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20-day diet prep plan: Day 6 – Plan your first week’s meals (and my flexible meal plan approach)

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Today’s basic task: Plan your meals and snacks for the first week.

And if you haven’t already, you might want to start eating protein with every meal. Just a suggestion.

For meal-planning-haters

Some people love to meal plan; some hate it. If you’re in the second camp, hang with me! I’ve tried having a detailed meal plan in the past, but I love my last-minute flexibility too much to conform to it all the time, so I’ve come up with a method that relieves me of some of the forethought, but leaves day-to-day options open.

NOT like this:

meal planning reality check

Nor can I handle meal prep like this…

#mealprep - lunches

I admire people who can, but that just ain’t me! I need something more flexible.

My sort-of, flexible meal plan

The way I plan my meals provides a balance between me having to figure out what to cook every single day, and providing some flexibility for day-before or day-of adjustments. My weeknight dinner plans look something like this:

Monday: Cook’s choice. I make whatever sounds good or easy that day, or something to use up any weekend leftovers. If I were going to make this more specific on a week-to-week basis, I would say — soup in the winter, salad in the summer

Tuesday: Chicken or pork. This is usually something that just gets stuck in the oven to roast — often with veggies on the same pan. If I were a crockpot kinda girl, I’d use the crockpot, too.

Wednesday: Salmon for me, steak for my husband. He’s happy to grill himself a steak once a week, and I have several easy salmon recipes that I prefer, so this is easier than it sounds!

Thursday: Burgers – usually with sauteed onions and/or mushrooms on top. But sometimes with bacon and guac. Or marinara and Parmesan. Minimal dish clean-up! (Because Thursday is the day I get tired of doing dishes.)

Friday: Stir-fry – get it? Stir-Fry-Day? Sometimes this is Asian, sometimes more like fajitas without the tortillas. Might be chicken, steak, pork, or shrimp. If I were working full time, I would probably grab my veggies pre-sliced from the store.

This way, my “what’s for dinner” dilemma is narrowed down, eliminating dozens of options to sift through, but it still leaves me room for adapting to what I have on hand, what’s on sale, or whether I feel more like American, Mexican, or Asian that day.

Of course, you can adapt this to your style. Does your family do meatless Mondays or fish on Fridays? Move salmon to that day of the week. Is Wednesday night extra crazy for you? Make that your soup or burger night, prepping everything the night before.

You can swap out other dish types or themes that suit you: Taco Tuesday, hot dog bar, noodle (or zoodle) night, etc.

I’ve found this approach very easy to live with. Meal planning can be a huge help to sticking with your new way of eating, but it doesn’t have to be restrictive or labor intensive, so I hope you’ll try this out and find it helpful, too!

12 of my favorite easy main dish recipes:

Easy pork tenderloin

Ancho-crusted salmon

Balsamic-glazed salmon

Adaptable fish tacos

Low(er) carb chili

Caesar salad – & 30-second Caesar salad *

Tex-Mex salad*

Quick easy buffalo chicken quesadillas *

One-pan chicken with veggies

Sloppy Joe-tatoes

Brat and cabbage soup – great to make the day or night before!

Salsa verde chicken* – seriously: dump a few things in a pan and put it in the oven!

*Contains cheese and/or beans: forbidden for those on Whole30, but okay if you’re just focusing on eating real food, and/or eliminating sugar and refined carbs.


The Meal Plan for People Who Hate to Meal Plan

>>>HEY! WANT MORE DETAIL? I’ve expanded and modified this post, turning it into a six-night plan with links to over 30 easy real-food recipes. I’ve also included tips for adapting meals for people on different diets. Get it for free when you sign up for my mailing list!

Learn more.

 


Featured image source: Anne Taintor

How I stock my kitchen for easy, healthy meals: 30 ingredients

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower

Are you thinking about starting to eat Paleo, do a Whole30, or just eat cleaner, healthier, real food? If you’re going to change the way you eat, you’ll probably need to change the way you stock your kitchen. This can feel daunting, but I hope this list will help.

There are certain ingredients that I always keep on hand to make meals more doable. You know those articles in women’s magazines and blogs, where they show you eight articles of clothing that can be combined into 40 different outfits? This is the same principle! I’d guess that at least 90% of what I make for everyday meals can be accomplished with only these ingredients.

Your list doesn’t need to match mine, of course, but hopefully this post will serve as inspiration. This list is mostly Paleo, almost Whole30 except for a couple items, and completely whole, real foods!

And be encouraged: once you look over this list, you’ll probably realize that you’re already well on your way to a well-stocked kitchen.

10 things I always have in the fridge:

1. Chopped onions. I chop up yellow onions a couple times a week, enough to last two or three days.

2. Eggs. Always enough for a couple days worth of breakfast, at least, plus a couple to spare.

3. Good quality hot dogs or fully cooked sausage. Quick, hearty lunch when heated up with some sauerkraut!

whole30 paleo dinner; pork, sweet potato + cauliflower

4. Already-baked sweet potato. Add to scrambled eggs, soup, salads, hash; top with pulled pork or other meat. Or spread with butter or bacon fat, salt and pepper; or mash with butter and cinnamon for a quick, nutritious side dish!

5. Already washed baby spinach. Beyond salad: chop and add to soup or eggs.

6. Maple syrup. For glazes, sauces, and salad dressings.

7. Condiments: tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), mustard, sriracha, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or just a jar of adobo sauce), pickles

stock my kitchen - coconut milk

8. Full-fat coconut milk. A good sub, in many cases, for heavy cream. If you’re not avoiding dairy, stock real, unadulterated cream.

9. Lemon juice. I juice a couple fresh lemons once every week or so, keep it in a small jar in the fridge. For salad dressings, deglazing a pan to make pan sauce, adding to tea, etc.

10. Flours: almond, coconut, flax. Substitutes for wheat flour in various uses. Keeping them in the fridge helps them last longer. Info on almond and coconut flour.

Additional things that are usually (but not always) in my fridge, or are seasonal:

Sauerkraut, bacon, rendered bacon fat, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, celery, green onions, zucchini (to make zoodles), bell peppers, cabbage, apples, bone broth, homemade mayo, romaine (used for wraps in the summer), already-baked russet potato


Want more info about how I do meal planning for people who hate to meal plan?

Check this out!


10 things I always have in the freezer:

1. Chopped parsley, stored in a baggie with most of the air pressed out. It’s easy to scoop out a tablespoon or a quarter-cup as needed, with no additional chopping. This is more than a garnish; it adds a fresh, peppery zing and some bright green color to the party!

2. Hamburger; some cooked, lightly seasoned, and crumbled; some raw in 1/4 lb. patties. Sometimes, also fully cooked meatballs.

balsamic salmon, 3 pieces

3. Salmon & mahi-mahi, individual portions

4. Shrimp, deveined & deshelled

5. Bulk sausage, Italian and/or breakfast, stored in individual portions

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower
Paleo meatballs with marinara, and Italian cauliflower

 

6. Homemade sugar-free marinara, stored in 1-cup portions. If you don’t want to make homemade, go for the most sugar-free brand you can find or afford.

7. Chicken thighs or breasts, prepped and frozen individually

8. Berries: sometimes mixed, sometimes single varieties

9. My veggies of choice: currently green beans, broccoli florets

10. Bone broth or plain chicken stock, stored in 2-cup portions

(Also: leftover chicken bones, onion ends, and parsley stems for my next batch of broth)

Things I always have in the pantry:

1. Bag of yellow onions

2. Head of garlic

 

3. Extra coconut milk

4. Vinegars: rice, balsamic, red wine, unfiltered apple

5. Oil: olive, coconut, and usually sesame for Asian dishes

taco-mix-montage

6. Homemade seasoning mixes: taco, chili, Italian, burger (and of course other individual seasonings)

7. Nuts: cashew to top an Asian stir-fry; almonds, pecans, and walnuts for salads & snacks

8. A little wheat flour or rice flour for pan-frying fish

9. Honey

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

 

10. Tuna in foil packets. I make this simple tuna salad several times a week in the summer. Here are more tuna ideas.

See? Not such an exotic list, for the most part. You probably have most of this on hand. It’s just a matter of learning to see new ways to combine these basic “wardrobe” pieces to create an infinite number of quick, easy, tasty meals!

Here are some menu idea starters.

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

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The miraculous factory: You

As a hobby, Eric Holubow seeks out abandoned architectural spaces — like old factories, churches, theatres, and prisons. The spaces are usually in some state of decay, and Eric photographs them as an art project, but with a journalistic feel.

Here is one example, from the original article:

Designed in an inspiring Neo-classical style… the massive Richmond Power Station in northeastern Philadelphia was built in 1925…. The plant’s Turbine Hall, one of the biggest open rooms ever designed, once housed the world’s largest Westinghouse turbo-generators, which provided power to the city’s bustling industrial and residential sectors. Closed since 1985, the plant has been used as a set in a number of Hollywood feature films. Ironically, crews that use the structure have to provide their own power generators, as the dormant plant is… no longer connected to the region’s electrical grid.

factory/power plant - photo by eric holubow

I share his fascination for things crumbling, rusty, and history-laden — but that’s not what this post is about.

It’s about you.

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