Fast Paleo
September 5, 2017 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to do Paleo that does not involve hours and hours of cooking every week?

I have had great results from Paleo in the past, when I had someone that prepared meals for me. I want to get back to it but I don't have much time to spend cooking, nor a person to do it for me.

Is there fast (quick and easy) Paleo food?
posted by trinity8-director to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
How little cooking do you want to do, how strict do you want to be, and how tolerant of samey-ness are you? Stir-fry made of precooked meat (frozen shrimp, chicken strips) plus a bag of frozen veggies is pretty easy. Or heck, you could buy cooked chicken breasts and a bag of peeled baby carrots and call it a day.
posted by mskyle at 12:38 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not without spending stupid amounts of money on high-end prepared food, is my experience. Veggies and meat take prep, and most common prepared food uses stuff that you aren't supposed to be eating on paleo (soy, sugar, grains.)

You can cut it way down by doing things like buying frozen and/or precut veggies and pre-cut chicken tenders and whatnot, and by cooking things either in big batches (stew, casseroles, etc) and freezing them, or by getting good at fast stir-fry with pre-cut ingredients (It Starts With Food has a genuinely great recipe building section at the back) but there's going to be some cooking time.

There are paleo- and paleo-friendly prepared foods, but they are often suuuuper spendy, and *very* often not actually all that healthy or high-quality.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am in the same boat: love paleo results, don't love spending hours on cooking. I look forward to everyone's suggestions! Here is my one reliable 5-minute go-to.

Shrimp Tahini Salad

1. Put 5-7 frozen shrimp per person into a bowl full of hot tap water (I buy it precooked and peeled so no other prep is needed). Set aside.

2. Spoon out a couple tablespoons of tahini (I use 365 brand from Whole Foods) and olive oil each into a salad bowl. Swirl around to mix.

3. Add spring salad mix (my favorite is from Green Girl, sold at Whole Foods) and toss with the dressing you just made.

3. By now the shrimp is unfrozen so just drain the water, pat it dry with a paper towel, and arrange on top of the salad.

That's it!
posted by rada at 12:47 PM on September 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

So, I'm not on the paleo diet, but I have a series of dietary restrictions that are somewhat similar. There's no way to eliminate the cooking altogether, of course, but there are a few hacks that I have learned. The first is to spend an hour or so on Saturday, or whatever day you have free time, and roast a couple pans of veggies. You can do both pans at the same time, just switch them the pans in the middle from the top of the oven to the bottom, and try to give them an equal amount of heat. I usually throw some potatoes and sweet potatoes in there to roast, too. I cheat and buy frozen, pre-chopped veggies too, when I see them for cheap.

So my evening meal would be some already roasted veggies, some fish (which cooks fast), or maybe some eggs. Or I might have a spinach salad and throw some of the roasted veggies along with some avocado and tomatoes on there, too. Or stir-fry, which is very versatile. You could also try things like spaghetti squash, which takes an hour to cook, but it doesn't have to be minded at all, and tastes really great. If you're willing to eat plain and simple, the prep doesn't have to take much time at all, I don't think.
posted by backwards compatible at 12:47 PM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

When we did Whole 30 in October we had very little time and mostly did meal prep on two nights a week. This involved shoving a tray of vegetables and a tray of chicken breast in the oven; usually Sunday and Wednesday. You know those bags of stir fry vegetables? Or the cauliflower/broccoli/baby carrot mix, or just broccoli? Tear one of those open, dump it on a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet, glug some olive oil on there, and bake at 400 for twenty minutes or so. While that's cooking, rip open a few packs of chicken breast, dump them on a second foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet, add olive oil and seasoning, and shove it in the oven. About twenty minutes as well, but double check that you've reached a safe temp with a digital thermometer. You can also make a "Clean out the Fridge" frittata on one of these two nights---make a little extra veg and chop it up, add to an oven safe pan with olive oil, dump some eggs in, scamble for a few minutes, finish in the oven.

That was our only meal prep. Otherwise we lived on microwaved fresh components, especially to take for work lunches. For me this included:

-small sweet potato, nuked for 2-3 minutes
-fresh bagged broccoli, nuked in a bowl with a little water at the bottom for 3 minutes (or just raw in your work tupperware)
-handfuls of super greens (you can get a cheap bag at costco that's kale/spinach/chard), nuked for 1 minute or less
-scoops of roasted vegetables that you have ideally made a big batch of at some previous point in time, nuked to warm
-dry poached chicken breasts that you have ideally made a big batch of at some previous point in time, nuked to warm
-sweet Italian chicken sausage, nuked to warm

Just put a carb/veg/meat component in a bowl, nuke accordingly, top with a glug of olive oil, hot sauce, and salt, maybe nuke it again if you want everything really hot, and you've got a passable dinner or work lunch. You can leave out the potato but I got too hungry without it.

I think this method is pretty sustainable, if boring, and it worked way better for me than trying to actually cook from scratch. Some of my comments are modified from an earlier comment of mine here; that whole thread might have some good ideas for you.
posted by stellaluna at 12:54 PM on September 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you don't live somewhere where private chef service is popular (eg. LA, NYC), having someone prepare your meals might be do-able. Depending on your preferences and availability, you might choose to prepare your own breakfasts. Then maybe have the chef make portioned meals of 3 different dinners and lunches each week. Or you could have them prep two proteins, raw veg, cooked veg, and a grain for you to mix and match? *I have hired chef services for clients but not in this manner. That said, a good chef is usually more than willing to prepare whatever you need.
posted by Kalatraz at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2017

I'm doing a paleo thing now and I'm pretty damn lazy. My standbys:

- whatever steak is on sale at smart&final. I rub it with salt and garlic powder, cook it (in a pan, I'm scared of the broiler) and slice thin pieces of it for most of my snacks.

- chicken salad made with the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken meat from trader joe's. Mix it up with real mayonnaise and lots of minced raw vegetables. Fast, yum.

- cauliflower, cut into "steaks", coated with oil and curry powder and roasted at high temperature for like 25 minutes on a cookie sheet. unbelievably good.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:58 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Instant Pot, microwave steamer, and a low priority on novelty.

I can cook about four pounds of meat (frozen chicken thighs or pork shoulder, usually) in the pressure cooker, whole thing takes about 20 minutes for chicken and an hour or so for pork, plus time to cool and put up. Buy your vegetables in more or less edible states - I buy bagged broccoli florets, cleaned green beans, zucchini that just needs slicing, cauliflower I'll buy whole heads and cut up but you can get bags of florets in many grocery stores, or I buy steamer bags of frozen vegetables. Add bag salad, sliced avocado, broccoli slaw, nuts, and other very nearly ready-to-eat items.

I also use the IP to make boiled eggs a dozen at a time, but you could buy them pre-boiled. Costco has the best deal.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:59 PM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just remembered another tasty go-to that takes 5 minutes.

Cauliflower Rice With Bacon

1. Fry up some cauliflower rice with butter. I use organic cauliflower and grass-fed butter or else it doesn't taste all that great.

2. Fry up some bacon bits and drain the fat.

3. Mix and enjoy!
posted by rada at 1:01 PM on September 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Paleo dinners are super-easy, just shove some meat or fish in the oven for a bit and some salad veggies in a bowl (or nuke some frozen veggies for a few minutes). It's breakfasts and lunches that are hard (for me, anyway). Solve lunches by making too much dinner and eating leftovers. For breakfast, I've had the most success with cooking up big batches of scrambled eggs until they're not quite firm and then portioning them into half-pint mason jars and nuking them the rest of the way when I'm ready to eat them. If you have some bacon or avocado to go with them it's much tastier.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:34 PM on September 5, 2017

This is secondhand info and from ketoers, not paleoites, but based on a subset of my Facebook feed it's called a Costco membership.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:41 PM on September 5, 2017

There are two ways to do it:
  1. Cook in bulk and rotate meals on a weekly, not nightly basis.
  2. Cook in bulk, always meals that freeze well, and spread each week's cooking out over several weeks of eating.
Either way works out to about a two-hour prep session on the weekend and about 15 minutes before each meal.

Note that for a lot of recipes, the prep time scales much more slowly than linear, so at some point there's a direct trade-off between variety and time. Especially since variety means taking the time to find and practice a lot of recipes. I've eaten the same dinner for the last two weeks (big salad with fried eggs on top, and curried lentils with paneer cubes), so I've probably pushed this as far as most people can stand.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:21 PM on September 5, 2017

Paleo breakfast.

Every 10 days, I make 2 batches of this paleo banana bread.

I slice the loaf and layer w/parchment paper, then freeze. If I make muffins I freeze.

Every 2 days I take 2 breakfasts out of the freezer (usually when my current day's supply runs out).

I have 1/5-1/6 of a batch (2 slices or two muffins) for breakfast.

20 mins of prep for both batches. 35-50 mins in oven. 20 mins clean. Done.
posted by lalochezia at 8:29 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, if you need calories, but want zero prep:

Almonds: buy 1 lb, aliquot into ziploc bags.
Jerkies & Slimjims & Epic Bars.
Olives, pork rinds, devilled eggs.
posted by lalochezia at 5:30 AM on September 8, 2017

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