8 Tips for Preparing Whole30 Meals

Grocery-Cart-List

It’s nearly the end of Week 4, and I sort of can’t believe it. I feel like I’m finally settling into a routine. If you happen to be flirting with the idea of taking on a Whole30 yourself, here are a few things I learned.

1. Keep it simple. This is really the only tip that matters. I started out cooking way too much. Don’t do that.

2. Just do it. That said, chances are you will have to cook more than you are now. I had no idea how I was going to do all the cooking when I committed to doing this. But I had to. So I did. Sometimes I find this is the best approach. Just dive in and figure it out as you go. You’ll adjust. My cooking gauge was recalibrated over the last four weeks. Many of the meals I used to think of as “taking some effort” I now think of as “quick”.

3. Eat the same thing everyday. If you’re like my husband, you won’t like this tip. And if you’re my husband, you should also just get over it and go do the dishes. (I love you Jason.) If you’re like me, you won’t mind eating more or less the same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday. And that will make life a whole lot easier for you.

4. If you have a baby, start cooking dinner in the morning. Dinner was the one meal of the day that took a bit more effort. But I couldn’t count on Ollie to peacefully entertain herself when I wanted/needed to prep dinner. So I learned to start prepping what I could at my first opportunity in the morning. And then at my next opportunity. And then at the next etc. This probably applies to those without babies too. Because we’re all busy, right? Don’t leave it all until meal time. Chop the veggies, mix the spices, make the sauce or whatever when you have time. Ahead of time.

5. Don’t worry so much about following a recipe. Figuring out how much to buy and make was challenging. The Whole30 program feels expensive because the grocery bill goes way up. Of course, the eating out bill goes down. I haven’t done the detailed math, but I suspect it was, net, still more expensive. So I’ve been more focused than usual on not wasting food. Which is hard when you’re married to a toddler. (I love you Jason. Thank you for doing the dishes!)

Jason will eat seconds and thirds of something he likes and then all of a sudden there aren’t any leftovers for him to eat the next day. So sometimes I make extra to ensure there’s enough and we end up throwing half of it away.

The easiest way around this, I found, was to modify recipes to use up things I had on hand. For example, mix and match canned tomato things. Diced, crushed, sauce, paste… it’s all a tomato thing. I once made fancy applesauce to go with our pork chops, and Jason barely touched it. So I threw it in the slow cooker with some canned tomato things, a piece of pork and some sweet potato, and it turned it pretty well! Extra veggies fit nicely in eggs, and extra sauces are perfect for dipping.

6. Go to the store more often. I used to grocery shop once/week, and I was pretty passionate about that strategy. Whenever our parents visited they would (seemingly) want to go everyday. I guess that’s the most exciting thing to do at age 70… Or so Jason and I would joke. And I would stand my ground. I didn’t have time to be going to the grocery store every other day! Except for it’s a lot easier to buy the appropriate amount of food if you go more often. I have been going twice/week and that works well for me. It doesn’t feel too often, but it’s often enough that I can modify the meal plan to use up things we already have.

7. Make someone else do the grocery shopping. I just started using Raley’s eCart this week, and let me tell you. It’s super convenient to pick up groceries without stepping foot in the store. Of course this can also be challenging when 80% of your list is produce and you’re particular about its condition. I might try doing a quick trip for a few critical items I want to pick out myself and use the eCart for the rest of my list.

8. Order food online. I mentioned my twice/week trip to Raley’s. I also made a few trips to Trader Joe’s for a few key items like spindrift sparkling water, coconut oil and cashews with fucking rice bran. Neither store, however, can manage to keep coconut milk in stock, and another trip to Whole Foods was just too much. So I recently ordered in bulk from Amazon. Problem solved. Also on Amazon: wild, boneless, canned salmon.

We also purchased one shipment from US Wellness Meats and were very pleased. Your order has to meet a minimum dollar value and a minimum weight. But they have a good selection of sugar-less products, it ships overnight and arrives frozen. We ordered bacon, sausages and breakfast sausage meat and still have a good bit in our freezer.

Why do all my tips have to do with food preparation? I suppose that’s because food preparation was the hardest thing for me to figure out. Not eating chocolate cake is hard to do, but how would that blog post read? Don’t eat the cake.

Photo Credit: shopping list by Bruce Turner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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