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Saturday, March 5, 2016

How To Plan For Your First Whole 30 Challenge

Perhaps a better title for this post might be "How We Planned For Our First Whole 30 Challenge".  Every family is different, and every meal planner is different, so it may not look the same for you.

1. Know the program.  The first thing I did was read all over the Whole30 website to really nail down the rules of what's allowed and what isn't.  I started at the link listed, but I read several other posts about the different categories that are eliminated and why, the basic pantry/perishable lists, and the frequently asked questions.  My favorite was the Whole30 Timeline post, which I have a feeling I'll be referring to often.

2. List the meals you already eat that might work.  Once I felt like I had an idea of where we were headed, I got out my kitchen binder.  I made a list (of course!) of all of the recipes we eat regularly that fit with the Whole 30 rules.  I also included things that could be easily modified by eliminating one ingredient (a tablespoon of honey in a sauce) or could have substitutes (switching from half and half to coconut milk in a creamy vegetable soup).

I organized my list into breakfast, soups, and entrees.  Spoiler alert: Breakfast was pretty much "eggs and...."

3. Find new recipes to try.  Which brings me to my final step: search the Internet.  I didn't start here, because I wanted to go with the foods that we already eat first.  Then we can start experimenting.  If we start out trying new meals, and end up with three duds in a row, it's going to be really discouraging.  I've been enjoying the Whole30Recipes Instagram account, and I've copied a few recipes from there to try, and I set up a Whole 30 Planning board on my Pinterest.

Bonus Step #1: Don't forget to budget!  It's really easy to jump into this, find all these recipes that sound delicious, and buy all the things.  Realistically, we can't afford to eat meat at every meal, so I'm planning on as many vegetarian meals as I can, or meals that use meat as a topping rather than the main deal.  I'd like to buy coconut aminos as a soy sauce replacement and nutritional yeast because I've heard that's good when you're missing cheese, but those aren't things we normally purchase, and I don't have the time or money to find a good source.
Bonus Step #2: What about the kids?  Jesse and I want to do this for us.  But aside from the girls' gluten sensitivity, the kids are doing fine with eating a mostly real food diet.  And let's face it, I'm a lot better about what I feed them than about what I feed myself.

So the kids are getting what I've termed a Whole 30 Plus diet for this month.  They'll be eating most of the same things we will, but they also get the following:
  • Gluten free pasta
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Bread or tortillas
  • Peanut butter
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Sugar only in granola and muffins and homemade breakfasts and snacks (i.e. no cookies, ice cream, etc.)
They don't have food problems that they need to fix, and they're growing, and sometimes, they just want more food, you know?  The one thing they're not having that they might be sad about is cheese.  But cheese may tempt me more than anything else on that list.  No lie.  And they'll be sad about the lack of sugar, but that's something I've been working on anyways.
The photos in this post are a sneak peek at some of the food we'll be eating this month.  I ended up going with a "semi-freezer cooking" approach, which is what I normally do for food, since we grocery shop every other week.  So yesterday I prepped part or all of 14 meals!  This is huge for me to actually get food on the table, especially on busy days.

I did a lot of research going into this challenge.  I looked at the Whole 30 rules, I looked at all the meals we normally eat and enjoy, and then I looked for some new recipes that still fit with the flavors we like.  After all that I kept the budget and the kids in mind.  It took a lot of work, honestly, but I'm really excited to see how it all turns out!

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