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
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
Baked egg dishes
Raw salads or slaws
Grilled, pan-fried or baked meats / fish
Easy sauces or dressings
Meals that can be frozen for later
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!
Questions? Leave them in the comments below!