Saturday night I spent four hours at a tony beach club, scanning the room for gluten-free food. I’ll save you the diatribe and tell you that while the cocktails looked grand, the chow situation was woeful and limited. I was in a world dominated by flour taco bites and quarter-sized burgers on crostini. Everywhere I turned I was faced with a reminder of the one molecule I dare not consume: GLUTEN.
For those of you whom are interested, I am no longer a walking hive. I’m off the steroids, and a semblance of the woman I once was–before the cacio e pepe blitzkrieg–is slowly returning. Never will I take a body free from itch for granted.
Before you lament my situation, know that I was prepared; I had a plan. In fact, my life as of late requires quite a bit of planning to make eating virtuously a conversation that always starts with YES. It makes navigating a gluten-infested work cafeteria palpable (How is there gluten in a black bean burger? A woman is FLUMMOXED!). While these tips are Captain Obvious, they’ve been extraordinarily helpful to me in terms of planning meals + grocery shopping for the week.
1. Planning: Every week (Monday-Wednesday), I scan my five top cookbooks, recent food magazines, and my gluten-free and vegetarian boards I’ve created for myself on Pinterest, in search of 2 “big” dishes and 2 sides that can be recycled. Big dishes will include a meat/poultry-based dish, where I can make the dish once and have it supply me with 2-3 meals. Examples include a chicken + sausage tray bake, beef tacos (I’ll re-use the meat in cold salads and gluten-free sandwiches), stir-fry beef (great with cold rice and salads) or this almond-crusted chicken. I always make a dish that I know I can chop it up, toss in a salad, pair with healthy legumes for the following day.
In addition to my BIG meals, I also scan for sides. Not only are these great accoutrements to a meal, but they serve as a lunch sides (I brown bag three days a week) or for healthy snacks, easily accessible in the fridge. I tend to go with veg-based options. Whether I’m making sweet potatoes that I can mash up later, or a roasted vegetable salad (my fave as of late) or a tub of roasted chickpeas, I commit myself to 2 sides + 2 big meals to supply food options for the week.
2. Shopping: I hate shopping except for when it comes to food. Food? I can shop all day, multiple times a week if need be. However, once I’ve got my big meals + sides mapped, I make a complete grocery list in Evernote of what I need to order. I also scan my fridge/pantry weekly to see if I’m running out of staples (eggs, almond milk, olive oil, etc) to compile one master list. I use this list to make a weekly order on Fresh Direct. I usually place the order for delivery on a Friday or Saturday, so I can make my meals for the week.
I’ve also accepted that I will pick up items at the grocery/market every other day, mostly gluten-free breads, fresh produce or cuts of beef that I’ll buy from a specific market. This forces me to buy in-season when fruit is ripe and delectable and it also inspires a relationship between me and my butcher. I tend to buy beef/poultry from the Union Square market (I LOVE Flying Pigs Farm, btw) or the USQ Whole Foods.
3. Unpacking: As soon as the groceries arrive, I’m ready with Ziploc bags, markers and Tupperware. I wash all my greens in one shot, dry, label, and secure them in airtight bags. I devote an entire shelf in my fridge to produce and herbs, and everything has a label. I also have Tupperware or smaller snack bags at the ready so I can open, chop, portion and drop. A bag of mixed veggies or fruit on the go? DONE AND DONE. This may sound like a look of effort, but 1-2 hours of prep saves you so much time during the week. I also use this time to check expiration dates on my products, do a clean wipe down of my fridge before the new guests arrive into their home.
4. Meal + Snack Prep: On Sundays, I spent 2-3 hours cooking and portioning my meals for the week. Sometimes I’ll split this between Saturday and Sundays, but usually with meat dishes I like to cook them as close to consumption as possible. The bottom shelf of my fridge is devoted to my stockpiles. I have two Tupperware (or 1 Tupperware, one Ziploc) per day. Meal is on the bottom, snacks are on top. Every day, all I need to do is open the fridge and dump my meal in my purse. Easy-peasy.
5. Purse snacks and side-eye events: Since I’ve learned that KIND bars are the spawn of Satan, I’m packing very healthy, virtuous options for on-the-go snacking (for the days when I’m not in the office) or in the event I have an event where my gluten-free options are limited. I usually pack homemade bars, Think Thin bars (look for really low levels of sugar), fruit, nuts (don’t get crazy with the portions) freshly-cut veggies or a protein shake I’ll make in the morning. This weekend, I carted a glass, lightweight tub filled with fresh apricots, figs, 2 protein bars and my avocado chocolate mousse. Not only was I sated at the event, I didn’t pick at snack trays. I wasn’t even TEMPTED.
I’m sure there are a ton of apps and programs that I could use which would make this process infinitely more efficient, but I actually like the tactile feel of going to kitchen, taking inventory and writing down what I need. If you have any meal prep tips, sites or other cool ways to map out your eats for the week, let me know!