Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
11 Nov

10 Steps to “Primalize” Your Pantry

The freezer has ice cream and frozen pizzas, but it’s the pantry that harbors the usual carb suspects – chips, cookies, crackers, pasta, cereal and bread galore. If you’re not careful this cool and dark space could derail your best efforts to eat Primally. So follow these 10 easy steps and you’ll be well on your way to having a truly Primal pantry. And be sure to share what’s in your pantry in the comment boards! Are we missing any major Primal staples?

1. Junk Food Extermination


The first step toward Primalizing your pantry is purging it of the wrong foods. You need to approach the contents of your pantry as if you’re a medieval cleric purging the church of heathens. Think dogmatic. Think Spanish Inquisition. As Primal Blueprinters we pride ourselves on being flexible. After all, we got into this lifestyle because we were willing to buck conventional wisdom and consider a vastly different viewpoint to nutrition. Forget all that. Today, if you truly want to Primalize your pantry, you need to toss out every thing that might tempt you to stray from the pure and noble path as ordained by evolution itself. Okay – lofty language aside, going purely Primal means completely avoiding the foods that mar that purity.

Toss your processed foods and prepackaged meals. No more baked beans, bland soups, or loaves of bread collecting mold alongside dry pastas. Get rid of the cookies, crackers, and chips standing in your way. No holds barred, people.

2. Donate

Donate Food

When I say toss out, I mean “toss out of the pantry and in the general direction of a plastic bin or paper bag perfect for delivering to a food bank.” You may be going purely Primal, but tons of needy people don’t have that luxury. You’re worrying about insulin spikes and tallying glycemic indexes while scores of others are worrying about more important things… like hunger. Take a big box, fill it up, and donate it. Try Feeding America to find a local food bank.

3. Nuts/Seeds/Nut Flour

Pantries are the perfect spots for instant snacks. It’s just that most snacks aren’t all that Primal – except for nuts and seeds. Raw almonds, walnuts, macadamias are some fantastic options that will stay fresh for at least a couple months, but they probably won’t last that long. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are some other great options. As with anything, just be sure to watch the flavored varieties. If you’re eating toffee-encrusted chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, you’re not really going Primal.

Nut butter and flours are good to have on hand, too. Almond butter makes a great alternative to peanut butter, and both butters and flours are great Primal sauce thickeners. Nut flour also introduces the possibility of Primal baking – it’s not a perfect replacement for traditional baked goods, but there are unique benefits to cooking with nut flours, like increased heartiness and a different flavor profile.


10 Ways to “Go Nuts”

Smart Fuel: Almonds

Dear Mark: Nuts

4. Healthy Fats

Olive Oil

Keep your pantry well-stocked with olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and various nut oils – all healthy, Primal fats that you’ll be using on a daily basis (assuming you’re cooking every day). Sauteeing meat, frying eggs, making salad dressing mean good, healthy fats are absolutely integral in the Primal Blueprint, and the pantry is the best place to store them. Fat does go rancid, though, so be sure to buy only as much oil as you’ll finish in a month.


The Definitive Guide to Fats

The Tropical Oils

10 Delicious DIY Salad Dressings

5. Sweet Tooth Suppression

Dark Chocolate

We all have a sweet tooth. Sweet stuff tastes good to us because it gets us eating fruit, which in turn spreads the seeds around and profligates the fruits’ reproduction. So it’s normal for us to keep some sweets in the pantry – just don’t go crazy with it and stick to acceptable sources. Honey is good to have on hand, as is semi-sweet dark chocolate (go for a good quality, mostly-cacao chocolate bar, which isn’t all that high in sugar and is decidedly more Primal than, say, a Hershey’s bar).


How to Eat More Chocolate and Drink More Wine Every Day

Is All Chocolate Created Equal?

Sensible Vices: Round 1 and Round 2

6. Tea Time

Green Tea Leaves in Jars

We should limit our caffeine intake, but teas are excellent members of any healthy Primal pantry. Try to stick to the “true” teas: white (best), green (good), oolong (still good), or black (good, but not great). All come from the same plant, but the white and green teas are simply less processed. You know how we feel about over-processing, and the less a tea is processed, the more antioxidant properties are retained. Enjoy tea time, but avoid the cakes and scones you might have enjoyed on your last trip to England.


Dear Mark: To Tea or Not to Tea?

Smart Fuel: Tea

The Good and Bad of Caffeine

7. The Spice of Primal Life


Primal eating often gets the bad rap of being bland and tasteless. While Grok may not have had cumin, coriander, cinnamon, or curry at his disposal, spices are still Primal friendly (and, I would argue, absolutely essential to enjoying life – Primal or otherwise). If you can spare it, devote a shelf in your pantry to your spice collection. It’ll be an expensive initial purchase, but once you’ve gathered a nice arsenal of spices you’ll be set for a long time. There’s nothing worse than getting the urge to make some complex dish and having to run out to the grocery store each time for ingredients.


Top 10 Ingredients that Will Make Your Meals Pop

Homemade Condiment Creations

10 Ways to Reduce Salt

8. Jerky


Again, the key to avoiding temptation is stocking your pantry with instant Primal foods. Keep some jerky on hand – beef, buffalo, salmon, turkey, deer, moose. Even better, make your own jerky so that you get to choose what goes into your body. Keep in mind that most homemade jerky (or quality jerky purchased in a store) is less processed and will therefore go rancid much faster than the stuff you get at the truck stop. I somehow doubt, however, that eating your jerky on time will be a problem.


How to Make Your Own Jerky

Top 10 Meat Questions Meet Answers

Eating Raw Meat

9. Dried Fruits

Dried Fruit Market

We’ve told you to take caution when eating dried fruits before (on account of the high sugar content), but they can’t be ignored when stocking your pantry. Instead of wolfing down an entire bag of dried apricots, though, try making your own trail mix. You’ve got nuts, semi-sweet dark chocolate, and dried fruits all in the same place – mix it all together! That way, you won’t just be eating dried fruit, which is delicious and healthy, but never really fills you up (meaning you’ll just keep eating and eating).


Snack Solution: Primal Alternatives for Non-Primal Snacks

Smart Fuel: Coconut

Smart Fuel: Goji Berries

10. Canned Goods

Canned Tomatoes

You’ve ditched the canned beans and cherry pie filling, but don’t eschew the can altogether. It’s a good format for vegetables, and its convenience simply cannot be ignored. Canned tomatoes are just as good as most fresh tomatoes (sadly, it’s tough to find a good tomato nowadays), and even better for making sauces (don’t forget to keep some tomato paste on hand, too). Canned artichoke hearts, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) and canned coconut milk are also staples to have on hand. We can’t expect to always have the time or inclination to go stock up on fresh produce, and canned vegetables give us the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of vegetables while saving time and money (canned is always cheaper).


Is Canned Soup Really that Bad for You?

Healthy Tastes Great: The Great Pumpkin

3 More Budget Friendly Healthy Food Tips

What about you, readers? What do you keep in your pantries?

Incase Designs, brykmantra, he@rt, tim7423, Claudecf, alau2, storem, sniffette Flickr Photos (CC)

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I really need to go food shopping and you just made it so much easier to create my grocery list! As always, good timing and thanks Mark.

    Lucy wrote on November 11th, 2008
  2. Wow… this sounds scarily like our pantry. We went through and donated all of our “bad” pantry items like pastas and rice to our less fortunate, less dicerning and more hungry extended family members.

    Our pantry now:
    Shredded coconut
    Bulk Almond flour
    Bulk powdered egg whites
    Canned veggetables (tomato paste included)
    Bulk containers of EVO and Coconut oils
    Unsweetened 100% coco (powdered and organic)
    A plethora of canned fish (kippers, sardines, oysters)
    Dried currents
    Homeade Sweet Potato Chips (baked. My wife does this wonderfullly!)

    I can’t help but feel like I am forgetting something but I think that is mostly it.

    Son of Grok wrote on November 11th, 2008
    • That sounds like our pantry too, but a word of caution of the “bulk powdered egg whites”.

      Please be aware that dried/powdered eggs (and powdered milk) are very processed foods that have been treated under very high heat which oxidizes the cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is extremely damaging to the arteries and organs (unlike healthy cholesterol). This is why, among other reasons, skim milk is such a problem- dried milk powder is added in to bulk it up. Liquid eggs are the same. Processed food contains a lot of these dried food ingredients and thus oxidized cholesterol.

      Just FYI…

      Amy wrote on August 3rd, 2010
    • Homeade Sweet Potato Chips (baked. My wife does this wonderfullly!) This sounds great. Can you share the recipe? Thanks.

      Searider wrote on January 11th, 2011
  3. How do you feel about Yerba Mate tea? Where does it stand in relation to white, green, and black in your opinion?

    Emily wrote on November 11th, 2008
  4. So I’m wondering when you are going to get going on that primal cook book. Please tell me there is one in the works.

    Sakkis wrote on November 11th, 2008
  5. What a helpful post! Thanks for the practical tips! I’ve been meaning to “take it to the next step,” so to speak. This is great motivation.

    Jen wrote on November 11th, 2008
  6. How about condiments? My cabinet includes steak rubs, steak sauces, horseradish, some more steak sauce, and old bay. Which I put on my steak.

    Steve wrote on November 11th, 2008
  7. Sakkis –

    The Primal Cookbook is in the works, but it is taking a back seat at the moment to The Primal Blueprint. I hope to have both out soon!

    Mark Sisson

    (P.S. I’m working on a companion workbook to the PB, too.)

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 11th, 2008
  8. Mark,

    Amen to the beef jerky and dried fruit!! I’m a big on these two as they are portable, they don’t need to be refrigerated and, well, they’re just awesome!

    Thanks for the post

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on November 11th, 2008
  9. OMG I just bought the best dried organic, totally unsweetened, pineapple today!!

    sarena wrote on November 11th, 2008
  10. Sarena, I totally dig dried pineapple…but be careful because 3 1/2 ounces (which is easy to eat in a short time) has about 65 grams of carbs, mostly as fruit sugar. That’s why we like mixing dried fruit up with nuts etc.

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 11th, 2008
  11. Mark, thank you so much for this ten-step program. I’ve been half-heartedly moving towards Primal living for a few months, now (actually prior to discovering your blog, after reading _Ishmael_), but I’ve been unwilling to commit to it completely (and I admit it’s at least partly because I’m an endurance sports blogger, and I don’t plan to give that up).

    But this list makes it seem practical, achievable, and tasty. Great post.

    Jamie wrote on November 11th, 2008
  12. Also linking to this article to go along with my eating as “part of the world” series :-)

    Jamie wrote on November 11th, 2008
  13. My pantry here @ home goes like this: almond oil, red pepper, sea salt, mustard, pure ground cinnamon, green tea, almonds, pecans, cashews, cashew butter, almond butter, raisins, plain oatmeal, honey, V-8, i love dark chocolate, but don’t keep it on hand, i just eat it once in a while. I love macadamia nuts but that’s toxic to dogs, and i don’t want to chance my ShihTzu getting into it so i choose not to buy that. And last but not least (always save the best for last ya know) Damage Control Master Formula!!!

    Donna wrote on November 11th, 2008
  14. Chocolate…really?

    Dr Dan wrote on November 11th, 2008
  15. Fantastic shopping advice!

    Earth Beauty wrote on November 11th, 2008
  16. I love the idea of improving my spice collection. Due to the expense, I am wondering if there are certain spices, brands, methods of storage etc. that will help me maximize the benefits? I suspect many spices lose their flavor intensity over time. A local small grocer stocks many spices already ground, in small containers, MUCH cheaper than the traditional brands in other stores. Is there a catch? Quality or otherwise??? If I get this down, THEN I can worry about learning to actually use the spices effectively. Thanks for a great post!

    Rodney wrote on November 11th, 2008
  17. Great article.

    I think a lot of people would be much better off if they cleaned out their pantry and went to a more primal form of eating.

    Keep up the good posts!


    Justin wrote on November 11th, 2008
  18. Thanks for the list Mark. I’m still quite a way off a full on primal pantry but I am doing a few of the things on your list.

    Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips wrote on November 11th, 2008
  19. SO INTERESTING TO ME as I often think ‘Im not really primal’ but in reading this I am.

    farfar more than Id thought.

    even after my weekend :)

    MizFit wrote on November 12th, 2008
  20. Mark, boy do I know that about the pineapple and sugar. Thats why I ate it with almonds. And I far overdid it too!!

    sarena wrote on November 12th, 2008
  21. sarena,
    I can’t eat dried pineapple. It is TOO sweet for me.

    Son of Grok wrote on November 12th, 2008
  22. I absolutely love pineapple, fresh and dried. Mixing it up with other stuff i won’t eat as much. Fresh-i like it w/a little non-sweet coconut and 1/2 small banana. Dried-I mix it with a little raisins and nuts. I also like dried apricots, but i eat “very little” of that-gotta watch it.

    Donna wrote on November 12th, 2008
  23. Dr. Dan,
    Oh yes, 70% dark chocolate is O.K. to have, so little sugar, try some!

    Donna wrote on November 12th, 2008
    • Lindt 90%… even better!

      notivuga against the grains wrote on November 3rd, 2010
  24. Rodney,
    For spices hit your local farmers market.
    You’ll find great deals and great selection.

    The downside of the empty pantry… makes it hard to hide the yummy chocolate from the rest of the household 😉

    Great post as always Mark.


    Marc Feel Good Eating wrote on November 12th, 2008
  25. Emily – Great question about Yerba Mate. I’ll see if we can devote a post to it in the near future. Thanks for reading!

    Aaron wrote on November 12th, 2008
  26. Son of Grok: if you could post the recipe for the sweet potato chips your wife makes, I’d be eternally grateful!

    Kelley wrote on November 12th, 2008
  27. Son of Grok… you need to just start your own blog bro! The people have spoken, they want your recipes!! And I for one would definitely tune in daily to read it.

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on November 12th, 2008
  28. Nice article Mark. A couple years back (after having already been a Personal Trainer/Health Coach for many years at the time) I realised that I was not leading a very good example. While I ate well for my ‘main’ meals, my pantry was just about junk-filled enough for me to open some kind of chocolate store out of it. If any of my clients had have seen it they would have been horrified!
    These days one of my rules (for clients as well as self!) is to pretty much avoid supermarket shopping, but if you’re in a really hurry and can’t get to a farmers market, then at least avoid the inside aisles of the supermarket … there lies temptation!
    * Love the recipe for making your own jerky, have not seen that before. Thank-you!

    Kat wrote on November 12th, 2008
  29. Andrew,

    I know.. I have been putting it off for too long. Fulltime professional career, full time student and building another business from the ground up. All while staying on top of my health and fitness and still entertaining my family. I am just so busy. But I will hunker down and try to get started on a personal blog this week for recipes and what have you.

    I will make the sweet potato chips one of my first recipes once the blog is up!

    Son of Grok wrote on November 14th, 2008
  30. This is fantastic! I already do almost everything you have listed. Amazing. I always felt pretty good about the way I treat my body, but this confirms it.

    stemulite wrote on November 15th, 2008
  31. Are you concerned about the bisphenol-a in canned tomatoes (more likely with acidic foods) or are you buying glass or is your consumption so low (x cans/month) that you’re not worried?

    wflnc wrote on November 16th, 2008
  32. There is no bisphenol in the brand Eden. They are great!

    mary johnson wrote on November 16th, 2008

    GIGI wrote on November 16th, 2008
  34. Kelley,

    I posted the sweet potato chip recipe on my site! Check it out if you get the chance.

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on November 20th, 2008
  35. Excellent! Thanks, SoG!

    Kelley wrote on November 20th, 2008
  36. I hate to say it but I have to argue with you about the food pantry. Please *don’t.* They already get overloaded with carby food. My diabetic mother gets carby food from a food pantry. It doesn’t do any good to assuage hunger if you’re eating something that will destroy your eyes, kidneys, and legs. You might as well starve, it’s easier on your body. And your blood sugar will even out towards the end.

    When I was pregnant with my younger child I was on the outs with her dad. His entire household (he had lots of roommates) decided to do South Beach. Guess who got the carbs they threw out. By the time I got through all that crap my ankles looked like inner tubes. I was severely protein-deprived (WIC does not cover this–WIC, in fact, should be thrown into a trash can, doused in gasoline, and set on fire) and had already had to have repeat GTTs because my first one had indicated borderline diabetes. It wasn’t until I got my hands on some meat and started taking B vitamins that my ankles got better. I shudder to think I might have wound up with toxemia.

    Malnutrition exacerbates some of the conditions leading to or sustaining poverty. If you’re going to donate to a food pantry then donate things like canned meats and canned veggies and coconut oil. Please. This isn’t about luxury versus necessity. If y’all didn’t think paleo eating was a necessity, you presumably wouldn’t be doing it.

    I might have saved my daughter her early kidney and urinary problems had I been able to eat right all through my pregnancy. Studies have shown that violent behavior typical of the so-called “underclasses” is often caused by various B vitamin deficiencies. People who are depressed are often also deficient in something. Without help from the private sector, poor people are at the mercy of a government which is still preaching low-fat/low-cal/high-grain. Our social ills will not improve as long as this continues.

    Dana wrote on April 5th, 2009
  37. Thank you, Dana, for your remarks. My family would qualify for “assistance” from local food banks/pantries, and food stamps, but most of their food is, as you said, high carb junk, and food stamps cannot be used any place where you could find healthy food. So we don’t even try to get them. What can the poverty-stricken do to eat better when much of it is so cost-prohibitive. We try to get by on what we CAN afford. It is difficult to carry the knowledge that coconut oil would help me with my diabetes and hypothyroidism but we don’t have the means to get it. After almost three years off my insulin/meds trying unsuccessfully to control things with my diet, I’ve finally just gone back to a clinic and started back on my meds. It’s free! And it’s bringing my blood sugar back to normal, hopefully not too late, because I’m now about to be blind from such high blood sugar for so long. I know, I don’t expect coconut oil, etc. to be free, but it sounds a little snobbish to me to say things like “let the hungry have the carby stuff, they’ll appreciate it”.

    Sorry, I know this isn’t the place to spout off, but that comment just got me started. Time was, when only the wealthy could afford “Junk food”, the poor ate the wholesome stuff. How times have changed!

    Naomi wrote on April 21st, 2009

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!