When I did the Whole30 for the first time (read all about it here), paleo was a totally different style of eating than I was used to. Up until that point I was dabbling more on the plant-based side of the food spectrum, experimenting with vegan recipes on this here blog on the regular, and handling meat made me pretty uncomfortable. For those of you who are unfamiliar, "paleo" is essentially just meat, fruit, veggies and good fats -- no grains, dairy, sugars, legumes, etc. I decided to give it a try because my stomach is the worst and I quickly realized it made me feel much better.
Starting out I was intimidated by the elaborate recipes of the internet and ingredients I didn't know existed, but about two years later I think I've got a fairly good grip on it. I'm definitely not strictly paleo and I still don't get crazy marinating meats and unfortunately I still don't own a spiralizer, but the majority of the food I prepare for myself is essentially paleo. I have figured out a few combinations of fruits, veggies and proteins that I can arrange in various ways to make me happy throughout the week without spending money I don't have or getting ridiculously bored.
This is what a typical trip to the grocery store (a normal one with sales and stuff-- I can't afford to shop at Whole Foods) looks like for me.
Baby carrots -- I generally get the giant bag because I feed half of it to my dog. Ziggy loves her some carrots and they make great crunchy snacks when you are missing chips and other crunchy carbs.
Asparagus -- These bad boys don't go bad very quickly, so the last bag I got lasted for, like, two weeks. They're so tasty grilled or baked with just olive oil, salt and garlic powder. Asparagus in the can is also pretty delicious, but a much mushier consistency. I usually have several cans in my cupboard for when I'm feeling lazy.
Broccoli -- Great for stir fry dishes, which I probably cook more than anything else because it's so easy. I usually go for the pre-cut florets because they're small, can be used to salads and honestly convenience is a big thing for me. It's why I end up driving through Jack-in-the-Box at 2am.
Squash -- Spaghetti squash and butternut squash are my go-tos. I'm not a fan of yellow squash, but I can't get enough that bright orange butternut bad boy. They're both a little high maintenance as far as prep goes, but one of either can last for several days if you just bake them and store them in the fridge and add a little "noodles" here and a little delicious side starch there.
Onions -- I usually grab two or three yellow onions and sometimes some green onions too (mostly for garnish/quick omelette additions). I'm a huge fan, but I hate cutting them so I get it all over with one night and keep chopped onions in the fridge to throw into stuff throughout the week.
Sweet Peppers -- I've noticed that green, red and yellow peppers are super pricy lately, so I've just buying mini-sweet peppers that come in a bag for, like, a dollar. They're easy to prep and actually really delicious all by themselves.
Spinach -- Baby spinach is usually my leaf of choice. I use it in my eggs, salads, sauteed as a side and whatever else I can throw it into before it gets slimy. Sometimes I pass though because it goes bad so quickly. Same goes for mushrooms -- I love them, but as soon as they're slimy they get thrown out and I hate wasting them.
Cherry Tomatoes -- These guys last a long time and can be used for salads, sliced up on top of fish, salsas and all kinds of good stuff.
Sweet Potatoes -- I prep about three at a time and keep them in the fridge to add to various proteins throughout the week. I'm a huge fan of adding sunny-side-up eggs to my sweet potatoes.
Bananas -- I go through bananas like no other. If you're like me and hate when they start getting brown, you can turn them into paleo "pancakes" by combining one ripe banana with two eggs. That's it! It works really well, like, every third try.
Apples -- Never Red Delicious. I hate them, hard. They should be called Red Disgusting.
Strawberries -- I don't always stock up on strawberries because they also tend to go bad quickly, but they're great for salads, smoothies and snacks.
Oranges -- I like that these guys have a long shelf life. They're a fun breakfast addition.
Raspberries -- Only if I'm feeling saucy because I know I'm just going to eat them all in one sitting. That's kind of the opposite of what you're supposed to do while paleo-ing it up.
Frozen Fish -- As I've mentioned a few times, I don't get around to cooking things right away so the frozen fish section is perfect for me. I usually grab wild caught sockeye salmon fillets and something mild like tilapia.
Boneless Chicken Thighs -- I usually cook all of these at the same time splitting them up into normal baked chicken for salads leaving the other half for stir fry-type dishes.
Ground Beef -- Be sure to pay attention where it came from (you don't want your meat doused in ammonia), but I love ground beef for paleo tacos and omelets.
Sausage -- The breakfast and the Italian kind. Super easy to throw on top of sauteed peppers and onions. I like to add mustard too.
Bacon -- It's probably not the healthiest thing I consume regularly, but I love me some bacon. Wrap it around some asparagus or scallops and you'll feel like the best chef ever.
Eggs -- Lots and lots of eggs. Preferably of the free-range, hormone-free variety. Sometimes I'll buy two dozen and boil one of them to add to salads and what not for lunch or to grab for a quick on-the-go breakfast. See my homage to eggs here.
Sprayable Extra Virgin Olive Oil -- I have regular kind as well, but the sprayable kind is so convenient. I don't use butter for anything (although ghee or clarified butter is lactose-free and technically paleo) so I use a lot of olive oil for everything from eggs to squash to fish.
Unrefined Coconut Oil -- Usually pretty pricy, but it lasts forever. Also, if you've never handled it before just know that it's normal for it to be solid until you lower its temperature. This was really confusing to me at first. Woops. I use this for sweeter dishes like "fried" bananas, paleo pancakes and some fish dishes.
Nut Butter -- Peanuts are off-limits with paleo, but almond butter is of my favorites. Watch out for added sugars though, tons of nut butters have a bunch of added sugars (that's what makes them soo good). Sometimes I add coconut oil to my almond butter and dip apple slices in it. So delicious.
Canned Coconut -- The kind where coconut is the only ingredient. I use this as coffee creamer, dessert and for curries.
Spaghetti Sauce -- Check the labels. Sometimes it'll take a while, but there are some sugar-free ones that exist. This makes paleo spaghetti super easy -- just add meat and throw it on top of the spaghetti squash.
Pickles -- I'm a big fan of the garlic, always-refrigerated ones and the adorable tiny ones. I despise the sweet ones and I'm pretty sure they are loaded with sugar anyway, so get out of here, sandwich pickles!
Capers -- I'm obsessed with capers.
Chopped Garlic -- Because I'm too lazy to chop it myself.
Seasonings -- Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon and Italian seasonings are my go-tos. I generally have to go out and buy specific ones that recipes call for, but these are the ones I throw on everything.
Coconut Aminos -- Soy is off-limits with paleo (although I break this one all the time), so coconut aminos is a really great substitute. Much healthier and still delicious.
Sriracha -- I'm obsessed. Me and everyone else.
Mustard -- I like the brown, spicy kind. There's, like, nothing in mustard and yet it adds so much flavor. I love it.
Coffee -- I'm a big coffee drinker so I was excited to learn that it wasn't off-limits, however, all the stuff I put in it was. I started putting pure canned coconut in it and learned to love it. See that struggle here.
Tea -- When you are used to drinking sodas and flavor-packed things, water can seem crazy boring and even just the slightly bitter herbal taste of tea seems delightful (even to a sweet tea drinker like myself). It takes a while to get used to, but it can be really fun trying different flavors of hot teas and iced ones alike. I have chocolate and chili pepper teabags in my cupboard right now.
Coconut Water -- This stuff is expensive, but when I first did the Whole30 it was essential. I haven't bought it in a long time because of the cost, but it was good for getting myself off of Coke Zero and insanely sweet drinks. Some people hate it though, so be sure to try a small one before investing in a monster carton.
Don't even walk through the bread section. That smell gets significantly stronger the longer you go without it. You have been warned.
I'm sure there are tons of items I forgot to add, but this list got out of control. Hopefully if you're just starting out on your paleo journey this will be helpful to you. If you've been at it for a while, please share your go-to paleo groceries!