Back to Whole30: Prep Work


It’s been about nine months since my last completed Whole30 (I did ~Whole15 over the summer, but we won’t count that). In that time, I’ve noticed the effects of paleo living wearing off… so it’s time to start again! This time around, I’m going to try to make it last for the rest of the year so I can begin the new year feeling fabulously healthy on a trip to South America — and not feel guilty about eating pretty much everything that I encounter while there.

Yesterday was my official paleo restart day, and the timing worked out perfectly with grocery shopping. I’m a notoriously infrequent grocery shopper; I’d rather get a bunch of food with no real meal plan once a month than plan out my meals and get the appropriate amount week by week. As you can probably imagine, I throw a lot of food away and generally feel pretty guilty about it. As of yesterday, I hadn’t been to Kroger in right around 3-4 weeks, and my refrigerator contents were dwindling down to a giant bag of carrots and a few grapes. This time around, I didn’t have to go through a huge starting process – but here’s how I would have gone about it had I needed to.

Remove temptations

It’s so much more difficult to stay on track with paleo if you know there are candy bars hiding in the pantry. Each time I renew my commitment to eating clean, I go through my pantry and refrigerator to remove everything that isn’t compliant prior to going grocery shopping for the first time. Leftover pasta? Trash. Ice cream? Trash. Pasta sauce with added sugar? Trashhhhhh. If you feel guilty about throwing away food, set aside suitable items that can be given to friends that same day. It doesn’t matter where the food goes as long as it’s not in your home.

Once your fridge and pantry are both cleared of non-paleo food, organize what’s remaining. I put fruit in one drawer; vegetables in the second drawer; meat goes on one side of the bottom shelf; eggs, unopened large packages or items like squash go on the other side of the bottom shelf; the top shelf is reserved for leftovers so I can clearly see what’s in the fridge.

Make a list

I’ve listed a handful of recipes on this blog that adhere to paleo, but there are dozens (hundreds?) of awesome websites out there that do nothing but list Whole30 and paleo recipes every single day. Personally, I’ve found that if I set up a meal plan and buy groceries according to that meal plan (with a few random things like nuts or fruit for emergency snacks), I’m much more likely to stick with paleo. Does that require a lot of pre-work? Not as much as you’d think. Is it worth it? Duh.

Pick meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (keeping how much time you can commit to cooking in mind), then make your grocery list. There are literally three sections on a paleo grocery list: meat, produce, and other [coconut flour, coconut milk, almond meal, etc.]. I’m always surprised to see how much longer the produce list is than anything else.

Avoid grocery store blues

Once you get to the grocery store, you’ll need to avoid basically 3/4 of the store. The only sections you’ll need will be around the perimeter – produce, meat/eggs, and a quick pit stop in what (surprisingly) is usually the ethnic foods section to pick up coconut milk. You’ll just be sad if you go down any other aisle; the first couple of times I did a Whole30, I wandered down each aisle like a depressed ghost, picking up random foods I don’t even generally buy just to read the label and put it back on the shelf when a quick scan revealed 4 types of sugar and 230498 types of preservatives in the ingredients.

Another thing to remember is to stick to your grocery list. Your list probably contains many more perishable items now than it would have previously; if you end up picking up extra produce, you’ll likely find that it’s going to go bad because it doesn’t fit into your meal plan anywhere.

Return home & feast

Just kidding. It is helpful to cook a meal or two based on your groceries when you get home and package them in tupperware for the days when you a) don’t feel like cooking, b) wake up late, or c) hate the world and everything to do with paleo (which will happen sometime within the first 2 weeks of starting your lifestyle change). Yesterday, I put some vegetables in ziploc baggies and called it a night — but tonight, I’m planning on making 2 meals to pre-portion and freeze for this week and next.

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