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 Amazon.com. 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!