You’ve Been Planning Your Weekly Meals All Wrong — Here’s How to Do It Right
Categories: Health

You’ve Been Planning Your Weekly Meals All Wrong — Here’s How to Do It Right

You’re a busy bee, and a healthy one at that. But there’s no denying that between work, family, friends and fitness, some things get lost in the mix, and food is usually one of them. Don’t worry — we totally get it. But it’s time to change that with time-saving and nutritious make-ahead meals. We turned to a pro by the name of Danielle Walker, bestselling cookbook author and blogger at Against All Grain, for advice on prepping our own make-ahead meals. Check out her tips for time management below and don’t miss her mouthwatering Paleo recipes for Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken and Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookies!

1. Spend Your Time Wisely

The biggest issue with meal prep is finding the TIME. Danielle suggests working within your set schedule, like when your baby is sleeping or before kicking off your Sunday Funday. Then once dinner rolls around, you can just reheat and serve. The second key is to make a meal plan. Figure out what you want to cook at the start of the week, make a very detailed shopping list and stick to it. And of course, remember the golden rule of shopping: Never go to the grocery store while hungry!

2. The Freezer is Your Friend

Turns out the freezer is for more than just ice cubes, vodka and store-bought pizzas… who knew? ;) Danielle recommends making space in that freezer so you can extend the life of a lot of your groceries. Overripe bananas? Freeze ‘em to use in your next smoothie. Grapes going squishy? Frozen grapes are an even better treat in the summer heat. You can even blanch vegetables and freeze them for later use. The freezer is also where you’ll want to store your make-ahead meals until they’re ready to cook or reheat.

3. Put Your Appliances to Work

If you don’t yet have a slow cooker or a food processor in your kitchen arsenal get on it — Danielle says they’re essential for saving time. Slow cookers do all the hard work while you’re out of the house, while food processors spare you from hand chopping each and every vegetable. Danielle says that if she has the time, she’ll chop up all of her vegetables at the start of the week. “But if I’m really pressed for time, I throw them in big chunks into the food processor and pulse a few times until they are my desired size.”

4. Let Nothing Go to Waste

Being efficient in the kitchen should also mean letting nothing go to waste. In addition to throwing fresh or prepared foods in the freezer, Danielle suggests putting real thought into your meal plan by picking recipes that use the same ingredients so that there will be less overall waste. The two recipes below are good examples, as they both use almond butter. “You can double your recipes and keep the extra batch in the freezer for a meal a few weeks later. Then you are only using half the dishes to prepare, but have double the food!” Sounds like a win-win to us.

5. Make Your Containers Multi-Task

Does that picture have you drooling? Us too. That’s Danielle’s Layered Chia & Almond Pudding Parfait, and we couldn’t help but notice the adorable mason jars. “They just look so cute!” Danielle says. But she revealed that there’s another reason for her choice of presentation: “I love to use glass containers so I can store and reheat in the same container.” Just another way to help you save on unnecessary cleanup and leave more space in your cabinets. Bonus pro tip: Make sure you let your food cool to room temperature before freezing to prevent condensation and watery dishes.

Now on to the goodies. Danielle has shared two of her latest recipes that are perfect for practicing your make-ahead skills. For the Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken, Danielle says, “I like to prepare everything in advance and put it all in the freezer, uncooked. Then, the night before I want to serve it, I just put in the refrigerator to thaw out and then pop it into the slow cooker in the morning.” The cookie recipe is a great one to double for a fast breakfast or snack at a later date, and it uses several Paleo pantry staples like almonds, seeds and dried fruits.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken

Ingredients:

For the chicken

— 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

— 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed

— Salt and pepper (to initially season the chicken)

— 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced

— 3 cloves garlic, minced

— 1 teaspoon ground ginger

— 1 teaspoon ground cumin

— 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

— 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

— 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

— 1 teaspoon sea salt

— 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

— 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock

— 1/4 cup unsalted natural almond butter

— 6 ounces unsweetened dried apricots

— 1 pound baby carrots

For the cauliflower “couscous”

— 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets

— 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

— 3/4 cup yellow onion, diced

— 2 cloves garlic, minced

— 1 teaspoon sea salt

— 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

— 2 tablespoons unsweetened dried cherries

— 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

— 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

— Zest of 1 lemon

For the garnish

— 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

— 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Instructions:

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and then add half of the chicken to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker and repeat with remaining chicken.

2. Return the pot to the stove and add onion and garlic and sauté for three minutes or until tender. Add the ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

3. Stir in chicken stock and almond butter, scraping the pot to loosen any browned bits. Pour contents of pot over chicken into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for five hours.

4. Add the apricots and baby carrots to the slow cooker, cover and cook an additional hour.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower “couscous.” Grate cauliflower by running the florets through a food processor with a grating attachment or use a box grater to create rice-like pieces. Pick out any large fragments that didn’t get shredded and save for another use. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for 2 minutes, then add the cauliflower, salt and pepper. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the cherries, basil, cilantro and lemon zest.

6. Garnish the chicken with toasted, sliced almonds and fresh cilantro. Serve over cauliflower “couscous.”

Note: To toast almonds, spread them in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes.

Chocolate Almond Cherry Power Cookies

Ingredients

— 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds

— 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter, unsweetened

— 1/2 cup ground flaxseed

— 1/2 cup arrowroot powder

— 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

— 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

— 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

— 1 teaspoon lemon juice

— 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

— 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

— 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

— 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

— 1/2 cup unsulfured and unsweetened dried cherries, chopped

— 1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces (80% cacao)

— 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together 1/2 cup hot water and ground chia seeds and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

3. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond butter, flaxseed, arrowroot, applesauce, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon juice, nutmeg, ginger and sea salt. Mix on medium speed to combine fully.

4. Add the thickened chia mixture to the bowl with the baking soda and beat again until fully combined. Stir in the cherries and chocolate pieces.

5. Using a cookie scoop or a large spoon, drop dough onto the lined baking sheets. Wet fingers slightly with warm water and gently press the mounds down to flatten slightly. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sliced almonds.

6. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown around the edges and the almonds are lightly toasted. Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Do you have any time-saving tips for make-ahead meals? Share your efficiency secrets in the comments!