Paleo friendly weekly cook-up and meal prep
There’s been some chatter on a few of the Whle30 boards I’m on about exactly how to get so much cooking done every week. How do you go paleo without devoting your entire life to cooking? There’s no getting around that paleo takes a hell of a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve found that front loading the heavy lifting on Sundays makes week day meals a lot easier. I’ve been doing a cook-up for the last six months, and I’ve more or less got my technique down. Today, I got everything done in three hours.
Today I cooked:
- Two rashers of bacon
- 20 hard boiled eggs
- 6 lbs of drumsticks (about 15)
- Sweet potato soup
- 1.5 lbs of seasoned ground beef
- Slow cooker meatballs in italian sauce
- Chopped vegetables for a stir-fry
- A bowl full of meat off two Costco chickens
- Chicken stock
- The snack pot (see below for details)
- Sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and carrots for the baby
Part of being working parents has meant giving up some of the thing we loved most about being young and single and carefree. Like spare time. Ever. So, to save some time and money during the week, I do a cook-up every Sunday morning. I need to make it easy for me to throw dinner together in 15 minutes when we get home from work, and easy for both Bertrand and I to prep lunches for the next day every evening. Yes, it takes most of my Sunday, but well worth it to save the time during the week.
Step the first: Boil eggs and put vegetables in the steamer for baby food
I use my big stock pot for everything (including boiling eggs), and I usually make at least two different dishes in it during my cook-ups. The first thing I do when I get into the kitchen is throw my eggs into the pot, so that it’ll be free later for sauces.
Once the eggs are in a pot, my first batch of vegetables for the baby goes into the steamer.
Step the second: Prep the Crockpot meal
I cook a meal in the crockpot every Sunday. Today, I made Melissa Joulwan’s Italian Slow Cooker Meatballs. She has two fantasic cookbooks, Well Fed and Well Fed 2 that I use just about every week. Luckily, this meatball recipe is one where I can substitute out just about every single ingredient and still make it work. So I did, and it did. I whipped up some quick pasta sauce while boiling my hardboiled eggs, made the fastest meatballs ever, then dumped everything in the crockpot with some leftover chicken stock.
If i’ve got any other meat that’s gonna need defrosting in the microwave (like say, 3 kg of drumsticks), I get that going too.
And finally, I clean any dirty dishes.
Step the third: Vegetable Prep
While sauces and eggs are peculating on the stove, I start chopping. I prep a stir fry mix for the next week with any leftover vegetables sitting in the fridge. I chop vegetables for the delicious bowl of snack love (see below) I keep in the fridge. If I’m roasting vegetables, this is where I chop and season them. And I peel all of the sweet potatoes in the house for both baby food and eating during the week.
I do a lot of this step sitting at the dining room table, entertaining my toddler while I chop.
Once my eggs have been at a rolling boil for two minutes, I take them off the heat and throw them into an ice bath to stop the cooking. I like ’em just barely hard boiled, and I’ve found that the ice bath is crucial to impeding grey yolks and that awful boiled egg sulfur smell.
And finally, I clean any dirty dishes.
Step the fourth: Baking
Baked items into the stove. Today, it was drumsticks (toss in oil, salt, and pepper, then bake forever at 400 degrees). Sometimes it’s roast vegetables, or a whole chicken, or both. The nice thing about thighs and drumsticks is that they’re forgiving of extra long stints in the stove. No dryness if I forget about them and take them out after 1h15 instead of 45 minutes.
Note that this week I also started the sweet potatoes boiling at this step.
And finally, I clean any dirty dishes (starting to notice a theme here?).
Step the fifth: BACON BACON BACON
I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up some Whole30 compliant bacon while I was up in MD for dinner earlier this week. YUM. I get two frying pans going, and fry 5 pieces in each frying pan at a time.
Keeping the kitchen clean as I go has made a huge difference in how stressful and frustrating the cook up is. If you wait until you’re done to clean, not only are you exhausted from cooking for several hours, you’ve STILL got more work to do.
Step the sixth: MOAR PROTEIN
Use one of the bacon frying pans to brown a pound of so of ground beef. Then, pull the chicken off any leftover Costco chickens sitting around and refrigerate. Dump the bones, skin, and leftover bits and pieces into my big stock pot for, you guessed it, chicken stock.
Step the seventh: Clean, then puree the baby food
At this point, I’m done with the stove and I can start cleaning. Yeah, the kitchen’s usually a disaster at this point, and I can use the downtown while the chicken is baking to straighten things up a bit.
Then it’s time to finish up the baby food. If I’m making a lot (like today), I’ve been switching vegetables in and out of the steamer all morning, while working on other things. I puree the baby food with expressed milk or formula (depending on what I’ve got around), then dump it into ice cube trays for freezing.
Step the LAST: SNACK BOWL LOVE
This last step can be done in your living room in front of the TV if you want. Sit down and drink a bottle of ice water, then get back to work.
The snack bowl is exactly what it sounds like. Plastic baggies full of mixed vegetables, nuts, and dates for Bertrand and I to grab and throw into our lunch boxes every day. This way, we don’t have to get out the chopping board or put any effort into including healthy vegetables in our lunches. In the bowl: 5 baggies of mixed veg, 5 baggies of baby carrots, 5 baggies of raw almonds, 5 baggies of roasted cashews, and 5 baggies of dates.
Keep an eye on the stock and the slow cooker, as they’ll need to simmer all day.
Congratulations! You’ve got your major meal prep for the week done!