Meal Planning Means No Excuse to Eat Poorly – Part 1

Cook a Week of Meals book review:

The following is a testimonial (in two parts) from Amanda Hillock of
I have worked with Amanda in the past, advising her on her diet and nutrition to improve in her sport. I asked her if she would like to review and trial my eBook, Cook a Week of Meals in 4 Hours, and provided me with feedback. Here is the first part of her experience.

I got stuck on the first page – crikey – look at this guy’s biceps!

Alas, I was on a mission: to prepare a week’s worth of meals and snacks for my 2-person household in four hours. Andy and I had just signed up for a “Body Fat Buddy Buster” and we were aiming for a loosely Paleo, whole-food diet that would put us in good stead for our challenge.

I used Darren’s book to gather my thoughts, find recipe inspiration and plan my afternoon in a series of steps.

Step 1: Choose – meals and recipes, and compile an ingredients list.

Step 2: Shop – butchers, vegetable market + supermarket for all the bits + bobs.

Step 3: Cook

The introductory sections of the book outline the benefits of cooking in bulk. For me, it’s purely lifestyle-driven. My partner and I both hold busy corporate roles. I spend my evenings running, doing yoga or at netball practice. Afterwards I like to work on my blog, knit or read, and be asleep by 11. We simply don’t have time to prepare and cook meals every night. Doing it all on a Sunday afternoon works so well for us.

Darren explains how inexperienced cooks can build up their skills and confidence. The recipes in Cook a Week of Meals in 4 Hours don’t require any difficult cooking techniques – they are pragmatic, tasty recipes. By the end of the book, I was itching to get started.

Step 1 – Choose

Darren recommends choosing 2-3 meat dishes, three vegetables, and a starchy carb. Because we were going to be eating this food for both lunches and dinners, I added a fourth vegetable dish for variety instead of the starchy dish.

Meat recipes

  • Roast Mango Chicken Breasts, Beef Burgers, and Slow Cooker Beef Roast with Turnip

Vegetable recipes

  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Squash and Sweet Potatoes, Beet Carrot Salad, and Roast Eggplant with Bell Peppers

I chose these dishes because we had chicken breasts and ground lamb in the freezer, and beef roast was on special at the butchers. With these veggie dishes I knew I had flexibility to pick what was in season and available at the Farmers Market.

I compiled a big list of everything I needed, checked what we already had on stock and then made three shopping lists: Butcher, Farmers Market and Supermarket.

Shopping List (Butcher)
  • 1.5kg rolled beef roast
Shopping List (Market)
  • Cherry tomatoes, carrots, garlic, chillies, 2 red onions, 4 brown onions, organic yoghurt, eggs, brussels sprouts, coriander, mint, 3 medium sweet potato (aka kumara here in NZ), apple, orange, lemon, baby spinach, eggplant, 3 capsicums, cabbage, asparagus
Shopping List (Supermarket)
  • Balsamic vinegar, sesame oil

Already had – canned mango, lamb mince, walnuts, chicken breasts, red wine, Dijon mustard, kitchen basics like dried herbs, etc.

Time taken to prepare lists: Saturday afternoon, 20 minutes

Cook a Week of Meals book review: farmers market

Step 2 – Shopping

I love my local Farmers market, not least because it gives me reason to haul my sleepy butt outta bed before 9am on a Sunday morning. Especially on a beautiful morning in spring, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Most of my required vegetables were in season and therefore available at the market. Buying in-season keeps my veggie bill down, and means I get a variety year-round. The only thing I couldn’t get my hands on were brussels sprouts. We’re heading into spring in New Zealand so the late-winter sprouts were all done. Instead I bought a small head of cabbage and decided to roast wedges of it. Yum.

A quick trip to the butcher and supermarket completed my shopping expedition.

Time taken to shop: Sunday morning, 50 minutes

End of part 1. The conclusion of Meal Planning Means No Excuses to Eat Poorly will be published next Thursday.

Amanda Hillock of www.thenetballer.comThis is a guest post by Amanda Hillock of, an avocado-fuelled fitness & sports blogger from down under.

Find Amanda on: [Twitter]