Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Idiot-Proof Paleo Shopping breakdown

So, here we are again dear readers with a grocery list!
This is significantly shorter than last week's, because this is my regular list, not my stock up/get started list. This is what my cart looks like most weeks. This feeds two people for just over two weeks, though I'm normally busting out the frozen veg by the very end of the fortnight.

As promised, look for a breakdown of the list and where the food actually goes below. Again, feel free to share, print an use this list for yourself!
We keep all our meet in the freezer and just defrost as needed, so every two or three shopping trips I'll need to replete my stock, but for the most part, I just replace whichever animal product is lowest. This week it was chicken breast. We only had about three left, so I bought two more packages. But I've still got tons of pork chops, ground pork, beef for stew and steak cuts that I picked up on sale, so none of those need replacing. I've only had to totally replenish the freezer maybe twice, but it's really easy to stay on top of it if you just take stock of what's stocked up before you go shopping. And I try and use things according to how old they are. We date all the food that goes in the freezer, so the newest chicken breasts will get saved for last and I'll use pork and beef mostly for the week. This means I only really ever have to restock one (maaaybe two) kinds of meat on a particular shopping trip, which saves a TON of money. 

Okay, let's get to the break down. 
Easy-peasy dinners.
Generally, I love cooking. I love experimenting with new recipes and new foods. Sometimes though, I miss the ease of chicken nuggets and frozen dinners. There are some days I can barely be bothered to eat anything, let alone cook something complicated. On those days, it's very helpful to have a few staples on standby so I can throw some stuff together in less than an hour and not have to stress. 
  • Cauliflower can be used as a substitute for my pre-paleo fall backs, rice and mashed potatoes. The only real difference between cauliflower 'rice' and cauliflower 'potatoes' is the degree to which you mush them in the food processor. That seems pretty self explanatory. I also admit to putting a couple pats of butter in my mash and a sprinkling of chives. Makes it feel more authentic. Mash or rice, one other veggie (asparagus, carrots, squash, zucchini, whatever you've got around) and a meat and you have your meal. I love this because it's really hard to screw it up and I don't have to think about it. So, keep cauliflower handy. You can also use the cauliflower rice to make garbage stir fry which can be a lifesaver. Throw your 'rice in with some soy sauce, some sliced meat (pork and chicken work well) as well as some frozen vegetables and serve. 
  • Carrots are my best friend if I want to stretch a meal out a little, any meal. Want to make your brekkie scramble last an extra day? Dice up four or five carrots and it'll eke things about. Carrots are great for snacking, I mash them up with sweet potatoes and parsnips to make a mash, I fry them with onions and pork chops, I julienne them into salads. They add color to your meal and they last forever. I usually buy a five pound bag once a month. 
  • Sweet potatoes do the same work as carrots, they help stretch everything out, and they are really filling. I love them because I can make fries or sweet potato crisps with them, which is a better cure for my constant snacking than popcorn or potato chips. I adore them with my breakfast, sliced up with some sausage and egg and peppers. So good. 
  • Leafy stuff is also a savior of mine. Whether it's lettuce, cabbage, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, whatever your fancy it's essential to keep this stuff handy. If I don't feel like cooking, I can roughly chop some lettuce and spinach, boil and shred some chicken, slice some carrots and throw a basic dressing together. You can find my personal favorite salad here, from Nom Nom Paleo. That particular salad takes me literally 20 minutes from prep to table. 
Everything else on that list--eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms--get used in addition to the four essentials above. I am partial to cauliflower mash, asparagus and pork chops. Or sauteed mushrooms, steak and sweet potato fries. On the nights when I look forward to getting in the kitchen, having a good selection of veggies to choose from makes coming up with dinner a whole lot easier. I am partial to eggplant parm when I'm feeling like spending a while in the kitchen, or coconut-breaded fish or chicken with some fried spinach.

Food for snacks
One of the biggest challenges when you go paleo is finding food you don't have to cook. Sometimes you just want something crunchy or sweet and you want it now. I am partial to Nut Thins. They're gluten free crackers. I don't think they're technically paleo, but they're damn close and I love crackers and ham too much to care. But what about sugar cravings? I usually keep a little stash of dark chocolate somewhere, and I'll slice up an apple, grab the almond butter and make 'smores'. I mean, they're not really smores, but it hits the spot. There's also nothing wrong with giving yourself a night off and having a Twix or something. Letting yourself go once in a while is key to actually staying on the diet.  I'm also partial to cauliflower popcorn, you can get the recipe here.

To be honest, when I was getting started on paleo, and this is true of anyone who's starting to learn how to cook, recipe lists were my saving grace. NomNomPaleo and Paleomg both have AWESOME recipe lists that are broken down by meat and veg, and for the first little while I relied on them completely. Learning how to throw together a meal is a skill. You're not going to start teaching yourself to cook by never look at recipes. So, get to know your food a little, what your skills and are what kinds of flavors you like together. Once you do that, you can start to write your own recipes. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How paleo is enough paleo? Idiot-Proof Paleo pt 1

Hello all, and welcome to the part one of the Idiot-Proof Paleo Plan!
So, I'm going to post on the Facebook page to find out what kinds of questions you guys have, but we'll see what kind of responses I get. Until I get a feel for what the people want, I'll be answering some of the questions I had that I had a hard time finding the answer to when I started. I'm not an expert guys, I'm on this journey too. I've been paleo nearly three months now, so I like to think I'm past the brand new beginning phase.  One of my biggest questions when I started going paleo was how paleo I really had to be.
What I mean is, do I really have to buy coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, because you're not supposed to eat soy?
Do I have to go out of my way to replace milk with coconut or almond milk?
What happens if I can't find almond butter, is peanut butter okay?

For a while I felt kind of guilty about not being 100% paleo. I really wanted to go all out on this, but there are two things that stood in my way (and probably will stand in yours too). Price and availability.

Price is a pretty self explanatory problem. Paleo can be expensive. Organic food, free range eggs, grass fed meat, that doesn't come cheap. The trick to this is to figure out what's really worth spending the money on and what it's okay to scrimp on. For me, organic fruits and veg were something that I just couldn't justify. A bag of grapes at the on-post grocery store costs me around three bucks. Organic grapes cost more than five bucks. That's almost twice the cost, that's just too much. Also, to be honest, organic produce just doesn't last as long in the fridge as non-organic food does. I know that's probably desirable, you know, less preservatives or whatever, but we do two grocery trips a month, and I need that produce to last or we're wasting tons of money. Also, there's a lot of stigma surrounding organic food and GMO's and how much better organic food actually is for you than normal food. Personally, I don't think there's that much in it. I know that's practically blasphemy for the paleo crowd, but I've had all organic fruit and veg and it taste the same, looks the same, cooks the same. If you've got the extra $100 a paycheck to spend on organic produce then by all means, go ahead. I'm not casting a judgement on eating organic. But for me, for the Two Idiots, and for a lot of people I know living on a fixed income, it's just not feasible. Meat is another animal entirely. Pun intended. Meat is the most expensive thing you'll be buying at the grocery store. If you want to buy grass fed/organic/free range meat you can pretty safely double the cost of your meat budget. If you're not worried about that, then good for you, buy all of the grass fed meat! But, probably, you are worried about spending that much money, which is why you're here. If there is grass fed stuff on sale, buy it. I also almost always buy free range eggs. They're only slightly more expensive than cage raised eggs, and we eat a TON of eggs, so I can feel good about that. I try my best not to buy from companies like Tyson, who is notorious for factory farming and really terrible conditions. If the animal has had a miserable life, I don't want to buy that meat. It's also probably not as good for you as an animal that has been raised for all or most of it's life free-range. So, do a little research and buy what is the least bad. I know that sounds like a cop out, but spending $20 for a dozen chicken breasts vs $12 is hard to argue. Don't beat yourself up because your fridge doesn't look like a frontiersman's wet dream, just try to buy the best you can.
For other things, like coconut aminos and coconut flour and things like that, that's kind of a different story. I still use soy sauce and Sriracha for reasons I'll discuss below. But for things like almond butter or coconut flour, it really is worth it to spend the extra and follow the rules. These types of...pantry things don't need to be replaced as often as the produce and meat, so you're only going to rack up a bill maybe once every month or two, depending on how much you use them. I love love love coconut flour, so I'm more than happy to spend $6 for a pound of it. Bt maybe you don't do much baking, or much frying. You probably don't need coconut flour. If you're a nut-butter fiend though, like Mr. Idiot, then spend the extra for almond butter, or sun butter or cashew butter. (If you're feeling super thrifty, you can make that yourself.) Deciding what you want to spend on is really up to your tastes. So before you go blowing a whole paycheck on paleo baking goodies, think about it. Are you really going to use it? Like ghee for instance. I don't use a whole lot of butter in my cooking, so spending extra for ghee just isn't worth it. I just use the regular stuff. That's what you should consider.
TL;DR: Is the money I'm spending on this going to be worth it, or is this going to be something that slowly goes bad in the back of the fridge?.

This is a problem no matter how much money you have to spend. It's also one of the most frustrating things about going paleo. If you live in a major city, this probably isn't an issue. Hell, if you live in really awesome cities they have paleo restaurants you can go to. Unfortunately, not all of us can live in the big city. Some of us (the Idiots included) live out in the boonies. Or outside an army base, whatever. This is something I've had to deal with a lot because we primarily shop at the on-post grocery, and the best alternatives are Piggly Wiggly and WalMart who's selection isn't much better. I've had a hard time finding stuff like almond butter, which should be super common. If you're struggling to find really specific things (again, coconut aminos, looking at you) my advice is don't sweat it. If you're committed to finding something, then use I found some paleo wraps that I loved and for pretty cheap. But sometimes you just can't find what you're looking for. I'd kill if I could find myself some paleo bread that I didn't have to pore over the ingredients to identify. 
The problem I had in the beginning is I felt I wasn't doing a good enough job being paleo, especially not good enough to justify blogging about it and giving other people advice about it. But, my advice to you is just relax. You don't have to be paleo 100% of the time. It's all right to have a break day during the week, it's okay to occasionally have a sandwich or some chicken wings. The world is not going to come crashing down around you, and you are definitely not a paleo 'failure' for not being perfect. If you can't find coconut flour, use almond flour, it's easier to find. If you can't find coconut aminos, just use soy sauce (or fish sauce in a pinch.) Part of the fun in paleo is figuring out new ways to make old recipes. It's pretty gratifying when I can make something like eggplant Parmesan, and Mr. Idiot says it's better than the real stuff. That's the best part of paleo, and that's the part I think is the most important. This shouldn't feel like a 'diet' this should just feel like an adjustment to your lifestyle. After a while, it really becomes second nature. 

Thanks for reading guys! Please let me know in the comments what else you'd like covered in the Idiot-Proof Paleo guide!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What to expect when you're go paleo

So, if you're good little Idiots, you've all looked at the paleo shopping guide I posted earlier today. Over the course of the week, I'll be breaking down that list for you a little, and going over some of the big hurdles I encountered when I started going paleo.
Things like:
Do I spend more and buy all organic?
Do I buy all free range meat and eggs?
Can I still have milk in my coffee?
How much cooking am I going to have to?
Is there a 'convenient' paleo?
There's also the question of whether you want to be really, totally, completely paleo, or whether it's better for you to give yourself some leeway on things like coconut aminos and paleo Sriracha that are really hard to find, or are really expensive. I know for me at least, because we shop at the military grocery store, there's a limited selection of specialty and organic/all natural ingredients. And I also know paleo can be really expensive. You're supposed to buy all this pure food, all organic, all free range. That shit is pricey, and if you live on a fixed income like we do, being a perfect example of paleo sainthood isn't really possible.
What is possible though is changing the way you think about food, about snacking and about the things that are going to fill your belly and make you happy and healthy.
These are all questions I had, and I did a lot of googling to try and answer them. Unfortunately, there are so many competing voices out there it can be overwhelming trying to pick one to follow. So, I'll send you to some great resources I used, and I'll tell you my experience and let you decide what you want to do.
The list that went up today was a total paleo overhaul of your kitchen. It's kind of a one-size-fits-all guide: a pretty comprehensive list of the basics, and it looks a lot like my first paleo shopping list.
Over the course of the week, I'll be talking about all these things. I don't want to scare you with massive walls of text, so the Idiot Proof Guide to Paleo is going to get broken down a little bit.

Paleo can be stressful and intimidating at first; you come home with a cart full of vegetables and no idea how to cook them, but rest assured, if this Idiot can do it, you can too.

Idiot Proof Paleo Shopping

Alright, you asked for it, and it's here, the Idiot Proof guide to your first paleo shop. I know I said I'd have it up last week, but the Mother Idiot was here and we were busy enjoying the sun (that finally made an appearance and warmed up the godforsaken iced over hellscape of NC).
So, it's here now. This is a complete list of everything you'll need for your first shop. I'm going to get another printable list up soon to show you what my weekly grocery list looks like, because it isn't nearly as extensive as this. Next weeks list will also have amounts of what I'm buying and a breakdown of where the food goes and how many meals I get out of it. I hope you guys like this, because this lil ole' blog is turning into a full-time thing, what with all the designing I'm doing.
Now, this list is also for two people. If you're a solo paleo eater, you can probably knock off some of the veggies and a few of the meats and still be okay. A lot of this is trial and error, and I hate to break it to you, but the first few weeks you may find yourself not eating things in time and throwing them away. I know that's awful, and it made me super angry because I absolutely detest wasting food, but until you figure out exactly what your individual needs are, you just have to suck it up. Or buy less and make more trips to the grocery store. Mr. Idiot and I share a car, so multiple grocery trips are a huge pain in the butt.
Tell me what you think, tell me if there's anything missing, and as always, feel free to voice your opinion in the comments!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Public Service Announcement

I've finally gotten the desk set up in 'my' spare room, or the guest room/office. I've got my monitor, all my reference books, the printer. It's awesome. I have my own little office! It almost feels like I've got a serious job or something, "I've got to work in the office today."
So stoked. 

Anyway, over the course of the week (or weeks) I'll be posting some grocery guides. If you'd like to see something specific, please leave it in the comments or email me @ but as it stands there will be two lists/guides: Paleo for Newbies (of which I am only very recently not one) a guide and grocery list for those of you currently eating a normal diet. Because paleo is already gluten/dairy/peanut/pretty much all intolerance free, I'm not going to make a specific list for the people with particular intolerances, so just be mindful if I've missed something or put something on the list that will trigger a reaction, don't get it. Dur. I'm also going to try something, but I don't know how it will work out. THere's been a couple of Facebook comments on the 2idiots1kitchen page (GO LIKE IT, NAO!) for a breakdown of the shopping list and how it evolves into actual whole meals. Because that's going to involve a graphic, give me some time on that. My Adobe skills are there, but rusty, so I'll have to make a couple attempts before I have something internet worthy. I am going to make you some Idiot-Proof shopping lists that you can save and print off and take to the store with you.

This has been a PSA from your friendly, neighborhood Idiot.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Madness

Hello all.
I'm going to apologize again, and in advance for the lack of posts in the next few days. It's been a bit of a crazy week for me. The dog has been taking up pretty much all of my attention, because I mean come on. She's adorable and ALWAYS down to play.
Look at that freakin face!
So, there's that, there's the fact I've been working out (at an actual gym I'll have you know) and going to yoga a ton. (More on that whole deal later this week, I promise)
AND there's the minor thing that mama Idiot is coming to visit on Saturday! I'm pretty stoked about it, because I haven't seen her since Christmas, BUT that means I have to do a total blitz of my house. I have a highly organized plan of execution, room by room, to get the whole place mom-approved before she gets here. 
I've also got some furniture revamping to do. We finally got around to getting a sander, so Mr. Idiot sanded down the coffee table and the dresser and it's my job to paint them. I have never painted furniture, so we'll see how they turn out. I'm pretty hopeful, because Mr. Idiot is a total handyman n00b and he did a beautiful job sanding the stuff down. Fingers crossed I can pull of my first attempt as flawlessly. 
In other news, I managed to spend less than $200 at the grocery store this week. I don't know if that's because I'm eating less, so we have more food or something, but it was nice to not cry inwardly as I watch all the money just...trickle away. I'm going to post a shopping list for all my dedicated followers (all three of you <3) Partly for me, so I can stop wasting scraps of paper, and partly for you guys, so you can get an idea what paleo shopping on a pretty tight budget looks like. I know that $200 at the grocery store sounds like a LOT of money, but that feeds two people for two weeks and change. Fifty bucks per person a week isn't bad I think. It's actually less than we were spending before we went paleo, because I'm not buying chips or oatmeal or cookies or anything. Or frozen dinners, I won't lie, I was kind of partial to those, and they add up quickly. Plus, there's normally at least two or three days left of food at the end of the two weeks if I can't get to the grocery store on payday (because it is an ungodly hellscape.)
So, stay tuned for the grocery list, a break down of my workout, my diet and how the weight loss is going (I'm down ten pounds already!!)
So, stay tuned, I promise to be more on top of the whole posting thing, because I know you all care about my little life. 
Much love,
Mrs. Idiot. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dogdogdog and other things but mostly DOG!

Ladies and gentlemen, readers and friends, I have some very exciting news to share with you. In fact, I have two pieces of very exciting news.
One, I AM WRITING THIS FROM A KITCHEN TABLE. That's right folks, no longer do the Idiots have to lean weirdly over a coffee table, or eat out of our laps. We have a real life, honest-to-god, motherfucking kitchen table. It is amazing what not having to eat in the living room can do for a person. I feel like an actual adult. Mr. Idiot and I had dinner at the table last night! I didn't have to pick up crumbs of eggplant off the floor, or vacuum up bits of turkey after we were done. I didn't come out this morning and see tomato squished into the couch cushions. Oh happy day.

In even better news, dear readers, the Idiots have taken in a fluffy, adorable third member, and I believe she fits right in with the two Idiots already here. Her name is Koda. I wanted to name her Laika, after the first dog in space, but she's a little too old to rename.

She's been here for a week now and she seems to be pretty well settled in. In fact, it didn't even take her a day to make herself at home. Within six hours all three of us fell asleep on the couch. Cuddle puddle style.

It's incredible how much better having a dog makes me feel. I was starting to get pretty down. I've had no luck looking for work, I've had no luck making friends and it's hard to keep your spirits and motivation up when it feels like everything sucks. I was lonely, and pretty bummed about my prospects in general. Not to say I'm unhappy, because I'm not. I've got no right to be. I have a wonderful husband and a nice house and we make enough money to pay the bills and keep the lights on, but I felt (still feel, a bit) like I was stagnating. Like I wasn't doing anything with myself. Koda has helped a lot. She needs to get walked every day, she needs to be fed and she always wants to be played with or cuddled. So it gives me things I have to do every day, and she keeps me company. The house feels less empty now, and when Mr. Idiot has to be gone for training exercises, I've got a little fuzzy girl to keep me company.