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Give me your time-saving tips and recipes!


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I started 8 days ago. Like many of the other people here, I am finding the amount of prep work and meal planning to be my biggest challenge, to the point where I am not eating enough at work.  I work full-time, as does my husband, and we have two very young children. Time is not something I have a lot of, at all. Even before starting this, I hardly had time to make dinner every night using simple convenience foods. I spent a good 4-5 hours this weekend just prepping food for the week, and I'm almost out of it already and it's only Tuesday!!!  :unsure:


So, I need your tips and tricks. Crockpot recipes. Giant batch recipes. I try to follow the meal template but it is just proving impossible some days as I just don't have enough on hand to fill up at each meal, and I don't want to give up because of hunger. 



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I should add that I am also allergic to tree nuts, which obviously poses a problem with adding easy food to my plates since legumes are out of the question (boy do I miss my apples and peanut butter :/)

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One thing I found that helped was using my food processor to chop veggies when doing your meal prep. You can pulse carrots, cauliflower, beets, zucchini, broccoli - pretty much anything you can imagine. The best way I can describe it is a "very chunky rice." It's prepped MUCH faster than chopping by hand, and it cooks faster, too!


Also, if you marinate meats and broil them, they tend to cook a little faster. This recipe for Marinated Tri-Tip is my all-time favorite. You can do a few roasts at once to make sure you have leftovers. This recipe for Swordfish is pretty amazing, too and it will broil up in a snap. You can broil Chicken Thighs and cut the bake time in half. If you have a big enough roasting pan, you can make chicken for a couple of days in less than 20 minutes. The recipe on that one calls for pan searing them, but put them under a hot broiler for 5-7 minutes per side instead and they're quicker. Make up a batch of Veggie Egg Nests using ANY veggies you have on hand. They take less than 5 minutes to prep and you can bake a whole bunch at once in the morning while you're getting ready for work.


While I try to use fresh veggies as much as possible, don't underestimate frozen veggies! Sometimes I just don't have the time/energy to chop and cook fresh, and you can boil or steam a bag of frozen in about 7 minutes (including the time to bring the veggies to a boil). While you're at it, do 2 bags and you've got leftovers.


I don't have much time to meal prep either, so my meal prep consists of doubling meals and having left overs in the fridge. It works - most of the time. :)

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Make friends with compliant canned foods: compliant tuna, chicken, and salmon.  Whip up some homemade mayo, add to your protein of choice with chopped celery to get compliant tuna, chicken or salmon salad. Add a microwaved sweet potato and you have an easy template meal.  Could also use sardines in olive oil instead as your protein here.

Compliant Applegate hot dogs are another quick protein choice. Takes 5 minutes to cook in boiling water. Have compliant sauerkraut with olives for a fat to get another quick template meal. 


Batch cooking meatloaf or meatball recipes has been a time saver. I especially love this sweet potato meatloaf recipe (makes 2 loaves), and this moroccan meatball recipe. 


Do you have an outdoor grill? Grill any protein of choice with your favorite seasonings, along with your favorite veggies.  Top with compliant olive oil, homemade mayo or guacamole.

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Since you specifically mentioned lunches on work days being challenging, I would always make more of your Meal 3 than your family will eat and when you put the leftovers away, make your lunch for the next day right then. ie: Build a container with leftover protien, veg, etc. that is ready to grab when you leave for work in the morning. No thinking necessary!


I also cook large batches of protien at one time so it's in the fridge and ready to eat. Chicken breast in the crock pot is my weekly "go to". I used to bake chicken breast but couldn't stand the texture. The crock pot keeps it moist and then I have it on hand as an ingredient. I just grab a "palm sized" amount and chop it and add whatever is in the fridge. ie: olives, pickles, green onions, cooked veggies, an apple, or whatever and then homemade mayo. Throw it on some pre-cut pre-washed greens and voila.


I keep several cans of compliant tuna on hand at all times and treat it the same way as the chicken or sometimes grill the mixture in a pan after mixing to switch up the texture. (It tastes more like a tuna cake in that case.)


I also have homemade compliant BBQ sauce in the fridge. It's great for throwing on top of protien and heating in the micro. (Think pulled chicken.) *BBQ sauce recipe on @whole30recipes Instagram


Always keep a tub of fresh salsa in the fridge!


Sliced deli turkey is great too. I love to build a "sandwich in a bowl" by stacking mixed greens, turkey, tomato, onions, pickles, etc. and drizzle a little homemade mayo or mustard on top. I also do quick lettuce wraps with butter lettuce, turkey, a sliver of avocado or spoonful of guac and then roll it up and munch. Delish!


Aidelle's sausage is a dinner time life saver for us. I've been heating it through on the grill lately or slicing and heating/ browning in a pan. Add a giant pile of steamed veggies and you have dinner!


I make big batches of potato salad and keep in in the fridge. (Potato, pickles, hard boiled eggs, homemade mayo). That is so great to have on hand and just add a fist sized scoop to any meal to make it stick and find satiety.


Hard boil eggs by the dozen or half dozen! They are great for grab-n-go breakfast, great as an ingredient in salads, pototo salad, etc.


Breakfast seems to be the tricky one for me as I have had the bad habit of not eating breakfast for years and am now training myself to eat it. Typical super fast breakfasts for me have included:


3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped w a little mayo, leftover veggies, 1/2 sweet potato


3 eggs scrambled with salsa on top and 1/2 avocado, 1/2 sweet potato


I could go on but I really just want to tell you to trust the process because the more your brain gets used to building solid W30 template meals the easier it is to prep them quickly. I have found as time goes on that I am more and more able to look in my fridge/ pantry and quickly identify the elements of a meal that will come together fast, be in compliance, and tast good. IT GETS EASIER! I promise!

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Thank you all!!!  So helpful.  We do have a grill, and use it frequently. I really just need to get in the habit of cooking a lot at once I think.  No reason why I can't keep sweet potatoes here at work to cook for meals either.  I think I am going to have my own "pantry" here at work to make it easier.  I keep hearing about these Aidell's sausages from Costco - I need to get my butt over there. 


The recipe suggestions are great - keep em coming!

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When you're in the kitchen, double-up on jobs as much as you can and make use of foods or recipes that employ "hands-off" time like roasting in the oven or cooking in the crockpot. Yesterday morning, while my breakfast was heating up in a skillet, I tossed a pork roast into the crockpot (no searing necessary, just toss it straight in) and set a dozen eggs on the stove to boil. Once the eggs were boiling, I pulled them and set them aside to rest for 10 minutes and used that time to pack my lunch bag, shred a sweet potato for future breakfasts, and scrape my breakfast into a bowl.  Hardboiled eggs are a fantastic rescue when you're running out of your pre-cooked meat and you need some extra protein.


Whenever you roast something in the oven, use up all the available rack space in your oven. You may only need a small cookie sheet to cook-off a veggie for dinner, but if you're going to the trouble of turning on the oven, make a huge cookie sheet of your veggies and add a second tray of something else. (And even a third if you have that many racks in your  oven!) If you're roasting a chicken, toss half a dozen sweet potatoes into the oven with it and let them roast together. Now you have leftover sweet potatoes for future meals.


Shredded cabbage cooks down quickly and is one of my breakfast staples. I shredded a head of it on Sunday and now have two big containers of cabbage in my fridge.


As of right this moment, my fridge contains shredded pork roast (leftover from last night), cooked ground beef (from Sunday night), diced roast sweet potatoes, roasted green beans, raw shredded cabbage, and raw shredded sweet potato. I can have dinner on the table in about 15 minutes if we want a hot dinner or in about 2 minutes if we're game for cold leftovers and/or raw veggies.


Like others have said, it DOES get easier, especially as you learn more about how much food it takes to keep your family fed.


Here are some more links with ideas on batch cooking:


No recipe required- cold plate meals (Think deli food minus the crap)

Week 1 cooking plan (a complete how-to on batch cooking for the week)

Week 2 cooking plan (same as above with a few different recipes)

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I am another one for roasting veggies! I also do egg bakes -- 18 eggs beaten and mixed with a pound of cooked protein, a 1 lb bag of spinach, kale or collard greens (frozen) defrosted, along with additional veggies -- chopped onion, bell peppers, mushrooms (pre cooked), zucchini, what have you, all mixed up and poured into a 9x13 glass baking dish and I bake it for 45 minutes at 350. Depending on where you are, I would start checking at 30 minutes, so you don't over bake it. Meatloaf, meatballs, I love my crockpot for doing kalua pork (nom nom paleo's recipe), soup, stews, chili... throw everything in the crockpot in the morning and dinner is ready when you get home. I was also gifted a pressure cooker and I am in love! I did mexican beef from nom nom paleo and it was done in 30 minutes, tender, yummy..  had it in a bowl over chopped romaine, with tomatoes and avocado  soooo good! 

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Something I do is what I call "Cooking Ahead". We eat a lot of leftover meats and veggies, but like freshly cooked items for dinner because the taste and texture is a lot nicer when things are freshly roasted/cooked. So I make a menu each week and then when I come home to cook dinner I already have that night's meal totally prepped. I can immediately pop whatever it is that I am cooking that night onto the stove/into the oven, and use that cooking time to totally prep items for the next day's meals.


So if it usually takes you 20/30 minutes or so to prep your meats and veggies and another 20/30 minutes or so to cook them, you are accomplishing both things at once. So you have one dinner cooked within 30 minutes, and another prepped for the next night, if that makes any sense. Cuts your meal prep time in half.


It is also very helpful if you have other non-cooks helping with dinner. My husband and kids often get home before me and are able to start roasted chickens or roasts that take a longer time. If I handed them a raw bird to deal with they would just order pizza, but if I have prepped the meal and have it already in a roasting pan and all they have to do is turn on the oven and pop it in, then that is doable for them. When my kids were young I had them put the food into a cold oven before turning it on so they weren't going in and out of a hot oven when I wasn't home.


Something else I do is always make a menu each weekend for the following week to shop and plan from. I have a hard time prepping more than 3 days worth of stuff on the weekend also, but with the menu you can look at what is coming up the next day or two while you are prepping food each night and pull things out to defrost, make sure you have all the ingredients you need and hit the store on the way home from work if you need to, and prep enough of whatever you are dealing with to last a few days. Takes no more time to cut up 3 days worth of minced onions that it does for one really, having the menu posted on your fridge lets you easily see how many you need, what to do with that other half of the cabbage you have left over to have it ready for the next meal, etc.

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Large portions, as well as pre-cut veggies is great. I recently made a chicken broth that was easy and delicious. I can't remember the exact recipe but I searched for paleo broth.

It is a 4-5 lb chicken, whole. 2 onions, chopped in quarters. 3 celery stocks, halved and 3 large carrots halved as well as a LOT of salt and seasoning. Boil all of the ingredients, then simmer for a few hours (2 worked for me but it called for 3.5).

This made a lot of broth that I froze and use to supplement my meals, as well as shredded chicken that I have made soup with or just put in salad, etc.

I also find that pulled pork goes a long way. I like to premake the meats then just make the vegetables at meal time to accompany them!

Best of luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

A few tricks are below. I work a lot and don't mind leftovers so much, so I basically eat all leftovers.

1) Save time on sweet potatoes: if you slice some of them into rounds (1 preparation) and chop some of them into hash (2nd preparation), you can accomplish two different styles of starchy carb by seasoning them differently, and cooking one in a pan while the other roasts in the oven at 400. At the end of 20 minutes of cooking, you're done and things are less boring for the week.

2) Cook different meats at the same time: I cover my whole broiling pan with a mix of chicken and beef cuts, with different seasonings, and cook them all at once.

3) Zucchini noodles: I have a Vegetti, which is like a giant pencil sharpener. I do about 3 zucchini at once and keep them in the salad spinner raw. When I want to eat them, I throw one zucchini-equivalent into a bowl with some water into the microwave for 2 minutes. I pull it out and drain the water, and add number 4 below and compliant tomato sauce. Then I microwave for another 45 seconds or so.

4) Ground meat: I cook a pound at a time in compliant fat with Italian spices. I keep this for zucchini noodles, but you could do whatever you want with it.

5) Frittata: You can use up a dozen eggs plus veggies (I like spinach and sauteed mushrooms) and cook a frittata in the oven once, versus cooking eggs every day. It can then be eaten warm, cold, or at room temperature for 4 meals.

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