Welcome to a new series of ours: Meals 4 the Week (M4W)! Every Wednesday, we’ll tell you what we planned for our week and made. Who knows, maybe we’ll actually remember to take pictures next time (doh!). Yes, this is a long post. Grab an Americano, get comfy, and read. Future M4W posts won’t go into all this detail – we will just cut to the chase and tell you what we made!
I don’t know about you, but we’re busy people. REALLY busy. I am not complaining, just stating a fact. We both hold down full-time, regular, 40+ hour a week jobs, we coach at, manage and workout at our gym, we try to have a social life, all on top of this book project of ours! Needless to say, we have a lot going on. I know so many of you know what I’m talking about and THEN some (especially those parents out there)!
All that aside, there is absolutely no way we could live this paleo lifestyle if we didn’t have some kind of plan as to our day-to-day meals. While yes, we love to cook, some nights we aren’t home until 8 or 9, and if we’re trying to stick to our 8+ hours of sleep a night and we’re waking up at 5am the next day, cooking that same night just ain’t happening.
The question then is: how DO we manage to eat this way without eating out all the time or spending tons of time in the kitchen? For the next many weeks, we’re going to be posting “what we did for our week” (in terms of meals). This inaugural Meals 4 the Week (M4W) posting is going to have a lot of information in it, as we want you to understand how we attack our food plan for the week, in hopes that in might help you in some way, shape or form!
Here are a few guiding principles we live by:
PLAN. Come up with a plan. Here’s how I like to do this: we both have a pretty good idea of what our week ahead is looking like (social engagements, gym obligations, work things, etc.). If one or both of us know that we’re eating out or at a friend’s house, that’s one less meal to plan for. We then figure out how many “make ahead” meals we are going to need for the week. For example, both of us almost always bring our own lunches to work. This is not only a cost-savings for the most part, but it also makes sure we know exactly what ingredients are going into our mouth. Since there are 5 days in the week, we know we need 10 lunches for us. Based on what our mornings/evenings look like, we can then plan which days we are at home and can quick scramble some eggs and veggies for breakfasts, or have time in the evening to grill some chicken or meat.
LEFTOVERS. Always, always, ALWAYS make extras. I think the only time we don’t have a bunch of leftovers is when it’s a high price-tag item (scallops, petit filets, etc.) or when we’re doing a quick breakfast scramble. Other than that, we always plan on leftovers! Grilling up chicken breasts? Get a few pounds. Making burgers? Always make at least 2-3 pounds.
FIND A COOKING DAY. Sunday is usually our designated cooking day. For a few hours of work in the kitchen on that one day, we are then afforded leftover meals that we can consume throughout the week. If we are going to be incapacitated for that Sunday (out of town, out of pocket), we simply divide up our cooking throughout the week.
Now that we’ve established our ground rules, here’s kind of how our process works (this usually involves a lot of sticky notes for all our lists!).
STEP 1: Plan for the week. We start with the basics: when will we be home to cook; when are we at work/not likely home early enough to cook so we know we need “leftovers” (meaning we are not in the kitchen and cooking for that particular meal at that time); and when we eat out/are at a friend’s. Here’s what this week looks like:
|D||Cook||Cook||Leftovers||Friend’s house for dinner||Cook||OUT||Cook/Leftovers|
A few things to note:
- Cook. On the days it says “cook,” that might be something as simple as scrambling up eggs with some veggies, or tossing a steak on the grill, or maybe it’s a lazy Saturday morning so yes, we might indulge in some tasty bacon. It might mean taking some of our leftovers and repurposing them into another meal. It does not mean a 5 course gastronomic feat that we might pay $600 for at some fancy restaurant.
- Leftovers. That (above) looks like a lot of leftovers, right? 2 people, 10 meals deemed “leftovers”–that’s 20 meals for the two of us. Impossible? No way. Very often we have a good amount of leftovers come Saturday, so we try to use all that stuff up if we can. But refer to our whole “make extras” point above.
- On Saturdays and Sundays, we usually do a brunch (breakfast/lunch big old meal) and don’t find the need for separate breakfasts and lunches.
Once we have our general idea of what our schedule looks like, we go to…
STEP 2: Devise our menu for the week. We like to plan around our proteins and what is readily available and in season. There are some weeks, too, that are crazier than others, so having some “meal in one pot” dishes is perfect for maximizing your return on investment. Green chicken chile, pot roast (though we like ours with mashed cauliflower), curry, chili, beef stew, shepherd’s pie…all are great choices. For this week, our menu is this:
- Spicy shrimp salad
- Whole roast chicken
- Short ribs
- Sausage/egg Frittata
If we just make sure we make enough of each of these for at least 4-6 servings, we pretty much have our entire week covered. FYI – 4 servings for us is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 1 ½ pounds (each serving being 4-6 ounces). It just so happens that cooking up 8 burgers and a frittata that doles out 8-10 portions is incredibly easy and is very efficient with our time, so that is what we did this week.
As far as our carbs go (veggies/fruits), we are pretty fortunate right now in that on any given night, we can walk out into our garden and pick a few pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, kale and peppers, so usually we just grab some of those items. We usually have a container of mashed cauliflower in the fridge, and some fresh lettuce for salads, along with avocados. You can do up any side dishes as you wish! So here’s what we know we’ll have around and about and used for our sides:
- Okra from the garden (oven roasted okra)
- Tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden (cut up and tossed with fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic)
- Mashed cauliflower
- Lettuce for salad
- Squash and zucchini (grilled)
- Mushrooms, onions and peppers for frittata
- Cabbage for sautéed cabbage
- Oven roasted broccoli
STEP 3: Once we know what we’re going to make, we then make our shopping list of what we need (that can be a future post).
STEP 4: We then plug our meals into our schedule. Taking those proteins, and the veggies we have or know we will be making and the above “schedule,” we plan out what our meals will be for the week (subject to change, of course!).
|B||L: Frittata||L: Frittata||C: Cook leftover venison sautéed with veggies||L: Frittata||L: Burger with cabbage|
|L||C: Eggs, bacon and any leftover veg/protein from the previous week||L: Spicy shrimp salad over lettuce with cucumbers and tomatoes||L: Burger with tomatoes and cucumbers from garden||L: Spicy shrimp salad over lettuce with cucumbers and tomatoes||L: Short ribs with cauliflower mash||L: Chicken and cauliflower mash||L/C: burgers or frittata|
|D||C: Short ribs with kale salad||C: Cook the venison and cabbage||L: Short ribs and kale salad||Friend’s house||C: Cook the roast chicken, served with tomatoes and cucumbers||OUT||L/C: burgers, frittata or chicken|
L = leftovers/C=cook
Step 5: We shop, then we cook!
All told, with the active prep on Sunday (chopping, cleaning, peeling shrimp, making burgers) we probably spent about 2 hours in the kitchen/at the grill on Sunday (not counting the few hours the short ribs were in the oven smelling awesome, or the frittata). That time in the kitchen – well it’s quality time together, doing something we love. A win-win for sure. And even if Charles didn’t like to cook, partitioning the meals and prep through the week like this makes life a heck of a lot more manageable.
This way of planning for the week may seem extreme, but especially for anyone new to the paleo lifestyle – it makes adhering to this way that much easier!
If you want another glimpse at what a week of meals might look like, take a glimpse here for a post I did on BTB’s site a while back.
How do you go about planning your meals for the week? Do you make a lot of food ahead of time, or do you spend time in the kitchen every day? Let us know your thoughts on M4W, and what additional information you would like to know!
Don’t forget – our fabulous Le Creuset piece “Cherry” gets to find out who her owner is this Sunday. Have you ordered Paleo Comfort Foods and entered the contest yet, and told all your friends? We sure hope so!