Prior to eating paleo I wanted and expected my meals to be quick. I didn’t allot much time at all for meal prep and sometimes didn’t factor it into my day at all. Most of what I ate for breakfast and lunch at least came from a package and didn’t require much before it was ready to be consumed. I did cook dinner every night but it was very “semi homemade” and didn’t involve a lot of real food.
I thought people that spent a lot of time chopping veggies and using the oven for more than baked ziti on a regular basis were suckers and I just didn’t understand why people would put so much time and effort into their food. Life was hard enough making pasta with butter and grilled cheese sandwiches, you know? How would holidays feel special if you roasted potatoes every night? How could I put on eyeliner every morning if I was making bacon and eggs?
Even one year ago, if you had told me exactly what I cooked for daily meals for myself and my family I would have either not believed it to be possible or I’d think I lost my mind. Paleo freak? Not me. I’m happy with my multiple bowls of cereal and ice cream, bagels, and random bouts of explosive diarrhea.
Okay, sorry about that last part and hopefully you weren’t eating. Now onto my meals. Yes, the pictures are ones you’ve most likely seen before, or at least something that looks just like that. You see, I STILL operate from the perspective of getting the best meal for my time, plus I don’t grocery shop every day so variety is sometimes lacking. This is also a great way to save time though – get comfortable making some good, healthy, delicious meals so it doesn’t feel like a ton of effort even if it’s a bit of work. Just like you can train yourself to run faster and more efficiently, you can train yourself to cook this way too.
Breakfast for myself typically takes 15 minutes to prepare. This was chopped bacon and ham (ran out of bacon) with sauteed sweet potatoes and kale with eggs. During that time I also prepare food for everyone else, so mine winds up taking a bit longer (maybe up to 20) by the time I actually
eat it instagram it. We all eat some semblance of the same thing so the ingredients I use for everyone’s are all the same (except my middle one who’s been into yogurt and fruit lately, and gets it for herself.) Breakfast is the biggest difference from pre-paleo in terms of time. Cereal for everyone was a daily ritual and cereal only takes 5 minutes. So my mornings are definitely more rushed now especially with running and showering, but it’s still very manageable and MORE than worth it!
Between my husband and I, someone makes a pot of coffee in the morning. If he leaves early and isn’t having, I make enough for 2 cups for myself. I add full fat canned coconut milk, which I blend and store in a container in the fridge to use all week. You can just see those MCTs swirling all around 🙂
Hmmm looks like I ate a lot of sweet potatoes on this particular day. This was baby kale (needed to get rid of my kale!) with a whole chopped medium avocado, sauteed sweet potato chunks and Aidells chicken apple sausage. I drizzled some olive oil on top for more fat and flavor. From start to finish this took 15 minutes, but I was interrupted with a potty situation so maybe it would’ve taken more like 12. My tip for quick sweet potatoes is this: chop them pretty small and cook over medium in a good deal of fat, then cover the pan for a few minutes to soften them with steam. Then uncover and sautee until nice and brown. Really couldn’t be easier. I probably used to spend 10 minutes making a sandwich anyway or at least 5 toasting a bagel. Yes, the chopping and clean up is more work, but again, so worth it for this food.
Okay here is a really quick food with no prep at all – a Lara Bar! These are great for my busy afternoons when I’m taking the kids to activities and I want something before dinner. I always have an afternoon snack and when I’m out of the house these things are my go-to. No time involved. Just remember to bring it with you.
On this day I had very limited time for dinner, since we get back from dance at 5:30 and I like to be done with dinner by 6:30 so we can get homework and bath-time done by 7:45. Anyway, this is a really basic version of my Taco Salad (the plantain chips are under there!) The thing with this is that my kids just get the meat, chips and then some cut up veggies, which tonight was red peppers. The whole thing from start to finish took 30 minutes, but most of that was making the plantain chips. But I freaking love these chips and so does my daughter and husband, so it’s really really worth it. SO much better than store bought and healthier since you’re using your own fat for the frying.
And then my bowl of fruit and coconut butter. Takes no time at all and besides, after the kids are bathed I’m cutting up fruit anyway for their snacks and I just keep going to make a bowl for myself. I’ve noticed digestive problems after eating raw apples, peaches and pears and so I’ve been sticking with this mix that is both delicious, healthy and stomach-friendly for me even with a long or hard run the next day. 5 minutes to prepare including warming the coconut butter.
Thanks so much to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting the WIAW linkup! Coming up with different themes for each week is fun and hopefully informative for people looking into a paleo lifestyle.
How much time do you put into meal prep/cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Has your approach to the time you spend on meals changed at all over the years? When is your biggest time challenge with cooking?
Reader Reviews & Comments
I think that meal times and prep take as much or as little time as you want them to. Just like eating them! If you want to wolf down a sandwich, you can wolf it down, or you can take your time with it.Once you know the most efficient way of cooking something, it can take next to no time to prepare. I used to spend more time fixing my breakfast, but not that much longer, as I still have the process pretty streamlined. I definitely have more fun with it on the weekends, when I am home and Alex likely isn’t. It is hard to have smells wafting around when someone is trying to sleep!
I love when I actually have time to take it slow with cooking, sometimes that happens on the weekends, usually when I’m not running. So much more enjoyable when it’s relaxed!
I definitely don’t put time into breakfast. I’m still an oatmeal, cereal, grab and go momma. But lunch and dinner or the occasional weekend breakfast I love putting time into everything.
Ashley @ Kickashmom.com
I love putting time into weekend breakfast if I can 🙂
Amanda @ Slimplify Life says
I used to live by quicker = better. Now healthier = better in my book and I always find time to meal prep! If I have time for TV and Facebook, I surely have time to eat healthy =)
Agree! Or online shopping. If there’s time for that there’s time to cook!
Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine says
I actually don’t really think about how long it takes me too make my meals since I don’t usually do it all at once from start to finish. For example, I made fried plantains on Sunday to use for breakfasts during the week. I find that what takes me the longest is the clean up. We also have a tiny kitchen so its hard to have alot of things going on at once. But I agree that the more you practice the easier it gets!
That’s very smart to make as much as possible ahead of time. I love using leftovers for breakfast whenever I can. I also have a really small kitchen with limited counter space (especially with too many gadgets) and I feel like I’m always looking for a nook to stick something while cooking. It’s a lot quicker now though than when I started paleo!
Daisy @ Fit Wanderlust Runner says
I try to make dinner every time I have a day off but I don’t have a normal schedule. I do 12.5 hour shifts at a hospital so my days off are sporatic. I make enough to have leftovers whixh makes meal prepping easier. I don’t eat dinner past 7 so I have to start cooking earlier in the day. I try to mix in paleo recipes for breakfast. Those to me are easy. My husband isn’t picky with food and will try anything once.
I love using leftovers for breakfast with eggs if I can. Lately everyone’s actually been eating which has meant less leftovers though! A not-picky husband is a great thing!
Christa @ Living Unbalanced says
My approach to cooking has totally changed too! I’ve cut out the quick packaged meals, and I also tend to cook everything slower than I used to too. I used to cook everything on medium high/high heat to get it cooked faster and also used to microwave eeeeverything. Now I cook most things on medium/medium low and found my meals taste so much better! I also try to rely on the oven or toaster oven instead of the microwave.
Yup, my oven gets so much more use now than ever before and I love it! Roasted veggies are the best, and I love taking more time for a good breakfast now. Taking the time definitely pays off.
I can’t get bacon and eggs on the table in less than 25 minutes. Maybe it’s the induction stove and cast iron pan I use? Anyway, it’s darn near impossible for me to make breakfast at home before work. I need to get better at make-ahead meals to grab and go in the morning, but it hasn’t happened yet. But when I work from home without the pressure of catching the commuter train on time, my meals are pretty similar (when I have the ingredients, of course)!
Maybe frittatas would be a good option? When my husband did the Whole30 we did a lot of make ahead meals since he had to leave early for work. Fritattas and leftover dinner became breakfast and lunch. The thing I love about frittatas too is that I can put in the same stuff I would put in a breakfast hash anyway. I still do this the night before a long run so I don’t have to cook when I come back!
I agree. Breakfast takes alot longer to make eggs and such rather than popping in a bagel. I was wondering if you ever put some type of cream variation in your coffee while being on Paleo. I should try that.
Love that coconut milk! But I always use my immersion blender with it after taking it out of the can because the consistency is off. The blender makes it perfect.
Since going paleo, I can count on one hand the number of mornings that I’ve NOT had eggs for breakfast. I eat them with some kind of hash or chicken sausage and never takes longer than 15 minutes. If I’m on a hash kick like I am now, I’ll make a large batch every few days and reheat so that I’m not making it from scratch every day.
I’ve always liked cooking so taking the time to cook dinner has never bothered me. I would say that it takes usually up to an hour from the time I get home to when we are sitting down to dinner depending on what I’m making. (Tonight I’m trying your turkey meatballs and bacon butternut squash!) And lunches are almost always leftovers from dinner the night before.
Agree, most mornings I’ve had eggs, and sometimes I’ve done it twice a day 🙂 Hope you liked the meatballs! I’m such a sucker now for cooking veggies with good bacon.
Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious says
I put a ridiculous amount of time into meal prepping. Sometimes I’m like ugh…do I have to do this again? But it’s always worth it!
Yes, the time spent is so worth it – especially if you think of the alternative!
Lindsey C says
Ugh, I spend waaaaay too much time in the kitchen!! I enjoy cooking, but it just seems to take up all of my at-home time. Seriously, “30 minute meals” easily take me over an hour – ALWAYS… I think it has something to with the children running around and the dog barking 🙂
I like to keep it pretty basic or else I fall into that trap of being in the kitchen all day. “30 minute meals” can mean 15 minutes to an hour and a half as far as I’m concerned!
When I first did a whole30 I was in the kitchen constantly because I had to figure everything out. Now it’s pretty easy and the time is much more similar to what it used to be, but the food is a whole lot better. I have gotten less creative with recipes lately so I feel like I might need to step it up though.
Amanda @ .running with spoons. says
I’m actually in the complete opposite camp at the moment. I come from a place where I used to spend SO much time in the kitchen on a daily basis prepping elaborate meals and snacks, so now I just want things to be as quick and painless as possible. That definitely doesn’t mean packaged and processed, though! I stick to whole and healthy, but try to keep it as simple as possible.
I think once you figure out what you like there’s not a compelling reason to spend tons of time in the kitchen, unless you want to or you’re experimenting with recipes. I spent a lot more time cooking in the first few months eating paleo than now. I definitely go through phases with cooking where I want to do it and I don’t. The awesome thing is figuring out all the healthy, nutrient dense options that don’t take time at all.
Linda @ Fit Fed and Happy says
Too much time, I can tell you! But that’s because I hardly have time to exercise or anything. Cooking doesn’t take that much time anymore, I’m just busy.
If you’re busy something has to give of course! And then any amount of time in the kitchen feels like too much.
Giselle Schroer says
Those are some of my favorite meals! I actually had a big plate of sweet potatoes, apples and Adeles chicken sausage today post long run. It was delicious! I try to get a lot of prep done on Sunday’s so I can easily throw together meals during the week. Doesn’t always happen but it helps make our week go smoothly 🙂
Yum! Definitely some of my favorites! I wish I were better with weekend prep but I procrastinate and never get it together.
I put in a lot of time for lunches, snacks and dinners upfront on Sunday during meal prep so that I set myself up for success and healthy eating for the entire week. My diet can tend to lack variety too because of this approach. I usually make a big pot of soup for dinner on Sunday and this carries us to Wednesday. Date balls and granola bars are made in advance so we can grab and go. I usually make 5 salads on Sunday to get me through the week. This can take me between 2 and 4 hours on Sunday depending on what I am making, but the upfront time is so worth it for an easy week.
Breakfast is my most favorite meal so we always cook a hot breakfast in the morning. Like you, ours doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to prepare and is worth the time. Coffee= a must in the morning
That’s such a good strategy and something I’ve been meaning to do but never seems to happen! I would love to start getting more creative with recipes and planning/prepping more meals in advance.
haha okay glad i wasn’t eating. BUt in all seriousness, a little extra time preparing is SOOO worth it and taste amazing. I agree! simple and delicious
Ha! Glad someone commented on that 😉 I’m very comfortable with the time I spend on meals and it’s more than worth it now!
Welcome to Mommyhood says
You really seem to have your kitchen routine down! I can spend up to two hours cooking dinner or lunch, but (major but!) those are the days where I use cooking and kitchen time as ‘me time’ to wind down and try out something new… and definitely not everyday. Before our crazy housing situation arose, I did manage to get some sort of routine down where I was able to prep. I used to make my own frozen veggie packs with fresh produce that I bought in bulk from the market. It made it way easier for quick stews or soups that my husband could take to work the next day.
I do miss the days when I would just cook, bake, experiment and it would feel relaxing, but lately there’s just no time so everything needs to be fast. Making your own frozen veggies is so smart. Which veggies freeze the best for you? I’m never sure about this and don’t want to waste something!
I over make everything. Gives me lunch and a dinner of leftovers at the end of the week. I love hash’s and casseroles for breakfast–if you make a casserole that has 12 pcs it will last a few days, freeze it when its past 3 days and just get it out of the freezer and heat it up. This morning when making bacon, eggs and green juice and cutting it way to close to getting to the gym to teach I realized how much I NEED something I can quickly heat up in the a.m. Pintrest is seriously my new best friend! I can look in my fridge and search for certain things and bam come up with a recipe with the odds and ends in my fridge. Paleo has forced me to really plan my meals–I like this about it.
I love frittatas and hash type things when I know I won’t be able to cook or time is really tight. Almost feels too easy! I have to get on pinterest more. It overwhelms me but I think it’s a great resource for meal ideas.