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.