Time Management in the Kitchen

When you think of trying to put it all together for AIP, do you feel your energy dwindling?  What if one day you read about a powerful new way to restore health?  It didn’t involve pills or surgery or fancy treatment centers.  The only catch . . . you’d have to work at it.  It would take lots of your time and commitment.  The Paleo lifestyle is a powerful “new” (new as in rediscovered) approach to optimizing health.  It does take time and commitment, but the rewards are well worth it.

What about those of us who are starting at a deficit though?  We aren’t looking to fine tune a basically healthy body, we are looking to heal.  What if years, maybe even decades, of illness have robbed us of most of our energy?  What if we are totally willing to give our time and be committed, but making the switch to this new lifestyle is a major hurdle as we try to fight autoimmunity?

I’ve been thinking about how to write a post about making the most of our time when beginning AIP.  Often starting out is very difficult for those of us with autoimmune diseases.  Since I find the biggest commitment to be in the kitchen, I have been especially focused on how to write about maximizing kitchen time.  The following are some of my basic tips, the things I have found to be the most helpful as I’ve healed or when I was experiencing setbacks.

PLANNING
1)  Plan one week worth of dinners.  Each meal should include a protein, at least one veggie, and a fat.  We also do 2-3 nights a week where we have the same meal repeatedly.  For instance, Tuesday is Taco Salad night.  Friday is Bunless Burgers.  Naming your nights will cut out alot of planning work in the future.
2)  Add 2 or 3 lunches, that can be rotated with leftovers.  Cooking big dinners is key, because it saves so much time when making lunches.  You have easy leftovers.  However, I find it is good to have a few simple lunches on hand.  Things like canned tuna or AIP-legal deli meats and lots of easy to toss in a container salad.
3)  Add 1 or 2 breakfast meals, that can be rotated.  (My family and I are okay with eating the same basic breakfast every day, but you can plan for a little variety if you need it.)
4)  Use the menu to write up your shopping list.  Eventually, you will have the list fine tuned and you will not need a new list every week.  You’ll have a basic blueprint to which you’ll just add new or only occasionally needed items.

SHOPPING
1)  As much as possible, only shop one time a week.  Shopping is very time and energy draining, I found that especially true when I was still very sick.  Take as much time as you need to be very organized ahead of the shopping trip, so that you only need to do this chore once per week.  Designate a Saturday or Sunday (some people like late Friday nights, because grocery stores are quiet then) for it and stick to the plan.
2)  At the grocery store, do not even waste your time going down the aisles.  All the things you want are on the perimeter.  Start at produce, move on to the deli and butcher, and maybe make a quick stop in the oils/spice aisles and the frozen section.

PREPPING
1)  Once you have all your bounty at home, prep it.  Wash, peel, chop and slice up as much of the fruit and veg as you can.  Put it into easy to grab containers in the fridge, so that as you cook during the week you can quickly have ingredients at your fingertips.
2)  Cut up and portion out meat next.  If you buy ground pork for breakfast patties, form all the patties now.  If there was a great deal on chicken legs, but you don’t need them all for one meal, divide up the package and freeze in one meal portions.
3)  This is also a great time to go the extra mile with things like bone broth or kraut.  While your chopping and prepping anyway, get those things going too.

COOKING 
1)  Each morning, read what it is you are supposed to be preparing for dinner that evening and take the meat out of the freezer and put it into the fridge.  The defrosting can happen while you are at work.
2)  When making a meal, take out all the ingredients necessary and organize them near you on the counter.  As you finish with an ingredient, put it away or throw away the peels, packaging, whatever.  This saves you time running to the fridge and cupboards and keeps the work space uncluttered.  By the time you finish, all you need to do is wipe up.  (Professional French chefs would call this “mise en place” or “everything in its place.”  In other words, “Be organized so it is easier, duh!”)
3)  While you’re at it, making one meal, throw things into the crock-pot for another.  Put the crock in the fridge and the next morning pop it in the cooker.  You’ll have a meal when you get home.
4)  Roast, roast, roast.  I adore roasted meats and veggies.  They require very little prep, they sit in the oven for an hour or so (during which time I can sit down and rest), they make the house smell good and they are delicious.  Even better, the leftover meat is perfect for soups that can be made immediately . . . double the meals from one go at kitchen duty.  Definitely develop a roast repertoire.

PARTNER
Have a “cuisine comrade.”  I tried to be the sole kitchen commander in our home for most of my marriage.  I’m a good cook and long before I discovered Paleo, I knew my way around a kitchen, but as I got sicker I realized I absolutely had to have help.  Now, although I am not as sick and worn down as often, I know I need to be more realistic and pace myself.  My husband is my “cuisine comrade.”  Once we had our basic menus and shopping plans down, he took over the grocery trips.  AIP is, in many ways, a very simplistic, pared down approach to cooking, so after a few months of it, he was able to jump in every so often and whip up anything.  Now, if I have a very sick period, I know he is totally ready and willing to cook up food that is delicious for us all and safe for me.  Finally, we almost always split the cooking and clean-up duty.  It is reasonable and fair and makes sure that each partner has a moment to breath.  Maybe your “cuisine comrade” is your son or daughter, maybe it is your mother, or a roomie . . . eating is a “family affair,” getting the food on the table should be too.

Make the most of your kitchen time.  It is an investment in your good health.

About Angie Alt

Angie Alt is part of the blogging duo behind Autoimmune Wellness. She helps others take charge of their health the same way she took charge of her own after suffering with Celiac and other autoimmune diseases; one creative, nutritious meal at a time. Her special focus is on mixing “data with soul” by looking at the honest heart of the autoimmune journey (which sometimes includes curse words). She’s also a world traveler who has been medically evacuated from two foreign countries. Strategizing worst-case scenarios is now something of a hobby. She is a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and author of The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook: Eating for All Phases of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. You can also find her on Instagram.

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