Melissa’s Rap: I am a busy woman. Between being a mom, working a full-time leadership position, writing a blog and juggling a household, I don’t have a lot of extra time. So, when I decided to eat Paleo, I quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of cooking (and dishes) that came with it. With practice, though, I found a system that worked for me.
Step 1: Research Recipes
If you know me well, you know I am not a fan of cooking. Unlike my sister, who I nicknamed Betty Crocker when we were in high school, I have a million other things I’d rather do than stand in a kitchen cooking for hours on end (or even shorter stints, for that matter). And, unlike Sarah, it has not been my experience that throwing random ingredients together results in them magically turning into a delicious meal. So, I am not exactly adventurous in the kitchen, and I tend to find a few recipes and stick with them. However, Sarah hooked me up with a couple of great books that have been great sources of recipes: the Autoimmune Wellness Handbook and the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook. I also found these to be great resources: The Paleo Kid, The Paleo Kid Lunchbox and Paleo Kid Snacks by Kate Evans Scott. You could also search for paleo recipes online and you will not be at a loss of options to try.
The best thing is, you can fit in recipe research anywhere: bring a cookbook with you to a doctor’s appointment or whip out your phone for some Pinterest recipe-searching while you wait for a meeting to begin. For my own convenience and to be more efficient, I printed out or copied those that I enjoyed (or let’s face it – this is me we are talking about – were super easy to make) and kept those together so I wouldn’t have to search for them each week.
If you have autoimmune disease or other illnesses that cause fatigue, then you may want to skip the recipe and just get some meat, vegetables and fruit. Baby steps. That is how I started and what I resort to during difficult symptom weeks.
Step 2: Shop!
Make a list of what ingredients you’ll need or just grab your recipes and head to the store. I try to buy the ingredients the day of or the day before I plan to do bulk cooking whenever possible, so that they are fresh. I buy enough to make breakfast and lunch for a week, as well as enough for full meals when the kids are with me.
Find a good list app so that you can conveniently update your grocery list on the go. Wunderlist is my fave! Here is an example of a typical grocery list I would use:
Frozen Green Beans
Strawberries (organic whenever possible)
Blueberries (organic whenever possible)
Chicken & Kale Sausage
Coconut Milk (canned, without added ingredients, like this one)
Great Lakes Gelatin (Try this one)
Organic Coconut Oil
Spices I like to have on hand:
Step 3: Prep and Package
Lunches/Dinners: Set aside a few hours on your off day for cooking and packaging up your meals. I don’t have a lot of counter space, but I still get out all the ingredients at once, because I tend to combine things and I plan to knock it out as quickly as possible. I get out several baking dishes and coconut oil. Then I get 3-4 different types of meat baking at once. I cut up fresh garlic and mushrooms and throw them in with the different meat dishes. Then I start chopping up garlic and veggies and I put them on the stove to sauté. I don’t bother cooking the frozen veggies because they will cook when I reheat later in the week. So, I pour those into different bento-box style lunchboxes while the other items are cooking (these are my favorites.) Glass is always always preferred, but heavier, so since I walk quite a distance from my car to work, I tend to use plastic and then I can use a paper or glass plate I keep at work to reheat.
As each of the dishes finish up, I add them to the different lunchboxes I have spread out on the countertop. I mix up the combinations, so one day I may have chicken with sweet potatoes and bok choy cooked with garlic and coconut aminos. Another day I’ll have chicken with yellow squash and green beans. Once they are cool enough, I seal them all up with the lids and stick them in the freezer.
Breakfast: If I have the energy after I knock out the lunches, I tackle breakfast. Otherwise, I tackle it the next day. I do kind of the same thing with the breakfast breads. I mix up a few different batters one after the other. While one is cooking, I mix another. I typically only get through 2-3 different batches before I am beat, but that is enough to get me through the week – both for mornings when I am on my own and larger batches for when I have the kids. I’ll even cook up a meat and add it to the breakfast bento box, so that I’ll have some extra protein.
After all that, I feel good for accomplishing so much in a short time, and I feel less stressed knowing I have healthy Paleo meals I can grab and help me stay on track with my busy schedule. Now, if only I had someone to help me with the dishes!
Step 4: Defrost and Enjoy
The day before, I’ll take one of the breakfast boxes and lunchboxes out and stick it in the fridge. That way, by the time I am ready for breakfast or lunch the next day, they are ready to go. I heat my paleo breakfast bread in the oven and will typically pair it with a coconut yogurt with some fresh berries and soaked chia mixed in. Later, at work, I just dump the contents of my bento box onto a plate and pop the lunch in the microwave. Two minutes later, I have a healthy, nutritious paleo meal! It saves me a ton of money, and reduces my chances of eating something I shouldn’t.
When I am having an EXTRA busy week, or a tough week symptom-wise, I will typically have a few of Amy’s brand frozen curry dishes on hand. They are good in a pinch and I feel good about them. I don’t react to them, like I do other processed foods, and they contain more nutritious ingredients than some other brands out there.
Step 5: Snacks!
For snacks, I like to take fresh fruit or vegetables, a paleo bar, a banana with a Justin’s Nut Butter packet for protein, or a squeezie fruit/veg pouch for a quick shot of nutrition on a busy day. Toss them in your bag and you’ll have something healthy to snack on in between meals. If you have a cooler with you (i.e. for work), maybe throw in a mini-hummus or guacamole to go with your veggies, or include a yogurt of choice (I prefer coconut yogurt) with some pomegranate seeds or blueberries on the side to mix in later.
Step 6: Take it one week a time
When you break Paleo meals down into week-sized chunks like this, it makes a big difference. If you think about it big picture, it can get overwhelming. Just take it one week at a time and go easy on yourself. Honor your body and your schedule, only doing what you are capable of each particular week.
If you are new to the Paleo diet, hang in there. It takes some getting used to, but you will be a pro in no time. And the longer you eat a Paleo diet, typically the better you feel, which will give you more energy to venture out and try new recipes! Trust me – if I can do it, you can too. Happy Paleo prepping, sisters!
Have you gone Paleo? What is your favorite recipe? Do you have any tips and tricks for to share?
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