Meal prepping in advance can always be a challenge—adding a special dietary approach like paleo can be the thing that pushes you over the edge. But eating paleo can actually make meal prepping easier, since you have fewer types of foods to worry about (no grains, for example). That means you can use the same amount of time to create more variety, so the result of your meal-prep time can feel more rewarding.
Use this guide as a jumping-off point to help you streamline shopping, chopping, and everything else that goes into meal prep. You’ll end up with shortcuts to super-healthy, satisfying meals and snacks you can whip up all week, even on the nights when you get in late and your inner caveman is screaming for dinner.
Paleo Pantry Staples
Be sure to always have these items on hand:
- Healthy cooking fats
4th & Heart Grass-Fed Ghee, $16.14 on Amazon
Clarified butter for all your cooking needs.
- Raw cider vinegar
- Optional: A few others, to add brightness to dishes and make quick dressings on the fly (balsamic, red or white wine, etc.) Avoid malt vinegar, which contains gluten.
- Almond flour and/or coconut flour; cassava flour (for pancakes, baking, and breading)
- Nuts and unsweetened coconut flakes: Keep a variety for snacking, to make granola, and for breading.
- Nut and seed butters: Unsweetened almond butter, tahini, and coconut butter, and any others you like, but note that peanut butter is technically not paleo.
- Arrowroot: Use as a thickener and for breading (in place of cornstarch, which isn’t paleo).
- Coconut aminos (a paleo swap for soy sauce)
- Fish sauce: Adds umami to sauces and dressings (Red Boat is the favored paleo brand; some others have added sugar or fillers that aren’t paleo.)
- Raw honey, maple syrup, and/or coconut sugar: To balance sauces and dressings, and for making dessertt
- Hot sauce: If you like heat; check the label to make sure there’s no added sugar or preservatives (Frank’s Red Hot is very clean).
- Dried herbs and spices: There isn’t a specific list since it depends on what you like, but keep your pantry stocked with a variety and make sure they’re fresh for best results.
- Canned full-fat coconut milk: For sauces, curries, and whipped cream
- Canned wild salmon: For quick salads and patties
- Frozen pre-cooked shrimp: Defrost in a bowl of cold water while you throw together some vegetables.
- Frozen cauliflower rice: The fresh kind goes bad quickly. Buy it frozen (or make and freeze in batches); it doesn’t need to be defrosted before cooking.
- Condiments: Check labels carefully to avoid sugar, preservatives, and vegetable oils; some paleo-friendly brands include Primal Kitchen, Chosen Foods, and New Primal.
- Dark chocolate made with paleo-friendly sweeteners such as coconut sugar or maple syrup, and free of soy lecithin: Paleo-friendly brands include Hu’s Kitchen, Eating Evolved, and Pure 7.
Paleo Weekly Staples
Along with pantry staples, you’ll want these perishables each week:
- A variety of vegetables: Choose what you like from what’s in season.
- Fresh, in-season fruit
- Citrus: Definitely lemons, but include lime and/or orange if you like. Great for adding brightness to sauces; zest can go into baked goods.
- Fresh herbs
- Head of garlic
- Pastured eggs
- Meat/fish/poultry: Buy the highest quality you can; 100 percent grass-fed beef and lamb, wild-caught fish. Pick up a rotisserie chicken (preferably organic).
Paleo Meal Prep Building Blocks
Prep these items on Sunday and you’ll be ready to grab and go or whip up something quick all week.
Prep vegetables: Cut up everything and prepare in a few different ways, so you end up with a variety of vegetables and also a mix of flavors and textures. For example:
- Blanch green beans
- Roast broccoli and carrots (roast and store separately so you can mix and match all week)
- Buy packaged steamed beets
- Slice or chop fennel and bell peppers; chop onions (freeze in 1-cup portions; no need to defrost before using)
- Saute mushrooms
- Keep prewashed greens, cherry tomatoes, and avocados (i.e., vegetables that require little or no prep) on hand
- Buy fermented vegetables, e.g., sauerkraut or pickles. Be sure to buy from the refrigerated section of the market and check that it says “fermented” on the label.
- Prep chicken: Pull all the meat off the rotisserie chicken; shred. Place in a container, cover, and refrigerate.
- Make 1-3 dressings/sauces: It’s easy to toss together a quick, tasty meal when this is out of the way. (See below for a few we love.)
- Bake a batch of paleo muffins: Perfect for grab-and-go breakfasts and snacks all week (alternatively, you can make a batch of grain-free granola). See below for some that we like.
Prep Naturals Airtight Glass Meal Prep Containers with Lock-On Lids, 5 for $23.9 on Amazon
Store all your prepped veggies, fruit, and meat in these containers.
Tips & Tricks
- When buying condiments or anything packaged, check labels to make sure there’s no added sugar, preservatives, gluten, or soy. They lurk in all kinds of products, even ones that are organic or seem healthy.
- Only buy vegetables you want to eat; it sounds obvious, but so often our choices are influenced by what’s trendy. You don’t have to like kale, and if you don’t, don’t buy it.
- When buying fresh herbs, get ones you like (e.g., flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, mint, oregano, sage, thyme), and only buy what you’ll use in a few days. If you find you have lots of herbs that are about to go bad, combine them into a mixed-herb pesto or compound butter.
Sample List of Meals for the Week
These simple-to-make muffins incorporate fresh apple, dried berries, pecans, and cinnamon, lightly sweetened with a touch of honey.
Classic carrot-banana-nut muffins, with plenty of protein and healthy fats from almond butter, collagen, and coconut oil. Dates add sweetness.
Even non-paleo eaters will love these muffins, loaded with fresh blueberries and sprinkled with a crumb topping that makes them feel like a treat.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Chop some of your roasted vegetables and sauteed mushrooms; warm in a medium skillet with avocado oil over medium heat. Beat 6 eggs; add to skillet with any fresh herbs you like. Let cook undisturbed until the edges start to look firm, about 5 minutes. Transfer to oven; cook for 10 minutes, until center is cooked through. Wrap and refrigerate leftovers for lunches. Consider it a template, too; you can make a frittata with nearly anything you have on hand and need to use up.
Cook a slice or two of bacon. Toss greens with vinaigrette. Top with blanched green beans, a chopped hard-cooked egg, crumbled bacon, ¼ chopped avocado, chopped steamed beets, a bit of your pulled chicken. Drizzle with more vinaigrette. Done.
Bentgo 3-Compartment Salad Container, $14.99 on Amazon
Pack your salad components separately to keep everything fresh until lunch time.
Top greens with cooked ground beef and your favorite burger toppings. Mix mayo with paleo-compliant ketchup; drizzle on top. Who needs a bun?
Easy to whip up with canned salmon; wrap and refrigerate leftovers for meals all week.
Saute cauliflower rice in avocado oil until tender (about 5 to 7 minutes), adding a squeeze of lime and some chili powder. Place in a bowl and top with some of your pre-prepped vegetables, salsa, and some of your pulled chicken. Mix cashew cream with hot sauce; drizzle on top. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
This is quick and easy to make, and it’s neutrally flavored, so you can turn it into different things. By itself it’s a great swap for cream sauce. Divide it up into a few portions and flavor each differently; e.g., add hot sauce and drizzle on a taco bowl; add curry and lime juice and drizzle on sauteed chicken and vegetables; stir in lemon juice, garlic, and paprika and spoon over a baked sweet potato.
Weck Jelly Jar, set of 6 for $23.78 on Amazon
They may be called jelly jars, but these containers are perfect for storing any of your paleo-friendly sauces.
Whisk together basic pantry ingredients (red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, etc.), and in seconds you have a versatile, crowd-pleasing dressing that’s good for more than just salad.
It’s the perfect way to use up the basil that’s so abundant all summer, and it goes with everything. Mix it into chicken or tuna salad, put a dollop on grilled fish, or add a bit to a scramble.
The secret to this flavorful sauce: Jarred roasted peppers and almond butter. Pro tip: Put a spoonful on steak—the vitamin C in the peppers makes the iron in the steak more bioavailable (plus, it tastes amazing).
It’s the best part of satay—the creamy, rich, tangy sauce. A paleo version utilizes almond butter instead of peanut, lime juice, coconut aminos, and fish sauce. You’ll love it on… everything.
Slice bananas, dip in chocolate, top with something crunchy, freeze, and enjoy—these little treats couldn’t be simpler, they’re kid friendly, and you get plenty of minerals from the bananas and chocolate.
A fruit crumble is so homey and comforting and satisfying—we love this version with that classic sweet-tart strawberry-rhubarb combo. (Bonus: Have it with yogurt and it can double as breakfast.)
Turmeric is uber-trendy, and no wonder, with its amazing anti-inflammatory power. Combined with coconut milk, ginger, honey, and cinnamon, it gives golden milk its beautiful color—and in this recipe, turned into ice pops, it’s a perfect hot-weather good-for-you treat you can make ahead to have on hand whenever your sweet tooth strikes.
Related Reading: Keto Meal Prep Tips & Tricks
Header image by Chowhound