I've never really planned meals before and this summer to stay on track, I think I'll need to start somehow. I'll be working 10 hours a day, 4 days a week as an intern at a gold mine, and it'll take an hour to get to the site, and another hour to come home. So, four days a week, I'll be gone for 12 hours. On top of that, I'm taking 3 3-credit courses online to ensure I graduate on time. How can I plan ahead and not fall off due to convenience?
I'm assuming that I'll need to do some weekend cooking to have things around to munch on and ready to grab on my way to work. Are there any sites which have a basic set up for newbs such as myself?
Or, rather, do you guys have any tips or tricks to planning (and sticking to it) meals for the week?
Sit down with three pieces of paper. One is your meal plan- put in everything you think you will eat in a week (you get better at ballparking this with practice). Look to the internet, cookbooks, and old stand-by's for convenience. The next one is the grocery list- take an inventory of your fridge and pantry, then construct a list that will make sure you have everything on hand. The third is your prep list- this is where meal planning becomes really convenient. Think about everything you can do ahead of time so that you can just be popping things in the oven or the pan throughout the week. Get marinades going, mix salad dressings, chop/peel veggies, combine ingredients in bowls for casserole dishes or slow cooker, put lunch items in the right size containers for grabbing, hard boil all your eggs and peel them, wash your greens....everything that can be done ahead of time, just get it done in one go. Put on a podcast or a good album, and just dedicate a couple of hours to prep. It will save you an enormous amount of time in the long run!
There's a Paleo cookbook called "Well Fed" that talks about meal planning which I loved. And I swear I don't work for the author, but she really had a great concept of how 2 hours of cooking on a Sunday allowed her to stay on track all week long. Basically she'd brown some ground beef, grill some chicken, partially steam/fry some veggies and make some dressings/sauces. Then she could add meat + veggie + sauce for a bunch of meal combinations.
Another idea is to learn to love your crock pot. I hate food that comes out of a crock pot but most people are in love with theirs. If you don't have one, they aren't very expensive to buy.
You'll get a lot of responses, but I'll just chime in with one thing I haven't heard a lot of people say: Make sure you're planning to eat things you actually like to eat.
One pit I've fallen into is buying things that look "good for me" that I don't love, and then I end up throwing them away, or if I bring them with me, I end up talking myself into eating restaurant food or worse, fast food. So just take a minute and think about your favorite meals and foods you're eating now. Can you put them in a tupperware and throw it in a cooler? Can you warm them up onsite, or eat them cooled or at room-temperature while driving or on breaks? On your off days, make extra portions of those things that are both convenient AND you like eating, package them into appropriate containers, pack a cooler each night before work, and stick the whole thing in the fridge. No over-thinking. You can't fail. :)
I usually eat simple.
I buy a bunch of stuff I know I like and that more often than not can go together, then I make whatever I get hungry for.
Chicken, Beef, potatoes, eggs, broccoli, onions, kale, spinach, butter, coconut oil, oranges, bananas, etc.
Eggs, spinach, onions = Omlette for breakfast Chicken, onions, carrots = Delicious lunch Banana and orange = Snack Beef, potatoes, onions, garlic = Stew for dinner
I sometimes eat strange combinations of foods because I am not cooking for anyone else, just myself and since I live on a college budget, I'm not looking for anything special.
If you're cooking for more people, the same thing applies. Buy things that go well together and that are easy to prepare. No need to make complex dishes, even though it's fun sometimes.
Pre-Paleo I started using Food On The Table to plan and prep meals. You can set up several stores which you shop at, customize your groceries (ie, what you're interested in buying). It gives up to three planned meals for the week, and most of the recipes are peer-reviewed so you'll know if they taste great or not. The free version limits you to three meals/week.
You also might check out Meals Made Easier.
Check out my Paleo food blog!!! I just wrote a cool post on planning and budgeting! Enjoy and share :)
I've bought frozen wild-caught tuna at Trader Joe's and defrosted it in the fridge. I can make a good dinner in less than 15 minutes by heating coconut oil in a pan and cooking my seasoned fish 3 minutes on a side. Add a salad and good to go. There's two fillets in a package so the next meal takes even less time to prepare. This is just one easy to prepare dinner, the only thing to plan is to make sure it's defrosted.
I'm a HUGE believer in flexibility and being able to adjust my menu depending on what I'm in the mood for that day-- but it's also important not to let items spoil, too. This is how I do my meal planning using a chalkboard in my kitchen: http://www.livefabuless.com/2011/05/fabuless-tip-how-to-make-meal-planning-flexible-doable-and-fun.html Hope you find it useful!