweet Potato and Egg cups from Everyday Paleo (link below), greens
F: Leftovers … going out of town
Treat: Making macaroons with coconut and pineapple from Everyday Paleo blog. Here is the link for the macaroon recipe and the egg “baskets” I am making on Thursday. Happens to be a post from Easter, with a lot of great thoughts on why holidays don’t have to be about a lot of candy. A certain candy filled holiday is sneaking up on us!
Cashew Chicken Stew recipe from other blog post