Before you dive into the Paleo diet, here are cooking tips and tricks to avoid rookie mistakes.
Switching to a healthier lifestyle can be filled with exciting new things, like grabbing the latest kitchen gadgets to make food prep a breeze. It can also be fun to dive in deep to a new food plan, trying dozens of new recipes and adding fresh ingredients.
But at some point, the newness wears off, and you can be left with burnout. Unfortunately, this tends to prompt people to fall back into their old habits. So how can you simplify your Paleo diet and avoid a crash-and-burn fatigue over all the prep and cooking?
Minimalism Isn’t Just for Clutter
The minimalist movement has made its way across the country in recent years. And while it’s healthy to clean out closets of stuff you don’t need, the benefits aren’t limited to “stuff” alone.
When our lives get clogged with busy schedules, applying minimalist principles has major health benefits. We live in a world where even our leisure time is scheduled and filled. Technology exists to simplify our lives, but in the process, the ever-connected nature reduces the moments we have to relax. The consequences of this overcommitted lifestyle aren’t just mental – they can affect our physical well-being, too. (1)
The concept of saying “no” to extraneous things isn’t new, but for some, it feels impossible. Still, there is freedom in learning to turn down the things that don’t add to your life, and that includes your diet. Just because the latest cooking gadget looks like it’ll save time, the hassle of learning to use it – plus the space it will take in your kitchen – may degrade its benefits.
Bottom line: Everything isn’t for everyone. We can learn to create space in our lives by saying no to things that we don’t need and paring down to the basics.
3 Ways to Simplify Your Kitchen Tools
While it feels exciting to start a new healthy lifestyle, like the Paleo diet, that enthusiasm can quickly turn to burnout when the newness wears off. When you’re switching from a typical American diet to a Paleo diet, there is suddenly a whole new world of grocery shopping, food prep, and cooking. While having several kitchen tools can keep things simple, having all of them isn’t necessary and takes a toll on your wallet.
1. Don’t Buy Every Cooking Gadget
Before you dive in and buy every Paleo kitchen tool and cookbook, take a deep breath. Decide what one resource you’re going to follow for at least 30 days. Then, get what you need to make that happen, whether it’s a Paleo challenge, a cookbook, or a meal plan.
If you don’t have basic cooking tools, like pots, pans, and mixing bowls, you’ll need to get those. However, you don’t need anything else until you decide which direction you’re going to take your Paleo diet. If you’re going to primarily slow or batch cook, a slow cooker or Instant Pot will come in handy. But if you’re going to rely mainly on low-prep foods or one-pan dishes you can roast in the oven, those two appliances are pointless.
Sample Paleo recipes for two to four weeks and decide what you have time for and what you like best. Then from there, invest in the tools that will make cooking those recipes easier.
2. Shop Savvy
Even if you do decide that you want that spiralizer, slow cooker, or fancy skillet, you can save a bundle of money if you shop around. Amazon and other online retailers are great places to purchase kitchen items, especially if you are willing to be a little patient. There are major sales several times a year, including Black Friday after Thanksgiving and Prime Day, which is an Amazon-only sale. Other online retailers tend to have sales and specials for Labor Day, New Year’s, and almost every other major holiday.
Make a list of the kitchen items that you want. Then, sign up for email newsletters from online retailers, or check fliers for local stores.
3. Choose Quality Appliances
While you’ll be tempted to purchase the cheapest appliance, it might require a quicker replacement than if you splurge for the higher-priced item. Customer reviews are found on most online sites, and these can be priceless in helping you determine whether a product is worth the money or not.
When it comes to pots and pans, opting for stainless steel or cast iron is a better investment (and less toxic) than cheaper sets of nonstick cookware. The same goes for mixing bowls and utensils, and even spiralizers.
3 Ways to Simplify Your Pantry
It can be exciting to try all sorts of new Paleo recipes. Yet due to the wide variety of Paleo baking supplies and other ingredients, you can quickly rack up a hefty grocery bill and an overstuffed pantry. So, how do you know if an item is worth splurging on?
1. Choose Staple Items
There are Paleo basics that you’ll find in most recipes, including:
- A versatile one-for-one replacement Paleo baking flour (like almond flour)
- A Paleo sweetener (like maple syrup or raw honey)
- Healthy cooking fats (like coconut or avocado oil)
- Dairy-free unsweetened milk (like coconut, almond, or cashew milk)
When baking Paleo versions of classic recipes, you can usually swap milk, wheat flour, sugar, and vegetable oil for the above ingredients with successful results.
Delving into more complex Paleo items, like stevia and coconut flour, which aren’t one-for-one replacements, is best done after you’ve been eating Paleo for a while or when following a specific recipe. Keeping your pantry simple at the beginning will not only save you money, but keep you from getting overwhelmed by too many unfamiliar ingredients.
2. Buy Small Amounts
Buy the smallest bags possible of Paleo pantry items, sauces, and seasonings, until you know what you like. Even though it’s less cost effective to purchase smaller, you’ll save money if you realize you really don’t like the taste of coconut aminos or coconut flour. Purchasing small quantities of items will also save space in the pantry.
3. Get Familiar with One Ingredient Before Buying Them All
It’s tempting to find a dozen new recipes you want to try. But doing this will result in a massive grocery list, shopping bill, and a dilemma over where to store everything.
Instead of generically searching “Paleo recipes,” find a group of Paleo recipes based around one or two simple ingredients. For example, “Paleo almond flour recipes” will keep your ingredients pared down and allow you to get familiar with almond flour before you branch out into other ingredients. The same is true when working with coconut flour and other Paleo baked goods.
3 Ways to Simplify Your Paleo Cooking and Meal Planning
Even if you keep your kitchen gadgets simple and your ingredients basic, you can still find that Paleo cooking can be quite time consuming. If you need to keep kitchen time minimal, try the following ideas.
1. Limit the Number of New Recipes (Then Batch Cook Them)
If you’re trying new recipes several times a week, you’re going to be spending a lot of time cooking and/or baking. To simplify your kitchen routine, find your top five favorite Paleo recipes. Once you can cook them without needing the instructions, add another three to five new recipes.
Then, when you have recipes that you know and love, cook double or triple portions of them. Save leftovers for quickly reheated lunches or freeze for dinners on chaotic nights.
2. Pick Recipes with Similar Ingredients
Focusing on two main proteins per week and a handful of vegetables will keep your shopping list simple, cut food waste, and make for easier batch prepping.
For example, choose recipes that use 1-2 similar proteins for the week (like chicken or salmon). Then, choose a core group of veggies that are easy to prep, store, and cook with, like sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and salad greens.
3. Choose Recipes with Similar Cooking Methods
You don’t want to constantly be changing up your cooking routine, especially if you’re busy. To keep things easy, focus on a week’s worth of slow cooker recipes. This way, you can drop all the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and each night have your dinner ready. Choose low- or no-prep recipes for your lunches those days, or better yet, eat leftovers from the previous night for lunch.
You can also opt for a week of meals built around meat that is cooked in one session. For example, a slower cooker full of shredded chicken could be parsed out for salad toppers and coupled with roasted veggies. Reducing the number of times you cook meat each week can cut down on time cooking and washing dishes.
Batch prep your veggies and store them in serving-sized containers in the fridge. That way, when it is time to assemble your recipe for the day, your ingredients are ready to go. This works especially well for roasted vegetables, slow cooker recipes, soups, stews, and one-pot dishes.
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