Five Things You Can Do This Weekend to Make Easy Paleo Meals All Week
By Riki Shore of Three Squares
Eating healthy Paleo meals takes some planning and preparation, but the rewards, as most of you already know, are huge. You’ll feel leaner, enjoy smoother digestion, increase your performance at the gym, and have extra energy to spend on all the things that bring meaning to your life.
Here are five things you can do this Sunday afternoon that will give you a great foundation on which to build Paleo meals all week.
ROAST A CHICKEN
Buying a whole chicken and roasting it at home saves you money at the butcher counter and provides protein for several meals. Ask your butcher to cut the chicken into six pieces. Follow these steps to roast the bird:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the chicken on a stainless steel baking sheet. Rub each chicken piece all over with olive oil, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. These ingredients bring flavor to the cooked bird, so be generous with them.
- Bake the chicken for 30 – 35 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees in the breasts and 175 degrees in the thighs. Don’t have a thermometer? I recommend buying a digital one, but for now, the chicken is done when the juices run clear when you pierce the meat with a sharp knife.
Once the chicken is done, eat some of it right away with a sauce of your choice. Good options are aioli, guacamole, salsa, or even fresh chopped herbs with a drizzle of olive oil.
I like to use the leftovers to build up a lunch salad, make a classic chicken salad, or chop very fine and mix with braised swiss chard. To make these preparations easier, after you’ve had your roast chicken dinner, peel away the skin from the remaining chicken and “pick” the meat – using your fingers, break the meat into bite-sized pieces. Store in a covered container in the fridge for easy use on a weeknight.
MAKE HOMEMADE SALAD DRESSING
Making your own salad dressing is a no brainer. It allows you to control how much and what kind of oil goes onto your salads, and you can choose what flavor you’re in the mood for each week. You can even go creamy one week, then oil and vinegar-based the next.
If you’ve never made your own salad dressing before, start with a simple vinaigrette. Put a tablespoon of Dijon mustard in a small bowl, along with 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and a shake of pepper. Whisk everything well, then drizzle in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk until well combined, then taste and add more vinegar or oil as needed to suit your taste. Store in a glass jar in the fridge for 5 – 7 days.
KNOCK OUT A BATCH (OR TWO) OF PICKLES
One of the keys to maximizing the nutritional benefits of the Paleo diet is to eat plenty of vegetables, in all their incarnations. Having homemade pickles on-hand means you have an easy snack, a terrific lunchbox addition, and a flavor booster for prepared salads and meats. Pickles couldn’t be quicker or cheaper to make at home. This recipe shows how to pickle both cucumbers and carrots. Delicious.
PREP VEGGIES FOR EASY SNACKS
Another way to ensure you’re getting enough vegetables is to have plenty of raw veggies on hand for easy snacking. Below is a list of my current no-cook favorites. My daughter is served one of these at every lunch and dinner, and I munch on them throughout the day.
- Wash and trim sugar snap peas, removing the “thread” that runs along the top of some pods. Wrap in a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture and store in an open plastic bag in the veggie bin. Before eating, toss with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
- Cut a cucumber into 3-inch sections. Cut each section in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 2 or 3 wedges. Sprinkle each wedge with Kosher or sea salt. Let sit a few minutes, then enjoy.
- Peel and slice jicama into matchsticks. Squeeze with fresh lime juice and store lightly covered in the fridge.
- Chop romaine lettuce into large bite-size pieces, then wash in a salad spinner. Store in the fridge in the salad dressing for easy salads.
- Wash celery and trim the ends. Cut each stalk in half crosswise, and, using a paring knife, remove the strings from the outside of the stalk.
BAKE A BATCH OF NO SUGAR TREATS FOR LUNCHBOXES
We all have busy lives and sometimes you need a fast, healthful treat. Maybe your kids want a cookie or high-protein muffin in their lunchboxes, or maybe you’re running from the gym to your next work appointment and need to eat something on the go. These treats are no- or low-sugar; they use high-protein flours; and they taste great. One for one, they are healthier and more affordable than prepared gluten-free cookies or protein bars.
Cooking is like exercise – the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Do you want to become an awesome home cook who prepares knockout meals for your family and friends? Or maybe you just want to bump up the flavor and nutrition at your family table? You need only to start cooking. Once you start, keep it up and watch your meals soar.
Want more cooking and meal planning ideas?
We’ve gotten hundreds of requests for it, and so we wrote the book on budget grocery shopping and meal planning for the Paleo diet. The Paleo on a Budget Guide is the solution you’ve been looking for. I’ve got a 70-page interactive downloadable guide that shows you how to make healthy Paleo meals for yourself and your family while saving time and money. You can stick to your budget, find extra money, save time, and make Paleo work for you. Read about it and buy the book here.
Jeff Witt says
I’ve got a big sports weekend coming up. Milwaukee Brewers Games 1 and 2 of the post season, Wisconsin Badgers play Nebraska, and of course the Green Bay Packers play on sunday.
In between sitting on the couch watching games, I think I could knock out a couple of these. The Roasted Chicken sounds easy, and the Apricot Power Bars also sound delicious.
Thanks for the great ideas. I’m always looking for quick and easy.
Stephanie Greunke says
Jeff! I am a Wisconsinite and completely hear ya on this! Loyal Badger, Brewer, and Packer fans looove to tailgate, but it can be tricky planning tailgate foods based around Paleo. The roasted chicken does sound delicious. I make a ton of guacamole and set up vegetables and corn chips for guests. Bacon wrapped anything is usually a crowd pleaser and quality meat is never turned down. Lettuce wraps are awesome alternatives to buns. I’ll be cheering all of those teams on with you this weekend!!
I always spend cooking my meats on a sunday for the rest of the week. Makes it so much easier
I’ve also found that par-cooking sweet potatoes (either cubed and boiled or roasted make for great prepped meals. Then, frying w/ onions in bacon grease, further roasting with herbs and oil, or quick grilling (usually round pucks work best for this) take a fraction of the time!
Amy Kubal says
This works great with Spaghetti squash too – if the oven is on fill it up!! 🙂
Thats alot of sugar in the pickling carrots/cucumber recipes….
That recipe also doesn’t give you any probiotic benefits…
Here’s a simple recipe and process for lacto-fermented pickles (there’s a huge difference between the vinegar “pickling” process Robb links to in this article and lacto-fermentation): http://www.myhumblekitchen.com/2013/07/a-simple-recipe-for-homemade-natural-fermented-pickles/
You can Google around for other recipes by searching for “natural fermented pickles” or “lacto-fermentation”.
Thank you Carter!
Exactly what I was thinking! No fermentation benefits either. Lots of other great simple ideas out there, a little disappointed in Robb on this one ??.
And don’t forget to keep the carcass. Boil it into a broth, Add some good vegetables and leftover meat for an awesome soup.
“Peel away the skin” from the chicken? Say it isn’t so! Is it not Paleo to eat that delicious fatty/crispy skin (mouth starting to water)? Maybe you are saying to remove specifically for salad as certainly unless fresh from oven skin would be soft/floppy and certainly not as appetizing as hot crispy skin from oven?
Peel the skin, cause industrial feed chickens have bad fat, especially huge amounts direct under skin.
Sorry, I used to like the skin too.
Else you have to find a “grass-fed” chicken 🙂
Chris if it isn’t free range pastured chicken, it’s not ‘paleo’. So the caveat should be, eat the skin unless it’s conventional or industrial.
Patti Jeanne says
We’ve been batch cooking quite a bit as it helps keep the kids paleo as well. I make a huge batch of either a chili or chicken soup every weekend to have lunches on hand during the week. My husband also has a smoker which he will cook 3-5 pounds of various meats to have as our own homemade cold cuts.
I need to find better hiding places for any bars I make because if they are tasty the kids devour them! Great post, with planning there’s no reason to keep paleo and avoid processed foods.
I took a quick peek at the recipes for pickled cucumbers and pickled carrots. Each calls for an amount of sugar. Any problem with this?
I have a big problem with this…. Sugar is OUT… Scratching my head as to how this slipped by.
I personally have a problem with any recipe claiming to be Paleo that has refined sugar in it. Especially when there’s no need – what’s wrong with salty pickles?
joe c says
I think you meant to say to store the chopped lettuce in the salad spinner rather than in the salad dressing. No?
Ruben Nunez says
Here’s how I roast a chicken. It comes out absolutely perfect and its really easy.
Whole Organic 4-5 lb Chicken
1. Preheat oven at 450 degrees.
2. Wash and pat chicken dry.
3. Cover it generously in sea salt.
4. Put in a baking dish for 1 hour.
That’s it! It comes out perfectly cooked, moist and tasty. No need for olive oil, butter, etc….
I got this recipe from everydaypaleo.com and have made it a bunch of times to awesome results every time.
Just the recipe I’d like to try with a goose or duck or spruce hen or…
Great stuff. It’s Sunday evening and we just did the chicken salad for dinner.
For pickled vegetables, nothing beats pickled green beans. I do it the super-easy way. If we have a big jar of dill pickles, I just save the pickle juice, lightly steam the green beans until they’re soft and throw them in the pickle juice. My kids will eat these all day. It’s a great way to preserve a bunch of green beans from the garden and make them last.
Love this idea!
Diane @ Balanced Bites says
For those who want to do some pickling, here’s is a better & sugar-free option to use – fermentation. This also gives you the great probiotic if you’re not a fan of raw kraut. http://www.wildfermentation.com/resources.php?page=pickles
More on raw kraut: http://balancedbites.com/2011/03/bites-i-love-fresh-raw-sauerkraut-a-probiotic-food.html
Josh Frey says
I love this. Most of the time when I see a “quick and easy meals” thing it’s still 5+ ingredients and a good amount of prep and cleanup.
I just made dinner for 7 roommates who’ve been letting me stay at their house. All I did was cut up some yams and put them in the bottom of a crock pot, and then put a 5 lb chicken on top of them.
No preperation, no cleanup, everyone loved it. Keep up the good work 🙂
I’m a little confused: You say a roast chicken will provide protein for ‘several meals’ …yet I regularly polish off half a chicken for lunch or dinner easily – sometimes both in a day, plus veggies, some sweet potato and more recently some white potatoes, plus 3-4 free-range eggs and bacon for breakfast, plus pastured butter …and some coffee with cream. Am I eating too much!?
In a recent podcast a skinny guy trying to gain weight ate something along these lines and you and Greg joked that you’d eat more than that just for breakfast! I’m ~200# 5’11” guy, age 30, doing daily kettlebell training, trying to lean out. I’m doing ok, but never quite sure if I’m eating way too much, or way too little!?
Sounds like you’re on the right track, but to be true paleo, you have to lose the white potatoes, cut back on the sweet potatoes (treat these as a treat!) and lose the cream from your coffee. (Dairy + sugar = no weight loss) Coconut milk in your coffee is nice, hazelnut milk even better.
I’m a 150lb 5’10 woman and I could easily polish off half a chicken in a meal, especially fresh roasted, so don’t worry too much about quantity, focus more on the quality of what you are eating. If you starve your body, it won’t burn the stored fat and you’re in a bad self-perpetuating cycle.