It comes as a surprise to people when I tell them I am NOT a cook. I hate cleaning up after, my meal is never all ready at the same time, and I just simply prefer to assemble simple ingredients for dinner or grab something to go. I like to say I use up all my Martha Stewart-esque talents elsewhere. So this month, when I decided I would do Whole 30, I knew it would take some serious motivation…and planning.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Whole 30 is a strict dietary program you follow for 30 days, then slowly reintroduce foods back into your diet to see how they affect you. For one month, you cut out all added and artificial sugar, alcohol, grains, diary, soy, legumes, and seed oils from your diet. It is NO JOKE. I bought the book months and months ago, but upon reading that list of off-limits foods (you want me to give up wine, cheese, AND bread???), I couldn’t quite bring myself to try it. After hearing a few girlfriends rave about their experience, I decided to give it a go for the month of October.
I’d heard over and over again that planning was the key to a successful Whole30. Unlike cooking, planning is NOT a skill I lack. Two weeks in, I can assure you that preparing for and planning my Whole30 has made all the difference in rocking the program vs. giving up!
Here’s how to prepare for Whole30 like a professional organizer (who doesn’t cook)…
1. Read, read, read.
I read It Starts With Food in its entirety before starting the program, and have kept The Whole30 on my kitchen table and read a little bit every day during breakfast and dinner. I read blogs with titles like “The Lazy Girl’s Guide to the Whole30” and “Whole30 When You Don’t Like Cooking” which were both hilariously accurate and helpful at the same time.
2. Ask for advice!
I sent many, many messages to people I know who’d finished the program and asked for their tips and tricks. They all had favorite foods they couldn’t have made it without, easy ways to make meal prep fast, and on-the-go tips for busy days.
3. Use social media.
I mostly pin organizing, design, and fashion-related things on Pinterest, but I knew I’d need some good recipes when I got bored or needed to spice up my meal planning. Follow my Whole30 board here. I searched #whole30 on Instagram and followed a bunch of boards that showcase easy recipes. During the first few days when I wondered if this crazy thing was worth it, searching #whole30beforeandafter was hugely motivational.
4. Print stuff out.
The Whole30 website has a bunch of PDF printables that were very helpful for my first shopping trips and initial menu planning. Their additives cheat sheet and sample shopping lists saved me from being “that Whole30 girl” standing in front of the freezer section Googling every single ingredient! Having resources on your phone is great, but I found there’s no substitute for a print-out when you’re getting the hang of a new way of grocery shopping.
5. Create a standard shopping list.
I created mine using Google Docs so I could share it with my boyfriend, who was incredibly supportive and agreed to do Whole30 with me in Korea! By using Google Docs, I can update what I have on hand anywhere on my phone. I make more frequent shopping trips than I did before, partly because I go through SO MANY EGGS and buy them one carton at a time so they’re at their freshest. Having a perpetually updated shopping list on me at any given time is helpful when I decide last minute to go to the store. I update and print one out when I do a bigger, planned shopping trips. Sometimes I throw in something extra like jicama tortillas and pico de gallo for paleo tacos, but mostly I stick to this list and come up with different combinations depending on what I’m in the mood for.
6. Plan out meals.
This is the advice I heard from literally EVERYONE. I had used the My Fitness Pal app previously to track calories and nutrients, but I found it tedious and annoying. On Whole30, there’s no need to track calories at all but I did want to remember what I had each day and plan meals for especially busy days. I used a day-by-day desk pad to track each meal and plan out which days I would need to bring food with me. I always keep snacks handy for a quick bite if I’m out and about. On days when I’m with clients, I always pre-plan my dinner so I can eat on the early side since I don’t stop to eat a proper lunch those days. All that being said, I didn’t want to plan out every single meal every single day, so…
7. Keep frozen food on hand.
By purchasing most of my vegetables and meat frozen (or freezing after opening), I give myself a huge amount of flexibility on what I choose I eat for dinner each night. I eat sweet potatoes with nearly every dinner, so I love the convenience of diced organic frozen sweet potatoes from Natural Grocers. By buying seldom used vegetables frozen like asparagus, I can choose to only have it when I am craving roasted prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears instead of being stuck having to use up fresh asparagus even if I don’t feel like having it that night.
8. Keep convenience food on hand.
Going from hardly cooking at all to cooking twice a day was quite a shock. I learned quickly that I needed to keep some pre-prepped food on hand. Spiralizing a zucchini doesn’t take much time, but I love my Veggie Noodle Co. pre-spiralized zucchini noodles for easy, quick meals. Bonus, they’re an Austin company! Wholly Guacamole packs are compliant, last much longer than avocados, and are easy to take with you. Larabars and RX bars are my go-to emergency snacks. HEB has many pre-prepared vegetables handy in their produce section, which saved me from spending tons of time doing prep on days when I got home late.
9. Get your kitchen ready.
Starting with a clean, organized, fresh-feeling kitchen goes a long way to making Whole30 a more pleasant experience. More on this next week!
10. Sprinkle some motivation around.
The beginning of Whole30 felt incredibly daunting, so I knew I needed some kickstart quotes. I am normally anti-fridge clutter, but I jotted down some of my favorite quotes from the Whole30 books to remind me WHY ON EARTH I was giving up nearly all of my favorite foods. This is one time I give you full permission to clutter up your fridge with papers! Remembering why you’re giving up something, even temporarily, goes a long way in keeping you happy on the program. Two weeks in, the “why” keeps me going when the “how” is a pain in the butt. I also keep all my past weekly plans on the fridge to help me remember what I loved and should make again.
Next week, I’ll go over how I transformed my kitchen (previously used mostly for coffee and wine) into a Whole30 friendly place!