Essential Prep for Whole30 Life

I’ve now survived my 3rd weekend of Whole30, which means I feel like I know what I need to make a successful week. It does require work, but I’ve been really satisfied with my habits.

1st, I chop snack veggies – my favorites are bell peppers, celery, and cucumbers, all of which are watery and crunchy and not intense in flavor, but which can sit on my desk and be my absent-minded eating. They are also easy to add to a meal later in the week if I don’t feel like cooking a veggie.

2nd, I crockpot some chicken breasts with a little olive oil and some light seasonings. This usually goes overnight for me, but if you have the awareness to do it in the morning for the evening, that’s even better. They pull apart like a dream, and with 7 or 8 minutes in a frying pan you can make one meal worth of crispy chicken to be added to a salad or a soup or anything! We’ve been eating off about 10 breasts I cooked last week, and it’s so satisfying and quick.

3rd, and I don’t do this every time, but chopping some sweet potatoes and grating regular potatoes for hash browns can be really nice. Starchy veggies make a nice counterpoint to the two salads a day that we tend to eat.

Last, arrange for breakfast. Egg bakes are great, but keeping fruit and sweet potatoes around for when you don’t feel like eggs is not a bad idea. I know they recommend 3 even meals, but I just cannot desire food at 6 in the morning when I’m getting ready, so keeping small alternatives to a full meal has been essential for me.

This is much less than most Whole30 folks meal prep, but January is a pretty quiet month for us, so we really have time to make two trips to the grocery store each week, and the grocery store is between the gym and home for us, so in the end, we go and buy what we need if we need it. I’d also recommend frozen veggies and fruits if you can’t hit the grocery store often, because I’ve been having to hustle to use all the veggies we buy before they are old!

Day 18 and the importance of meals

My best days so far on Whole30 have been the days when I have very specific plans for every meal. This is hard, because I’m out of the house 11-12 hours a day, and so anything that isn’t planned and made easy by the end of the weekend is destined to be sloppy and slapdash.

Having a plan for how to get protein in me at breakfast alongside some veggies and maybe a fruit, a well-packed and filling lunch, and a plan to make dinner savory and hot, all are necessary to make a day without snacks and slip-ups. More frequently, though, it looks like this: I don’t feel like anything for breakfast, so I drink a bit of fruit juice, and I eat snacks at work, and lunch is enough but not enough to make me fortified to dinner, and then I snack while cooking dinner. Not great! Not technically outside the foods of Whole30, but well outside the spirit of the program.

So for these last 12 days, I’m working extra hard: three meals works for my schedule, I just have to commit to it and get nice and hungry for each one before eating everything, seated, with friends or Husband. I need to make enough in a given meal – for instance, tonight when I’m doing a second batch of meatballs – to really feel like I can eat off of that batch for a day or two. A side benefit of this diet is that I’m learning how to embrace leftovers in a way that I’ve always been grudging to do so – I’ll eat practically anything for a first meal, but I have to really love it to be good at eating the leftovers. I’m quite pleased at how this is stretching me, but Whole30 doesn’t work as a halfway choice, I’m realizing, so I’m committing again to the meal schedule!

Chicken, Onion, and Rice Casserole

On Sunday, I made a casserole intended to fill in whatever meals we didn’t feel like preparing this week – this seems like a tried and true “meal prep” for the lazy/busy. It turned out to be a great plan because I got sick on Monday and have been fighting a cold during these busy school days. Today, however, I am free of work (fall break!) and finally attempting recovery. Also telling you about the delightful casserole I made.

So, I tend to rely pretty heavily on cheesy foods when I’m cooking, mostly because of my love of it, but I challenged myself to create a casserole that wasn’t cheese-themed. What emerged was inspired by, though not truly similar to, this chicken bake that uses onion as a centerpiece instead of cheese:¬†¬†thanks for the inspiration, Plain Chicken!

I started with wild rice and jasmine rice (bottom of the bag for each) and poured a big can of french onion soup over them. That went into the oven while I cooked the chicken in a frying pan with just a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking. I was hoping that with so much soup, the rice would cook up nicely before I even added the other ingredients, and sure enough; I chopped veggies till the rice soaked up most of the soup liquid. I added what i had: an onion, 4 stalks of celery, two bell peppers, some tomatoes, and some leftover butternut squash soup, mixed it all together with the chicken once it was cooked, and layered it over the rice. For a crusty topping, I crushed a sleeve of saltines, mixed them with the chicken juices leftover in the pan, and then topped with those delicious crunchy onions that people use on top of green bean casserole. I used a lot of them, but mostly so that I wouldn’t singlehandedly snarf them as a snack.

Finally, I cooked it at 350 for about 40 minutes – while most of the elements were individually safe to eat already, I wanted the veggies to soften and the flavors to meld. In the end, the casserole was pretty low on the spicy-meter (i put some salt and pepper in, but nothing else) but Husband added his customary hot sauce and I mixed in a little barbeque sauce into my portion, and it was delicious. Honestly, I’m glad that it was a little bland, because when I’m eating the same thing for a lot of meals in a week, it’s nice to be able to re-season it slightly differently each time. It’s not as beautiful as perfectly portioned meal preps, but it has served us well through the days of my cold.