This post is part of the Meal Ideas series. Finding something to eat that is simultaneously affordable, quick to prepare, healthy, AND delicious can be next-to-impossible sometimes. In this section I post pictures of the food I make, links to recipes I love, and some tips for saving time and money while still cooking great-tasting healthy food.
In the guest post I wrote for The Paleo Mom blog, I suggested that a useful way to save time in the kitchen is to use a standard meal rotation: a list of several recipes (enough for a few weeks’ worth of meals) that you know how to make quickly and easily and that your family loves. This can be helpful because, by using the same recipes frequently, you’ll learn to make them faster and more easily and, by using the recipes on a rotating basis, your family won’t get tired of eating the same food all the time.
After I posted that, I received several comments asking for examples of this sort of meal rotation. I have decided, therefore, to share with you the meal rotation list that I currently use, including links to some of my favourite go-to recipes.
Because the meal ideas shared below are the ones I currently use in my rotation, they all adhere to a low-FODMAP, autoimmune protocol (AIP) paleo diet and contain modifications to that effect. For those of you who are able to tolerate high-FODMAP vegetables and/or nightshades, I highly recommend that you include a larger variety of vegetables in your side dishes. More advice on how to modify this meal rotation to fit your individual lifestyle and needs will be listed later.
1. Slow-cooked whole chicken with lemon and rosemary / roasted carrots and parsnips / steamed zucchini
3. Panfried fish (any kind) marinated with herbs de provence and lemon / mashed turnip / cucumber salad (only use green parts of green onions)
4. Slow-cooked beef tongue / mofongo (mashed plantain with bacon) / braised kale
5. AIP hidden-liver meatloaf (omit the celery, onion, garlic, paprika, fennel, and cayenne) / mixed green salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar / roasted carrots
6. Shrimp stir fry with kelp noodles, shredded carrots, baby bok choy, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts (based on this recipe for shrimp chow mein)
8. Bacon-wrapped chicken thighs / plantain chips / steamed zucchini
9. Zucchini lasagna (follow the low-FODMAP modifications) / mixed green salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar / roasted parsnips
10. Panfried shrimp marinated in herbes de provence and lemon / zucchini “pasta” (omit garlic and walnuts) / steamed carrots
11. Beef liver (omit onions) / mashed rutabaga / braised chard
12. Beef heart soup with ginger, carrots, parsnips, and kale (recipe coming soon)
14. Beef stew with turnips and greens (omit onions and garlic)
In my household (two people and occasional guests) these 14 meals generally last us for 4 weeks: I make 4-6 servings of each, enough for one freshly-cooked meal and one meal of leftovers. (A serving size in my house is generally 6-8 oz of meat with 2-4 cups of vegetables on the side). To modify this for a larger household, I recommend doubling or even tripling the recipes so that they can feed more people.
To devise your own meal rotation, pick out recipes that you know well and that you really enjoy. Pay attention to how long each meal takes to cook: if you don’t have much time for cooking, opt for slow cooker recipes and ones that can quickly be fried up in a pan on the stove. Also pay attention to the relative prep times and cooking methods of your side dishes: don’t plan to cook two things in the oven at the same time but different temperatures, because it’s not going to work. Moreover, it’s important to balance the relative difficulty-level of the main dishes and side dishes: if you plan to prepare an elaborate main dish, keep the side dishes simple, and vice versa.
Once you have your meal rotation planned, test it out. Pay attention to how long it takes to prep and cook a certain meal and how to time your prep so that everything’s ready for the table at approximately the same time. This sort of information can be really useful when you’re deciding when to use that recipe again: is it more suited to a weeknight? or a weekend? should you prep the side dishes 30 minutes before the main dish is out of the oven? If you’re particularly keen, you can take a moment to write these notes on the recipe so you’ll have them for future reference.
While it’s nice to rely on the same meal rotation all the time, it’s a good idea to switch a few of the meals up every so often, especially to account for seasonal availability and cooking methods. The meals listed above are part of my winter menu and therefore contain a large number of starchy root vegetables, which are the only local veggies available in my area this time of year. I also opt more for roasted vegetables and wilted/braised greens in the winter, whereas in the summer I go for fresh salads. Modifying your meal rotation every three or four months to fit the seasons can also keep your meals from getting boring or repetitive.
However you choose to modify your meal rotation plan, I hope you’ll find it to be a helpful, time-saving tool for your kitchen.
Have any other meal rotation ideas or tips? Post them in the comments below!