Paleo Kitchen: Stocking Up

Two things happened this summer that transformed our kitchen. Thanks to the encouragement of the Melissa Hartwig of the Whole30, I decided to start eating only real food. Call it paleo, call it clean, follow my lead and call it dino-chow… it meant the refinement of the no-grain eating I’d started at the beginning of the year and inspired banishment of packaged foods, soy, and dairy. Goodbye, dear cheese, Greek yogurt, tofu, and Balance bars. We’ll miss you.

Around the same time, Dave and I saw Food, Inc. His outrage was both surprising and infectious. I swore from that very moment to never eat another Hormel product, and within an hour of leaving the movie, Dave had signed us up for organic produce delivery. We made lists of what we could buy at HEB (a “regular” grocery store) and what would require us to go to a “hippy store” like Whole Foods, Central Market, or Sprouts. And we got organized. I’d always spent a few hours on Sundays prepping food, but now we stocked up on grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb, and free-rage chicken so we wouldn’t have to go to two or three stores EVERY week.

I’m not going to lie to you: at first, it was a huge pain in the butt. I was bitter. I complained a lot. But we both stuck to our guns and like anything new, it became routine. Our freezer and fridge are now habitually stocked with healthy food, and it’s not that much more work than our previous, lazier way.

I grew up in my dad’s restaurant in the midst of a family of cooks. For a long time, despite the fact that I love to eat, food was the enemy. It made me fat and unhealthy and unhappy because I knew food, but I didn’t know how to eat. Now cooking and eating are a joy. I don’t always enjoy making dinner or the tedium of packing my lunches and snacks every day, but real cooking – visualizing the meal, buying the ingredients, chopping and stirring and working the alchemy that transforms ingredients into love in the form of food… that’s one of my favorite things.

Preparing and eating quality food is the most caring thing we can do for ourselves and others. And eating quality food that’s delicious is a pleasure.

I know it can be shocking for people making the transition to dino-chow. I was amazed at the sheer volume of vegetables and protein required once we jettisoned cheese, tortillas, toast, pasta, and rice. So I thought it would be fun – and potentially helpful to y’all – if I made a list of everything Dave and I consume during the course of a typical week.

Keep these stats in mind as you read the list below:

1. Dave is 6’5″ and weighs about 250. I’m 5’4″ and 150 lbs. of fury. I eat between 1700-1800 calories a day: 50% fat, 25% protein, 25% carbs. Dave eats more than that!

2. We usually eat out in restaurants only once or twice a week. During the weekdays, we cook breakfast and dinner at home. I pack my lunch and snacks to take to the corporate overlords’ lair, and Dave eats lunch at the house. He usually eats lunch in a restaurant once a week, and we always have breakfast at Habanero on Saturdays (sometimes Sunday, too).

3. We shop at HEB and Sprouts and also get a weekly delivery of produce from Farmhouse Delivery. Sometimes if I’m making something out-of-the-ordinary for us, like short ribs or pulled pork, we make a trip to the Central Market butcher.

4. Our music/writing studio is a separate building that has a full kitchen, so we have what we call the “overflow fridge” in case the main refrigerator in our house gets too full.

OK. Here you go. This is the actual food we ate in a week this fall.



3 pounds green beans
4 green peppers
1 pound okra
2 pints grape tomatoes
4 carrots
2 pounds snap peas
2 pounds turnips
3 bunches radishes
8 cucumbers
2 eggplants
3 heads cauliflower
1 head green cabbage
1 head red cabbage
1 pound brussels sprouts
5 oranges
2 apples
2 pink grapefruit
4 sweet potatoes
1/2 pound baby carrots
3 onions
2 heads garlic



2 pounds turkey sausage
1.5 pounds chicken thighs
2 pounds chicken breasts
1 pound ground elk
1 pound ground lamb
2 dozen eggs
1 pound bacon
1 pound ground beef



1/3 jar Sunbutter
1/3 jar almond butter
1 lb. roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 pound walnuts
1/4 bottle olive oil
1/4 jar coconut oil

If you’re just learning how to stock up your paleo kitchen,  it might take some trail and error. Be patient with yourself and try not to become too frustrated. Just like learning the squat clean or double-unders, patience, practice, and taking a nice, deep breath will eventually pay off.

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  • Erin Clare says:

    I spent the weekend prepping my food for one… all Paleo. And you're right, it's hard to know what exactly to get and when to get it. I've had a lot of vegetables go bad because I didn't prep them in time. I over-bought at the grocery store so I wouldn't have to go in there for anything. I hate the grocery store. But I'm now learning it's a bad strategy and I'll have to start going more frequently if I want to not throw away $25 worth of squash and cucumbers.

    The other part that's hard, getting all the spices needed to make it ultra yummy. Thanks to you, I have a "jug" of Tahini sauce, but I definitely need to diversify.

    • Fran says:

      I found getting a mixed box of organic fruit and veg every week has almost entirely stopped food waste (apart from all the other huge benefits!!). This is because the veg and fruit are fresher – they aren’t kept in a freezer for months. So they last longer and I prep what’s needed and store in tupperware in the fridge, which also stops the food wilting and/or deteriorating,

  • Red Headed Racer says:

    this is great! would you mind sharing what some of your typical meals are? what do you pack for lunch? what is breakfast? I am good at breakfast for most part (have been making pumpkin/almond butter/protein pancakes or eggs), but shaking the greek yogurt habit is hard for me at lunchtime or for work snacks.

    i love your blog by the way. i can't remember how i found it. but we probably have some mutual friends from your derby days (I work over at apple and know a few of those girls)

    you are an inspiration!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Red Head! I'm going to be posting some typical meals in a future post. I have a whole wackadoodle method for keeping the kitchen stocked, and my meals are a direct result of that. I eat almost the same thing every day for snacks and lunch — I just swap out the veggies mid-week. More to come… promise!

    And thanks for the kind words about the blog. I appreciate it so much!

  • Lisa says:

    Great post! We just started paleo about 10 days ago and it's been easier than expected but still required a total revamp of shopping habits. Also tough when you have a tiny fridge & freezer. Really enjoy your blog and looking forward to the recipes!

  • Melissa says:

    What a great idea for a post! I am looking forward to the next one, too. These practical guides to eating clean are really helpful for people starting out.

  • Jesse Richards says:

    Wow! That's an impressive collection of food. It's amazing how much variety you manage, makes me feel like a slacker with my four veggie-roulette I play every few days. I'm totally going to have to try some of those now.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Lisa –> Congratulations on 10 days of clean eating. Good for you! And good luck with your little fridge/freezer. We're thinking about upgrading this year because the kale and cabbage take up so much room. HA! can you imagine: I need a bigger fridge because twice a week, I stuff it full of green, leafy bushes.

    Melissa –> Glad you like this post! I'm working on more for the coming weeks that I hope will be helpful and take advantage of the hard lessons I've learned.

    Jesse –> Yes, that is a mighty list of food. You should see our cart when we go shopping. I always hope people think we're buying food for a big party rather than just a typical 5-day stretch.

  • Margo Baxter says:

    Yep, this is Paleo alright. Looks like my fridge. Thanks for the interesting post .I've been doing this for a few months and have a tip to offer you and your readers on how to save some time on the produce prep.

    First of all, buy pre-washed baby spinach/salad and save the big plastic containers that it comes in. Then each time you shop, take time to chop up all the veggies that can be chopped ahead without getting gross: cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, onion, peppers, carrots, greens, etc. Use the empty plastic containers for storage. This makes it possible to quickly make stir-fried or steamed veggies for any meal because all you have to do is throw stuff together. I usually also throw in some ground meat and top the plate with some almonds or avocado. Viola – a beautiful balanced Paleo meal in 10 minutes!

  • Jessica says:

    Ohhh, this is probably why I am always hungry. I've been essentially paleo for years due to food sensitivities, but frequently am super hungry. I upped my fat but that didn't totally solve the problem. In looking at your shopping list I realize that a) I am still not eating enough fat, and b) I don't eat nearly enough veggies. Like, not even close. This is helpful, thanks for posting!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Jessica –> The sheer volume of food needed to keep our house hummin' is INSANE. Try eating a little more and see how you feel. Adding even just a little more fat — like 1/2 an avocado at a meal — can make a huge difference.

  • Marc says:

    I was reading through your list of fats and saw that Dave can’t take fish oil. Any idea why? My wife was the same way and we recently changed our supplementation to a brand called OmegaVia (no I don’t work for the company), because they offer the highest certified amount of non-Chinese Omega3’s per pill. But just as importantly they coat their pills with an enteric (sp?) coating which means they don’t break open in the stomach, only the intestine i.e. no more fishy burps! I love them and they’ve got a fantastic blog that really digs into the differences between fish oils and trendy stuff like krill oil.

  • Ioana says:

    Hi Melissa,

    I found your cookbook through the local and online paleo grapevine and ended up here on your page. I just wanted to thank you for all your inspirational stories about being a “real” imperfect person and working hard at crossfit and eating clean. My husband and I have gotten into it since November, but I’ve been on and off on the eating right. I’m a full time grade student who works two jobs, and sometimes it just seems to hard. Reading through your posts is making me want to get back on track, and I can’t wait to get your book and learn your kitchen “system” to hopefully make things easier! Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      So glad you’re finding this info helpful. It’s a process… give yourself time to adapt. It took me months to figure out my system, and sometimes I still run out of food and want to order a pizza 🙂

      Good luck! Keep me posted on how you’re doing!

  • Jennifer says:

    Oh my… our grocery bill is going to be astronomical. Two adults, four children…

  • amy says:

    Great blog!! In a sea of food/paleo/lifting blogs yours is one I keep coming back to! I’ve been paleo for just under 3 years now and I think it helps that I’ve always been a ‘foodie’. I’m STILL not ‘tired’ of eating this way and I think the possibilities are limitless! From now on I’ll be pointing people your way when they ask for recipe ideas. Keep up the good work!

  • Jane says:

    Just now discovering your blog–I can’t wait to catch up on everything. I recently started eating paleo about 85% of the time. I still drink a little wine on weekends and I’ll cheat a little if I’m eating at a friends, but for the most part I don’t think it’s too tough to stick to. I do, however, find myself blasting through vegetables like it is no one’s business. I made a stir fry last night with 1 lb of chicken breast, 5 small heads of broccoli, a head of bok choy, a bunch of spianch and kale, a whole bunch of carrots, cabbage and celery. I basically used up ALL of the veggies I bought for the week thinking I would have more than enough to last me the week. Well that was last night and it is all that I have eaten today (sometimes mixed in with egg whites) besides my snack (apple and carrot sticks w/ almond butter) and it’s more than halfway gone. I was pretty ravenous today after a 6 am crossfit workout, but I’m starting to think my portions might be out of control. I’m not a calorie counter, but I’m blown away by the volume of food I’m able to consume. Do you ever buy veggies for the week and then find yourself making a second trip to the store by Wednesday?

    • Mel says:

      Yes, it takes a TON of veggies to eat this way — but think of all the nutrients. YAY, nutrients!

      I’ve gotten to the point where I can do a pretty good job of estimating, but yeah… sometime we have to make an emergency trip for jicama! 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for posting this. I just discovered your blog and how to eat paelo. It’s been a real struggle to figure out how to plan for the weeks meals and how much to eat. This is really helpful. It looks like I have some work to do, especially with the veggie area!

  • Kim G says:

    I’ve just started Whole30. My coach at the Exercise Coach pointed me to it. I also learned about your blog from EC and I LOVE IT!!! I am more excited since reading all of your fabulous recipes, ideas, and musings. Thank you so much!

  • Kim G says:

    I forgot to mention – I’ve ordered your cookbook from Amazon though they said it was out of stock. I can’t wait until it is in stock and in my hot little hands!

  • Rachel says:

    Oh wow thats a lot of veggies! I think I eat too much fruit because my ratio is opposite to your veggie:fruit ratio.

    I will try harder! 🙂

  • Hassan says:

    I’m not a big guy 180lbs at 5’7″ but I eat about that much meat by myself in a week (about 10-15lbs a week). But I only get in about 4-6lbs of veggies. So how long does it take for your body to adjust without grains and starches? Whenever I do low carb or paleo I get sick shortly after and remain sick until I have some sort of grain. I’ve tried as long as 3 weeks without several times and always get sick and remain sick or feeling weak until I get some grains. I also only perform at 50-70% in the gym which is based off maxes in the powerlifts. I wanna lose this fat that clings to my waistline.

    • Mel says:

      Sounds like you’re getting the “carb flu” when you cut out grains. My advice is to stick with the no-grains thing for at least a month, but increase your intake of vegetables a lot and add 1 cup of sweet potatoes to your meal after your workout — it sounds like when you cut grains you’re not getting enough carbs, and low-carb doesn’t work for everyone.

      I’m only 5’4″ and I’m supposed to get 100-150g of carbs per day, so you probably need about 150-200g per day? And more if you do high-intensity workouts. I really recommend either getting the Whole30 Success Guide from or reading their new book It Starts With Food to learn more about proportions of food and making sure you get the right macronutrients to support your workouts.

  • Kymme says:

    I have just found you 🙂 I am about to start the Whole 30 challenge with my friends firm the Box… We start tomorrow and I am excited and nervous … All at the same time… I think you call it frexcired 🙂 can’t wait to see how we feel, look and train.. We are some awesome castle stormers 🙂 thank you !!

    • Mel says:

      YAY! I’m glad you found me! Congratulations on starting a Whole30. I hope you have a great experience. It’s challenging, but manageable, and you’ll feel so great around week three, you’ll never want to go back. Keep me posted on how you’re doing!

      Shameless plug: All of the recipes in Well Fed are Whole30 approved except for one dessert. Just sayin’… 🙂

  • Elle says:

    I started paleo (for the 2nd time…oops) about a month ago. The problem is I am never hungry. It’s like my metabolism just shut down. I used to eat 4 or 5 times a day, but since about week 3 I eat once maybe twice a day.

    I feel great since I’ve started, but I’m worried about my appetite. Did you experience anything like this?

    • Mel says:

      When you’re using fat for fuel, your appetite can go down… as long as you feel great and your energy is good, I’m not sure you have too much to worry about. You might want to post your question to the Whole30 forum to get an answer from someone with more background than I have.

      Sadly, I have never lost my appetite 😉

  • carrie says:

    Hey! Starting Whole30 Monday, I’m excited, but overwhelmed, your website has taken some of the anxiety away…Thanks!

  • ~Kate F. says:

    Thank you so much for this! It’s been hard to get a system down and when things go bad in the fridge I always feel terrible. I just might hijack your way of doing things and implement it in my kitchen. 😀 Having a plan makes sticking to “dino chow” (hehe) so much easier – especially when raising twin toddlers and struggling to heal some pretty big health issues! ^_^

    • Mel says:

      Hi, Kate! I’m glad you’re finding the info helpful — and thanks for taking the time to let me know… that’s very cool of you!

      Good luck with your health stuff. It’s NO FUN trying to sort it out, but the investment is worth it.

      Twin toddlers! You are made of tough stuff. Good on you!

  • ~Kate F. says:

    Or maybe I should have said, “Kicking the tail off of some pretty big health issues.” Haha.

  • Michelle says:

    Oh my lordy. I couldn’t believe the amount of food I bought since I started Whole30 eating and thought I should drop it back a bit (even though I ate it all each week). Now I think I should by more 🙂

  • Wanda says:

    Bought the Kindle edition of your book a couple of months ago, and all I can say is…..WOW!!! I’m still getting the hang of the weekly cookup, but having your book on my iPad in the kitchen is a dream come true. KUDOS for making my transition to a better way of nourishing my body so much easier!

    I, too, can’t do seafood or fish oil. How do you calculate how many walnuts to eat instead? And are there any other foods that can be substituted to get adequate Omega 3?

  • Brenda says:


    I live in Hungary and over the last six months I’ve tried two whole30’s. It was a huge shift for me as I was eating typical junk or easy food up until then. I remember being frustrated with not being able to find staples that everyone else had access to in the US. Having said that I’m in the US for a few days and for the life of me I can’t think of anything to buy to take back with me other than some spices. Any suggestions of things you know we don’t have in my part of Europe (very similar to Prague)? Obviously it can’t be fresh…or meat 🙂

    Thanks so much!

  • Reagen says:

    Hey there! I’ve been eating Paleo for about 3 weeks and I’m officially obsessed. It amazes me what a difference it makes putting the correct fuel into your body. Well Fed has helped me significantly cut down on my daily cooking times and has made my food journey much more enjoyable. Thank you! I am too a Texan and live about an hour and a half south of Austin. I have been stocking up on grass fed ground beef at HEB Plus, but I’d love to find a local source of other cuts of beef. Do you have any suggestions around the Austin area?

  • Jade says:

    I too have a fish oil intolerance – when I take the supplements to make my Omega 3/6 ratio better I break out like I was 15… so I also can’t take it, so when I read about the walnuts I was very intrigued!

  • Diane says:

    Hi Mel!
    I just found your blog and find it so helpful. I have always been cooking-challenged and am finally learning cooking basics. I’ve been Paleo for almost 2 years and find your organization info so helpful Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on eating paleo for two years — that’s awesome! Thanks for the compliments; I’m glad you find my blog helpful. Keep us posted on how you’re doing!

  • Faith says:

    I noticed where you said you made the list of what you needed to buy at Whole Foods vs HEB, did you post that list somewhere? (I haven’t found a Sprouts yet, although we have a couple of new grocery stores here (Houston). thanks

    • Mel says:

      At this point, I can find everything I need at HEB except coconut aminos and Sunbutter. HEB has grass-fed beef, pastured chicken (Central Market brand), coconut oil, grassfed butter, pastured eggs, alomond butter, all of my regular stuff… I order coconut aminos online and do all my shopping at HEB.

  • Mike Bork says:

    WOW! I made this for my wife and I, who are on the Paleo Fringe, exploring and almost ready to commit.

    Well, I think this has put us over the edge! This was AWESOME! We ate more than we should have, because it was soooo good. Thank you.

    I think I need to get your cookbook.

  • Michelle says:

    I love your cookbook, especially the weekly prep and hot plates. I notice that a lot of your recipes call for coconut milk. Are you talking about the cartons of coconut that is the milk substitute in the dairy section or do you mean canned coconut milk like that used in curries?

    • Mel says:

      I always mean canned coconut milk. The kind in the cartons an contain gross added ingredients. You want canned with coconut and water… if it has guar gum, that’s OK, but it’s best without. Aroy-D is just coconut and water. You can buy it online if you can’t find it in a store. But Thai Kitchen and Whole Foods brands are also pretty good.

  • Izabella says:

    Hi Mel,

    I’m starting the whole30 tomorrow and I’m anxious, nervous and excited! I live in Nome, Alaska so it is very difficult to get fresh vegetables that are ripe, and at a semi-reasonable price (everything is flown/shipped here). I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I am going to have to buy a lot of frozen vegetables, and that my meat fish and eggs are most likely not going to be organic, farm raised, or pastured. The cost of living up here is extremely high.. ie fuel, housing, groceries (especially healthy!). I’m worried about making it through the 30days with any money left. Do you have any tips or advice? I’m moving to Seattle next year so I hope this won’t be a permanent issue for me!


    • Mel says:

      Frozen veggies and fruits are your friends! In many cases, frozen veg and fruit contain more nutrients than the fresh — unless you’re buying from a local farmer — because they’re picked and shipped great distances, which means their nutrition fades. Go for frozen and feel good about it 🙂

      You have access to great fish, right?! Cod, salmon… that should be awesome.

      Regarding meat: if you can’t afford pastured, don’t fret too much. Get the leanest cuts you can and remove excess fat after cooking. The fat is where the impurities of factory-farming are stored. To make up for removing the fat, though, be sure to eat enough coconut oil, avocado, olives, etc to make sure you’re getting adequate fat.

      Once in a while, if you can, splurge on grassfed bones to make some high-quality bone broth and turn it into soup.

      I don’t know much about this site, but it might be helpful to you:

      Robb Wolf’s Paleo on a Budget book is also really, really helpful:

  • Mindable says:

    Hi. My doctor showed me your site earlier today. I have enjoyed reading the posts and look forward to learning more about going Paleo.
    I am allergic to coconut. Do you have any suggestions to subtitutions to the coconut products your have listed in your recipes?
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • Mel says:

      The coconut aminos are a stand-in for soy sauce, since soy is out for paleo eating. For Asian recipes that call for coconut aminos, you can replace with Red Boat Fish Sauce. I recommend Red Boat brand because it doesn’t include any added sugars or mystery ingredients.

      There’s no paleo substitute for coconut milk, unfortunately. I’m not sure what to tell you about recipes that are based around coconut milk.

      For coconut oil, you can use either clarified grassfed butter or pastured lard. For cooking, it’s best to use a saturated fat, rather than olive oil, which can oxidize (bad!) at high cooking temperatures.

      Hope this helps!

  • Marc says:

    Ok, your book, “Well Fed”, is TOTALLY AWESOME! I love love love all the ethnic flare. I had never tried curry anything until I ventured into paleo-land. Now I don’t know how I ever lived without it. Your recipes are great and have brought new life to to my cooking.

    Oh… where do I find “free rage” chicken? And will it make me angry when I eat it?

    • Mel says:

      Thank you! I’m so glad you’re enjoying Well Fed. And nice catch on the free-rage chicken typo — I liked it so much, I left it in.

  • Linda says:

    Mel, I stumbled upon Whole30 last night, ordered their book, and BOTH of your books (such rave reviews!), and am starting tomorrow (sort of eating this way today with what I have on hand). I started eating meat again (after 2 vegan years and 1 vegetarian year), but gave up dairy, sugar, peanuts and wheat in mid-January, so am hoping that giving up the rest of grains and legumes won’t be quite as difficult. I am looking forward to using your cookbooks and appreciate all the great info here until they arrive on Friday. Between you and the Hartwigs, I feel as if my health is in good hands (and boy do I need help!).

    • Mel says:

      You’re going to love “It Starts With Food” — and thank you for buying our cookbooks! I think you’ll like those, too. Lots of great things to eat!

      Welcome back to the carnivore club. Sounds like you’re going to rock your Whole30!

      Keep us posted on how you’re doing!

  • Roni says:

    Melissa, I bought your book and I am on day 10 of my first Whole 30. I love your website and you have so many time saving ideas I really appreciate. I’m struggling a lot though, and this morning I had a lightbulb moment. I am trying to feed three teenage boys and my husband like this as well. I truly believe it’s important. But if you take your list, which looks a lot like mine, and multiply that by 2.5, it is overwhelming to say the least. Six cups of vegetables per person per day, adds up to 30 cups of vegetables every single day! Not to mention the amount of meat three teenage linebackers (I mean boys;-)) can eat. Switching to pastured, gently raised sources… honestly, I can’t keep this up. I feel like I need a staff, not to mention, a separate bank account, just for grocery costs, which are running me about $400 a week at least. I want to feed my family in the best way possible… but I’m feeling tired and somewhat defeated this morning. It’s a shame that eating healthy is so costly and time intensive. (Have you ever tried chopping 30 cups of vegetables a day? ) I sure could use some advice or encouragement. There has to be a better way… I know there are other families out there eating healthy..

  • Roni says:

    Thank you SO much for responding so quickly! Wow.. I visited every one of those links and found so many helpful hints! I imagine it feels like a broken record, doesn’t it? Sticker shock is probably one of the biggest complaints you hear, with time in the kitchen being right up there.:) I appreciate so much that you took the time to encourage and offer some helpful suggestions. I’ll use them all… 10 days down, 20 days to go! I was falling into the negative wagon and you yanked me right back up here on the positive train! lol :)) I owe you one!

  • Tina says:

    I have just come across your website ….through stupid easy paleo. I love that everything you write is so down to earth. I have been in a major paleo rut, and you have given me new inspiration ! I can’t wait to try your recipes on my 13 daughter, who is embracing our new way of life. Looking forward to your book being delivered !

  • Arlene says:

    what can I use instead of coconut? I’m allergic?

  • Beth says:

    Hi, can either of your books be downloaded for the nook?

  • Jill says:

    For those of us just thinking of starting about how much are your groceries costing a week or month? I guess to me it is one more factor in preparing myself.