Navigating the modern world as a primitive man is no easy task, particularly when it comes to grocery shopping. If you’re new to the Primal, Paleo, Clean-Keto community, the task can seem overwhelming at first. Reading labels, organic or not, if I eat this fish will I die, all kinds of questions come to mind. The anxiety builds. Once you have a system down, it’s not too difficult. So purge your pantry, and let’s get shopping like a hunter-gatherer.
Don’t go Shopping Stressed Out:
When you’re stressed, the cortisol levels are high and you will crave carbs. You could derail yourself before you even get started. Plan your trip early or late. There will be less traffic and fewer people in the store. This allows you to take your time reading labels, without some 10-year-old, with a bad cough asking what you’re doing. Maybe go after yoga class or your workout. I like dealing with stress by going for a hike. Check out my post about stress.
Buy Food That’s in Season:
This one can be hard. When you go to the market it seems like everything’s in season. Some stores will make this a little easier and have a label that says it’s locally grown, but don’t always trust it. The first step is to find out the country of origin. Chances are if you buy grapes in the winter, in North America, they’re probably imported from Argentina. Yes, you need to read product labels as well. Most of our tomatoes and cucumbers come from greenhouses in Mexico. To be honest, it’s hard to find true local produce in the mega-mart, but do the best you can. I live in northern Nevada and most of my “LOCAL” produce comes from California.
Shop the Farmers Market:
If you have a good farmers market in your area, this makes the process much easier. You no longer need to worry about what’s in season, that’s a plus. You can get to know where your food comes from, and how it’s grown, just ask. On the food spectrum of best to worst, locally grown, and crafted foods are always best. It’s a social activity that can be fun as well. So gather up the tribe and hit the market for the highest quality food available. I try to buy local meat, cheese and produce whenever I can.
If farmers markets are scarce in your area, troll local Facebook groups, and other social media platforms for some leads. You’ll be surprised how much food is grown locally. A lot of times in the summer people are giving food away.
Grass-Fed is Not Always Best:
As mentioned above, the best source of meat and produce is local. It doesn’t matter if it’s certified organic or labeled as free-range. When you’re at the farmers market, just ask, and the farmer will be more than happy to talk about how he raised his livestock. This grass-fed label can be confusing. What you want to look for is 100% grass-fed, on the package or grass-fed grass-finished. If it just says grass fed, that means the animal grassed on some grass, in its life, and can be called grass-fed. Certified Organic is the next choice, just remember that this cow could have been grain finished, still cleaner than conventional meat, organic doesn’t always mean the best, but it’s a good choice.
Never Overlook Lamb:
The best thing about lamb, it’s delicious! Most lamb is also raised on grass. Lamb is versatile but can have a strong flavor. I suggest finding some Middle Eastern lamb recipes. As a general rule, lamb takes well to the flavors of salt, garlic, cumin, and lemon. In some regions, lamb is actually a cheaper alternative to 100% grass-fed beef.
DO NOT Skimp on Fat:
This is the one thing you always want to buy the best quality you can afford. If you have your choice between grass-fed beef and pastured butter, always go for the butter first. Buy the lean, tough, cheap round steak and slather the pastured butter on top, it’s a better option, health-wise, than the other way around. Another thing you can do is make a high fat sauce for dipping that medium rare steak. When shopping for olive oil, make sure it’s domestic, first cold pressed, extra virgin, and organic if possible. I like California Olive Ranch and Stone House Olive Oil. Here is a list of Primal-friendly fats that I buy and always look for pasture raised and organic.
- Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Pasture Raised Butter
- Avocado Oil
Utilize the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen:
This list is compiled by the Environmental Working Group EWG. It can save you some coin, and take some confusion out of when to buy organic or not. Remember to also buy things in season. One last thing, this list does not apply to your local farmers market.
Shop the Center of the Store:
Most everyone will tell you to shop the perimeter of the store, produce, eggs, cheese, and meat. Keep it simple right. That way you’ll avoid all of the refined sugar, grain filled process foods. This will work and the shopping cart will be filled with good stuff. Now, let’s think of all the items that will get passed by. Things like Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Primal Kitchen Products, Dark Chocolate, nuts, Apple Cider Vinegar, Seasonings, Dried Goods (chili pods), Coconut Aminos, Canned Fish, Frozen Fruit and Veggies, Coffee, Tea, and one of my favorites Red Boat Fish Sauce.
What Fish to Buy:
A good start is to load the Monterey Bay Aquarium App, on your phone. This app will change the list based on location, and tell you what local restaurants are serving sustainable seafood.
Always look for wild fish, avoid farm-raised Atlantic Salmon, tilapia, and shrimp. Be mindful of mercury in large pelagic fish like tuna, and swordfish. Fame raised shellfish are ok, oysters, clams, and muscles. Farm raised trout from the US or Canada are good to go, and Coho Salmon as well. Always avoid imported fish from Asia, farm raised or wild. You can always go catch your own!
Bonus Tip, Eggs:
Always buy the best eggs you can afford. Pasture Raised local sources are the best. Next in line would be store bought Pastured Organic or Cage Free Organic. Eggs are one of the most complete nutritional foods to consume in your diet. A person could probably live on eggs and greens.
You do not want conventionally raised chickens providing your eggs. They are grown in cramped unsanitary conditions, fed GMO grains, they are pumped full of hormones, and antibiotics. A free-range pastured chicken spends his days, eating an omnivore diet. Chickens chasing grasshoppers, and eating your garden is a happy flock of birds, and their eggs show it.
I know pastured eggs cost a lot, but do they really? Well yes, compared to regular cheap eggs, but they’re worth it. Let’s say they cost $5.50 a dozen, that’s less than you’ll spend on coffee a week, and .46 cents an egg is a pretty cheap meal when you think about it.
I hope this helps out when navigating the modern world, as a Hunter-Gatherer. The local hunting grounds can be a scary, and intimidating place until you figure it out. What methods do you use when shopping, and what intimidates you the most?