Q&A: I Don’t Have Time for Paleo

This post was written by Neely Quinn.

confusedWith both parents working crazy work schedules, kids to drive around, and long commutes, it’s really easy to say you just don’t have time for Paleo. Here’s one busy parent’s plight and my suggestions for him.

Hello Neely,

My wife and I are (still) trying to get the paleo thing going in our family, but with both of us working full-time plus, and with church obligations, and with a seventeen year-old and a three-year-old, we’re having a dickens of a time getting it going. Is the paleo cleanse ebook designed for extremely busy, extremely budget bound people like us? We’re both typically away from the house 10 hours a day or more, and it’s been entirely too easy to pick up something at Wendy’s on the way home or pop a frozen pizza into the oven, as opposed to actually cooking and the associated cleanup.

We’re both needing and wanting to get this paleo thing going, both for our health and for the kids, but it’s been a real bear to get started and to STAY with it. Do you have any advice or recommendations for us?

Thanks for your time,
Dow ∴

Hi Dow,

Honestly, no, the 21-Day Paleo Cleanse ebook is not meant for you. It’s meant for people who have severe symptoms and the Paleo diet has not been able to resolve those symptoms. Our Quickstart Guide ebook may not even be meant for you because in both cases there’s at least some cooking involved every day.

Of course you can try the Quickstart Guide out, rearrange your schedule a  little and see if you can make it work. But I think you’re going to need to cook in bulk instead.

Cooking in Bulk
You’ll need to spend a couple nights or days a week making large batches of things you can have in the fridge for the week and then freeze some for later dates. Things like chilis, stews, crockpots, or whatever strikes your fancy – foods you’ll eat for lunches and dinners. Invest in glass tupperwares of all sizes so you can easily and safely store these things for long periods of time. They’ll also allow you to store serving-size bowls that are ready for you to grab and go to work with. You may even want to invest in another refrigerator so you have room for all these big tupperwares. Seriously.

You can even do this for breakfast – make a very large batch of egg muffins (ours or there are plenty of recipes online) or even a sweet variety of Paleo muffins (like our Pumpkin Muffins), then make a large batch of bacon to pinch pieces from through the week. That way you can grab your breakfast in the morning and go.

Or do a whole bunch of hard boiled eggs at one time (almost no effort necessary) and have them on hand for breakfasts and snacks. Have LOTS of fruit on hand, lots of nuts and seed mixes made up, even the kind with chocolate in them just to keep you away from other no-nos.

Roast chicken or burgers or pork chops or whatever in bulk in the oven (takes no more than 13 minutes for several pounds of chicken breast cutlets) and stick them in a glass container in the fridge. Then you can have that on hand to make salads or for snacks with a piece of fruit or whatever. Keep lots of avocados and raw veggies that you’ll eat on hand. Honestly, a whole avocado sprinkled with salt is one of my most favorite quick snacks. And carrots and celery are always good for munching on.

Personal Chef… Really.
It may even be worth your money to invest in a personal chef to help you. I know that sounds expensive, but it’s not always. You could hire a personal chef to do your shopping for you, come to your house and cook all your stuff and put it in your fridge and freezer for the entire week (or two weeks) and it might cost you $25-$75 an hour for their time. That’s not as bad as having a mansion full of servants, which is what we imagine when we think “personal chef”. And it’s definitely not so bad when you think about the illnesses/medications/health insurance costs you’ll incur by being unhealthy and continually gaining weight through the years (if that’s a problem of yours). Don’t know where to find a personal chef? I just googled “personal chef” and came up with 57,600,000 results. I’m hopeful there’s one in your area.

So those are my suggestions for now. Good luck to you!

Anyone else have any suggestions?


  1. This question and answer made me realize exactly why I prefer the Primal or Whole30 approach over simply paleo. To me, it’s about more than food. When I started my journey a year ago, I started taking baby steps toward cutting out the bad food and adding in the good food, which, as Dow has discovered, involves a lot more cooking and shopping and planning.

    All your suggestions are great, Neely, but I would add that maybe the schedule could change as well. Our food definitely is a huge part of our health, but so is sleep, and play and nature and family. I am trying to take baby steps to declutter my schedule and it is much much harder than changing what I eat, but I’m trying to enjoy the journey!

    1. Meesha – Sorry I didn’t match up to your Primal and Whole 30 expectations with my answers. I did mention changing your schedule, but I also understand that sometimes it IS just about the food, unfortunately. There are times in people’s lives when work is unchangeable and you really need the money, when you have to commute because your only job choice is far from your home, and your kids’ needs temporarily trump your own, and thus your sleep, exercise, and food priorities get all messed up. So maybe I should’ve been clearer about that when I posted this. Not having a crazy life is not an option for some people at some points in their lives, and this post is for them.

  2. I think Paleo is actually great for crazy lives. Since I first dipped my toe into the paleo world (with Neely giving me advice I use every day!), its been a year. I’m not a miracle sucess story with amazing before and after photos – YET! – but it has really given me a great focus. I work in the very crazy film industry, working 14-15 hours a day, and I love my job. I’m not willing to give it up, but through eating paleo I’ve created a far less stressful environment to live in. There are so many quick and easy recipes, slowcooker stuff, and I’m never nervous about what I should eat and what I shouldn’t anymore. I find myself restructuring my busy time. As hectic as we get, I certainly didn’t realize how much time I wasted on things – like tv etc. Paleo has made me organize my time better, yes, but I think the key word is better! There may come a time that if I really want to pursue certain goals, like those “after” photos, I will have to restructure my life – but even some paleo change is hugely beneficial!

    I never post and am a terrible speller so apologies in advance.

  3. As a mom of 4 kids, ages 4-11, I understand the busy, crazy schedules. I agree with the first commenter, that sometimes you need to re-evaluate your schedule and be very intentional about your family’s priorities. This is unique to everyone, so no judgement allowed. If sports and activities are at the top of the list, something else has to give. But if eating well is at the top, you may have to re-order a few things. I’m not saying cut back on your kids’ or your own pursuits necessarily, but you might have to give up some down time on the weekends to pre-cook some healthy food options for the coming week.
    I spend an hour or so on the weekend after my weekly shopping trip to pre-chop, cook, mix veggies and or meals. During the week if I cook anything at all I usually double the recipe to have on-hand for another meal, either in the fridge or freezer. This doesn’t just apply to full recipes…..also for ingredients. If you need 1/2 an onion chopped for Monday’s dinner, chop the whole thing, put it in the fridge for another day.
    There is definitely a learning curve. When I first started a paleo-based whole foods diet for my family it took me longer to get things prepared ahead of time. Now, it’s almost automatic and doesn’t take nearly as much time.
    Extra time yes…..but not as much as it used to be. And it’s well worth it.

  4. Just have to say… I did the Whole30 & hated the majority of those days. It was a struggle for me.

    My husband & I are in week two of the 21 Day cleanse. I feel great, I’m losing necessary weight among other healthful benefits. We thoroughly enjoy the meal plans… we complete the prep lists and sincerely thank you for putting it together. Next, we are signing up for the meal plans & workout combo pack here.

    Oh, and I am a mom of three under the age of seven, am going to school for my masters and I also teach…. my husband works full-time as well.

    It was simply coincidence that led me to Paleo Plan & I am truly grateful.

  5. Hi! My husband and I both work full-time jobs, have kids, many volunteer jobs at night. We are always on the go, and that was what contributed to our horrible eating habits. Then we discovered Paleo, and made it our priority. We spend about 2-3 hours each Saturday preparing all of our food for the week. We’ve seen amazing success in weight loss and health. We were recently featured on our local TV station KSL.com showing how cooking in bulk, planning ahead and eating Paleo has changed our lives. We hope it will help others. The article and 2 minute video can be watched HERE.

    1. Holly – Thank you so much for sharing that! I just re-shared it on Facebook for more people to see. Love watching Paleo and healthy eating in general grow on the media :)

  6. I make a big (and I mean industrial sized) pot of chicken or beef stock every so often, then make different soups out of it. Broccolli, squash, egg drop, vegetable, beef stew, etc. and freeze. I don’t have a recipe, but just throw in whatever sounds good. Then, I just grab a container on my way out the door. Since it’s frozen solid, I don’t have to worry about spills and such on the way to work. It usually takes me a good chunk of the day, but it lasts me a few weeks.

    Hard boiled eggs are also a life saver. Throw a few in a baggie on the way out the door and instant breakfast!

  7. We are brand new to Paleo, were semi-vegan before in an attempt at health. Anyway, alot is different between those two lifestyles, but one is the same. Lots of fresh and cooked veggies. I am a quite busy working Mother who recently went back to college and have obligations at the church. My husband just finished his degree, and works fulltime plus and also has church obligations. Plus we have 3 acres and animals to take care of. Our weekends are busier than our weekdays, so cooking for the whole week on our weekend was simply not an option. I do have a few suggestions though! I do spend half an hour once a week, sometimes this is directly after grocery shopping and sometimes its the next day when I get up early, chopping and preparing my veggies. I chop veggies that can be used in everything I cook just about and I use a Vidalia Onion chopper for most of it which is what makes it only take 30 minutes. Well worth the $20 investment. Probably the tool I use most in my kitchen. I chop onions, bells, carrots, celery, mushrooms, cucumbers, boiled eggs (we would have this for breakfast one morning and I would make extra for chopping for salads) and anything else I use that week. Then I place them in bowls without lids in my fridge with a paper towel underneath. They seem to keep longer this way. They have kept for two weeks before, but I generally use the food within a week. I also prepare the lettuce, etc for the salads itself this way and keep nuts on hand. I will instead of cooking a weeks worth of meals on the weekend, I get up early on Monday only and make five days breakfast instead of one. I’ve clocked it before, it took six extra minutes to make five days instead of one when you are making the same item. Then Saturday I do the same thing. Then the next week I make it on Wednesday, Are you seeing a pattern? Lunches are easy, invest in salad containers. When you already have everything ready and in fridge it takes five minutes to throw together salads. It would take longer than that to stop at Wendy’s drive thru. Snacks: we keep apples, oranges, bananas to take with us. I also keep nuts and dried fruit incase I run out of the fruit. If I had time to make my home made ranch this week (5 minutes but I dont always have five minutes) we already have the veggies cut up and ready. We throw them into a container and go. Then Dinner’s I will either use a crockpot meal and everyone can eat whenever they are home (unfortunately are not always togeter at dinnertime but we do our best), or maybe a day I have time to cook I use the same idea as with breakfast and cook double or triple and stick it in fridge or freezer. I have also invested in a little oven and two little crockpots for the car. This helps with busy days, family outings, or even long trips. And yes, we cook and eat in the car good healthy food. (These reheat though they do not cook raw meat so it is usually something I cooked another days and stuck in freezer for later) The easiest food in the world to cook more than you need, especially when you’re freezer is empty, soup and chili. Cheap and easy to start in the morning and leave in crock all day, eat when you get home and save in freezer in several containers. MY husband keeps meals I have frozen for him at work just incase her unexpectedly has to work 16 hours instead of 8 (or even 24 and yes that’s happened before) And if all else fails, you spent 30 minutes so you can rush in the door and have a salad that you prepared in that 30 minutes a couple days ago! We are all busy and my suggestions may be of no help to you in your family situation. But my point is, this is your health. Do what you can with the five minutes here or there you can find. Hope that helps!

  8. I’m in the boat with Dow’s plight on following Paleo. And I have a comment and question for Neely on her answers.

    Making your weekly food in bulk on Sunday is a great way to go. It was the only way I could stick to my diet when bodybuilding and I lost 15 lbs and kept all my muscle mass doing it. But it got boring eating basicaly the same thiing every day, week after week. I choose to follow Neeely’s paleo plan because of the weekly menus helping make it easier to shop and have variety. But I found two things: 1) my local store does not carry many of the ingredients on a regular basis (the next store is a 40 mile drive away), and 2) I just dont have the energy and time to cook breakfast and dinner every day.

    So my question for Neely is whether the Paleo Plan can develop a weekly menu plan based on the ‘cooking in bulk’ theme’? It may mean not having a different entree every night, but just have variety on a weekly basis is big plus. For the North Americans out there, we’ve learned to live on Pizza and the leftovers for multiple days, no reason paleo can’t be the same.

    1. Rockdoc – I totally agree with you that it could be a useful tool to have big batches of things on the meal plan. We’ve discussed trying to implement this and I’ll brig it up again to my partner. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. I find that starting with a base (such as the omelet muffins) and making variations helps to even out the “too much of the same thing” problem. I just put something identifying on top of each one (piece of bacon, bell pepper, etc.) or go with being surprised by the filler each day. Making a base soup that can be customized to different flavors at the end just before packaging is also good. Prepping the vegetables and pre-packaging the non-meat parts of a crock-pot meal together (meat separate -can defrost in the fridge the night before) means being able to just dump it all in before running to work for a fresh pot of something different in the middle of the week.

  10. Neely, I had to respond to this…we are a BUSY family. My husband and I both work full time, we have three children, 8,9 and 16. We are involved at church and I also raise rabbits. When I say I raise them, I don’t mean as a hobby. At any one time, I may have 100 or more rabbits in my barn. That requires time and effort too, to take care of them properly. Joining PaleoPlan has been a God-send for us! The meal plans and shopping list make it so easy. We used to hate having to come up with a meal and making sure to have all the ingredients. We too often took the easy way out and did fast food or other unhealthy options. We have been on the plan for 6 weeks and I see really big results. No more digestive issues, bloating or lethargy. 10lbs down and 2.5″ from my waist and I don’t feel like I am dieting at all. It isn’t really that much more expensive either…it does take a bit of time, but I feel my health and that of my family is worth it.

  11. New here but thought I would chime in. Dr. Oz, not that I’m a big fan, once said something that really stuck with me. He said to eat the same breakfast and lunch for 7 days and to leave the “creative” part of eating for dinner. It works for me! I once ate the same breakfast for 18 months.

    I like the meal plans that use the leftovers! So I would encourage a bulk cooking meal plan asap!


  12. Honestly, this is the very reason that I stopped Paleo Plan / being paleo. I saw a ton of great results, really liked not having to think about what I was going to eat from being on Paleo Plan, but I was a slave to my kitchen. I wish there was a Paleo Plan for busy people.

    @RockDoc mentioned this with bulk cooking… is there something in the works to reduce cooking time?

    Another option… I’ve also been wondering if there is a way to connect with people in my area on the Paleo Plan that I could hire to shop and cook for me.

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