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Day 2 of Whole30: Dani’s Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Posted Jan 08 2013 9:22pm

Since Pam just posted her “day in the life” post, I thought I’d share how I prep for the week on the weekend instead of jumping right into my own typical day—change it up a bit!

I have always believed that the best way to provide a healthy, nutritious meal for your family is to prep ahead.  Whole30, Paleo, Weight Watchers, SouthBeach—whatever your poison, the key to success is prep, prep, prep!  When I didn’t plan ahead I fell into the rut of doing a quick meal—pizza, pasta and red sauce, mac and cheese!  Don’t get me wrong, even on a Paleo-esque diet if I don’t plan ahead on the weekends I fall into that trap—spaghetti squash and red sauce one too many times!

Dani's Shopping Cart

Dani’s Shopping Cart

I look at the weekend as a strategic battle planning session where I am the general and the kitchen is my war room!  Saturday is typically spent by doing a quick inventory of what I have in the house that needs to get used up so as to not waste food and money.  After taking inventory I decide on my proteins and then begin to peruse recipes.  I find recipes and inspirations from Pinterest, Facebook, blogs, websites, cookbooks, and restaurants.  If you are new to Paleo and Whole30 don’t toss your old cookbooks to the side just yet—use them as a source of inspiration.  Find a way to Paleoize your favorite recipes from them!  Change out your canola oil for coconut oil; delete the sugar and add additional spices for added depth of flavor; use vegetables in lieu of grains.When writing up my menu I use a chart system on a sheet of regular notebook paper and write down each recipe/meal I intend to have each day of the week.  I try and standardize as much as possible each week to save on the prep.  For example, breakfast and lunch is the same every day for both me and The Hubs for a solid week.  This week breakfast consisted of two hard boiled eggs, an avocado, and a tablespoon of homemade Paleo Sriracha (omit the honey for Whole30). It’s crazy easy to hard boil a dozen eggs and keep them in the refrigerator to grab the night before I need them.  We also had homemade breakfast sausage patties—why homemade?  I cannot stress the importance of reading the ingredients, even on freshly made items.  Many of your sausages from the store contain sugar; some bacon is brined in sugar as well.  I digress, we also do the same lunch for a solid week—in the winter it tends to be soup!  This week we have soup that was inspired by a dish I had at a restaurant last week with a co-worker.  More on that to come later!  Soup is a great way to make a large amount of food with minimal amount of time and effort.

When planning dinners I plan a Monday night dinner that also doubles as a Wednesday night dinner with leftovers; likewise, Tuesday doubles as Thursday’s dinner.  While I plan Friday night’s dinner, I usually don’t worry about doing a lot of prep for that meal since it is Friday—if we eat a little later that night so be it, but eating late on a school/work night is a deal breaker!  I try and focus my meals on dishes that are easy and quick to prepare at night.  Many times I will plan at least one slow cooker meal—I set the timer and know it is cooking away while we are at work.  Other times I will plan a dish that is quick cooking, like last night’s dinner.  Last night we had a stir fry of garlic-ginger chicken with cauliflower frice.  The overall cook time was at grand total of 15-minutes!

A peak into Dani's fridge after Sunday meal prep

A peak into Dani’s fridge after Sunday meal prep

Another rule that we are re-instituting at our house is limiting what we buy at the grocery store to what is on the list.  I am notorious for overbuying produce.  I take my meal plans and write out a specific and detailed shopping list—if I only need 2 tomatoes I only buy 2 tomatoes.  If by some strange chance there is something leftover at the end of the week I find a way to incorporate that item into an upcoming meal.  The only exception that I have is if there is a sale on meat or another staple item. As both Pam and I have discussed before, having a chest freezer is a vital tool for us in getting the best value for our family when it comes to healthy meal options.  Not only does creating a specific shopping list keep me organized, but it keeps me on task and gets me in and out of the market in a jiffy which is important for a full plate mom!I use Sunday as my prep day in the kitchen—time to execute the plan!  In terms of prepping for dinners, I prep not only Monday night’s meal but I prep for Tuesday night’s meal and place them in a food storage container.  All total, depending on what I decide to make, I spend a good 3-hours in the kitchen on Sunday (active prep).  While it may sound like a lot of time, that 3-hours for amounts to 15-meals.  Spending 3-hours in the kitchen on a Sunday is a minor sacrifice, especially when it comes to the health and nutrition of me and my family.  There are times when the kids are napping that The Hubs will lend a hand in the prep, or that Lil One will want to help too!

Lastly, it is important to check in with the family and see if they enjoyed the meals you prepped and would they like them again.  It sounds silly but I know personally, I can get caught up with trying to create a new dish every week, or even trying every single recipe that I have recently Pinned that I forget to focus on the staples and stick to what works and perfect it.  It’s also good to take note of anything that you misbought—did you forget something?  Did you have enough or too much?  This last step is just as vital to your overall success as the first step.

In summary, the following are my five keys to success when getting healthy, nutritious meals on the table for your family and being a general in your own kitchen:

1)      Strategize—plan ahead by taking inventory of what you have and plan around that to avoid waste

2)      Plan of Attack—review your recipes on the weekend, selecting one for each meal(s) and draw up your menu to post in the kitchen.  Plan for leftovers that can double as a second meal during the week or as multiple meals throughout the week.

3)      Implementation—create a detailed shopping list of only the items that you need for the meals you are planning to prepare.  This will save you time and money at the grocery store.  Remember—like any good battle, secure your perimeter (of the grocery store that is!)

4)      Execution—take the time on Sunday to prep your meals so that on any given day you can grab something out of your refrigerator and have it ready to cook immediately

5)      Debriefing—take note of what worked and what didn’t work.  Are there recipes that you loved and would make frequently?  Where there some that flopped that should be retired forever?  Did something else that you overlooked?  Take the time to learn from your mistakes so that you don’t repeat them in the future.

So what about that soup I mentioned above?  I had lunch last week with my boss at a fantastic restaurant across the street from my office in the Seaport District in Boston.  It was a chicken pozole soup and it was delicious.  I knew that I wanted to try and recreate it at home.  Since I had two small stewing chickens in the freezer from our CSA I thought this week was a perfect opportunity to test it out!  A traditional chicken pozole has hominy in it, which is not Whole30 approved as it is a grain.  I opted to replace the hominy with large diced carrots.  I made my own stock using the water I boiled the stewing chickens in—it made enough stock for a second pot of soup!  I also made enough of the chili base for the stock to jar and refrigerate for future use.  So without much ado, here is my version of chicken pozole—Whole30 approved!  I hope you enjoy it!

Dani’s Whole30 Chicken Pozole Soup


2-stewing chickens, whole (roughly 5-lbs total); reserve carcass and cooking liquid

1 large, sweet onion cut in half; dice ½ and quarter other ½

1 bulb garlic husk on, top cut off to expose meat of cloves

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

6 dried chilies (I used chipotles)

3 large carrots, large diced

Salt and pepper for taste

Cilantro, rough chopped

Radishes, thin sliced for garnish

Green cabbage, chopped for garnish


Cook your whole chicken(s) in a stew pot with just water.  When it is complete, remove the chicken, shred the meat and set aside.  Return the carcass of the bird to the cooking liquid and brig up to a simmer.  Simmer for about 1-hour.  When complete discard the carcass and skim the stock of any bits of bone or flesh that have come loose.  Allow to cool.  This will make enough stock for this recipe while allowing you to reserve the remainder in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.

Lunch time on the job site:  Dani's Chicken Pozole

Lunch time on the job site: Dani’s Chicken Pozole

While the chicken is cooking, place the dried chilies in a bowl of warm water to partially rehydrate—reserving the liquid.  On a cookie sheet, place the garlic blub and ½ onions that have been quartered on the cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Place under a broiler until it begins to brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool sufficiently that the garlic bulb is able to be handled.  When cool, place the chilies, chili liquid, onion, and the garlic cloves in a blender or food processor and blend until you have a thick paste.  To remove the cloves from the garlic husk I simply turn the bulb upside down over my vessel and squeeze.  The roasting typically softens the meat enough that it will squeeze out of its husk.  This will make about 2-cups of chili base, which can be placed into a glass jar and refrigerate.

In a Dutch oven, sauté the remaining ½ of diced onion, 3 cloves of finely minced garlic, and large diced carrots until the onions are translucent.  Add chicken stock one ladle at a time, careful to deglaze the pot prior to adding the remaining cooking stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Add shredded chicken, salt and pepper to taste.  Begin by adding 2-tablespoons of the chili mixture and stirring to incorporate.  Taste before adding more.  You can adjust the heat of the soup by adding more chili paste as desired.  I found that 3-heaping tablespoons did the trick for our pallets.  Add handful of chopped cilantro.  To serve, add the garnish of raw, sliced radish and a handful of shredded cabbage and additional cilantro if you’d like. An additional garnish would be chopped avocado.

While not an authentic pozole, I think I captured the essence of the soup that I ordered last week. Because of my use of chipotles in lieu of regular dried chilies, the soup was imparted with a great smoky flavor that provided an added layer of depth other than just pure heat.

Now I want to know—how did Day 2 of Whole30 treat you?  What have been your successes?  What has been the most difficult for you?

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