Action Item #2: Shop, Cook, and Dine Primally

Now, the real changes begin. You’ve purged the SAD foods from your life, and now your fridge, freezer, and pantry are empty, your pans and pots are gleaming and ready, and the menus at your favorite restaurants appear off limits. You know what not to eat, and the Primal Blueprint Shopping List shows you what you should be eating, but what’s next? How do you apply your newfound knowledge? How and where should you shop? Once you’re well-stocked, how do you begin to cook Primally? What equipment do you use and where do you get the proper recipes? And when you’re eating out, how do you make good choices? What do you tell the waiters? How do you navigate the nutritional minefield that is the modern restaurant menu? If it seems overwhelming, it’s really not.

Here: let me show you.


Since most of you will not be hunting and gathering your own food, you’ll be forced to do some shopping. Let’s explore where to shop and how to do it.

Where to Shop

First, go local. The closer you are to where your food is grown, raised, picked, caught, and/or slaughtered, the less time in transit it will take reaching you. Especially in the case of fruits and vegetables, with a few exceptions, nutritional content begins to wane as soon as it’s plucked from the plant or ground. Tomatoes shipped from Chile will taste worse and contain fewer nutrients than tomatoes grown ten miles from your city, every single time. Spinach leaves sitting in a big plastic tub in the deep dark confines of a Costco freezer for two weeks will be less nutritious than the mud-speckled spinach offered up by the gruff farmer from the next county over, no matter how crisp and green and triple-washed the Costco leaves appear. When it comes to food, time is nutrition.

In the case of animal products, staying local means you can look the guy or gal who raised the animal whose remains (or whose eggs or dairy) you’re going to be consuming in the eye and learn about the food you’re paying good money for. Were the pigs pastured? Were the cows grass-fed? Were the hazelnuts that the chickens ate grown locally? Plus, by giving money directly to the farmer, you’re taking the place of the Whole Foods or whatever other specialty grocer who’d subsequently jack up the price; you’re cutting out the middleman, or at least one of them, and saving some money in the process.

“Eating local” sounds hard, but with today’s bountiful, annual harvest of farmer’s markets, it’s getting easier and easier:

To find a farmer’s market (or wholesaler, CSA, farm, grocery/co-op, or meat processor) near you, the best directory appears to be Local Harvest. Simply type in your zip code and see what comes up. There’s also Eat Wild, a directory of farms willing to sell directly to the public. You could also use Yelp to search for “farmer’s markets” or “CSA”s in your area, or search for a Slow Food USA chapter near you (Slow Food International is also worth a look). And finally, I’ve happened across great “pastured eggs” and “raw goat milk” just by typing those terms into a Craigslist search. These were local-as-can-be farmers whose products weren’t available at farmer’s markets or anywhere else. They sold to and traded with their neighbors and turned to Craigslist after running a surplus. Since Craigslist doesn’t receive a fee or a cut of the profits, these are often even better deals than the farmer’s markets.

If there’s truly nothing local nearby, the grocery store will do. Whole Foods is the premier national chain of organic, whole foods (duh) grocery stores; check their list of stores to find one near you. Contrary to popular belief, Whole Foods does not have to be “Whole Paycheck,” so long as you stick to the perimeter of the stores – produce, meat, dairy, eggs, bulk bins – and avoid the inner aisles where most products are, admittedly, insanely overpriced. Trader Joe’s is another promising option whose presence is expanding across the United States. Traditional grocery stores, while unlikely to offer much in the way of pastured meat and local produce, are also fine choices with plenty of real Primal fare on hand; just stick to the perimeter as always.

Consider getting a membership to a big box store like Costco. More and more, I’m finding that Costco is catching on to the demands of a health conscious consumer base and offering organic produce, meat, and other Primal-friendly products. I’ve even heard tell of big tubs of extra virgin coconut oil showing up in select Costcos!

If brick and mortar stores just aren’t providing what you need, check out my list of Primal Resources for online retailers that ship anywhere and everywhere.

How to Shop

These are my tips for making your shopping trips bountiful and fruitful.

  • Once you’re at the grocery store/farmer’s market/CSA selection page/online order form, draw from the Primal Blueprint Shopping List when deciding what to get.
  • Get to know the meat/fish/egg guy. Whether it’s the lanky beanpole severing salmon heads and filleting halibut at the Whole Foods fish counter or the woman slinging grass-fed beef and pastured eggs at the far corner of the farmer’s market, if you develop a strong relationship with whomever represents a direct conduit to the untold delights of delicious animals, you will benefit. You’ll get deals, you’ll get specials, you’ll get your favorite cuts saved for you, you’ll get extras tossed in for free.
  • Embrace frozen meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit. Freezing food shortly after harvest actually preserves the nutrient content quite effectively, so it’s often the case that the frozen spinach is more nutritious than the “fresh” spinach that was picked last week.
  • Look for deals and stock up when they present themselves.

If it’s not a grain, legume, vegetable oil, or refined sugar-containing item, you’re essentially good to go. You’re really not limited on this way of eating, when you really think about the vast number of real food available to humans nowadays.

Meal Preparation

Cooking is easy, especially when you start with great ingredients. So, before you even begin to think about turning on that burner, get your workspace in order. My suggestions:

  • Ditch the non-stick cookware and get a good cast iron pan and some stainless steel cookware – pots, pans, skillets, and roasting pans.
  • Grab a crockpot (for easy meals you can start in the morning and forget about til you get home), a stockpot with a steamer addition (for making broth and steaming veggies), and a Dutch oven (for braising tougher cuts of meat).
  • Grab some glass snapware and ziploc bags for food storage and easy transport.
  • Consider a blender.
  • Consider a standalone freezer, which allows you to buy quality food in bulk and save it for later.
  • Assemble an arsenal of salts, peppers, spices, herbs, and other “supplementary foods” to provide culinary variety and health benefits: cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, ginger, garlic, dill, rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon/lime, to name several.
  • Gather your cooking and salad fats. I recommend coconut oil, at least one type of animal fat (I like grass-fed butter or tallow), and a bottle of good extra virgin olive oil. Palm oil (from sustainable outfits that don’t murder orangutans; since it has no orangutans, Nigerian palm oil is said to be a better choice than Sumatran or Bornean palm oil, if you can find it) is another worthwhile one.
  • Get some good Primal cookbooks. This one guy has a couple decent ones that I’d definitely recommend, and you could always sign up for the free newsletter for free access to two user-created cookbooks.
  • Google “Primal recipes” for the dozens of recipe sites out there pumping out delicious food every week.
  • Pick five favorite staple recipes. Make them your go-to meals that you can whip up without much trouble, without thinking too hard, and without pulling out a lot of ingredients and kitchen implements. Rotate recipes in and out as you please, but always have a solid quintet at your behest.
  • Learn to cook a steak.
  • Learn to hard boil an egg (for softer yolks, drop the time with the lid on to 7 or 8 minutes).

Dining Out

I admit – this may be the trickiest part of going Primal. You’re at the mercy of what the establishment deigns to offer. You have to hope the server or cashier understands the difference between “real butter” and “butter-flavored soybean oil shmear.” You’ve gotta count on the head chef actually listening to and honoring your requests. You have to be prepared to possibly pay a little extra to get what you really want. But it can be done. And in time, you’ll become truly adept at making it out of almost any restaurant without a stomachache.

First, you have to realize that some places are simply not going to work out very well. The hot wing spot, the Chinese buffet, the pizza joint – these are not easy places to find Primal food. Prepare yourself to eat a lot of salads.

But this just means you’ll have to branch out and try new types of food. Greek, Persian, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, soul, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Brazilian, Caribbean, and dozens of other cuisines await you.

My favorite strategies for assuring the food I eat is Primal-friendly, wherever I am:

  • Stick to “grilled”  and “steamed” over “sauteed” or “stir-fried.” Grilled usually refers to open flame and little else and steamed tends to mean just heated water vapor, while the other terms generally involve the use of copious amounts of vegetable oil.
  • Build your meals around protein and vegetables.
  • Ask that your food be cooked in “real butter” or olive oil. You have to say “real butter,” because oftentimes what passes for butter is a butter-flavored abomination. I’ve been in breakfast joints where they had “no real butter on the premises.” Madness, I know.
  • Get your burger “protein style,” or wrapped in lettuce, or atop a garden salad. More and more places are catching on, so this likely won’t be an outlandish request.
  • Go for lamb when possible. It’s the most likely meat to be grass-fed in your standard restaurants, doubly so if they use New Zealand lamb, which is always grass-fed.
  • Be firm and resolute when asking for modifications or making special requests. Sure, the waiter at the Vietnamese pho place might not quite understand why you don’t want the noodles in your bowl of broth and beef parts, but that’s okay. Don’t feel weird or like you’re imposing; after all, you’re paying them!

This may seem like a lot to take in all at once. When you think about it, though, you don’t have to do all this right away. You can keep referring back to this post as you make your way along the Primal path, buying a crockpot here, a spice there, and trying a dining out strategy one at a time. Just realize that even if you don’t immediately enact all these changes right away (which is frankly impossible or improbable for most), any changes you do make will be positive ones that get you that much closer to where you’re going. Most of all, I just want you to know that you’re not alone and this really is possible.

Thanks for reading, folks, and be sure to chime in with your successful strategies for shopping, cooking, and dining out. Hope your challenge is going well!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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96 thoughts on “Action Item #2: Shop, Cook, and Dine Primally”

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  1. Any tips for college kids about this kind of stuff? It is hard for some of us to buy more expensive stuff and even to have the time to cook it. Anybody have any good tips?

    1. Get a crockpot… fill it with good stuff in the morning… makes food for a while (day or two?)… electric griddle and even a george foreman grill (pour the fat back on it)…

      1. My crockpot has been sitting in a cupboard for the last 8 years. I find that it sweats too much of the juices out of meats, leaving them tasteless. That’s just my view.

        1. A crockpot is essentially just a stand-alone braising pot. If you’r doing large cuts of meat (like a pork shoulder) or smaller pieces (like beef stew), the meat’s only going to be as flavorful as the sauce. You still have to brown the meat in a pan first, otherwise you don’t get the flavor advantages of the browned meat. And like braising, the meat is going to give up juices – up to a point. Once the connective tissues have broken down, the juices re-absorb into the meat, along with all the flavor you’ve added to the sauce (garlic, onions, celery, carrots, herbs, and spices). Once the meat is done, you can move the sauce to a pan to cook it down and concentrate the flavors, using a little butter for additional thickening.

      2. Tougher cuts of meat are cheaper than expensice cuts if you are going to use a slow cooker or a braise to cook them. What are tough cuts of meat? Think work muscles on an animal. Rump, shoulders, legs, etc. Versus muscles not readily used (around the spine and gut).

        Offals are really cheap and often casted aside.

        1. Max,
          We use the cheapest cuts of meat in the crock pot. The slow cooking tenderizes everything. I suggest you use your favorite seasonings; ours are salt, pepper, onion or garlic seasoning. Paprika and tumeric stain the buttered chicken breast so it looks like it’s been braised. I always throw in onions, garlic, celery, carrots.
          Often, I will braise the pieces after they’ve cooked to put a good “bark” on the meat. I always save the broth and bones to make a soup for later meals. Add in any leftovers you have (Or Must Gos…things that are on their last leg of freshness – Spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, etc.) My husband jokes that my soups are delicious but can never be duplicated. A five dollar chicken can be the basis for a weeks worth of meals with very little work or prep. Now, go do your homework. ;D

    2. Get a crockpot… fill it with good stuff in the morning and turn it on low to cook for the day… makes food for a while (day or two?)… electric griddle and even a george foreman grill (pour the fat back on it)…

    3. Two things: organic and grass fed are preferred, but not required. If you don’t have the $$ for that stuff, go with standard meats from a reliable grocery store. As long as you’re sticking with meats and veggies, even the conventional stuff will beat the SAD. Organic meat is an occasional splurge for my household, but that doesn’t seem to be holding us back from fantastic health, at all.
      Next, take a look at Melissa Joulwan’s blog, The Clothes Make the Girl. She does a weekly cook-up that makes weekday meals a BREEZE. You just pick some meat, and 2 cups of veggies a meal, heat, season and eat. Fantastic. The weeks that I do this (about 1-2 hrs on a Sunday, to get a week’s worth of meals for 2 adults prepped), my husband and I SAIL through our Primal/Paleo eating goals. Worth every second of prep time.
      Oh, and buy a julienne peeler. I use zucchini “noodles” whenever spaghetti squash is listed in a recipe. Zucchini is CHEAP where I live, vs spaghetti squash, which is surprisingly expensive.
      Good luck!

      1. Oooh! Second the crock pot and Foreman Grill idea. I had one of those in college in the late 90s and it was amazing. I can’t imagine how much I’d love it, nowadays, if I was trying to eat Primal in college! As for the crock pot, I love mine sooo much…esp now that the temps are dropping and soups and stews might start showing up on our menus again! Yum!

        1. Julie, you’ll want to blanch it in hot water, or stir-fry it in butter, for only a few minutes. Since it’s so thinly sliced it won’t take long and you don’t want to cook all the nutrition out of it.

      2. How do you “cook” your zucchini for spaghetti. I have heard so much about spaghetti squash but have an over abundance of zucchini from my garden. I have made zucchini lasagna…which is amazing.

        1. Julie, you’ll want to blanch it in hot water, or stir-fry it in butter, for only a few minutes. Since it’s so thinly sliced it won’t take long and you don’t want to cook all the nutrition out of it.

        2. I don’t cook it. I toss it in at the end with my sauce and meat and this warms it up enough. If you cook them too much they will start to break down and get soggy

      3. +1 on the zucchini noodles. the peeler also makes fabulous carrot and cucumber noodles!

        1. So, is the julienne peeler the only way to go, then? I have a Cuisinart and was hoping I could use that…

    4. I think in college, or while deployed overseas, you have to “forage.” Is there a cafeteria or mess hall? For breakfast, they almost always have hard boiled eggs and a salad bar at lunch and dinner. Might not be exciting and diverse, but will fit the bill and keep you closer to the 80/20 split. It’s also usually comparatively expensive, and saves you the prep time. I’ve also looked for places having specials on wings…happy hours!…just try to choose the wings with the least amount of sauce (a lot of “hot” sauce and BBQ sauces have LOADS of sugar). I’ve also done something like buying a rotisserie chicken on a Friday night, and pick away at that thing over a whole weekend.

      For snacks, it’s hard to go wrong with thinks like kipper snacks, oysters, or tuna; just pick the ones packed in water if you can. I always keep a pack or two of tuna (packs, not cans) on hand; they easily slip into a rucksack or messenger bag. For your fats, you’ll have to look for sales…almonds and avocados can be pricey.

      However, if you’re not living in a dorm but an apartment or house (even with roommates) you might find that buying primal is actually quite a bit cheaper…cause you save a ton of money not buying junk (and, I hate to say it, $$$ spent on beer and cover charges for a bar is $$$ that could be going towards good food).

      If all you can afford is “regular” beef instead of grass-fed, fine. Don’t let it get you off your game. And if you’re close to a farm/the country/etc, you might be able to work out a deal trading labor – work for the farmer in return for eggs, a side of beef, etc. Not to mention doing work on a farm (ever driven fence post with a sledge hammer???) is super good “primal” PT!

      1. Chicken parts are also a cheap way to eat good, fun food. I used to make my own oven-baked wings that were better than most restaurant hot wings (which, in addition to the sugar in the sauces and rubs, are probably deep-fried in partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil). Thighs and drumsticks are also very cheap and taste better than the white meat. Great for grilling, oven-roasting, or in a quick stir-fry.

    5. I replace a lot of meat with eggs, which works out much less expensively. You can boil em up fast and take em with you for snacks. They scramble well with lots of tasty veggies chopped small. If I’m really in a rush, I fill a thermos-travel-mug with vanilla protein powder, hot water and coconut oil. Tasty hot drink on the go!

      Man, it sucks being skint, though. Have you come up with any fast/cheap primal strategies?

    6. Agree with the others about the crockpot: it is a time saver, you either leave it overnight or leave it in the morning and when you come back the delicious smell of whatever you cooked welcomes you home!
      Many a meatloaf we have made at home with ours .We have several, the last addition was a triple one. On one day you could cook chicken, pork, liver and save it for the whole week!

    7. Baby rice cookers are usually around $20, I got mine at a drugstore.

      I have yet to try frying an egg in one, but most should get hot enough to boil or poach an egg.

      They’re great for heating up wet leftovers. Frozen veggies also do better with conduction heat than microwaves.

      The advantage over using a hotplate is that if you forget about it, you end up with a slightly scorched mess instead of a half-carbonized mess.

    8. Focus on recipes that you can reheat later. You can make a family size portion of some meals and eat on that throughout the week. I use to make two big meals to feed me for a week. Roasted whole chicken can be dinner as is one night, a quick chicken salad for lunch, used to top a regular salad and then you have the bones to make broth with.

    9. Get some “two-buck-chuck” from Trader Joes (that’s wine, btw) to cook the meat in your slow cooker and you can’t wrong. Make Marks’s Beef Burgundy. Yum!

    10. As someone who is in college (grad student though) I can’t help but agree with the suggestion of using offal. Sometimes I’ve found Lamb Liver from a farmer I trust for less than $2 a pound.

      Shopping around is also another trick you will have to pull off. Sometimes you’ll find organic produce cheaper at the regular supermarket rather than WF or TJ’s. Yes, it might make grocery shopping a hassle but if the savings outwin the gas spenditure (or if you have a bus pass) then it’s a good strategy.

    11. Your in college, don’t worry about it , just load up on the good stuff when you can and don’t worry the rest of the time.

    12. Crockpots are indeed your friend. 🙂 Buy the cheapest cuts of meat, and if you can’t afford grass fed don’t sweat it too much. It beats the heck out of grains! Try tinned salmon over salad when you need some good omega 3’d.

    13. Another shout-out for the CrockPot and the George Foreman grill. I never had a CrockPot in college, but my stinking little George Foreman with the broken bun-warmer lid (not that you’ll need it) saved my life. It was the fastest way to cook up a good hunk of meat. Sometimes I still wish I had one!

      1. We used the George Foreman to cook grass-fed beef because we ran out of gas for the grill… but instead of tossing the fat, we poured it back over the burger in the end. We paid a lot for that tasty, nutritious grass-fed fat!

    14. Max:

      I have a few ideas:

      1) Omelettes are yummy, cheap, and transportable, If you’re not so good at making them, there are lots of videos online to show you the basic techniques. To take one along with you, wrap it in parchment paper and again in tin foil – that’ll give you a little flat thing to tuck in your book bag. (The parchment paper will absorb excess moisture and keep the tin taste away.)

      2) Buy the highest quality ground meat you can afford (bison is especially great). Mix into it (with your hands) dried cumin, ginger, tumeric, and cilantro. Press it into a loaf pan and bake it. Play around with amounts and baking times. It’s hard to screw this up. Slice it and enjoy. It’s easily transportable too. Wrap some as in #1 above.

      3) See if you can find “Bubbie’s” brand of sauerkraut. It’s in the fridge section of health food stores and some other markets. You can eat it right out of the jar if you want. It’s yummy, really good for you, and needs no prep. It’s a top quality food in a jar.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions. Happy to help.


      P.S. An omelete, wrapped as described above, will keep in the fridge for a few days. You could make a 6 egg omelette, cut it in half, eat one of the halves right then, and store the other half to take with you for lunch – that day or the next day.

  2. See if your school has some type of gardening club, join it, and request that they get primal friendly plant seeds. The price tag of even the most expensive forms of produce (i.e. heirloom varieties) goes down signifigantly when you have to grow it. It’s also a good way to get involved on campus and get possible community/campus sercice hours(my school requires 80 hours of service for the time you are there to graduate and I am already 1/10th of the way there thanks to the gardening club). Also it is possible to cook up big batches of basic stuff (sweet potatoes, simple stir fry, chicken, etc.) and spice it up by simply adding things like different salsas and spice mixes to chunks of it as you reheat them. Fianlly to save money on spices try going to Indian or Asian Grocery stores (just type Indian Grocery and your college name into google maps) where they sell bags of spice blens (usually ranging from about 4 to 7 ounces) for a much cheaper price than at any major supermarket chain (they also have VERY GOOD prices on vegetables and coconut products, typically nonorganic, but you can’t have everything your way all the time).

  3. Thanks Mark, that’s a good run down/ summary. I had missed the link to SAD foods, very good to read that post.

    Max- do like Mark Zuckenberg does: go hunting for your meat…

  4. I’d have to take exception to the idea that frozen vegetables are better than “old” fresh ones. Commercially frozen veggies are usually blanched prior to freezing. This process can easily strip away most of the nutritional value. Moreover, IMO, frozen veggies have such an inferior texture and flavor that they aren’t worth bothering with. Fresh veggies, on the other hand, retain most of their nutrients unless they’ve been grossly mishandled and are old to the point of wilt and spoilage–in which case you wouldn’t buy them in the first place.

    1. Hi Shary,

      I freeze my own veggies and never blanch them. I do this with beans, peas, cauliflower and tomatoes. I just wash and dry them and throw them in a freezer bag whole.

      You definitely have to cook them and they are not crisp like fresh ones but at least I know where they came from (hand-picked by myself and my kids).

      We actually have 2 freezers: one huge one for meat and another smaller one for veggies and fruit.

      1. Im on a Kindle so i may have to get to a proper computer to find links, but I’m not sure that blanching does strip away nutrients. I want to say the book back home i use as a guide for stocking up (called, apropriately enough, Stocking Up :-)), mentioned blanching as a way to preserve nutrients vs freezing without blanching in many cases (greens and green beans come to mind). Does this ring a bell with anyone else?

  5. I think buying the standalone freezer is a great idea! My poor family is always fighting for freezer space as I pre-cook and prepare many make-ahead meals/veggies that I can just warm up on the stove during the week.

    A great technique I use is to freeze any soups/stews/liquid forms in a gallon ziploc bag, lying flat. Once it’s frozen, I can either stack them or prop them upright like a book on a shelf. Not only is it great for storage, but the defrost time is much quicker with the bigger surface area!

    Happy eating! 🙂

  6. We’ve been hitting the Costco a lot recently. They have a pretty good selection of organic stuff, as long as you’re willing to get it in “value size.”

    Now I just need somebody to help me eat six cubic meters of strawberries…

    1. Costco is awesome, but they work a lot better when you have a big family.

      1. Or are willing to eat the same thing for a week. We’ll buy one type of fruit at Costco and have that be our fruit for a week or two. There’s only two of us and we only have one or two servings of fruit a day, but we’re willing to keep eating the same type until it’s done. Same with produce – we’ll buy a ton of carrots or peppers and use them in or with pretty much everything. We don’t really do dairy and we freeze most meat, so produce is really all we have to worry about.

  7. Never ate healthier than when I lived on a small island with only 500 people. Chickens that had been strolling around the yard a week before on your plate. Fish and lobster so fresh they made you forget seafood restaurants. Riding a bike to the grocery store.
    The result: low body fat. Cholesterol 127. Pulse 66.
    I hope everyone who takes this challenge gets to know the benefits once they finish.

  8. Thanks for the tips – I need to read your first post on purging SAD foods but I like the sound of the affects!

  9. If you buy a standalone freezer and have it partially or fully filled, I highly suggest you own a small generator. When nature strikes and the power is out for more than several days there goes all your food. Plus keep an inventory list on the outside of it so you know what you got.

    1. One thing you can do to forestall warming of your freezer (if you don’t have a generator) is to fill the empty spaces in your freezer with mostly full water bottles/containers (well before the blackout). These freeze into ice and help keep the freezer from heating up as fast.

      1. Very good suggestion, will implement it in my freezer – thanks!
        About the generator: now I have the reason to buy it weeee.

      2. Filling the empty freezer spaces also makes it far more efficient since you’re replacing the air (which goes in/out with the door) with a thermal mass that retains its temp. Also, with less air, there’s less moisture, so less frost.

        I try to cycle through them occasionally as well, as they make a nice backup cold water source if needed.

  10. In Meal Preparation, I would add “Do not use a microwave oven”. Because what? It’s Radiation! Some studies shows than microwaving is like Irradiating! Yikes!

    Non-stick cookware to avoid (because of PFOA, Teflon), but also add “Aluminum” (including aluminum foil). Aluminum causes Alzheimer’s Disease and many types of cancer.

    There are many local farm markets in my area. And I live in Montreal, Canada. It’s a big city, but for not saying a “megacity” like New York or Los Angeles. In Montreal, some local food is grown on the roofs of several buildings!

    1. Please don’t spread irrational fear based on poor understanding of the science behind microwave ovens. Microwaves are non-ionizing radiation and so do not cause chemical changes to molecules (unlike x-rays or gamma rays, for example). The only danger with a microwave oven is the risk of inadvertently overcooking something to the point that the heat of the food is dangerous to your skin (like hot steam coming out of a container or boiling liquid expanding rapidly to scald you).

      1. +1

        Also, microwaving is actually thought to be better for cooking meats, since generally speaking, the meat won’t get over about 212F, so the evil HCAs will not be formed in supposedly harmful quantities as happens with overcooked grilled meat. Microwaves will thus ‘steam’ the meat (or veggies), as innocuous as simmering in a crockpot. For the steak purists, you could sear both sides of the steak before nuking.
        I know, I know; sacrilege!

        The reason microwaving meat is not recommended by the government is merely due to the fact that there is not a standard microwave power level that could translate into safe cooking times or internal meat temperature, so the feds can’t advocate it. Unlike the nutritional info they disperse. (Must be a different bureaucracy)

    2. Also, there is no evidence to suggest that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown increased levels of aluminum in the tissues of Alzheimer’s victims, but some theories suggest that the genes that cause the disease also cause the body to accumulate aluminum. If you don’t have the genetic marker for Alzheimer’s, you aren’t going to get it from using aluminum foil.

  11. Gluten-containing grains, PUFA’s, and sugar cause Alzheimer’s disease and many types of cancer. However, aluminum foil is still very useful for protection from space aliens.

  12. Dorm folks and apartment dwellers, please check out my pal Mike’s blog, “Urban Organic Gardener.” He has fantastic ideas for tiny spaces!

    My son’s college doesn’t even allow hot plates or rice cookers. He uses a coffeemaker (Mark has some good recipes here in his traveling series) for some cooking, and tries to limit his microwave use. He has a farmers market less than a mile from his dorm, but the prices are boutique: $8 for a dozen eggs, $4 for a tomato, etc. So it’s grocery store produce for him, but always looks for local choices.

    I also make him meals, I take a serving of what we are having and freeze it for him. Once a week I take them to him. One serving doesn’t hurt us, it just reduces our potential food waste.

  13. Mark,

    I am a big fan, but I have yet to find a farmer’s market that sells anything at less than grocery stores. There is no point in sugar coating/using false information. You pay more, but it is much better for you aka you get what you pay for. No one should put a price on health. Paying $2 more for a grass fed chicken isn’t going to break anyone’s wallet.

    1. One of our local farms sells whole (pasture-raised) chickens for $4. We still have to cook it ourselves, but a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods is $7.50.

    2. Sucks for you Will. I find my local farmers market cheaper in select produce and eggs. My local grocers don’t even carry pastured meats. You are right in that one cannot put a price on good health, but one can place order on health. For example, I value shelter higher than farmers market food, both rank higher than my car, etc.

  14. I did find this step difficult and frustrating at first…I think it was simply because my body had adjusted to the extreme amounts of sugar I was eating before and was still craving it…I found later that one I got over the initial hump it because easier and even more enjoyable!

  15. It took me forever to have the bravado to really be insistent on what was prepared for me when eating out; I work two jobs related to customer service, so I never want to even remotely come close to “that guy.” That being said, we do pay a premium to eat out, and the requests Mark is suggesting are totally reasonable. Plus, I’ve found when they are met, the food is fantastic, and I’m ready and willing to return. So, don’t fear eating out. Just know your resources (the sub shop may not be the wisest choice) and stand your ground. It’s worth not having to leave lunch to run to the restroom.

  16. “When it comes to food, time is nutrition.” That couldn’t be any more true, Mark.

    1. A wise bread maker (ironically) once said, “No one ever HAS time to make bread, you have to MAKE time.” Now let’s just switch the term “bread” for “Primal meals.”

  17. “Get to know the meat/fish/egg guy.”
    Yes! I have been the recipient of a few good deals that never would have materialized if I hadn’t taken the time to chat a little.

  18. Don’t forget the spices when you use the crock pot. It can be your favorite dry mix, fresh from the garden or market or just salt and pepper. If you don’t add stuff, you will have tasteless food. Primal doesn’t have to be tasteless. And yes, the shin of a deer or cow, or even a 70 year old goose will still come out soft and tender if you do it right in the crock pot.

  19. I know this will sound heretical, but are there any packaged frozen dinners out there that are even close to Primal-approved?

    1. One option is a store called “Snap Kitchen” that pre-makes meals and labels them with things like “paleo”, “gluten free” etc.

  20. This is all great advice, I just have to agree with the few comments that mention it’s not the end of the world if you can’t afford grass-fed meat.

    Maybe things are different in California, but up here in beautiful, overpriced New England, buying local added almost $300 dollars to my monthly grocery bill — and not only am I feeding only two people, I was only buying the cheapest bulk cuts and offal!

    I’ve made concessions where I need to, buying grass-fed beef and pastured eggs, but the chicken and pork is just waaaaay beyond my budget. I just want to emphasize (since it’s been on this site before) that conventional meat should be as lean as possible and supplemented with other fats from better sources.

    Also, it took me forever to belly up and become “that person” who, due to a slight dairy sensitivity, is always asking for things without bread and cheese, but I realized I’m happier when I’m not pulling my burger off the bun or picking croutons out of my salad. I actually like seeing all the food that I CAN eat at a restaurant because they were kind enough to cater to my requests, instead of working around all the food I CAN’T eat. They’re usually very nice about it, and then I’m sure to tip them well and send thanks to the chef. It’s really worth it.

  21. Some great tips here. Would be nice to see Costco in the UK start stocking some more organic meat. Haven’t been for a while as the food wasn’t great last time round.

  22. Mark, as always your Posts are thorough, informative, fun and full of ideas. I am a bit frustrated Primal Senior since last year. Although I really didn’t get going till about March of this year (2012). Frustrated because: I can not have eggs or any red meat or anything with a high iron count. I sooo miss morning eggs, baking with eggs, lamb, beef, venison! What’s an old lady to do. I have a medium high iron count in my blood and I give blood every 60 days, but still not coming down. I miss my red meat.
    Sad Primal Senior

  23. Another good way to get deals especially on veggies is to go to the farmers market towards the end of the day. Our largest farmers market is open Thurs-Sunday, so some of the vendors sell off veggies cheaper late Sunday afternoon or throw in some free so they do not have to transport them back to the farm.

  24. I am having a great time gradually filling out my Primal Pantry. I have a whole stack of paper of neat stuff I’ve found on all the many great Paleo blogs and websites. Every paycheck I get 2 or 3 more things to try out. It’s great fun!

    I’ll tell ya, one of the great things about Paleo is I haven’t spent a dime on anything except for great food. So many things I’ve gotten into in the past would get so expensive to pursue. Not this … just changed the food I buy, that’s it! (SO FAR! Definitely want to attend the Balanced Bites workshop coming up in my area in November … and have a huge wish list of books and cooking tools!)

  25. I live in the megalopolis of L.A. County. Good news? I can get fresh California produce anywhere all year round. Bad news? Forget CSAs and sourcing local grass-fed meats easily. For any of that I would need to drive far and pay through the nose. The year-round farmers markets have grass-fed beef sellers but they are very expensive.

    Costco now has minimum 75% grass-fed ground beef (it’s their Organic ground beef). Costco is doing some very interesting things – for example, they source their organic grass-fed ground beef from Australia and Canada, with a little from stateside – just because the suppliers aren’t here yet that can handle Costco’s needs. But it’s happening slowly but surely. Not only that, but Costco is opening their first beef processing plant in California, and promises to be able to bring more grass-fed beef into the stores.

    I already buy the 75%-plus grass-fed beef at Costco, along with New Zealand lamb, Kerrygold grass-fed butter, and grass-fed and raw milk cheeses from Europe and California in the gourmet cheeses section.

    They don’t always have wild-caught salmon, but if they don’t, they always have frozen and canned wild Alaska salmon.

    I also buy the large bags of frozen Washington blueberries and other berries.

    Trader Joe’s does not have grass-fed beef, but they have a few grass-fed and raw milk cheeses available.

    My local Sprouts carries raw milk, and frozen venison, wild boar and other wild game on occasion. I mix the ground venison or boar with ground beef.

    1. Trader Joe’s does too have grass-fed beef, at least where I live. Look in the frozen section across from the frozen vegetables. Also, they have Applegate organic grass-fed hot dogs.

      1. Didn’t look in the frozen section, but I ask regularly and they say they don’t have it in my area.

  26. This is a great breakdown for anyone just getting in to the primal lifestyle. Thanks for the breakdown Mark.

    I was just doing grass-fed meats for about a year and just switched over to all organic about 3 months ago. It feels great!

    1. Remember that organic doesn’t refer to grass or grain fed. So ask if you are not sure. Grass fed is usually marked as such.

  27. Re New Zealand Lamb: I love being Primal in NZ – I honestly don’t think I can buy beef or lamb that isn’t grass-fed 🙂

  28. I live in Santa Barbara and the farmer’s markets cost a lot more most of the time, sometimes up to twice as much.

    I actually buy most my meat from a small market that caters to the Mexican population. They have plenty of offal and it’s relatively cheap. It’s been an experience learning to cook some of the stranger things, but lots of offal are just plain old meat that comes out great in the crock pot. Just because it’s on the neck, the face or the tail doesn’t make it any different than other meat. Even some organs taste pretty much like regular old meat, like gizzards and hearts. Turns out they have way cheaper sardines and other canned fish, too.

  29. every single sauté line ive ever worked cooked in vegetable oil except carrabbs. I guarantee you if you eat out you eat soybean oil

  30. Did anyone else notice an apparent contradiction in the article? First it says:

    “Spinach leaves sitting in a big plastic tub in the deep dark confines of a Costco freezer for two weeks will be less nutritious than the mud-speckled spinach offered up by the gruff farmer from the next county over, no matter how crisp and green and triple-washed the Costco leaves appear.”

    Then it says:

    “Embrace frozen meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit. Freezing food shortly after harvest actually preserves the nutrient content quite effectively, so it’s often the case that the frozen spinach is more nutritious than the “fresh” spinach that was picked last week.”

    1. I think he was referring to the cold produce room, and not the frozen section.

  31. Lol – the asking for pho without the noodles (and extra veggies) is definitely something that has caused all sorts of confusion. The bone marrow on the side has also sometimes caused me some issues – but we’re getting there. My bone marrow almost always comes out now!

  32. Above all these suggestions is use plain old common sense. In an effort to be more “Paleo pure,” I paid $550 to a local organic farm’s CSA this year (it works out to about $29/week) and I’ve been very disappointed in both the quality and the quantity of the produce. Not necessarily the farm’s fault — my own little backyard garden did poorly as well — but I still ended up buying a lot from the grocery store (a regular chain, not a WP or TJ) and being happier with that. Also, as far as tomatoes from Chile and oranges from FL…if you live in New England, as I do, or the midwest, or the prairie states, imported produce is what you get. The best I can do for “fresh local” produce in, say, February, is a winter squash that was picked in October and has sat in a bin in my garage for four months. There is no such thing as fresh local citrus here, or pineapples, or myriad other things that make for an excellent and delicious diet for my family. I’m in favor of all the recommendations, but many of them are extremely impractical and may scare off newbies who think that if they have to, god forbid, buy some Perdue chicken thighs, that they’re being incompliant and may as well not bother. Any program that gets people to start understanding basic nutrition, reading labels, understanding why foods with labels are usually not a great choice, and concentrating on simple recipes from good quality ingredients is going to be a vast improvement over SAD, and will show them that it is an enjoyable and sustainable way to live.

    As for eating out, if there is a rodizio (Brazilian grill restaurant) in your area, it is like you died and went to Paleo heaven.

  33. Harvest to Hand is another good app to find “Buy Local” markets andd farms

  34. We lived in Africa for 23 years and we ate very “close to the ground” as I liked to call it. I definitely want to eat more “primal” and am off to look at the shopping list now. Thanks.

  35. I think one of the greatest gifts I have received out of joining a CSA was also the most unexpected. I now have a feel for when food is in season. Now, when I see asparagus in October, I end up looking at it a bit cross-eyed, and wonder what boat it came in on.

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  37. Mark – your link is broken for the Primal shopping list… 🙂