I recently shared some of my background and experience with the Whole30 program and one of the biggest (not so secret) secrets of being successful when it comes to doing a Whole30 or eating healthy in general is to plan ahead. Life is messy, the day-to-day is busy and unexpected things and stressful situations often come up with the potential to derail the best of intentions. Besides, as Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig wrote in The Whole30, your brain loves a plan. Planning ahead reduces decision fatigue, the need to resist temptations or exercise self-control. By setting aside a little time each weekend for meal planning and prep, I have found it much easier to ensure that I stay on track, well-nourished and less stressed and strapped for time throughout the week. Other serious side benefits include the fact that meal planning enables me to make better tasting and more creative Whole30 compliant dishes than just “winging it” with whatever is available (and very likely bland) and it helps me to save money. When you plan ahead, you don’t have to decide what to make for dinner, or check to see if you have all the necessary ingredients on hand, and you might not even have to cook at all during the week if you don’t want to. Making sure that there are plenty of tasty options on hand at any one time is key so that you don’t get hungry or hangry or tempted to face plant into something which you know is going to make you regret right afterwards.
I’ll admit – I love meal planning and prep and since I have been quite diligent about it for several years now, it has become much easier and less overwhelming for me with time and practice. BUT you don’t have to go crazy – you don’t have to make everything from scratch, and you can choose to prep for only a few days at a time rather than for the full week ahead or just make a few items to have on hand to help on busy days when you know it will be challenging to make dinner or that you’ll be eating on the go.
I previously shared my own general meal planning and prep process, but here are some of my best additional tips related to Whole30 Meal Prep in particular which have proved to be helpful for me during official Whole30s as well as living my usual day-to-day food freedom:
Whole30 Meal Prep Tip #1 :: Master the Basics
I make sure I have my Whole30 essentials on hand by either making or buying: paleo mayo, ghee, almond milk, bone broth, and kombucha, hardboiled eggs, raw cut veggies, and a batch or two of ghee-roasted veggies to use as sides or snacks (and if you question this as a snack option it’s only because you haven’t tried this buffalo broccoli yet! It is absolutely delicious). Usually I also roast a whole chicken in my InstantPot to use in a variety of ways and then make bone broth with the remains.
Whole30 Meal Prep Tip #2 :: Learn to Mix and Match
I save money and time by making meals which use the same basic or similar ingredients and recipes, but in multiple ways (because variety is important and flavor is non-negotiable for me). This is especially true of Whole30 sauces which add a ton of flavor and healthy fats to keep things interesting and satisfying. Here’s some examples of what I did this week and how I plan to mix and match:
- I made my dairy-free pistachio pesto – I used half right away for a roasted red pepper frittata (because I always need an easy grab-and-go breakfast option before early morning barre. I plan to use the rest later on in the week for a pesto encrusted salmon dinner along with some of my already roasted veggies. If I still have any leftover, I will throw it on a bun-less burger.
- Along with washing and chopping the veggies, I made an extra big batch of pico de gallo for a variety of recipes.
- I used some of the paleo mayo to make a Green Goddess Dressing for my lunchtime salads this week which are conveniently packed in mason jars layered to ensure the ingredients (including some of that pico de gallo) stay at their best throughout the week (Green Goddess and Mason Jar Taco Salad recipes coming soon). The leftover dressing pairs deliciously with some of those aforementioned raw veggies or hardboiled eggs. I also used my paleo mayo and some of the whole roasted chicken to make a batch of my Buffalo Chicken Salad (because protein salads are another Whole30 MVP)!
- I also made some chimichurri sauce which I am mixing with paleo mayo, more pico de gallo, and more roasted chicken to make this Chicken Fajita Salad and plan to pour some over a steak, over eggs, and/or as a backup option for those bun-less burgers.
- Finally I used up the last of that roasted chicken and some bone broth for a Chicken and Mushroom Soup and threw some of the roasted veggies into a egg-free steak and potatoes breakfast option for my husband.
Finding multiple uses for the same recipes saves time and money, reduces waste, and ensures that my Whole30 meal prep sessions yield delicious options for the week ahead!