Paleo Meal Planning: A How-To

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Paleo Meal Planning: A How-To |

Paleo meal planning doesn’t have to be intimidating, and you’re going to learn the essentials of putting together a one week menu in this post. Cool, right?

Paleo Meal Planning, Step 1: The Weekly Cook-Up

When you eat Paleo, you tend to cook at home (a LOT) but one thing that can slow you down is cooking every single meal fresh, from scratch. By eating leftovers, you’ll be able to reach into the fridge, grab and reheat a meal without having to start the process from step one.

Instituting a weekly cook-up day is the an important part of meal planning. You’ll need to set aside one day a week to do a big shopping trip and a large amount of batch cooking. (Two or three hours usually does it.) Pick a day where you preferably don’t have to work. If you’re off on the weekend, pick Sunday as your big cook-up day.

With enough planning you’ll be able to create meals for Monday through Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, a small trip to the market and a little cook-up will get you through to the weekend. (Adjust according to your days off.)

My must-have tools for weekly cook-up day: a programmable slow cooker, baking sheets for roasting off tons of veggies, a high-speed blender for sauces and soups, and lots of glass-lock containers to store all your tasty eats.

Paleo Meal Planning, Step 2: Create a Template

This is probably the key to a successful meal plan: Create a template that you can pop recipes into by type. That way, you keep the template and vary the recipes week to week so that you’re taking some of the guesswork out.

Here’s what I mean:


Breakfast: Reheated frittata, blueberries, cherry tomatoes

Lunch: Slow cooker beef, roasted veggies, avocado

Dinner: Huge salad with grilled or pan-fried chicken, homemade dressing, nuts


Breakfast: Hardboiled eggs, leftover slow cooker meat, roasted sweet potato

Lunch: One-skillet stir fry, raw veggies, olives or coconut flakes

Dinner: Soup or stew, roasted squash, avocado


Breakfast: Leftover pan-fried chicken, veggie hash, homemade ranch

Lunch: Mixed salad with shredded pork, berries and avocado

Dinner: Tacos or enchiladas, fresh salsa and all the fixings


Breakfast: Egg muffins, fresh fruit, coconut flakes

Lunch: Leftover enchiladas from the previous day

Dinner: Out to eat


Breakfast: Hardboiled eggs, smoked salmon, olives

Lunch: Big salad with slow cooker chicken, homemade dressing

Dinner: Oven-baked meatballs and sauce with spaghetti squash, sautéed greens


Breakfast: Sweet potato hash, bacon and eggs

Lunch: Collard wraps, avocado and fruit

Dinner: Baked fish with homemade sauce, fresh slaw


Breakfast: Forage for leftovers

Lunch: Lettuce-wrapped burgers and sweet potato fries

Dinner: Slow cooker curry with cauli rice

and so on…

Individual preferences and how many leftovers you have will vary.

Paleo Meal Planning, Step 3: Browse for Recipes but KISS

Now that your cook-up days are scheduled, it’s time to decide what you’ll make. For a majority of meals, KISS. Don’t try to get involved in fancy schmancy techniques and complicated recipes for everything. Stick to recipes with ingredients that are easy to find in your local market. Running all over tarnation for random ingredients is not a great way to maximize your time.

If you need inspiration, check out sites like Pinterest. You can browse boards quickly and save pins to your own boards for later. Dig into your favorite cookbooks or visit your favorite blogs. My favorite for simple recipe ideas are Nom Nom Paleo, The Clothes Make the Girl, Paleo Cupboard, Popular Paleo and Meatified. These five are my go-to sites besides my own. *wink*

I recommend doing this a day or two before your weekly big cook-up, plugging it into your template (see step 2) and making a list of ingredients.

Of course, there is no one right or wrong way to do this. Experiment and find out what works for you!

Other Paleo Meal Planning Tips

Get creative

You don’t have to slave over a soup pot for hours and hours to create every meal. By including a variety of techniques, you can actually minimize cooking time. Eating a mix of raw and cooked veggies will help.

Every week I like to include:

Soups or stews

Slow cooker meals

One-skillet meals

Baked egg dishes

Hardboiled eggs

Vegetables hashes

Roasted vegetables

Sautéed vegetables

Raw salads or slaws

Grilled, pan-fried or baked meats / fish

Easy sauces or dressings

Meals that can be frozen for later

Be flexible

You can eat breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast. The first meal of the day does NOT have to be a Paleo version of a traditionally carb-heavy dish. You can really eat anything for breakfast. In fact, mine is usually eggs with leftover meat and raw veggies or fruit. Simple.

Try a meal exchange

Rope a couple other Paleo friends into creating a meal exchange. Basically how it works is this: Cook and prepare a main dish, side dish and sauce for your friends and yourself. Swap meals and you’ll have instant variety!

Plan one meal out to eat

Fill a gap in your template by going out to eat. Many restaurants are Paleo-friendly if you ask for substitutions.

Have fun with it

Learning to meal plan and balance your time with other demands in your life takes practice, but the more you do it, the more innate it’ll get it. Pretty soon, you’ll be planning meals like a pro!

Or…if all else fails, let someone do the planning for you!

The Paleo meal plans from Holistic Squid are great. You can even get a free sample to try before you buy!

Click here to pin this!

Paleo Meal Planning: A How-To |

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36 thoughts on “Paleo Meal Planning: A How-To

  1. Meg @ A Dash of Meg

    great post as always, babe!!!!!! i am good at batch cooking, but i don’t really have a set day and, right now, it works for me. but Eddie and i always talk about how fun it’ll be when we live together, have our lives more together than they are right now (haha), and can meal plan. yes, we fantasize about meal planning :) ha

    1. Steph Post author

      It’s always trickier with more than one person but I know you’ll figure it out! How many more months do you have to wait?

  2. Michelle

    I follow a very similar planning system, but I add the Paprika app for recipe storage and shopping list generation. It’s helpful for those random recipes you find on Pinterest and on the interwebs.

    Thanks for the helpful blog!


  3. Rob

    My wife and I both do CrossFit and both worked 12 hour night shift how would we change the Paleo schedule to eat properly to benefit the most out of eating Paleo?

    1. Steph Post author

      Unrelated, but I would definitely prioritize sleep over training at this point. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on that one. A lower intensity exercise protocol will probably benefit you more than something that’s that high intensity.

      On the question of food, I would say you still need a big batch-cooking day and you’ll want to heavily use your slow cooker.

  4. Heather Barber

    I plan a week at a time, but have a structured plan – fish on Monday/Friday, pork on Tuesday, chicken on Wednesday, beef on Thursday, slow cooker at weekend – I have 4-5 different recipes for each day, so we only eat the same meal once a month.

  5. CAROL


    1. Steph Post author

      Carol, it’s really hard to say without knowing what you’re eating and other factors in your life. A common culprit is that you’re not eating enough food. Paleo is not intended to be an aggressively calorie-restricted way to eat.

  6. Jessica Beacom

    Right on! I’ve been using this technique with my family of 6 and my clients for a couple of years now and it’s a lifesaver. The key to a successful cook-up for a larger family is setting aside more time (I shop one day – or outsource it to the hubs) and cook the next day, typically spending 4-5 hours in the kitchen listening to podcasts or rocking out to Pandora. You also need at least 4 sheet pans and an extra slow cooker (or pressure cooker) is great for making a soup/stew/chili that can be divided into individual portions and frozen for lunches or last minute weeknight dinners. If you have kids who are old enough to help, have them wash and dry greens, peel and chop veggies, etc.
    Love your recipes!

    1. Steph Post author

      I listed recipes that will fit in those categories toward the bottom of the post. Some of them–like roasted veggies–would be on your own.

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  11. domain

    Fantastic site. Plenty of useful information here.
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  12. Kim

    I love that you give recipes and great ideas for free! My problem is, after three weeks of going Paleo and working out, I’m not losing weight. I feel like even though I don’t eat much, maybe I’m combining the wrong things or something and would benefit from a meal plan geared for 1600 cal. Or less. I usually eat a scrambled egg w/bacon for breakfast and a salad for lunch and whatever meat veggie salad combo for dinner. The last 2 days I realized I should have the supper sized meal for lunch and eat lighter for supper. Also, I’m out of my bifidous supplements which might make me bloated idk. Help?

    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Kimberly,

      I’m not sure why you think you need to eat 1600 calories and where that number came from. Would you elaborate?

      It can take time for you hormones to adjust with a paleo way of eating, so sometimes weight loss can be slower than you might think. Make sure you keep track of your body fat % and measurements because it’s possible to lose fat while gaining muscle and having the scale not reflect that your body is actually changing. Here’s a good resource:

      Finally, I don’t know much about your workout regimen and general activity level, but from what you describe, you seem to be eating too little. This is based on your description of your breakfast being one egg and some bacon. Now, I’m not sure how much bacon you’re having, but one egg only has 6 grams of protein which is not very much. I would up your protein intake at breakfast. Remember that calorie counting does not take into account the hormonal impact of food, such as blood sugar regulation and energy storage. Undereating / restriction is unfortunately all too common even in Paleo, and a this can down-regulate the metabolism.

      If you continue to struggle, I’d recommend working with a nutritionist so you can get some very customized suggestions.

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