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. Naomi…. what??? I know people who use food stamps and you can buy any food item in almost any grocery store. You’re local store may not carry grass fed beef…but they sure as heck carry other good cuts of meat. My local store carries coconut oil,walnut oil, etc… and what about all the vegetables and fruits you could be buying?? Since you wouldn’t be wasting your money on chips, soda, and junk, you would have plenty of money to buy some decent food. Heck,our local butcher accepts food stamps, and his chicken is, although not technically organic, free-range. You could also buy omega 3 enhanced eggs, not to mention basic items liked canned tomatoes,frozen vegetables, and lots of raw nuts.

    Marie wrote on September 27th, 2009
    • I also use food stamps and you can get better quality food i have found switching to this diet! I recently switched my family over but prior i had been buying primal for me and junk for them and still was able to get by with what was available at the local grocery store.. and even some health food stores will take them too :) so no you don’t have acess to the best stuff.. but the options have gotten way better in the last ten years to make it possible to get good food even though you are low income

      Daniellle wrote on June 4th, 2010
  2. I’ve been eating organic peanut butter with my bananas and apples, should I swicth to almond butter? trying to eat right, have been primalfor almost two weeks and loving it!

    Dan Lange wrote on November 16th, 2009
  3. Do NOT eat peanut butter!! Full of mycotoxins! Almond butter is great! Check out the Phase Eating Plans on Mark Sisson has been on here numerous times!!!!

    mary johnson wrote on November 17th, 2009
  4. Canned may be cheaper than fresh but it’s not at all sustainable. If you live in an area where you can get fresh over canned, I would suggest doing so.

    judy wrote on July 15th, 2010
  5. Good article Mark. One thing you seemed to leave is organic butter and cheese. I know for me when I need a quick snack a lump of raw cheese and some raw onion are great. Be lost without it. Plenty of healthy saturated fat which is vital for cellular strength. Fantastic energy food also.

    pat wrote on September 16th, 2010
  6. So what are the feelings on home canned items?

    Tiffany wrote on December 6th, 2010
    • If its is canned it definitely NOT FRESh..dont have a good feeling about must have some artificial substance to keep it “canned” not like cave man ate, right?

      Flavia wrote on December 6th, 2010
      • Or, it’s in a sealed environment with bacteria removed so it doesn’t spoil. You know. Pasteurization? Not all canned food is created equal though. Tomatoes are helped along by the heating process, as are others high in lycopene. But many nutrients are destroyed by high heat.

        Jes wrote on December 10th, 2010
  7. Hello Mark!

    I love these suggestions and for the past 8-9 years have eaten this way. One question though, what is wrong with dried beans? I see at the top of this page to raid the pantry and throw many things out. Then there is a picture of items being thrown out which includes a couple bags of dried beans. What would be the issue with these?

    Tara wrote on January 17th, 2011
  8. I am 8 months in and I still have not completely cleaned out my pantry. I just ignore most of the stocked items in there. I did however figure out that I could get rid of my freezer. I emptied it of all the giant Costco quick ready meals, and other various frozen foods. It’s basically empty except for ice and a couple of things for the clones (aka children). I shop every 3-4 days and make completely fresh meals. Except for some canned tomatoes and gluten free meat stocks, I am not sure the last time I used anything else from my pantry. Spice cabinet, yes, oils and fats and vinegars, yes, but those are all kept separate from the pantry itself. I think I have a project on my hands this weekend.

    Britters wrote on March 31st, 2011
  9. I love your articles but the reference to being tough on the heathens like in the Inquisition reeked of racialism and anti semtisim. Seemed out of place

    Melanie wrote on May 20th, 2011
  10. Thought going primal would take a lot more out of my foodie enjoyment. Quite the contrary, as I sit enjoying a few figs, almonds and unsweetened banana chips for lunch. I do miss my bread from time to time but have begun experimenting with Primal Baking.

    I did get home from a long business trip, however, to find that there are still a few culprits in the freezer. So what better reason to go buy some 10K Villages Dark Chocolate than a cleaning of the pints of regret. And if you really want a treat, we have Vosges Bacon Dark Chocolate Bars in Chicago (

    Thanks for the list — really helps focus the shopping.

    Cruser wrote on June 24th, 2011
  11. Great article. It is unfortunate that over the last decade, the travel industry has had to tackle terrorism, SARS, tsunamis, flu virus, swine flu, and the first ever real global economic collapse. Through everthing the industry has really proven to be solid, resilient along with dynamic, obtaining new strategies to deal with trouble. There are constantly fresh difficulties and opportunities to which the market must yet again adapt and behave.

    sexshop wrote on September 12th, 2011
  12. OK, that does it! Thanks to Mark’s observations on the Primal Diet, it now appears that I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the chapter on meat consumption in my just-released book (Amazon) “An Operations Manual For Humankind.” Problem is, dang it anyhow, Mark makes sense!

    I, myself, only rarely eat ‘cow meat’ and only then if it is both grass fed and grass finished. It’s hard to find THAT in your local supermarket butchery dept.

    Thanks for doing such a great job of helping to change minds (and habits.)


    Patrick Robinson wrote on October 13th, 2011
  13. Not to be a downer, but I’d like to point out that canned tomatoes have BPA in the cans. (You can buy almost anything else in BPA-free cans if you look hard, but not tomatoes.) However, Romi tomatoes in the aseptic packaging does not contain BPA (from what I have read). If you eat them only occasionally, not a big deal, but if you eat them frequently or eat a lot of canned goods, you should seek out BPA-free items.

    Fiona wrote on November 17th, 2011
  14. I don’t remember who had the question about storing spices; but if you buy spices in their whole, unground form, they keep and maintain their flavor for years! They taste so much better, and retain more antioxidants and such. A coffee grinder makes a great spice grinder, and you can grind small amounts and store them in an air-tight container for up to a month without any flavor loss.

    Megan Tidball wrote on April 2nd, 2012
  15. Canned tomatoes (and any other canned acidic fruits/veg) have really high rates of BPA in them. We’ve stopped using canned tomatoes where possible because of the BPA. We have a male toddler, and one of the problems with BPA is hormonal/endocrine disrupter. We try to use tomotoes in the “tetrapaks” instead – like Pomi brand.

    E wrote on June 6th, 2012
  16. I have just started all this and am excited to think of all the space I will have in my pantry when I can get the rest of my crew on board. I was trying to figure out what to do with all the grains in there. We have very little processed foods, but we have every grain imaginable. Thanks for the tips.

    Kimberly wrote on June 9th, 2012
  17. metals cans are lined with BPA. buy your own or grow your own vegies and can them in jars. the lids have BPA on them as well, but lids without bpa can be purchased from the same as the BPA lids. do not forget that receipts from stores also have BPA on them.

    favorite snack organic raw nuts, dark chocolate nibs self-dried organic fruits melted together and cooled. only once a week or eaten not with other things because of the phytic acid. very tasty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    dana pallessen wrote on October 29th, 2012
  18. you stated… “You may be going purely Primal, but tons of needy people don’t have that luxury.” Isn’t it a shame that “going primal” is considered a luxury? Were not our primal ancestors “needy”?

    bobbycheetah wrote on December 28th, 2012
  19. Hllo Mark in regards to canned products, cuple questions regarding “good buys” Olives?, Hearts of Palm? Roasted Peppers? Capers? Anchovies? I appreciate the feedback thanks. GT

    Greg Thomas wrote on January 15th, 2013
  20. Mark,

    You are always on point.

    Matt wrote on July 11th, 2013

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