Yesterday I shared a comprehensive peek into my Whole30 experience. We covered the basics, but now let's talk about one of the most important parts of the experience: grocery shopping.
I put together a survival guide with some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. I’m going to share my shopping tips, with ways to mind your budget and cut costs, plus a few hacks to simply make life easier if you decide to follow this program. Let’s do this!
Basic Grocery Shopping Tips for Whole30
So you’ve decided to do this thing. Now it’s time to stock up on food, but where the heck do you start?
- Make a list. I know it sounds really basic, but making a list can be a lifesaver. Before you venture out into the great unknown, sit down and think about what you’re going to be making for the week. Write out the ingredients you’ll need for your recipes, and round it out with things to snack on, such as carrots, celery, fruits, and nuts. Your list is going to be your guide to cutting down on getting overwhelmed, and it takes some of the guesswork out of trying to remember what you can and cannot eat on-plan. It’s way easier to tote around a grocery list than it is to tote around a large hardcover book. Trust me.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. As a general rule, the fresh stuff is going to be around the perimeter of your local market. This is where the produce, eggs, and meat live. In order to cut down on temptation, avoid venturing down the middle aisles that contain the processed stuff. It’s way easier to get grumpy when your eyes lock with a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
- Save some time by purchasing some Whole30-approved staples. In general, the Whole30 plan requires that you make a lot of your basics from scratch. Conventional mayonnaise is out (since it contains soybean oil), butter needs to be turned into ghee, and traditional store-bought salad dressing is either full of sugar or vegetable oil. However, there are some brands that are Whole30-approved that might help you save time if you don’t care to make everything from scratch.
Whole30 Condiments and Staples
- Primal Kitchen Mayo: This stuff tastes great, and is made with avocado oil, which is totally on-plan. If you don’t have time to whip up your own mayo, this is the one I recommend.
- OMGhee or Tin Star Foods Ghee: If you don’t care to make your own ghee, I’ve tried both of these brands, and they are delicious. I’m sure there are other great brands as well. A store like Whole Foods will have several ghee options to choose from.
- Tessamae’s: This brand makes everything from salad dressing to hot sauce to garlic spread. Not all of their products are Whole30-approved, but the vast majority are. I’ve had great luck finding their products at my local health food store, but you can also purchase them online.
Budget Tips for Whole30
One the biggest concerns people have when starting Whole30 is how they can make it fit into their budget. I get it; it can look daunting when you’re at the meat counter and they’re trying to get you to take out a home loan in order to afford a grass-fed steak.
Luckily, there are some tricks to make this part easier. Here’s what I do.
- Costco is your friend. If you have a Costco membership, you can really put it to work during Whole30. I was shocked to see how many organic vegetables you can purchase there, and at such great prices! Aside from veggies, make sure to check out their deals on things like grass-fed ground beef or wild-caught salmon. I also made sure to pick up a pack of Wholly Guacamole, avocado oil, nuts, almond butter, and some Wild Planet Tuna. They also have two-dozen organic eggs for the price of a dozen. I’m really impressed with how much I can get done here, and for a reasonable price tag.
- Buy inexpensive cuts of quality meat. Like I said before, the price of grass-fed meat can look a little daunting, especially if you’re looking at some of the more prime cuts. You can get more bang for your buck if you stick to things like ground meat, chuck steak, and stew beef. Ground beef is super versatile, and tougher cuts of steak can easily be made tender if you have a slow cooker or a pressure cooker on hand. Spring for a whole chicken instead of buying individual breasts and thighs. This saves money and feeds my husband and I for a few days. Plus, I can use the bones and the chicken back to make my own stock; it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
- Know your bulk bins. I think the bulk bins tend to be overlooked, but I find some great deals on things like shredded coconut, raw almonds, and cashews. Often it’s much cheaper to buy these kinds of items from the bulk bins at your local health food store than it is to buy them pre-packaged. Check it out — you might find some gems!
- Make things from scratch. I know I mentioned some brands that make Whole30-approved products in the shopping section, but if you’re really trying to save on cash, you can do it by making some of your own basics. Things like mayonnaise, ghee, bone broth, coconut milk, and almond milk can all be made pretty inexpensively.
A Few More Tips!
- Do the program with a buddy. You remember the old buddy system from grade school? This is the grown-up version. It’s easier to do this program when you have some support. Grab a friend or a significant other and have them join you for your 30-day reset. It makes all the difference in the world.
- Meal prep is going to be your best friend. Much like your grocery list is your guide to feeling sane during your shopping trip, prepping for meals will keep you sane during the week. I recommend setting some time aside on Sundays to prep food for the week. I like to make roasted vegetables, hard-boil eggs, and chop up celery and carrots. I’ll also prep lettuce for salads, and make some slow-cooked meat or a soup with protein. This way, when I open my fridge on Monday, I feel prepared. I can’t tell you how grateful I was in moments of hunger that I had food ready for me. If meal prep didn’t happen, things were much more frustrating.
- Feeling hungry all the time? Eat more fat. If you’re used to eating a lot of grains, and you switch to Whole30, there might be an adjustment period where you feel kinda peckish. Learning to incorporate more fat into my meals was one of the first lessons I learned during the program. Things like olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, and avocado can be very satiating. I kinda put guacamole on everything; things could've been worse.
- Know your take-out options! Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop when you’re doing Whole30. You still have to go to work, or take your kids to sporting events. Life is busy and unexpected, and it’s totally okay to prep for that. Figure out a couple of restaurants where you are able to eat on-plan. For me this meant getting a lettuce-wrapped burger from my local burger joint, or a salad from a local cafe that had compliant ingredients. I would tote a little thing of homemade salad dressing with me for those occasions, or simply ask for olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Chipotle saved me a couple of times as well. I was able to eat carnitas with salsa, a ton of lettuce, and a heaping spoonful of guacamole (yes, I know guac is extra). Having these options as a fallback was really important in keeping my sanity.
- Snack if you need to. The program is designed for you to be eating three meals a day. That being said, if you feel a blood sugar swing coming on, or you just worked out and are feeling crazy hangry, please eat something. This is where my chopped-up veggies would come in handy! An apple dipped into almond butter with a little bit of cinnamon was also a favorite option of mine.
Sliced apples with almond butter and cinnamon!
- Go for bold flavors. Just because your diet is somewhat limited, it doesn’t mean that the food you make has to be boring. Jazz things up with fresh herbs and bold spices. I also had fun dressing dishes up with things like kimchi or preserved lemons. Think outside the box; the more flavor, the better.
- Be gentle with yourself. You’ve decided to totally overhaul your eating habits for 30 days; that’s no small feat. Things might not be easy every single day. Real talk — I totally cried a couple of times. It’s good to be gentle with yourself and know that this is part of the process. Do something nice for yourself. Take an epsom salt bath with some essential oils to relax or steal some time for a little meditation. Maybe go on a walk and catch up on your favorite podcast, or lay down and watch one of your favorite movies. A little self care can go a long way in staying positive and feeling great.
If Whole30 is something you’re thinking about trying, I hope these tips help you navigate it a bit better.
What about you? If you’ve completed a Whole30, what are the best tips and tricks that you’ve learned? I’d love to hear them all.
(Image credits: Gina Eykemans)