I’ve talked about meal planning before HERE, and it’s something I continue to do on a weekly basis. It keeps me focused, organized, and it keeps us from eating out too frequently, which is where I usually go completely off the rails. Although I’m a big proponent of meal planning, there is a problem that I’ve noticed, especially with it just being my husband and me…a lot of food often goes to waste when only cooking for two. I can half a recipe but then half of the needed ingredients get thrown into the trash. Neither of us are very good at eating leftovers-we just don’t enjoy it. This is also a reason why I don’t meal PREP…making all your meals ahead of time and then heating them up throughout the week. I tried this once years ago when I was single. I spent 5 hours in the kitchen cooking up all my meals on Sunday and then didn’t eat all of them because I don’t like reheated food. That was a MAJOR fail, and I never wanted to try it again. However, with this cookbook, Cassey Joy Garcia of the Paleo website Fed&Fit, came up with an absolutely genius way to meal plan/prep using minimal ingredients, and let me tell you…the recipes are delicious and even husband approved!
Here’s a quick overview of the book. There are 26 weeks of gluten free meal plans with 3 meals per week. You have 1 protein source (ex: for week 23, I used only ground pork), 1 vegetable (week 23’s vegetable was cabbage), and 1 starch (the starch for week 23 was potatoes) and these 3 main ingredients along with a few pantry staples are used to create 3 totally different meals. If you follow specific dietary guidelines, Cassey also gives substitutions to make all recipes egg free, dairy free, grain-free, and/or paleo, and many weeks, she even gives substitutions for low-carb options. As for the method, you prep the main three ingredients at the beginning of the week, and then will complete the full recipe the evening of. So while you’re still front loading the work by “prepping,” you aren’t fully completing a recipe to simply reheat. You will actually make the recipe that day you are eating but using a handful of already prepared food, therefore greatly reducing your time spent in the kitchen each night. Also, because of fewer ingredients, there is far less waste, and my grocery bill was much lower than other weeks. I had most of the pantry staples already on hand, but my entire grocery bill for the week with all the meat and produce was $39.68. Not bad at all!
So far, I’ve tried out this method of meal prep with week 23 from the cookbook. I followed the prep work plan and overall, I spent about an hour and a half in the kitchen actually prepping food for the week ahead. I was so surprised when I actually went to make the meals during the week how quickly it went. I’m talking 10-15 minutes and dinner was on the table…WUT?!? Amazing! Our 3 meals for the week were Chorizo and Potato Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw, Egg Roll in a Bowl, and Swedish Meatballs over Mashed Potatoes. Since I had never cooked anything like these particular dishes before, I was nervous as to how it would go over with my picky husband, but he ended up really enjoying the dinners. I was most nervous about serving the Swedish meatballs, but my husband even went back for seconds with that dish-HUGE WIN!! I was also unsure about potatoes in tacos since I had never heard of that before, but to my surprise, it was SO good. That’s why I love trying out new recipes, because so often you’ll find something that you never would have thought of, but end up loving.
My overall grade of this book is an A+! The recipes were all new and inventive, but still approachable. I’m not going to cook from a book that has weird ingredients or fancy methods, not my style. As always, I know it’s a winner when my husband approves! This cookbook is both a money saver and time saver. This would be an amazing resource for a family whose schedule is full of activities during the week and find themselves going out to eat to save time. Honestly, with this method, it’s much faster to whip up a meal than it would be to swing by the drive through, not to mention far more healthy! While it’s just me and my husband and by any standards we aren’t “busy” with lots of activities every day of the week, it’s still nice to come home after a day at work and only spend a few minutes of time preparing a fresh, healthy, and warm meal. Also, since the majority of prep was done earlier in the week, there is usually only a single pot or pan that will need to be washed, so you can also get out of the kitchen after dinner as quickly as possible. I can’t recommend this book enough, and I will be implementing this method using the 25 other delicious weeks very soon!