If you know me fairly well, or if you’ve read my blog recently, you probably know that cooking is not my favorite thing. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it when I do it… it’s just that when I get home from work it’s not very high on my list of things I want to do. Plus, my kitchen is hands-down my least favorite room in our apartment. It’s small, cramped, dark, and ugly. There’s not much I can do about it. The light above our sink flickers like in a horror movie (and when there’s a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, it basically is my version of a horror movie). I can put chevron contact paper on my walls all I want, but it’s like putting a band aid on… well, a super ugly room with ugly laminate floors and ugly old cabinets. I’ve been able to make almost every other room of my apartment feel cozy and homey, but not so much the kitchen. Anyway, I digress…
So cooking. Not my fave.
Luckily, I have a really attractive husband with a servant’s heart, who sees cooking as a challenge to master. He understands, unlike I do, that love of food and eating must naturally flow into an enjoyment of cooking. He also understands that when I come home with a certain look on my face (and if I’ve texted him many clues during the day about my current state of anxiety) that there’s no way I’m going to spend an hour or two in the kitchen in order to nourish myself. I would rather (literally) lay around hungrily until falling asleep and see how I feel about making food whenever I happen to wake up. Very much like a helpless baby and white teenage girls, there are days when I literally can’t even.
So you might be beginning to understand how the already challenging Whole30 might pose a unique challenge for our family. During this month of restricted eating, our marital roles were skewed yet further in my favor, as Brett did most of the work while I lay helpless and overwhelmed with anxiety on the couch. (I sound like I am exaggerating, and that is intentional because I can laugh at myself – but seriously, the anxiety struggle has been REAL.)
However, while Brett did most of the cooking, I was leading us into this whole endeavor. I did all the meal planning, and I knew that in order to make this doable for us, we had to keep things very simple. The easiest way to do the Whole30 is to limit yourself even further. For example, the Whole30 has some odd restrictions that, honestly, aren’t difficult, but just take some getting used to. Like not cooking with vegetable oil. Really, the other options of oils to use are very numerous – coconut oil, avocado oil, duck fat, evoo… And bacon is technically compliant… as long as you can find some without added sugar, which is nearly impossible. So, if you can’t afford to go to special stores for your groceries, it’s actually more complicated to find certain ingredients rather than cutting them out. In short, no compliant bacon for us. We stuck to coconut oil and olive oil and just left it at that. We weren’t afraid of substitutions, like water or chicken broth for beef broth. I have the ability to overcome my fears in the face of a chicken carcass, apparently, but adding beef bones to the mix was just not going to happen. And just because a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient doesn’t mean you can’t try it with something else (even if your dish will end up tasting faintly of coconut).
Also, we rarely prepared lunches. We just made sure we’d have leftovers from dinner, or I would make hard boiled eggs as I got ready in the morning and pack a few of those with some salad and other fruits or vegetables. When there weren’t leftovers, we could eat some chicken, a microwaved sweet potato, and some vegetables for lunch. No need to throw something together and make a “meal” out of it. Our goal was to get through the month without breaking the rules, not to try new and complicated things every day.
We spent about one night a week prepping a few things that would last the week or help us cook more meals. (i.e., twice Brett made a whole chicken, then made bone broth from the carcass in one night. Throughout the week we would use that chicken broth and the chicken in other recipes. I also spent one evening a week making us breakfasts.) The rest of the evenings, we would make simple meals. One of the most pleasantly surprising things about the Whole30 was how good everything we made was. There was only one recipe we made that I didn’t like, and the rest was delicious. This is why it was so easy not to be tempted by other foods when eating at home. The only times it was difficult to stay on plan was when we were in situations where we were reminded of all the things we couldn’t eat. Or when we were just sitting around, speaking one-word complains, like, “Poppppcoorrrrnnnnn…” “Piiizzzaaaaa…” “Choooocooollaaateeeee…”
Don’t do that. It’s not going to make you happy. But these meals will.
Here are three weeks’ worth of our meal plans (I don’t have pictures, because, like I said, our kitchen is dismal-looking. I could never be a food blogger). Whenever a recipe looked too complicated, we would simplify it. Feel free to do that and substitute as your heart desires! I also have a Pinterest board of all these meals and some others, if you wanna follow.
- Breakfast sausage – I used the recipe from the Whole30 cookbook, but this one is similar if not the same.
- Egg breakfast muffins – I would make these the same night as the sausage, and use the sausage in the recipe
- Taco salad – This was adapted. We used salsa as the dressing and didn’t include the plantains or olives. For the “starch” we used tapioca powder, but you could probably use any compliant flour-like substance of your choice.
- Chocolate chili – Found this on the @Whole30Recipes instagram, which is a great resource
- Shepherds pie – Definitely one of my top 5 recipes we tried
- Roasted curried root vegetables – from the Whole30 cookbook
- Chicken tenders with homemade ketchup – Another top 5 fave
- Sweet potato and scrambled egg breakfasts with salsa (I roasted a baking sheet full of sweet potatoes tossed with oilve oil, paprika, salt, and pepper; scrambled 9 eggs, and separated it all out into about 5 servings for breakfasts.)
- Whole chicken – This recipe was from the Whole30 cookbook. It was So. Good. It would come out of the oven all crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and Brett and I would stand over it and just pick at it. I picked at a chicken carcass because it was delicious. I don’t even know myself anymore. But this was one of the most useful things to do, because we made bone broth from it and used the chicken in multiple recipes throughout the week.
- bone broth – Whole30 cookbook recipe (but I’m sure you could find one just as good). Used in recipes such as tomato soup, chili, and spaghetti sauce.
- Tandoori chicken – served over salad greens instead of rice, or in a lettuce wrap. This was one of a few recipes we had already been making before the Whole30 that we were pleased to find out was compliant when we made a few slight changes. Definitely a top 5 for both Brett and me.
- Coconut curry with roasted cauliflower rice – the rice was another Whole30Recipes instagram recipe – basically you put cauliflower in a blender or food processor, sprinkle with some salt and roast it in the oven.
- Tomato soup – our own recipe. Roast like, a sheet pan full of tomatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, with a little garlic. Blend it up, add some chicken or vegetable broth, maybe add some more spices. Voila!
- Buffalo ranch chicken stuffed peppers with guacamole
- Zoodle (zucchini noodle) spaghetti with homemade spaghetti sauce
- Steak salad (a fancy night!) – Brett just made some steak, put it on salad, and we used a homemade compliant balsamic vinaigrette recipe from the Whole30 cookbook.
- Almond crusted pork chops – best way to cook pork chops EVER! We skipped making the fancy salad with this recipe and just served the pork chops on top of a bed of salad greens, with applesauce on the side.
- Taco salad – same one as above
- Greek meatballs with avocado tzatziki – we used beef instead of lamb, because we’re not rich.
- “Lazy Sunday” casserole with the homemade breakfast sausage recipe – another top 5 fave.
What we always had in our fridge and pantry:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Salad greens
- our favorite/most useful vegetables – broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, avocados (guacamole was ESSENTIAL – turns out I will even eat raw cauliflower and broccoli as long as it’s dipped in guac), onions
- almond meal flour – this was the only flour-type product we used all month
- Coconut milk (the full-fat Thai Kitchen brand was compliant)
- Pecans and/or walnuts and/or almonds
- Sweet potatoes and russet potatoes
- Almond butter
- Meat! I don’t know how vegetarians and vegans do the Whole30. I’m not a big meat person (except maybe I am now?) but I feel like meat was necessary to have with almost every meal in order to feel satiated.
- Coconut flakes + dates – this was a snack-y thing that was probably at least a little better than a Lara bar. I put coconut flakes, a few dates, and some nuts in a snack-sized ziplock bag with some cinnamon and shook it up. It was delicious.
- Seasonings – most of the food you buy will be plain. Having a variety of seasonings on-hand means your dishes will be so much tastier.
- Tea – at night, while watching TV, it’s hard to not want a snack. Drinking a cup of tea took my mind off of what I could be eating.
Things it was easy to find compliant versions of:
- Anything without a label! (fresh produce and meat – what you’ll mostly be buying anyway)
- Canned tomato products (diced, paste, crushed, etc.)
Things I want to try next time:
- Making our own ghee! We went through the whole month without clarified butter for cooking, but I think it’s pretty simple to do
- Making cashew butter. This is supposed to be a better peanut-butter substitute than almond butter
- Even more meal prep. You’re supposed to eat three square meals a day on the Whole30, but there were days when what I ate couldn’t really be considered “breakfast.”
- Going to bed on time. I tried to make myself go to bed at 10:30 every night, but I totally failed. I need nine hours of sleep to feel well rested. It’s a curse. But to get the full benefit for your body, the Whole30 program recommends a set bedtime every night.
Questions? Comments? Recipes? Tell me about your favorite meals from your Whole30!