I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about how we cook and eat Paleo for a week. The truth of the matter is that all that meal planning and prep is what we do under ideal circumstances. But we both know that circumstances are rarely ideal. If a way of eating (a lifestyle if you will) can’t hold up under the absolute worst circumstances, then you’ve got a problem. What you’re doing is not sustainable and you’re likely to end up face first in a family size bag of Cheetos.
Here are a couple of tips I’ve picked up over the past year or so for making a Paleo way of eating work when you don’t have time to create a recipe plan, go to 2 or 3 grocery stores, and spend your Sunday prepping lunches and dinners.
1. Ready-Made Meals
We’re lucky enough to have a neighborhood market that sells things like chicken breasts and skirt steak uncooked but marinated that morning. Yes, ok, its possible the marinade has olive oil in it or something, but this market is very in tune with using real ingredients and I do at least know things are gluten free.
What if you don’t have a neighborhood market like the one I have? Don’t worry! Chains like Fresh Market, Harry’s in a Hurry, and of course Whole Foods will have a selection of pre-made or ready-to-be-made options that you can grab the night before or day-of your required meal.
2. Skirt Steak
When we’re being a little bit stricter on budgets (or its more convenient), we’ll skip the pre-marinated or pre-made options and just pick up a hanger or skirt steak (whichever is cheaper) from our local farmer’s market or butcher. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on that thing and throw it under the broiler and you’ve got dinner on the table in 12-15 minutes. Put some brussels sprouts around it on the same pan and you’ve got a well-rounded dinner (and quick clean-up).
I horde cans of wild-caught tuna, salmon and sardines like a Doomsday Prepper. I’ve got ‘em tucked away in my desk drawers at work, and I’ve got a whole stack of ‘em in my pantry at home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made it to work only to realize that, not only did I make zero plan for lunch for myself, I’d also managed to schedule meetings so that I have no time to leave the office.
This is the perfect set up for finding yourself eating 3 pieces of free pizza from the engineering team’s order of Papa Johns (hypothetically). However, if you stock your work fridge with clean mayo and mustard (and pickles!), you’re ready to make tuna salad at any time for any reason. I’ve even been known to throw together a tuna salad for breakfast if I’m particularly hungry. And yes, I do apologize to my coworkers while also threatening to microwave my bowl of fish if they complain about my weird eating habits.
4. Rotisserie Chicken
This is probably an obvious one but Whole Foods (as well as many local farmer’s markets) have cooked, plain (meaning no added spices that might carry hidden gluten) rotisserie chickens for purchase. If you’ve got a little bit more time, you can even make one in the slow cooker. These are a staple in our diet on busy weeks. I just pick one up when I’m buying groceries.
The trick is to go ahead and carve that guy right when you get home. I’ve never been good at carving birds so I just use my hands to pull all the meat off the carcass* and put it into a glass container or big plastic bag. Anytime we need meat for a salad or to throw in our lunch bags, we’ve got a super easy option right in the fridge.
*Pro Tip – If you have 5 dogs and one of them is a hound, go ahead and put the chicken bones in the outside trashcan.
I just started doing this this week and it is my new favorite thing. As I mentioned earlier in the post, this week (and many weeks) I just don’t have time to make 2-3 recipes on Sunday plus Sunday dinner. However, I have realized that I can usually spare 15-20 minutes to chop up some veggies. This Sunday I chopped up two onions, a couple scallions, some mushrooms and a few sweet potatoes. When I cook during the week, I find the thing that takes the most time (and adds to the mess of cooking) is chopping. It has been amazing to get home from the gym at 8:30pm and already have onion and mushrooms chopped up and ready to be sautéed. Then all I have to do is add meat – either right in the skillet or under the broiler – and in no time we’re sitting at the table trying not to look at our phones while we eat a yummy meal.
Ok, I have a confession. I buy pre-washed and pre-chopped kale in giant bags. I know, I make my own deodorant but I can’t wash or chop my own kale? Listen, this is the type of compromise sometimes you have to make so that you set yourself up for success. You can find these giant bags of bourgeois kale both at local farmer’s markets and at Whole Foods. When I’m starving and tired and I know my broiled skirt steak is going to be ready in 10 minutes and I don’t feel like chopping things (see above tip), grabbing a few handfuls of kale and throwing them in a skillet is the best and only option.
The key to all of this for me has been two-fold. The first part is deciding to make yourself and your well-being a priority. The second part is figuring out how to make that work for you everyday. The second part is much easier to give tips on than the first part. Maybe I’ll start working on a new post. Reality Check: Fav Tips For Realizing You’re Worth a Crap.