Considering almost all pre-made and “easy” food is off limits for Whole30, it’s really hard to put together an approved meal in little or no time. You can’t just bop over to a fastfood place and pick something up on your lunch break or on your way home. Granted, this is a feature rather than a flaw of the plan, but the time it takes to prepare all that food for three meals a day, every day, is hard to find in your life. Otherwise those fast and convenient foods wouldn’t have as large a niche as they do. Finding the time needed to make all that food is the hardest part of the diet, right up there with fending off your carb cravings.
Case in point, I spent the first two weeks of this diet cooking every day. A typical day looked very much like this:
- 5:45am wake up, spend fifteen minutes boiling water for hot lemon water, playing with kitties, farting around online
- 6am make scrambled omelet for breakfast
- 6:20am make lunch
- 6:40am actually get ready for work
- 7am leave for work
- 7am-5:30pm commute and work
- 6pm Crossfit
- 7:30pm make dinner
- 8:30pm shower, take care of kitties, etc
- 9pm pass out
As you can see, I spent my free time cooking and didn’t do much else. After two weeks of this, I was sick of cooking and desperately in need of time for myself. I didn’t want to spend the third week making food every day, especially since we had moved Crossfit up to 5:30am and I was now making all three meals in the evening after work. One day I just set out all the ingredients for all three meals and cooked them, one right after the other. And surprisingly, it actually took less time. Yes, it still sucked, but I only spent an hour cooking vs two.
Why? Because I was able to cut everything up at once – which was a ton of vegetables – while cooking other parts of a meal. I saved time heating up the pan three separate times by quickly scrubbing it in hot water before moving on to the next thing. I made everything in less than an hour. That’s 20min/meal. Not bad.
But I wanted to do better. And frankly, I wasn’t up to cooking every day anymore, even like that. So I deliberately set aside my following Sunday afternoon and selected three things I could make and make big. Then I went to work and in less than three hours, I had most of my food prepared for the week. Three hours vs ten or twelve hours a week? I think I can handle that.
I didn’t really do anything new or anything that hadn’t been advocated time and time again by others looking to eat healthy while cutting prep time. And I’ve done this in the past, multiple times. But it seems that it’s a skill I have to keep learning, again and again: Planning and preparation save a lot of time.
Sure, there are other shortcuts. Learning to multi-task. Learning to chop veggies faster. Getting yourself a food processor or one of these handy choppers. But all of those end up only saving you minutes, at best. Planning your meals for the week and cooking them all at once will save days.
What did I make? I made a huge batch of lasagna – which we finished on Friday, five days later – a batch of quiche and some chicken. We had the quiche for breakfast, the lasagna for lunch, and the chicken on salad for dinner. On the first day, I spent ten minutes washing lettuce for a chicken salad. Then I spent the rest of my evening wedding planning and playing with kittens. Much improved. 🙂
So sit down, go through a bunch of recipes – either online or in your own handy cookbooks – and pick two or three that you can make big enough to last you the week. And, also important, pick things you won’t be sick of by the end of the week. Buy the ingredients and find time on the weekend – or on your day off – to just have fun cooking food. I’ve made parties out of large food projects in the past. A little laughter and a friend handy with a knife goes a long way.
You’ll also want to stock up on easy snacks while you’re out shopping. Simple things like apples which you can cut up and smother with almond butter, or fruits, or nuts. We have frozen berries in our freezer for those nights when we can’t even look at another piece of lasagna. So we make smoothies instead – fruit + juice + a tbsp of almond butter has become many a delicious meal.
Then there are the 20-minute type meals I throw in when we run out of prepped food: tuna salad (can of tuna + celery + onion + spicy mustard + lemon juice), chicken salad, scrambled eggs. I take a handful of almonds with me everywhere in case I get peckish, and sometimes a banana. Although I don’t like the idea of them, sausages are handy for a quick and filling breakfast. Then there’s the roasted whole chickens they sell at the grocery store – also delicious on salad, and no cooking required.
While not as easy as grabbing a burrito from Taco Bell on the way home, with planning and preparation, that 20 minute salad or frozen lasagna should look a little more accessible. Plus, it’s better for you.
Now excuse me while I plan exactly which item from Taco Bell I’m going to cheat with next Thursday. 🙂