Whether you’re a parent hustling and bustling from one place to the next, single and working long hours and trying to make time for the gym and social time, or just someone who wants to eat a little healthier, finding time to cook can sometimes fall far down our priority lists. After all, modern day restaurants have made it almost too convenient to eat away from the home. Consider this: from 1960-1961, 79% of a household’s food budget went for food consumed inside the home. From 2002-2003 only 58.1% of that food budget was for food consumed inside the home (not to mention the fact that on average we devote 50% less to our food consumption than we did in the 1960s—that’s a whole other blog post!). I’m guessing that “take-out” and “delivery” still counted as food inside the home, too.
We know full well that sometimes it is hard—really hard—to carve out some extra time to make meals for the week. Maybe it’s because you didn’t thaw out any protein in time for your regularly-scheduled cooking day. Maybe it’s because you weren’t able to make it to your local farmer’s market to stock up on goods for the week. Maybe it’s because you just could not find the extra time to be in the kitchen. Maybe you just did not feel like cooking. Whatever the case, we can empathize, as we’ve been there done that got the t-shirt. It isn’t always easy. And yet, it is so critical. Not just from a financial perspective (for certain you will save money by cooking more of your meals at home), but from a health perspective too. Most restaurants cook in highly refined oils. Many restaurant portions are far more than one needs to eat at a meal, not to mention the fact that gluten can easily sneak itself into a sauce, marinade or dressing at a restaurant without your knowledge.
These are just some of the reasons why we so firmly believe in making the vast majority of your meals at home. It is possible, it is affordable, and it’s definitely tasty! We know that with some advanced planning, with some sort of game-plan to follow, you can maximize your time in the kitchen while not getting bored with food at home (which is another big culprit in sending folks off to get that take out). An added bonus: it’s a great way to have some family time!
To help you stay the Paleo course even when it would be much easier to say yes to Chipotle for the third time this week, we’re putting together these Meals for the Week postings. We’ll provide you with some recipes, some creative ways to re-purpose leftovers, shopping lists, and even what equipment you’ll need to get the job done. As is always our style, we’ll give you alternatives. And while many meal plans might stipulate a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday/etc. kind of set up, we’ve made these plans a bit more flexible for you. So if Sunday and Wednesday are your cooking days, or Tuesday and Thursday, or Saturday and Monday, you are covered.
What is required of you?
1.) A kitchen, preferably one with at least 1 burner and an oven.
2.) Less than 2 hours total hands-on time per week. To find these 2 hours, consider cutting down on Facebook, or waking up an hour earlier, or eliminating one reality program in your week (or if you really can’t do that, have it on while you cook in the kitchen).
- If you just cannot find 2 hours, enlist help. Your spouse, your kids, your significant other, or a helper you can pay a small fee to help you out.
3.) A willingness to have fun in the kitchen!
What we’ll do here is list out your shopping list, your equipment list, followed by the menus for each day. We won’t include recipes for everything, but we’ll give you a few to help you on your merry way. If you don’t like a particular food suggested, swap it out! Food should be enjoyed, not forced down your throat (unless it’s fermented cod liver oil…then I know that it’s so good for me that I force it down my throat anyway).
This template assumes you are cooking for two adults, and the average protein consumption per meal is in the neighborhood of 4-6 ounces per person. Know that you consume more than that? Scale up! Again, these are just ideas to get you thinking.
We have constructed this to minimize the amount of time you actually spend cooking. Ideally, you will cook your proteins on day 1 (in our house that’s a Sunday) and day 4. Maybe your life is such that you need to do all your cooking at once for the week? Tinker around with things and make it your own!
We assumed you would eat out 2 times this week for dinner, but maybe it’s that you are eating out once for lunch and once for dinner – who knows. Eat out more or less? Well, you can always freeze what you don’t eat, or you can up the amount of any of these dishes. Just to be clear: these are just some ideas to help you with your meal planning, and not set in stone. Just because we use leftover steak for your beef curry doesn’t mean that you can’t use shrimp or pork or whatever you’d like to use. We are trying to maximize your return on minimal kitchen investment!
3.5 pounds of steak (London broil is a great, economical cut if you’re looking to save pennies)
2 whole chickens to yield 3 pounds, or 3 pounds of breast/thighs
2.5 pounds wild-caught salmon (if fresh salmon is out of your budget, go with canned salmon)
2 pounds any sausage of your choosing
2 dozen eggs
4 sweet potatoes
6 bell peppers
1lb each zucchini and yellow squash
1 head iceberg or bibb lettuce
1 head garlic
good quality olive oil
assorted nuts of your choosing
2 cans coconut milk
curry paste of your choosing (we like red)
assorted seasonings of your choosing
Cast iron or stainless steel skillet (here is a great option)
Grill or grill pan or broiler pan
Glass storage containers (these are our favorites)
Breakfast – Eggs your way with sausage, avocado and tomatoes (or any other fruit or veggie you’d like to serve alongside)
Lunch – Roast salmon with roasted asparagus (for recipes, check out pages 240 and 245 in the Paleo Solution)
Dinner – Grilled steak and grilled vegetables
Here’s what we suggest for this cooking day:
Roast all your salmon and asparagus at the same time. Grill all the steak (indoors or outdoors, or use your broiler) and vegetables while you’re cooking the salmon. This is also the time to sauté an onion along with 3 bell peppers. Use some of these vegetables in your frittata, and save the rest for your steak tacos. For your frittata: Take 1 pound of the salmon and combine with 12 eggs and vegetables of your choosing in a large baking pan, and bake at 350 until the eggs are cooked through. You can also bake your sweet potatoes now as they’ll be used for the steak and sweet potato hash and baking now will decrease your cook time later! Also, while most of this stuff will keep for several days, you may wish to freeze a few portions of the frittata for later in the week. Completely up to you!
Breakfast – Salmon frittata
Lunch – Steak tacos (take leftover steak and the peppers and onions, place in lettuce cups and top with avocado and store-bought salsa)
Dinner – Beef curry (heat up a skillet and add about 2 tablespoons curry paste. Heat until fragrant, then add in a can of coconut milk, a dash of fish sauce, and the veggies of your choosing. We suggest eggplant and bell peppers. Stir well and then add in about 1 cup of chicken stock along with 1 pound of leftover steak. For a more involved curry recipe, check here.)
Breakfast – Steak & sweet potato hash. Makes 4 servings. To prepare, dice up those already baked sweet potatoes, and sauté along with coconut oil and 1 pound leftover steak until heated through. Season with spices of your choosing
Lunch – Salmon salad. Take some of that lettuce you didn’t use for your tacos, and top with tomatoes, a dressing of your choice, and 4 ounces or so per person of leftover salmon.
Dinner – out
Breakfast – Salmon frittata
Lunch – Beef curry
Dinner – Roasted chicken (as simple as it sounds. Roast that chicken! We suggest drying the birds, filling the cavity with some onion, celery, garlic and fresh herbs…but you can roast with just a little butter or oil and salt and pepper. If you need a recipe to follow, check out here). Serve with some steamed or roasted broccoli (to prepare for tomorrow, you can go ahead and steam all your broccoli if you’d like).
* You’ll roast both chickens and save one for the casserole tomorrow.
Breakfast – Steak & sweet potato hash
Dinner – Grilled steak and vegetables
Breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausage, avocado and fruit
Lunch – Roasted chicken leftovers
Dinner – Out
Breakfast – Salmon frittata
Lunch – Salmon salad
Dinner – Chicken and broccoli casserole
That’s it in a nutshell. You’ll notice that the most times you eat one dish in a week is three (the salmon frittata), but most times you’re only eating the same “dish” twice. This way provides you with some variety, and just might help stave off boredom (and hunger).
Of course, these are just a few ideas of what to do with leftover salmon, chicken and steak. You could also do Asian-inspired steak or chicken lettuce cups, chicken soup, chicken chili, steak fajitas, chicken salad, steak salad, spicy salmon salad, salmon omelets, egg cups with any of the aforementioned proteins, etc. Leftovers don’t have to be boring and they can save you a ton of time!
 Dolfman, M. L. & McSweeney, D. M. (2006). 100 Years Of U.S. consumer spending: data for the nation, New York City, and Boston. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.