Working long hours, have a family, need quick and easy meal ideas


Madz

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I haven't started the whole 30 yet, but my life is very busy, and I want to be very prepared before I start so I don't fail.

 

At the moment my partner and I both work 7-5 during the week. We all get up at 5, get ready, leave by 6. Usually I eat some toast or a smoothie on the way. My son eats breakfast in the car, we just can't get him up any earlier it wears him out too much.

 

We work all day with one 15 minute break, and one half hour break. Home by 6, and the little one is in bed by 7. We are all so exhausted in the evenings that it is hard to think about getting dinner ready, let alone breakfast for the next day.

 

Oh, and I study full time, and have 51 acres of land to look after...

I guess what I am looking for is meals that I can prepare on the weekend, so I don't have much to do in the mornings and at nights when I work. I also don't want to spend all weekend cooking.

 

Breakfasts concern me, I can't spend time cooking in the morning.

 

My staples at the moment revolve around pasta, rice, soups, stews, things that I can make in bulk and then freeze the leftovers.

 

My main reason for doing the whole 30 is to eat different foods, and feel healthier and more energetic. My lifestyle is unsustainable.

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Think about your current soup/stew recipes and see if you can alter them to fit the template. Add more protein, replace grains with another veggies and switch out cooking fats. One recipe that I love is paleOMG five ingredient pizza bake. (Sorry can't link it), can make it ahead a reheat when ready to eat. Also, not every meal needs to be a recipe. Tuna or egg salad on greens, grilled chicken/burgers with steamed veggies, compliant hotdogs/sausage thing like that can help you out with limited time too. For breakfast I love nom nom paleo prosciutto wrapped mini frittatas to make ahead and reheat. I also make ground turkey breast into sausage with ginger, poultry seasoning, cinnamon, S&P and unsweetened applause fried in coconut oil (a staple breakfast for me) and roasted sweet potatoes.

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My main reason for doing the whole 30 is to eat different foods, and feel healthier and more energetic. My lifestyle is unsustainable.

 

I am glad to hear you say, "My lifestyle is unsustainable." I just hope you don't miss out on too much life before you take steps to make your lifestyle sustainable.

 

I am sure that you will be able to find a variety of "quick and easy meal ideas," but I want to challenge you to consider what you might do to make some changes in how you manage time for food now. The time that you take to cook and eat food says something about how seriously you take yourself and the importance of your life.

 

There was a time in my life when I ate every meal every day in a restaurant or from a drive-through window because I was so busy. And then I moved to a phase where everything I ate came frozen and had to be heated in the microwave and I was upset that some things needed 7 minutes. I thought everything should be ready in no more than 4 minutes. Now here is the thing: I am busier today than I ever was when I ate all my food from restaurants, the freezer, and the microwave oven, but now I cook most meals that I eat myself from fresh ingredients. I have not eaten in my car or gone through a drive-through window in years. What has changed is that I take cooking and eating more seriously than I did before. I take me more seriously than I did before. Cooking and eating fresh food does not make me more efficient or save me time, but I have come to believe that it is important enough for me to find time for it. What I am raising with you is not something you can achieve in one day, but I challenge you to consider that cooking and eating good food is more important than you have ever thought of it being before, that your goal should be more than switching from eating foods that make you unhealthy when you are running from one task to another to eating foods that make you more healthy while you run.

 

I don't have a stack of answers on how to make this happen. I'm just saying I think it is important.

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The crock pot is your best friend!  It is so easy to throw meat, some spice, veggies and turn it on when you walk out the door (or before bed).  

Boil a whole chicken and shred the meat and toss it on top of salads (bagged spinach, cherry tomatos, walnuts, EVOO and basalmic vinegar)  nothing exciting but healthy, fast, and microwave free.  

I make burger patties (filled with some sort of veggie puree) when ground meats go on sale and freeze them up - defrost the right amount in the fridge while you are at work, serve with sauteed veggies and some slices of avocado.

I do a LOT of cooking on the weekend to accomodate running around all week.  Find simple, freezer-friendly recipes to do this!

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I have a relatively tight time frame, though not as yours, and I've found ground beef and chicken to be my saviors in quick meal prep. When planning fast things to do, you have to take your tastes into account.  I have not found many crock pot meals that I like, and I'm not one who is really great at cooking a week's meals in advance to store in the fridge.  While I can do it, over this W30 (I'm day 26), I discovered its not something I like to do, so my alternative was to find quick meals to prepare freshly, and eat leftovers for breakfast and/or lunch.

 

For breakfast, I am swearing by shepard's pie by theclothesmakethegirl.com . I made the recipe differently by putting pot roast in the crock pot and using that instead of the ground beef.  Since you can set and forget the top round in the crock, it actually rduces your time at the stove preparing thsi dish. The dish is more time consuming for my preference, but since it will last me for a few days, its worht the time.  It is so good in the morning, and I've added easy crock pot chicken soup for breakfast as well.  Compliant broth (5-6 cups), 2 rotisserie or roasted chicken breasts with the white meat broken up in bite size pieces, half of a bag of frozen carrots sliced, and chopped celery, season to your tastes.  Put in crock pot on low fora few hours to simmer, when the frozen carrots are fork tender, you know you're done.  it is so simple and reheats well and stores in fridge.

 

I tend to make seasoned ground beef or chicken and a number of ways taht are minutes to toss together, steam frozen veggies as a side and eat the seasoned meat in romaine lettuce leaves.  For lunches, I make a batch of tuna, chicken or egg salad to eat with also a green salad with a dressing I made at home.  All of these things are my go-to recipes for ease in the middle of the week.  I save the fancy or more creative dishes for the weekend, and its a bonus if there's left overs for Mondays.  

 

I also found trying new spices or making my ground beef or chicken spicy is what makes it feel like its not just some ho-hum boring meal.  I also use lots of compliant mayo to make zesty creamy sauces to put on my ground beef/chicken on lettuce wraps.  Idk,I have a thing for creamy sauces.

 

For example, my husband defrosted too much of the striped bass he caught over the summer (my husband is a big recreational fisherman, so we generally eat what he catches, rarely buy except for shell fish).  We had fish steaks thursday night, used the left overs to make fish cakes friday night (any paleo crab cake recipe works,e xcept use white fish in place of crab), then fish tacos for lunch on saturday.  This was made with a paleo mayo base, squirt of lime, chili powder, cumin and chipotle powder, salt and pepper whipped together and mixed it with the fish.  Threw it on some romain lettuce leaves and chowed down, and ate soem paleo coleslaw as a side.  it was literally a 5 minute prep using leftovers in a different way that made for a very tasty lunch.

 

Its totally doable, but you will slowly learn to think of new things, especially once you start to notice your likes and dislikes.

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I just saw this on paleomg website looking for the 5 ingredient pizza bake above.  Holy crap this looks good.  Its like a giant meatball topped with your favorite veggies.  I am soooo making this, and topping with mushrooms, onions, and peppers--my fave pizza toppings.  I would do pepperoni too if I could find a compliant one. lol

 

this looks fast and easy and will probably last you a couple of days.

 

http://paleomg.com/meatza-my-way/

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Mass prep is your friend! So are kitchen hacks. If you find a meal you like but it's too tricky, ask for tips to make it easier. Some meals are weekend ones only, but some can be every day with a few tweaks :)

 

Nomnompaleo taught me to roast two chickens at once (not really any more work than 1 chicken).

Slow cookers are wonderful things, but if everything comes out of it, you'll get sick of it, use it wisely, but not solely :)

Lots of things can be cooked in muffin pans to make them portable, but still nutritous :) Egg cups, sausage patties, veggie patties, salmon patties, etc. (12 in a pan is a whole bunch of meals for not a lot of work).

Review the time you spend food shopping - I now save time and money by getting organic veggies delivered (so I can use shopping time for cooking instead) and they're better quality than what I used to get before, some are even prepped for me :D

 

If you're getting ready to start I highly recommend the Well Fed cookbooks, they also cover prep as well as recipes (although I'm a much slower prepper than she is lol), she has some great time saving tips.

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Oh, and I totally agree with Tom on sustainable lifestyle.

 

It's something we often "power through" in the modern age, but it really comes with a price and it's often our health.

 

I had a really unsustainable lifestyle for a long time and I've completely lost my health as a result.

It wasn't worth it. It takes much longer to recover from than you might expect.

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ITA on the sustainability of lifestyle.  My husband and I had a terribly work-packed lifestyle, with 3 small kids, and it really wore us down.  Not to mention, we didn't love that our kids had really long days at daycare or had to use the aftercare program at school.  So we bit the bullet and my husband became a stay at home dad.  I still have very long days as an attorney.  But, we are slowly making changes so that can be adjusted as well.

 

its not always possible to make changes to long working lifestyles quickly.  but now that you realize its not sustainable, take baby steps to produce it.

 

Its so not worth it.  It really isn't.

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I second buying Well Fed and Well Fed 2.  The biggest time saver I took from those books is do the weekly cook-up.  I will also double recipes so I can freeze them.  The chocolate chili is a favorite that I will double and freeze.  That way if I'm running low towards the end of the week on food, I can grab a chili out of the freezer.  I love chopped spinach in mine and topped with tomatoes, there's your veggies.  I'll cook up a fritatta with lots of veggies.  That's easy to grab and go and can be eaten cold.  Weekly, I make a sweet potato hash that has onions and peppers, when I chop the sweet potatoes, I keep some in a container and if I'm going to have a steak/chicken, I'll roast them in the oven as a side dish.  The hash goes long way for a quick side with eggs during the week for breakfast or dinner.  I've even thrown the chili on fried eggs....YUMMY!  I make up some tuna with homemade mayo....which is my "go-to" on Fridays during lent.  I just had spaghetti squash for the first time last night.....we're going to be great friends.  I had it last night and will have the left overs tonight with pan seared scallops.  Another favorite is cauliflower rice.  I love making stuffed peppers with it, again, I'll double the recipe and freeze them.  I want to make a mock-pork fried rice using cauliflower rice, I just haven't gotten around to it. 

 

I did my first W30 last May while working 80 hours a week while caring for my husband who was battling cancer.  I live by:  Fail to plan and plan to fail.  Planning saved my sanity.   

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I was like Tom, eating out and then eating frozen stuff, which was advertised as 'healthy' but was anything but. Now I make mos of my own food from fresh ingredients. It does take some time, but it's more being organized. At first it was stressful, but eventually you get into a grove, you know a few things you can make so when you are at the market, you buy those ingredients you need or improvise. Keep it simple at first.

 

For breakfast, I can't have eggs, so I make ground pork patties and I prebake these and a bunch of sweet potatoes, then heat this each morning. For lunch, I make stews, either beef or lamb or pork with veggies, I make these in the slow cooker and freeze them for during the week. For dinner, I usually try to grill something, or I'll make a batch of marinated chicken and have that 2-3 times a week. Veggies are eiter prebaked beets, butternut squash or frozen green beans, spinach or other veggies. I'd say I spend about 2 hours on a Sunday making all of this and it's done for the week. I've started to make larger batches, I make 2 weeks worth of breakfast patties at a time and in the summer I can make 2 chickens and cut them apart and freeze them in portions for lunch. I also make my own beef broth every few weeks and freeze in jars. I use this in my stews and it not only adds flavor, but it's very healthy.

 

Yes, it's time consuming, but  The rewards are worth it. I wasn't doing very well before I started this, and now I feel like a different person. You need to take care of yourself so you can outlast your chaotic life.

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Try searching for Once A Month Cooking paleo- there are sites with specific instructions for using one (long) day a month to create a month's worth of frozen food you can just pull out of the freezer and heat for meals.  I've done variations in the past and it's very efficient, especially if your days are busy.  

 

I like to make a big batch of soup or chili and put in individual containers and freeze for lunches.  So easy to throw in the lunch box and heat at work.  I'll also make big batch of beef or chicken and freeze in single servings to add to salads or eat on their own with a veggie side.

 

I've also found that if I wash and spin a head of lettuce on Sunday, it keeps well in a plastic bag with a paper towel, and I can use it all week (I'll put any unused leaves back in the bag- we dress our salads separately).  This saves prep time during the week.

 

I also second WellFed's weekend prep plan!
 

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Even if you don't want to eat frozen regularly, having a month's (or even a week's) worth of good frozen good goes a long way in bringing balance :)

 

Pre-prepped stuff is awesome if you can get it.

 

Salad (I don't bother if I have to wash it, I can prep it faster than wash it)

Baby spinach (raw or cooked)

Cooked and peeled beetroot (personally I hate eating beetroot, but I hate peeling it even more lol)

Avocado in a tub - I prefer normal fresh, but there are some pure (fresh) avocado tubs now for sale, great for salad dressings, etc.

 

One big learning for me was not cooking "weekend" meals during the week. Some meals take longer to prep or make, doesn't mean you can't have them, but planning them on weeknights when you're tired and busy is just silly, if you have more time on the weekend. Some can also be split over several days for cooking/prep :)

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Make a big frittata (or muffin tin mini frittatas) on the weekend. Preheat the oven to 350. Get a big cast iron or metal skillet out. Cut up and saute onions, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, maybe a little ground meat for extra flavor (or any combo of veggies, etc you find enticing) til somewhat soft. Add a bit of spices/herbs and saute another minute. Meanwhile depending on the size of your pan, scramble up 6 -12 eggs. Add a little more coconut oil to the pan, pour in the eggs, salt & pepper it all. Turn off the heat. Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until done, this will depend on the size of your pan, amount of eggs, etc. Eat from this all week.

 

I'm not going to lie, the Whole 30 takes some food time and there's no getting around that. Tom's words are very wise.

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Others have already made the suggestions I was going to, but I will make one that I haven't seen...

 

If it helps (at least in the beginning) to buy your veggies already pre-peeled/sliced/cubed, then do so; it's a huge time saver. I just recently realized that Costco carries a lot of veggies cut/washed/ready-to-go such as peeled and cubed squash, washed salad greens, washed mixed baby kale, cut-up broccoli, etc. I'm in Canada so no Trader Joe's here, but I believe TJs also carries a selection of ready-to-go veggies.

 

(Just thought of another one!) I've been a long-time user of restaurant size/grade plastic food storage containers (which I purchased years ago at a restaurant supply/food equipment store)...they're super practical because they allow you to store as much of a food item as you need (these things come in a huge variety of sizes), are stackable, have markings on the outside to indicate volume, shaped such that you make the most efficient use of fridge space, and they are super affordable! (Will try to upload a photo of said containers for reference). Do not underestimate the volume of food you will go through on a weekly basis while doing a Whole30.

 

(Last one!) It's way more time-efficient to prep (peel/wash/cut/etc) your produce when you get home from grocery shopping, so it goes into the fridge once (after it's been prepped), and comes out of the fridge once (just before it's about to be used/cooked for a meal). I don't know about others, but my fridge is pretty packed after it gets its weekly stock-up. I quickly learned that putting groceries away in the fridge unprepped, and then pulling them out again to prep right before a meal resulted in more frequent and bigger messes in the kitchen in addition to adding to the time it takes to make a meal, which sometimes meant that I also ate later than I was supposed to. Not to mention that because the fridge was so packed, I would have to pull out a whole bunch of other stuff that had nothing to do with that meal just to access the food items I did need.

 

Anyway, hope this helps!

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Great containers - very helpful and they look like good quality material.

 

We actually made a concentrated effort to store most things in glass, when possible. We still store salad greens, etc in plastic containers but we don't freeze or reheat anything in plastic anymore.

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Great containers - very helpful and they look like good quality material.

 

We actually made a concentrated effort to store most things in glass, when possible. We still store salad greens, etc in plastic containers but we don't freeze or reheat anything in plastic anymore.

 

Good point ultrarunnergirl, I completely agree :) Plastic containers only get used for fridge or dry storage. I use mason jars or glass containers for everything else. Don't own a microwave (never have), so anything that needs reheating gets done on the stovetop in a pot or pan.

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For some people, delivery of stuff can be a big time saver too, whether it's lack of availability locally, taking the whole family to the shop, opening hours, etc.

 

Getting organic stuff delivered is something I just couldn't get done without delivery. There's nothing organic close to me and anything sort-of close is closed whenever I can get there.

 

If this sounds like you, it's worth asking around.

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Only on day 10 and still figuring out the efficiency piece but here are two tips I've come up with:

 

1. frozen boneless skinless ckn thighs, jar of compliant salsa - crockpot 10 hrs on low overnight - wake up to easily shredded, delicious ckn for lots of uses.  (a top salad, mixed with some eggs and spinach, tacos in lettuce wraps, etc)

 

2. i make a big batch of hash with diced sweet pot, brussel sprouts, just a bit of pork sausage for flavor, red onions in a big skillet on the weekend.  Put in a big tupperware.  In the am, spoon a generous serving into a bowl, crack 2-3 eggs on top.  Microwave for 2.5-3 minutes.  Then stir to mix in the nice poached, runny egg.  Once my work schedule firms up, I see myself bringing in this big tupperware and a carton of eggs for the break room fridge and doing this for breakfast most days (since I get in pretty early).  Could easily be lunches for a week, too.

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Forgive me if this is already in the thread:

I have a 12 hour work day and long commute. I have hard boiled eggs on hand for the morning. That and an avocado if I have time to open it. Eat it with a spoon right out of the skin. Cook up a passel of approved bacon or sausage as an alternative between egg days to mix it up. eggs and a small, low sugar fruit like some berries or an apple. Use one day off to cook in bulk to have night meals ready.

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