After years of paleo eating, my husband Dave and I have drilled down our grocery shopping list to the essentials we need to stay, um… well fed. When our local grocery store rearranged all of its aisles, Dave used the map of the new layout to develop a spreadsheet that cross-referenced the stuff we buy most often against its new location in the store. So smart! (And nerdy!)
We keep a printout of that list on the front of the fridge and check off the food we need throughout the week, then one of us hits the store, list in hand, and follows the path around the perimeter. We supplement our grocery store haul with a monthly delivery of grass-fed beef from a local farm, with an occasional side trip to a natural foods store for other goodies like sunflower seed butter, coconut aminos, and pastured pork.
The foods listed below fall into a special category all their own; they’re the must-have foods we never let run out. They’re always checked on our list, and we have backups for the backups in our cabinets.
Organic, unsweetened coconut flakes
Eaten on their own as a snack or sprinkled into and on top of cooked dishes, coconut flakes add another dimension of flavor and texture. They’re lovely, little wisps of good-for-you fat that can go savory or sweet. I like to toss a few on top of Thai curries or sprinkle them on a bowl of fruit and coconut milk for dessert.
Organic, grass-fed ground beef
If I have a few pounds of grass-fed ground beef in the fridge, I know I’m only about 10 minutes away from a delicious dinner. Browned and seasoned with garlic and spices, ground beef is like a blank canvas that can be turned into just about any ethnic-inspired meal. Stir-fried with veggies and Chinese five-spice powder, it’s instantly Asian. Formed into a burger and piled on top of a big salad, it’s all-American. Wrapped in a lettuce leaf with cucumbers, jalapeño, lime, and garlic, it’s a Thai wrap.
Boneless, skinless sardines packed in olive oil
These little fish are perfect on-the-go food. My super-secret lunch weapon is a can of sardines, a red bell pepper cut into strips, a cucumber cut into coins, and a small handful of fresh blueberries or cherries. Just a little oily and not too shy, the sardines are power food — and the leftover oil is perfect for dipping raw veggies.
Kale seems to be the superstar of the paleo world, but I’m here to make a case for collard greens. They’re a little sturdier and tenderize during steaming and sautéing without disintegrating into mushy territory. They can be braised in a coconut milk curry, wrapped around meat fillings and baked in tomato sauce, or sautéed in oil with seasonings to make a vitamin-packed side dish. They’re also mild enough to taste great at breakfast with eggs and leftover protein. I like to cut them into one-inch strips, steam until tender-ish, then sauté them with coconut oil until they get a little dry and crispy. (Or be lazy: Just defrost frozen, chopped collard greens and sauté in coconut oil or ghee.)
I always have a big batch of Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup in the refrigerator so I can start my day with a warm blast of veggies at breakfast. I also make sure I have a big pile of zucchini noodles in the fridge, so I can quickly toss them into an Asian stir-fry or nestle them under Old School Italian Meat Sauce. But whole zucchini are great to have around, too, for last-minute inspiration, like throwing them on the grill or into the oven for roasting.
Cauliflower might be the most versatile vegetable in the kitchen, so I always have two heads in the fridge at all times. Grated in a food processor and sautéed with fat and spices, it’s instant Cauliflower Rice. Or boiled in broth and mashed with coconut milk (or a dollop of homemade mayo), it transforms into mashed “potatoes.” It also adds a big crunch when chopped raw in salads, and becomes crisp-tender when roasted in the oven.
Frozen, Unsweetened Blackberries
Low in fructose and high in antioxidants, blackberries are loaded with nutrition and flavor. I like to eat them frozen with coconut milk drizzled over the top as a go-along with eggs for breakfast, or as dessert after a paleo dinner. Because they’re not too sweet, they don’t trigger the sugar demon, but they’re sweet enough to feel like a treat.
To be fair, jicama isn’t a nutritional powerhouse, but it’s not doing any harm either. I love its crisp texture and almost-sweet taste. Peeled, cut into matchsticks, and kept in the fridge, jicama is a cool addition to a crudité platter. Julienned, it makes a lovely salad mixed with lime juice, diced avocado, and slivers of red bell pepper.
Free-Range, Organic Eggs
Any time of day, eggs are a quality source of fast protein. I like to keep a dozen hard-boiled on hand for egg salad or deviled eggs. When my day has been long, and I want something comforting, a Tex-Mex scramble or Comfort Noodles do the trick.
Excerpted and adapted with permission from Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat.
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.