We paleo converts are lucky these days. We’ve got the guidance of countless nutritionists, cookbook authors and fellow real foodies right at our fingertips thanks to the wonderful world of blogging. There are enough paleo recipes on the Internet to last us a lifetime, and the practical lifestyle advice we have access to is priceless.
Being able to follow my favorite paleo gals like Melissa Joulwan, Sarah Ballantyne and Liz Wolfe on their paleo journeys is what got me through my early paleo days. Without them, I don’t think I would have had the drive to adopt a lifestyle that was so foreign to my close friends and family.
But even though blogs can be incredibly motivational, they can also make this lifestyle look intimidating and unrealistic for those of us who have more to do in a day than go to the farmer’s market and experiment in the kitchen. Sigh.
I was certainly overwhelmed when I started doing paleo fulltime. The idea of making everything I ate from scratch seemed colossally difficult. This week, I’m excited to share how I’ve learned to make this lifestyle a reality by showing you what I eat on a weekly basis.
Going paleo does of course require some sacrifices, but it isn’t colossally difficult – even for someone juggling their first fulltime job, life in a new city and a big pile of student loans. And a social life.
So what does living paleo actually look like for a single 20-something who works five days a week?
In a word, PREPARATION. Also, TUPPERWARE.
Here’s what I need to get through a 5-day workweek:
5 BREAKFASTS: eggs + meat + veggies, usually in the form of a fritatta — cooked on the weekend
Example ingredients: ground beef, ground pork, salmon, sardines, bacon, kale, broccoli, tomato, zucchini, leek, green onion
5 LUNCHES: reheatable “cookup” meals — cooked on the weekend
Examples: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork + vegetable mash, Pulled Pork and Parsnip Hash, Beef and Eggplant Crock Pot Curry, pot roast, hearty stew, roast chicken with vegetables, Bolognese with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles
5 AFTERNOON SNACKS: pre-cooked or no-cook protein + packable vegetables/fruits — prepared on the weekend
Examples: nut butter, hardboiled eggs, canned sardines, canned tuna, leftover roasted meat, leftover frozen meatballs, carrot, banana
5 DINNERS: stir fries, mashes, salads, etc. using quick-cooking proteins + assorted vegetables — cooked daily
Examples: tuna salad, egg salad, poached or fried eggs, smoked salmon, pan-seared frozen fish, stir fry with ground meat and veggies, cauliflower “fried rice” with canned sardines and veggies, leftover frozen meatballs with tomato sauce and spaghetti squash, leftover frozen meatloaf, cauliflower rice, cauliflower mash, parsnip puree, rutabaga mash, roasted root vegetables
DESSERTS/EXTRA SNACKS: frozen fruit
Here’s what I bought at the grocery store last week:
>>> 5 lb. chuck roast ($2.49/lb.)
>>> 3 lbs. grass-fed gound beef ($3.25/lb.)
>>> 1 lb. beef kidney ($6.00/lb.)
>>> 2 lbs. parsnips ($1.49/lb.)
>>> 3 lbs. carrots ($0.69/lb.)
>>> 1 lbs. red potatoes ($0.99/lb.)
>>> 1 lb. broccoli ($1.99/lb.)
>>> 1 leek ($1.99/lb.)
>>> 2 bunches kale ($0.99 each)
>>> 1 lb. rutabagas ($1.49/lb.)
>>> 1 head cauliflower ($1.99/lb.)
>>> 6 bananas ($0.69/lb.)
>>> 1 bag grapes ($1.99/lb.)
>>> 1 dozen eggs ($2.29)
>>> 1½ dozen eggs ($3.19)
>>> 5 cans sardines ($1.00 each)
And here’s what I made with it:
5 BREAKFASTS (cooked on Sunday):
5-piece frittata with ground beef, kale and broccoli
6 LUNCHES (cooked on Saturday):
Slow cooker pot roast with beef, carrot, parsnip and potato
5 AFTERNOON SNACKS:
Hardboiled eggs + canned sardines + carrots
7 DINNERS (cooked and reheated throughout the week):
Ground beef and kidney shepherd’s pie
Ground beef, kale and broccoli stir-fry
Italian plums (from our backyard!)
But wait, what about…
Cooking time varies depending on the recipe, but I usually spend about 3 hours on my “cookup” meal, 1 hour prepping my snacks and dinners, and 30 minutes on my fritatta each weekend. Meals cooked in the slow cooker take much longer than that of course, but I don’t count that as active cooking time.
I buy almost all of my meat and produce from Safeway, our local budget grocery store. There are a few things that I’ll only buy at Trader Joe’s (canned tuna, coconut oil, almond butter), and every once in a while I’ll splurge at Whole Foods, but for the most part I shop where I can get the best deals.
This is a tough topic for me. I’ve done lots of reading on sustainable farming and I’m well aware of how much more nutritious and environmentally healthy it is to buy sustainably-sourced meat and produce. But at this point in my life, I just can’t afford to eat an organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed diet. It’s been difficult for me to reconcile this, and I’ve felt a lot of guilt about it in the past. But I’ve had to make the decision put my body first, feeding it the kinds of foods it needs to heal, with the promise that when I’m financially prepared, I will use my dollars to support local, organic and ethical producers. Until then, I do what I can, when I can. (I bought a local, grass-fed beef kidney at the farmer’s market last week!)
I aim to spend about $75 per week. Sometimes I come in below, and sometimes I splurge.
As you may have guessed, I end up toting quite a bit of food around. I pack my breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack everyday before work. I don’t have any kind of fancy lunchbox though. I’ve got a wonderful glass container that I can stick right in the microwave (!!), and I usually just carry my hardboiled eggs and fritatta in plastic containers and eat them cold.
You got me. I totally don’t mind eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day of the week. If that’s an issue for you, a great solution might be to roast a big piece of meat on the weekend and use it throughout the week in multiple recipes (stir fries, cauliflower “fried rice”, lettuce wraps, paleo tacos, hash, fritattas, etc.).
I want to hear from you! How can I help?
My goal with Gracefully Primal is to help others my age make balanced, primal living a reality for themselves. I want to know your biggest paleo questions, concerns, fears and challenges so I can address them in future posts!
What insight, advice, perspective, etc. is missing from your life that would make your health journey (paleo or not) easier and more fun?
Reply in the comments or send me an email!