When you first start out following a whole food, nutrient dense diet, like the Autoimmune Protocol, the amount of time spent cooking, grocery shopping, just thinking about food and even where your next meal is coming from can be very overwhelming! So much so, it can feel like you don’t even know where to begin, so you just feel stuck and unsure of how to start. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because I (Jesse) have been there. I’ve been following an AIP diet for over 6 years now and I am still learning new ways of making it easier, more attainable, and way less time consuming. I hope some of these tips will help making your healing journey a little easier, and maybe even enjoyable!
Menu planning is a great tool for keeping food costs low. How many times have your aimlessly wandered the grocery store while your stomach growled and ended up buying way too much food, simply because you were hungry? Or, how many times have you accidentally bought duplicates of food you already had at home because you forgot to check the fridge or pantry before making your store list? Both of those things have happened to me more times than I can count… It happens to the best of us. Planning ahead helps to cut down on costs because you are only buying what you need for the week or month, nothing more and nothing less.
Menu planning also helps to prioritize food diversity within each meal. Following a more restrictive diet, like AIP, can cause us to get stuck in food ruts, always eating the same thing everyday. Having the ability to look on paper at each one of your meals for the week can highlight some areas where you need to change things up a bit. Maybe try a new vegetable or protein.
Menu plans can also provide some much needed peace of mind, because you know exactly what you are eating for the day and it takes out the guesswork of what to make for dinner. Lastly, I always think it is a great idea to save your menu plans. This way you can use them as a resource when you’re too tired to think of anything.
Meal Prep/ Batch Cooking:
We talk a lot about batching cooking on this blog, and that is because both my sister (Sam) and I live busy lives so batch cooking saves us a lot of time in the kitchen! Through batch cooking, you can stockpile food in the freezer for emergencies or low energy days, spend less time throughout the week cooking which helps manage energy levels and promote success, and just makes weeknight cooking so much easier and less labor intensive. It can also ease any anxiety about attending social gatherings that revolve around food. All you have to do in pull something out of the fridge or freezer, pack it in a microwave safe container and bring it along with you so you have something to eat!
Some of my favorite approaches to batch cooking/ meal prepping are freezing a single serving of a meal to save for future use, prepping vegetables for weeknight dinners on Saturday or Sunday to cut down on cooking time during the week, make an extra serving of dinner to pack for the lunch the next day, and creating a big batch of breakfast and lunch on Sunday to eat throughout the week. If you’re looking for more approaches to batch cooking, check out some of our earlier posts here, here, and here.
Here are some of my favorite recipes to batch cook: :
- Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken
- Sage Pork Breakfast Skillet
- Bone Broth Breakfast Soup
- Roasted Veggies
- White Chicken Chili
Don’t buy everything at the same place!
Different grocery stores can offer different things and shopping at a variety of stores can make eating a whole food diet easier on your wallet! Go to discount grocery stores, like Aldi and Walmart, for pantry items like olive oil, coconut oil, and paper goods. You can also find good quality frozen vegetables and fruits, and fresh produce at these grocery stores. Aldi has a fairly vibrant organic produce section now! You can even find decent grass fed ground beef at these places. However, I would avoid buying the majority of your animal proteins from discount stores because the sourcing can be questionable sometimes.
Now that you’ve stocked up on your staples at a low cost store, it’s time to hit a more specialty grocery store. I would consider stores like Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Sprouts, and any natural Food Co-Op to be in this category. Here you can find high quality animal proteins (grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild caught) and any specialty ingredients you may need (coconut aminos, collagen powder, kelp noodles, cassava flour).
Now you may be thinking, how in the world will I have time to go grocery shopping at two stores when I barely have time for one?! That is a totally valid question. Have you considered doing grocery pick up? Grocery pick up has been a total game changer for me. For example, I’ll pick up all my staples at Walmart via grocery pick up (I don’t even have to get out of the car and I do all the shopping from home!) and then whiz on over to my local natural food co-op. So, all in all, I spend on average about an hour grocery shopping a week.