As I’ve mentioned several times on Instagram over the past few weeks, Kate and I decided to try the Whole 30 food program over the past month. For those of you not familiar, this basically meant lots of produce, lean proteins and healthy fats. It also meant being asked more than once by grocery store clerks if I was “cooking for a crowd.” Nope, just our family of two! With our food choices relatively limited, I also had to put my organizing skills to good use to make sure we always had plan-approved meals at the ready, even when our schedules got busy.
Overall it was a difficult but worthwhile experience! I felt abundant energy, slept really well, and lost nearly 20 pounds(!). I also had some crazy cravings and points where I just couldn’t really stomach any. more. meat. Since our 30 days just wrapped up on Tuesday, Kate suggested that I share a bit about the experience, and I thought I would add in some tips that helped keep us organized during the month.
Things I Learned from Whole 30
- I can do hard things
- This has been my unofficial mantra so far this year! It has been really motivating to push my limits and see that I can successfully do things outside of my comfort zone. Foregoing sugar, most carbs and gluten for a month? Definitely not easy, but super empowering!
- Willpower is a muscle that you can flex
- For me, these whole 30 days were a huge exercise in willpower. It made me realize how frequently I’d been stopping by Starbucks or grabbing chips + guac just because I could. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that not being able to do those things any more really challenged my willpower. This was such a valuable awareness for me to being building, and has caused me to shift my thinking about needs versus wants in this arena moving forward.
- Food is fuel
- This seems a bit trite to say, but I’d never really applied this phrase to my own relationship with food. Food instead was a comfort, pleasure, source of energy, or way to bond with others. I won’t lie and say that I’m totally perfect (because, hello, this was 30 days over the course of over 27 years!), but I’m starting to see how food really impacts my mood, energy, sleep and more. While food can sometimes be the things I listed above, I feel a lot better when I’m using it to fuel my body.
- Spices can make a huge difference
- Cooking foods that were well-seasoned really made a huge difference! We bought a ton of spices and always enjoyed meals more when they were prominently featured. There were so many times when fresh basil, garlic powder, or cumin really made all the difference in terms of how it tasted. This is definitely something we want to continue moving forward!
- Sugar is sneaky
- As we are currently reintroducing foods that we had eliminated over the past 30 days, yesterday was the first time I had my favorite soy latte from Starbucks (pictured above). I would normally get some sort of flavored syrup added, but thought I would try a few sips before adding any additional sweetener. I was amazed at how much my palate had changed in just 30 days! The plain latte (with soy milk that is surely already sweetened) was nearly too sweet by itself. I can’t believe how much sugar I previously thought I “needed” in order to find coffee drinks appetizing. This realization definitely makes me want to
How We Stayed Organized During Our Whole 30
- Re-learn your grocery store
- As the one who does meal planning + grocery shopping in our household, I thought I knew my favorite grocery stores well. I knew what times to go to avoid crazy crowds, where my regular products were located, and how to organize my grocery list in order of store layout. However, when it came to buying foods that fell within the Whole 30 plan guidelines, I was fairly clueless. For my first shopping trip to prepare for Whole 30, I enlisted Kate and blocked out plenty of time on our calendars so that we wouldn’t feel rushed. We took things slowly, allowing for lots of asking sales associates where items were located and using our phones to Google random added ingredients, like “citric acid + Whole 30,” to see whether they were permitted.
- This was so helpful! It really allowed me to familiarize myself with the program and products that were going to work well for us in the coming weeks. I would highly recommend going to the store at a time when it won’t be crowded so you won’t feel (more) overwhelmed or rushed.
- Look at your calendar
- When I sit down to meal plan for the week ahead, I make sure to look over our calendar to see what events we have that might take us outside of the home for a meal. Although you can eat out during Whole 30, I honestly found the prospect pretty stressful, so I opted to eat before or after events that took place in the evenings. For things like the Super Bowl, Kate and I brainstormed things we would like to have that would fit in with this food plan and made sure we would have time to make them ahead of time to bring along.
- It was also crucial to carve out time to cook within our schedules. Utilizing our calendars meant that we could plan when to make the bulk of our meals for the week, and also to figure out what evenings we wouldn’t be home during the week, so we could be sure to have something already prepared to eat.
- Meal plan
- I use the meal planning worksheets from Emily Ley’s Home Base Binder and highly recommend them, but really any meal planning sheet you use is just fine. My binder sits on a shelf right next to my desk, so when it’s time to meal plan, I can just pull it out and get to work!
- I will share a more in-depth post on meal planning in the future if you’d like (let me know!), but here’s my basic process: I meal plan and grocery shop on Fridays so that we’ll have meals from Friday dinner through lunch the following Friday. This way we’ll have some new and exciting meals for the weekend, which keeps me from being as tempted to eat out! For Whole 30, I went to two grocery stores each week: Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. They are actually the two grocery stores that are closest to where we currently live (#spoiled) and have a fantastic selection. I was able to get most items we needed each week at Trader Joe’s, with a few specialty items and cuts of meat from Whole Foods.
- Pinterest has been such a huge God-send in my Whole 30 meal planning process! I created a board of Whole 30-friendly recipes and would pull it up each week to decide what we’d be eating. Any time I came across a recipe that sounded tasty, I could add it here and have everything in one central location. I really can’t emphasize enough what a huge help this was to keep me on track during the Whole 30 plan.
- Stash freezer meals
- Although the predicted serving amounts of the recipes we made were usually accurate, sometimes we ended up with more food than we had anticipated. Whenever this happened, I would put the extra servings in the freezer. I’d then add a note on a post-it into my meal planning binder to remind myself of what we had set aside (i.e. 2 servings butternut squash lasagna; 6 turkey burgers). These meals were great to fill into times when we would be busy but needing to eat, like when Kate was doing trivia with friends and I had a Junior League meeting.
Goodness, this post has shaped up to be a bit longer than I had originally intended! Right now we’re in the process of reintroducing foods into our diets that we had eliminated to see if any cause adverse reactions. Based on this, Kate and I are planning to figure out a way of eating that works for us moving forward. But I’d love to hear in the meantime: have you done Whole 30 or paleo before? Either way, what are some of your favorite ways to stay organized when it comes to meal planning?