Meal Planning – A Paleo AIP Survival Tool

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Eileen standing in front of the open door of her fridge

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

A Guided Tour of My Fridge

How I Meal Plan

  • The day before we go grocery shopping, I sit down and plan out all of our meals for the week.
  • Breakfast is easy, because we always make Breakfast Soup which feeds both my husband and I for the workweek. Then on the weekends, we make some type of skillet breakfast. If you’re not sure what to cook for breakfast, here are 50 Paleo AIP Breakfast Recipes.
  • For lunches, I depend on food that is already prepared. I don’t have time to cook at lunchtime. I eat a lot of Big@ass salads (as Mark Sisson lovingly calls them), and I do some batch cooking on the weekend so that I have some meat and veggies that I can grab and reheat. This week I made a big batch of roasted butternut squash and Perfect Breakfast Sausage (which tastes good at any time of day.) For other ideas for lunch, check out the e-book AIP Snacks and Quick Lunches.
  • For dinner entrees, I do a combination of quick meals and meals that produce a lot of leftovers. When we’re following a healing diet, we spend enough time in the kitchen without making every meal a chore. Here’s this week’s dinner meal plan: Monday – Easy Crispy Duck Breast, Tuesday – Simple Tender Pot Roast with Holy Grail Gravy, Wednesday – Leftovers, Thursday – Leftovers, Friday – Salmon Primavera, Saturday – Simple Marinated Chicken Hearts, Sunday – Carrot Ginger Halibut Soup (which will give me leftovers for Monday)
  • Vegetables are the foundation of the AIP Food Pyramid. So, I buy a wide variety every week. We chop them all up when we get home from grocery shopping and put them in Tupperware Fridgesmart containers, because they keep produce fresh a really long time. Then they’re ready to grab for lunch salads and quick dinner side dishes. Looking for inspiration? Here’s an A-Z Vegetable Recipe Roundup.
  • Snacks – I actually don’t snack any more. I find my digestion works best when I eat 3 large meals daily and give my body a break between meals. That said, my blood sugar is well-controlled and I don’t suffer from adrenal fatigue. If you have blood sugar or adrenal fatigue issues, you’ll need to eat snacks between meals. The key is to choose satiating snacks. That means you don’t want to grab an AIP dessert; instead, make your snacks mini-meals that have fat, protein and carbs. This is how you will heal over time and eventually be able to widen the times between meals. An ideal snack would be Liver Pate with Apples. For a satiating snack on-the-go, I recommend Wild Zora’s AIP-Friendly Meat and Vegetable Bars or Epic Bar’s AIP-Friendly Varieties.
  • Healing Foods – I also check on my stock of healing foods like bone broth, sauerkraut and kombucha, to see if I need to buy the ingredients to make new batches this week.
  • Grocery List Staples – Once I’ve written all of my recipe ingredients on my grocery list, along with a good list of vegetables, I look around my kitchen to see if I’m running low on any staple foods. I use an AIP grocery list as a reference.
  • Last Tips – (1) When you write down your meal plan, also note which meat/seafood needs to be defrosted each day for the next day’s meal. (2) Plan batch cooking and veggie prep. on your days off, so you can pull dinner together quickly on a worknight. (3) Choose a variety of foods for your weekly menu. The more diverse our choices, the better our nutrition. We all end up having favorite recipes, but it’s also good to try something new once in a while to keep us from getting into food ruts. Check out the weekly AIP Recipe Roundtable for inspiration. (5) Has your food seemed bland lately? Spice up your meals with this Condiment Recipe Roundup. (6) Are you a new cook and feeling a little intimidated, or just finding the transition to the AIP challenging? Listen to my recent podcast: Cooking and Baking Tips from the Paleo Masters.

Brain Fog? Too Busy? There are Meal Plan Resources Available

Ad: Real Plans - Meal planning for your busy life

When you look at my process above, it may seem overwhelming. Brain fog is a common symptom of autoimmune disease. At its worst, it’s hard to carry on a conversation, never mind organize a week’s worth of meals. The good news is that this is one of the first symptoms that improves on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). However, if you’re just starting, or simply very busy, you might want someone else to do the meal planning for you. There are now lots of great resources available:

  • Meal Plan E-Book Series: Christina Feindel is a meal plan master. Check out my review of her first one: 28 Days of AIP. She has since created three more: 28 Days of One-Pot AIP  – Less dishes makes us all very happy! 28 Days of No-Cook AIP, designed for preparing healthy meals while traveling. And her most recent one is designed to help people with histamine intolerance: 28 Days of Low-Histamine AIP.
  • Meal Plans in Printed Cookbooks: Two of your favorite AIP cookbooks contain meal plans that incorporate those cookbook’s recipes. The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook has 8 weeks of meal plans and The Healing Kitchen Cookbook has 12 weeks of meal plans.
  • Low-FODMAP AIP Meal Plans: If you have SIBO, you might be on a Low-FODMAP diet in addition to the AIP, making meal planning especially challenging. Here are some meal plans available to help: the FODMAP-Free Paleo Breakthrough and 28 Days of Low-FODMAP AIP.
  • Online Meal Plan Subscription: Real plans is a meal planning app that can be used on your computer or smartphone. It’s very cool! You choose the meals, and it generates shopping lists, defrost reminders, and how much time is needed to prepare and cook each recipe. They have hundreds of paleo AIP recipes available, and you can also personalize your meal plan according to your unique food needs, filtering for extra restrictions or adding foods back in with successful reintroductions. They also let you sort by budget, season, and preparation time. Do you live outside the USA? In your settings, you can choose metric measurements. They’ve thought of everything! They even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee for a no-risk trialPersonalized Diet Dashboard within Real Plans

The Genius of Batch Cooking

What is batch cooking? It’s spending an hour (or a few hours) in the kitchen, preparing a lot of food at once so you can eat quick meals the rest of the week. There are some great AIP Batch Cooking tutorials online:

  • The Batch Cooking Guru in the AIP Community is Mickey Trescott, the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook. She created a video tutorial which includes recipes and meal plans to cook an entire week’s meals in just 2 two-hour sessions. It’s called AIP Batch Cook.
  • A Batch Cooking Cookbook: The Autoimmune Protocol Meal Prep Cookbook  gives you 10 weeks of batch cooking meal plans with a wide variety of themes and flavors.
  • Phoenix Helix Podcast: In Episode 55, batch cooking masters share their tips.

Ready? Set? Cook!

When I started the AIP, none of these resources were available. We’ve come a long way, baby! That’s because the AIP community is now full of thousands of people reclaiming their health. We’re a movement, and it’s both empowering and inspiring to see! What are your best meal planning tips? Please share in the comments below.

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12 comments on “Meal Planning – A Paleo AIP Survival Tool”

  1. Hi Eileen – just curious about the filter you linked to. I saw that it links to the Berkey countertop system but the photo you have seems to show a Brita-type. Did you change your mind on filters, and what do you recommend now? Thanks!

  2. Right now, meal planning resembles military headquarters: a table full of papers, charts–because even after about a year and a half, I still can’t remember even half the stuff I’m not allowed to eat–pencils, shopping lists, a blackboard, and squatting on it all, a typewriter. Planning a week’s worth of meals can take upwards of two hours…needless to say, not my favorite chore.
    It’s nice to see that there are so many more resources available now–I remember painstakingly combing the internet, searching for “grain-free-egg-free-dairy-free-nightshade-free-coconut-free-recipes” We’ve come a long way!

    1. Isabella, I agree. It’s been so wonderful seeing resources expand in the AIP community. It gives beginners a headstart and veterans like us a break.

  3. Eileen, I LOVE your website and your posts! I get so much information from them. Easy to understand and practical information. I’ve been AIP for over a year. Trying to heal leaky gut from Lyme treatment. I am currently trying to get rid of plastic and have glass containers. I noticed in the picture of your fridge you have plastic containers. Do you have special ones?

    1. Hi Maura. I stopped cooking in plastic, and I use mason jars for things like soups, broth and ferments, but I continue to use plastic containers for my produce. They’re Tupperware Fridgesmart containers and they have a special ridged bottom and vents that keep produce fresh for weeks. I savor that convenience, and since it’s just fresh veggies, I don’t think any plastic transfers onto the food. That said, if you want to go totally plastic-free, some people wrap their produce in towels.

  4. This is aweseome! I wish my fridge looked like yours. A work in progress I guess. I read that you started with GAPS and evolved to where you are AIP with reintroduced foods? As I have now been on AIP for a whopping 18 days, I was getting discouraged because I’m not feeling any different, I started looking into GAPS to see what you started out on. I noticed a lot of AIP recipes have arrowroot and carob (okay, the recipes that sound super yummy) and noticed on GAPS they are not allowed. Can these be slowing down my progress or how fast i heal? Because I really want to eat yummy things like Carob on occasion 🙂 Thanks for any advice.

    1. Hi Heather. The real answer is that 18 days isn’t long enough for most people to start feeling the healing benefits. While I do recommend you keep all desserts to a minimum (and carob and arrowroot recipes are usually desserts), you don’t need to do any troubleshooting or consider removing other food groups until you’ve tried the AIP for 3 months. In the meantime, here’s an article I wrote that will help you have the best chance of success on the AIP: Top 5 Mistakes People Make on the AIP.

      1. Thank you! 🙂 Sometimes, it just helps me knowing I can occasionally have something yummy. Thanks for the article resource.

  5. I tried out RealPlans on your recommendation but within one day I found 2 recipes that were supposedly “AIP-approved” but that contained black pepper and chia seeds (respectively). I don’t have much trust in them any more. Were they really vetted by Ballantyne?

    1. Alex, thank you so much for letting me know this. I’ve contacted RealPlans to try to find out what is happening. Sarah wrote an extensive blog post about their collaboration, but it sounds like she didn’t doublecheck their work. I’ll see what I can do. If it doesn’t get fixed, I’ll remove them from my recommendations.

    2. Alex, I have an update. I’ve been working with RealPlans over the past 2 months to fix the mistakes in their AIP filter. As of today (fingers crossed) it looks like all mistakes have been fixed and there are 143 true AIP recipes available.

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