• Weekly Food Prep Tips

    One of the smartest things I ever started doing was devoting one afternoon each week to food prep: a few hours to get a big chunk of the week’s cooking out of the way ahead of time. Let’s face it…

    we are each granted 24 hours in the day to use as we see fit, but when people say things like, “I don’t have time to cook healthy” I often wonder if there are ways they could buy themselves more time (less social networking maybe?). Ultimately, if it’s important to you and you’re serious about your health, you’ll find the time.

    I think part of what intimidates people about cooking – at least when they’re starting out with a new way of eating (seriously, can we stop using the term “diet” for Paleo?!) – is that they think they must cook 21 times a week…B-L-D x 7! If you’re opposed to eating leftovers but are super busy and want to eat healthier, the only thing I can say is that you have to get over it. Work smarter, not harder.

    Here’s part of my weekly prep day:

    • Hard boil a dozen eggs.
    • Steam 2 bags of kale.
    • Saute one head of chopped cabbage in coconut oil.
    • Roast diced squash.
    • Roast 6-12 sweet potatoes/yams.
    • Saute 2# of ground meat (beef, turkey, pork etc)
    • Slow cook 2-3# of chicken breasts or pork loin in the crockpot with sliced onion and peppers, a can of diced tomato and spices. Shred the meat when it’s done cooking.

    Here are some suggestions for making cooking and food prep less painful:

    • Cook in a couple big batches. I do one big cooking day on Sunday and another small one during the week. The rest is heat and eat.
    • Make staple items like cooked veggies and meats which you dress up with different seasonings and spices.
    • Invest in an army of proper storage containers. It will keep food fresher longer than flimsy plastic wrap on top of a bowl! My favorite is Glasslock Snapware (online here or at Costco). It does NOT leak, and I prefer the idea of heating up glass better than plastic.
    • Wash and prep produce as soon as you get it home from the market (ex: slice or dice peppers, dice onions, etc) and store in individual containers. Check out how Jessica Camacho does it!
    • Portion out all lunches, for example, for the week at one time.
    • Freeze extra portions if you make too much (works especially well for crock pot or casserole type recipes).
    • Keep a running shopping list on your phone so you can easily edit.
    • This sounds obvious, but don’t do a task twice if you don’t have to. Go through 6 hard boiled eggs a week? Do it all at once instead of 3 now and 3 mid-week. Learn what quantities work best for you and stick to them so you can go on autopilot at the market.

    There are so many other clever suggestions that I’m sure folks are doing right now to make their lives easier and ways of eating much healthier. Try some of these if you’re feeling stuck in a rut! What do you do to save time in the kitchen (and calling for takeout doesn’t count!)?

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    38 thoughts on “Weekly Food Prep Tips

    1. Pingback: 4/27/12
    2. This sounds like the most logical solution to a hectic life. I have been running into a problem sometimes when I do this: I eat the prepped food for a day or two and then it just becomes unappealing. It can get to the point that I would rather not eat than eat what I made in advance. Has this ever happened to you? Any thoughts on how to get my inner 3 year old self to suck it up and eat the food?

      1. Hi Laura! Yes, I can definitely say I’ve been there before! One thing that happens to me with what you described is just feeling bored with eating the same dish a few days in a row. Sometimes I like to make plainly/lightly seasoned meats, for example, and then make some different sauces to dress it up and keep it tasting fresh. A couple of my favorites are chimichurri, Sunshine Sauce from http://www.theclothesmakethegirl.com, or even a splash of balsamic vinegar. Switching up toppings/sauces can give the same meat and veggies a whole new life!

    3. You’re so cute Steph! This isn’t a tomato! I love the way you just roll with it! Great suggestions. I love cooking, and a hot meal,but I love NOT being hungry more. I guess I will fit into the category of..”just get over it” and eat leftovers to be well fed! Great job my friend!

      1. Awww thanks Annie! I appreciate the kind words 🙂 Some folks have a definite aversion to not eating in the morning but I find that it’s more habit than anything. Hope you’re doing well!!

    4. Great ideas Steph. I’m definitely going to try these. Cooking/prep time has been my biggest downfall in following paleo since work has gotten busy. I have been cooking 1-2 packages of bacon on a foil-lined pan every weeekend in order to help make breakfasts a little easier during the week.

      1. Great troubleshooting, John! So much of being successful is prep, and at the beginning, when you’re still trying to figure out what to eat, it can all get overwhelming really fast. I hope you were able to find something to apply to your own situation!

      2. I hope you’re saving that bacon grease John. If you have never used it to season your green beans, you do not know what you have missed. If you don’t want it, send it to me!!! LOL
        I have never liked to eat breakfast when I get up, I’m 67 and severely overweight due to medical issues/ poor food choices, and lack of exercise due to the same medical issues. Of course the weight aggravates the medical issues too. I have started drinking coffee when I get up, a smoothie around 10am, a lite lunch around 2pm or so and then a snack a couple of hours later, then supper around 7. I know it’s not really good to eat that late, but if I eat earlier then I am constantly wanting to snack from then to bedtime. I used to work as a nurse, for almost 40 years, so this less active lifestyle is literally killing me, but I get so short of breath when I try to walk or exercise, it’s like vicious circle.

        1. If you aren’t going to bed very close to dinner time, eating at 7 pm is probably not an issue. Walking is a great way to exercise as well, even if you are only able to go a short distance.

    5. Good ideas! I think poor preparation is one reason it’s so easy to fall behind. Now, I just need to adjust the amounts to feed my family of 10 (a dozen eggs is a snack for my children…lol) ….may take a little longer to cook it all, but I know it will be worth it. Thanks for the suggestions!

    6. I only cook for myself, my husband has always cooked for himself, we eat together but it works for us. I’ve made cauliflower rice, cooked some quinoa, made a breakfast frittata, soup for lunch and cooked some chicken and pork. I’m feeling really positive about the week to come.

    7. Hello, I’m going to start the paleo this summer with my daughter who is coming home from college. She has colitis/crohns and I’m just plain overweight. 5’4″ 186, yep, overweight. I’m researching now to get ready for it. Plus, I’m a smoker, DUH! Dumb person I know. I need guidance, I need you to tell me what 2 books would be good starters for me. I love youtube, it shows how to prep and cook meals, I definitely will benefit from those. Also, if anyone can email me on how to get my mind ready. I’m a junk food junky, love the chips, cheese, crackers, etc. Plus, my coffee has alot of creamer and sweetner. I know it will be a challenge for me, but PLEASE help me with any tips, please send suggestions to the email, teresapaleo14@yahoo.com. I appreciate any help. Thank you so much for reading this.

      1. The thing that is working best for me is having a ‘baby steps’ mentality. I prep what I can, knowing that each accomplishment is a new skill learned. When I fail to prep for tomorrow’s meals or my pantry is low on a new type of staple, I don’t think of it as a failure. I may revert to having rice with dinner on rare occasion when low on veggies (mostly because I bought it in bulk in the past and still have it) but overall my cooking habits are changing. Giving up dairy is my latest step, but still eating butter, haven’t made ghee yet. The whole milk in coffe is now almond milk, yum!, but I’m trying more tea than coffee to slowly take that out too. Baby steps baby, it’s all good!

    8. I love the idea of the chicken or pork shredded in the crock pot! I could use that in a million ways! I often do a spaghetti squash and maybe some other roast vegetables at the same time as the yams. I figure I might as well fill up the oven if I’m gonna use all that heat. I sometimes also caramelize a large pot of onions, (4-6) or do a mirepoix (mixture of carrots, celery, and onions) then I have one less prep step to do later in the week when I’m tired. The mirepoix mixture adds oomph to meatballs/hamburgers/meatloaf, makes a quick flavorful base for soup (add broth and whatever meat you have on hand, or blend it with cooked leftover veggies and some coconut cream for a creamy soup…etc etc) It’s easy to not take the time to prep, but SO worth it when you do! Thanks for the ideas!

    9. When I first watched this, it was life changing for my transition into the Paleo lifestyle. So thank you! I do want to ask, how do you store your hard boiled eggs? Peeled or do you wait until right before you eat them?

    10. Great post!
      Hope to start this to improve our eating habits.
      Wondered about the steamed kale, how long does it keep in the fridge? how to you reheat? Do you just toss in a salad? I thought it may get soggy if you steam ahead of time.
      Thanks for all this valuable info.

      1. Hi there…it should last at least three days. You can always steam it so it’s a bit underdone. Then to reheat, toss it in a skillet with a bit of water and cover. Reheat until it’s hot.

    11. I think being organized on what we are eating for the coming week is what has made life so much less stressful for me! I plan meals a week ahead of time, along with a grocery list, and then I make a list of what things can be prepped ahead of time, and do that on one of the weekend days. I don’t always pre-cook my veggies, but I will often pre-slice them. I also make some paleo mayo and salad dressings and cook bacon and hard boil eggs if our chickens are actually laying that week! And when I make a meal that can be frozen, I always cook just a little extra and freeze a lunch sized portion or two. That way, if we have a night where something unexpected came up and I didn’t cook, we aren’t without work lunch options the next day.

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