One of the most common problems is wondering what you’re supposed to buy, now that so many things are off the table.
In this article we’re going to be looking at what your basic options are for a Paleo shopping list, as well an example to help illustrate what you should be aiming for. Most importantly, we’ll keep it as simple as possible.
By the end of this, your cupboards will be near-bare, and your fridge will be stuffed to the seams with Paleo goodness.
There is precisely one way to ensure that you only buy the foods that you need, and also avoid any non-Paleo impulse buys that you’ll regret later: write a shopping list.
Creating a shopping list, and sticking to it, is an important habit to form, especially if you’re just starting out on a diet change.
Here are 2 rules you should follow:
Write a shopping list before any visit to the grocery store
Only buy what’s on the list – no exceptions
What if there’s a great sale on at the store and you don’t want to miss out? Then you didn’t do your research. Spend a few minutes looking through flyers, and if there is anything you need, put it on the list.
Creating an Every Week Grocery List
I like to have 2 shopping list templates: one that I use almost every week, and one that I use occasionally, around every 4-8 weeks. You can use a simple spreadsheet, or create printable checklists using a variety of free web checklist creators like Checkli or Printable Checklist.
The “every week” list is comprised mainly of foods that can’t last for more than a week, like fruits and vegetables, and the occasional meat that is on sale. You can typically get everything you need around the edges of the store, and avoid the tempting aisles altogether.
The occasional list is comprised of Paleo foods that can be stored for a while, like oils, nuts, and bulk meats.
Unless you are an extremely active athlete, you don’t need a ton of fruits. They are high in sugar, and are often mostly comprised of fructose. They do contain a lot of water-soluble vitamins, and are one of the best sources of carbohydrates, but the fact remains that most people should not eat too many carbohydrates, especially in simple sugar form.
Try to stick to a few servings of fruit a day unless you’ve been particularly active.
Here are the most common fruits you can add to your grocery list:
Berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)
It’s a good idea to mix up the fruits you buy to get a wider variety of vitamins. For example, apples and oranges have a ton of vitamin C, but bananas offer extra potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B-6.
You realistically can’t go overboard with vegetables. A good looking shopping list should be loaded with several of the following:
Leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, kale)
Peppers (bell peppers are the most popular)
Sweet potatoes (if you’re looking for extra carbohydrates)
Onions (and onion family – garlic, leeks, etc.)
Note: That’s not a complete list of vegetables, but has the most common ones that are easy to find.
There are 3 things to keep in mind while adding vegetables to your shopping list:
Nightshades: While there is a lot of disagreement over whether or not nightshades should be eaten on a Paleo diet, you’ll have to make your own call on how much to limit them. Also see Autoimmune Diseases And Diet for a more detailed look into the issues nightshades can cause.
Variety: While there’s nothing wrong with having a salad that has spinach, lettuce, and kale in it, they all have fairly similar nutritional profiles. A variety in colors and textures not only offers a more well-balanced meal from a nutritional point-of-view, but is also more appetizing.
Shelf-life: Most vegetables only last for about a week, but some vegetables like sweet potatoes and onions can last a bit longer. Onions can be bought in bulk to save money as long as they are stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. You could also buy frozen vegetables if you’re afraid you might run low.
Meats and Proteins
The third main part of your every week grocery list are meats. You have a lot of flexibility with meat, since they can be stored for months at a time. You could even buy a grass-fed cow from a farmer if you have a big enough freezer.
Ideally you want to buy animals that eat the foods they’re supposed to and live like they are supposed to. The most common meats this applies to are grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and wild fish. See 7 Ways To Tell If Your Meat Is Paleo or Not for more details.
The most common meats and proteins to add to your list are:
Check out The Complete Guide to Cooking Oils in order to learn about the safety and health benefits of each oil. Most oils can’t be stored for more than a few months without starting to turn rancid (coconut oil is an exception), so don’t buy a giant jar of oil.
Start with a small one of one or two types of oil, and once you get a feel for how much you use to cook with you can adjust if needed. Most people find that you eat much less oil than you’d think.
While nuts shouldn’t be a focal point of the Paleo diet, they do have a place in it. They can make great additions to salads, and are also perfect as a portable snack. They can also be stored for several weeks without issue.
Here are some of the most common nuts:
Don’t go overboard, but pick some up once in a while if you enjoy them as snacks. You can also buy nut butters, which usually last for at least a year in the fridge (just check for unwanted additives), or nut flours.
Spices and Herbs
I’m far from a master cook, but even a small amount of one or two spices can make your meals taste 10 times better, and you don’t have to resort to over-salting them.
Here are some versatile spices that you can use in almost any Paleo recipe:
A great simple tip from The 4-Hour Chef is to simply taste a bit of your food, and then taste a bit of a spice; if they seem like their flavors go together, they probably do.
A small amount of spices go a long way, so you’ll only have to buy them every few months.
Planning Your Meals
Now that you know the kind of foods you can put on your shopping list, it’s time to put a bit more thought into the foods you want to make.
When you’re first getting into Paleo eating, it’s usually recommended to keep things simple to avoid being overwhelmed. Pick a few simple recipes and rotate through them for a week or two before expanding your options.
Plan out what you’d like to eat before you create your shopping list, and then add any ingredients you’re missing. If you need meal plan ideas, take a look at this sample meal plan or get The Paleo Cookbook.
This list is designed for one person, but can be scaled up for more by simply multiplying the amounts by however many people you want. I’m also assuming that we’ve already stocked up on oils, nuts, and spices.
To keep things simple, the meals for this sample week are:
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs and an apple or banana
Lunch: Chicken salad (sliced chicken breast, romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, carrots, and red onion)
Snack (optional): A few dozen nuts (almonds or cashews) or a piece of fruit
Dinner: Stir fry, slightly different every day (ground beef with any combination of bell pepper, yellow onions, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potato, and broccoli)
To clarify the dinner recipe, I may include anywhere from 2-6 of those vegetables with the ground beef base. Add in different spices and every meal will taste significantly different.
Now it’s simply an issue of categorizing these ingredients by type (fruits, vegetables, etc.) for efficient shopping, and deciding on quantity. Here is what my final grocery list for this week looks like:
You’ll notice I excluded the nuts and onions, because I buy those in bulk to reduce cost.
The great thing about exploring the Paleo diet is that there are a near-infinite amount of food combinations to try. Even if you’re keeping it simple, just 10-20 ingredients can create near endless possibilities.
Dale is a nutrition writer, as well as the founder of SolvingNutrition.com. He is a Chemical Engineer turned professional soccer player who sees the results of proper nutrition every day in training and games. Connect with him at DaleCudmore.com
Mark has helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle changes that lead to better long-term health, which includes acceptable body fat and ideal body weight.He does not recommend fad diets, quick weight loss gimmicks, starvation diets, weight loss pills, fat burner supplements and the like.