Tips for Stress Free Family Meals

Take the Stress Away from Mealtime and Supercharge Your Family's Health

The Paleo diet and meal planning are two things that work well together. Simply put, to succeed at the Paleo diet and also avoid wasting a lot of food, then you must meal prep.  By planning your meals for the week , you can enjoy a number of benefits from both the eating system and the planning.  Here’s a look at how I’ve worked the two together with lots of success for my family.

Benefits of the Paleo diet

nutrition facts, meal prep, cassy joy garciaThe Paleo diet also works on the approach of thinking about what our bodies need to function.  Take fats – we know need a balance of both saturated and unsaturated fats in order to have healthy cells. This means we need to eat foods that give us the right balance of these.

But low-fat diets can often cut out those essential fats.  And polyunsaturated fatty acids, also known as Omega-3 fatty acids, are known to help with things such as normal growth and development and even brain function.

Because the Paleo diet has a big emphasis on meat and healthy protein, it helps our bodies increase muscle mass.  The stronger our muscles are, the stronger we are and the boost to our overall metabolism makes our bodies work to their best.

Many of us have experienced problems with gut health due to the processed foods and manmade fats that are stuffed into lots of foods.  However, people following the Paleo diet have noticed less of these types of problems as food is processed in a more natural way.

Why meal planning is crucial for Paleo

I know the Paleo diet does reduce the number of foods that you can eat and this is why it is important to pair it with meal planning – that way you can ensure you get a good balance of all the important foods.  It also helps reduce that ‘decision fatigue’ – you know, that feeling when you are trying to decide what to make for everyone just before meal times and can’t just make your mind up – so end up ordering pizza for everyone!  (Been there, done that.)

Meal planning also helps reduce stress in other ways.  I’ve found that I don’t worry as much about the groceries as I have a clear list of the foods that I need for the week.  This not only cuts down on stress but also the grocery bill – I don’t end up buying a lot of food that I don’t get around to using and gets wasted.  I really hate food waste!

Then there’s the time aspect.  Think about how long you spend each day planning and preparing meals – what else could you be doing?  By meal planning and preparing, you save time each day because you have already done the lion share of the work during Prep Day, and now you are only doing some light cooking or reheating each day. You will save a lot of time by planning ahead, and that is precious time that could spent with the kids or family – just think, what could you be doing rather than preparing meals every night?

How to meal plan

A lot of people have said to me that meal planning sounds complicated and hard work but this doesn’t need to be the case, trust me.  There are two approaches – either you research the meals yourself, make up grocery lists and prep day plan. Or you use a meal planning service that takes all of the work out of it.

That’s the idea behind Prep Dish – a service that offers a time-saving and simplified approach to meal planning, letting you focus on the shopping and preparing, rather than spending hours looking for menu ideas. Admit it, Pinterest is great but it can be a time suck.

Prep Dish  sends you weekly Paleo meal plans (and also gluten-free meal plans) that includes an organized, printable grocery list, which I love because there’s always something I forget to add onto my shopping list. There are step by step instructions for the menus so you don’t need to be a qualified chef to create them, and each meal plan includes extra dishes such as side salads, snacks, breakfast and dessert ideas.

Getting started

The key to success with meal planning is what’s known as the Prep Day – this is one dedicated day where you spend around 1-3 hours preparing everything you need for the week’s meals.  I would say I average 2 to 2.5 hours on my Prep Day.

This means that as each day comes around, everything you need is ready and you save time.  By preparing all at once, it also cuts down on time because you have all the equipment ready, all the food available and even some willing assistants to get involved.

When it comes to Prep Day, I always have all of the food for the week available.  Don’t be afraid to use all areas of your kitchen, including chairs and the dining room table, to give yourself room to lay it all out – I take over both to make sure I’ve got plenty of room.  Make sure you have plenty of storage containers for your prepared food (otherwise you can easily lose track of what is for what) and you can even label them if you like.

Enjoying Prep Day

For the most efficient Prep Day, I like to start with chopping and preparing the food, then I do all of the cooking, blending, mixing and assembly work. It all depends on the meals on your list for the week as to what work needs to be done. You might want to peel and chop some ingredients while you might just want to portion others – watch out for that stuff that doesn’t keep well once prepped, like apples, avocado or potatoes, and leave that until the day of the meal.

However you approach it, make Prep Day fun. Here are a few of my tips:

  • If your kids are around, get them involved, play some music and make it into a family event.
  • Or if the kids are at school, then use that time to catch up on a podcast or an audio book while meal prepping.
  • Even the act of preparing your food can be a stress release – it’s a bit of a self-care thing because you are taking care of yourself and your family with great food.
  • Keep in mind, the time I spend on Prep Day = time I’m saving in the long run.

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