Going paleo can seem be super intimidating and daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. With these helpful 10 tips the paleo diet can be easy and actually fun.
1. Pick 3 favorite breakfasts, lunches and dinners
There’s nothing wrong with creating a basic pattern of favorite breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to help you keep things easy. Adding variations to these and changing up flavor combinations can really help expand your choices while not having to reinvent the wheel every time. Let’s say favorite dinners include burgers with veggie “fries”, grilled meat with a side salad and yummy dressing, and veggie noodles with a protein.
Within each of those, there’s tons of room to play around with different proteins and veggies. For example, you could make chicken burgers, beef burgers or turkey burgers and for the veggie fries, try carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips. Now you’ve got 3^3 or 27 different combinations just from that!
Reminder: When life gets crazy, simplify. It’s tempting to troll Pinterest for elaborate and amazing-looking food but stick to what you know and do best.
2. Make use of your leftovers
Rolling food forward doesn’t just mean eating the same leftovers over and over again. It means getting creative with what you have to keep mealtime interesting. Cooked meats and roasted veggies do really well here. You can roll shredded pork shoulder forward into a frittata, chop up meatballs and put them into soup, or use roasted chicken in a chicken salad. Use roasted veggies up by tossing them in a curry or putting them in an egg scramble. Turn that whole roasted chicken you picked clean into chicken broth. When you think of stretching food by rolling it forward, you’ll keep yourself from getting bored.
Reminder: Embrace the weekly big cook-up and get your week off to the right start by banking some food. Make sure to have enough storage containers to keep your food fresh. Meal planning is very important.
3. Freeze meals for emergencies
Stock your freezer with soups, stews, sauces, and other freezer-friendly dishes so you have quick meals ready to go on days you’ve got nothing in the fridge. Certain foods freeze better than others, and some may change texturally when they’re frozen such as some veggies. (The reason is that when ice crystals form they puncture the plant cells inside your veggies and fruits.) In most cases, the food will still taste good even though the texture may change.
Foods that freeze really well are pre-made soups, curries and stews; sauces such as homemade tomato sauce, and pre-cooked shredded meat. If you have extras from your weekly food prep, you may want to bank some freezer meals or just double something so you automatically have more.
Remember to properly store your frozen food so it doesn’t get freezer burned. Thaw your frozen goodies in the refrigerator for best results, and always use a defrost bowl to catch any leakage.
Reminder: Setting yourself up for success if you get super busy does take a little more time investment, but it’s well worth it in the long run.
4. Stock your pantry
Once you get more comfortable with cooking and don’t have to rely on recipes as much, you may be able to just reach into your pantry to grab out some spices, sauce starters, or paleo-friendly canned foods to whip up a really tasty meal.
It’s essential to keep your pantry well-stocked so you can freestyle on a moment’s notice. Definitely check out my free pantry guide to see what I keep on hand. Some of my favorites: coconut aminos, canned salmon and sardines, coconut milk, and an arsenal of spices.
Reminder: Being prepared with pantry staples is a must!
5. Buy in bulk
Buying commonly used ingredients in bulk, especially those that are non-perishable, will often net you a better price at the market.
One of the criticisms of paleo is that it’s too expensive. Extras and nice-to-have food items can skyrocket your weekly food bill, so if you’re not keeping it super basic, you might want to buy some of your food in bulk. You’d be surprised what you can find in the bulk section: coconut or almond flour, plantain chips, and an astonishing array of nuts and dried fruit.
You can also find coconut oil, for example, in very large jars which are far less expensive per ounce than smaller jars. (Plus, that stuff keeps forever!)
But beyond the normal bulk items, consider doing something like a meat share, where you can purchase a quarter or half steer or hog. The cost is often far better than the supermarket. Of course, having to store a large quantity of frozen meat could pose a challenge.
Reminder: When budget is an issue, focus on the essentials and limit those nicer-to-have food items. When possible, buy non-perishable items in bulk to save money. Many mainstream stores like Costco are carrying more options nowadays. Here are even more paleo budget saving tips.
6. Get DIY with it
Along the same lines as the tip above, you can find significant savings when you make some of your basics from scratch. There are a myriad of companies making paleo-friendly staples like sauerkraut, ghee, bone broth, and jerky, as well as nut milks, spice blends, mayo, kombucha and the like.
If budget is an issue, try your hand at making your own. Flexing your DIY muscle will often save you a lot of money, since you won’t have to pay for shipping. So many sites, like mine, have fantastic free tutorials on how to make your own paleo basics. Here are a recipe to get you started: Steph’s kombucha.
Reminder: Making your own usually takes more time, but you’ll save a ton of money!
7. Make the time
It’s so easy to say there’s no time for cooking, but really, it comes down to priorities. We all have to make the most of the same hours in the day, and a few shifts in priorities or a little more discipline when it comes to the non-essentials can really help free up the time to cook.
Implementing a big weekly cook-up day may take a chunk out of your weekend, but when you can reach into the fridge and reheat something quickly to put together a meal in just minutes, you’ll be glad you did. Even if you can trim, say, 30 minutes from being on social media every day, that adds up to 3.5 hours throughout the week. Every little bit helps!
Reminder: Making time for cooking/healthy eating may mean you have to give other things less of a priority throughout your week.
8. Choose your guru
There are hundreds of amazing paleo blogs out there, and while it can be tempting to follow everyone for the newest and best ideas, this strategy can quickly lead to overwhelm. I like to pick somewhere between three to five bloggers to follow for food ideas or nutrition tips. If someone doesn’t quite jive with you, it’s okay. Keep looking until you find someone who does. The great thing about having so many blogs at your fingertips if you can really whittle it down.
Reminder: You don’t have to follow everyone!
9. Be ruthless with your peace of mind
The great thing about this very active, health-focused community is there’s tons of new research being discussed and different viewpoints around how to optimize diet and lifestyle. The bad part is that there are tons of different viewpoints around how to optimize diet and lifestyle.
It’s really common to hear about some “new and hot” way of tweaking a paleo diet (and sometimes swinging to extremes) in order to lose more weight. Sub-diets become trendy. It’s tempting to just give up what you’re doing and do something because everyone else is talking about it. It’s certainly good to always be learning new things, but toss out what’s working for you because something that sounds too good to be true comes around.
Do your homework and know if something that’s really popular is actually appropriate for you given your context.
Reminder: Keep your finger on the pulse but resist the urge to keep hopping around with different styles of nutrition every time something new comes out.
10. Lose the stress
This one really hits the big picture of all this healthy eating, lifestyle optimization stuff: When you’re making positive changes, don’t get so wrapped up in being perfect that you miss out on the life you’re trying to craft.
It’s really easy to get overwhelmed, stressed out, and even obsessed with being healthy to the point that you forget to enjoy life. Try for better every day, but do this with grace: After all, you are human and you’ll make mistakes. As Taylor Swift wisely told us, shake it off, be kind to yourself, and move on. Well, I just paraphrased a little.
Reminder: Don’t miss out on living a life you love.