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Making Simplified Dinners Whole30 Compliant

How to Make Simplified Dinners Whole30 Compliant

Simplified Dinners, even the gluten-and-dairy-free edition, is far from Whole30 compliant, yet I am still using many of the meals from it in my whole30 plan. Simplified Dinners is written to be flexible, and this month I will be proving how flexible it can be. Sure, I’ll be skipping pizzas and bean pots, but I can make a stir fry without rice, leave the beans out of the soup, and eat fajita topping with more peppers and onions and no tortilla or sour cream. You don’t need a whole new, special “Whole30 approved” recipe for any of that. It’s just normal dinner cooking without the starch, or beans, or dairy, or soy sauce, or … well, I’m getting sad now, but the point is that it’s possible.

Simplified Dinners gives you the idea and the backbone, but lets you create a dish based on what you have on hand and what your personal tastes or dietary restrictions are.

I know it is unconventional to have “recipes” without giving specific amounts – and often not even ratios – for ingredients. It startles people and it baffles many, and I’ve issued refunds for people who just can’t wrap their minds around cooking “freehand.” But doing it that way makes it clear that you can make it how you want it. Rather than being the servant of the recipe, compelled to follow it as the master, you are the master who can use the recipe – or not – as you like.

Here’s an example of a recipe from Simplified Dinners and how I’ll be adjusting it for Whole30:


Simplified Dinners, Whole30-style

You’d think all the pasta dinners would be forbidden, right? But what if we just saute up zucchini, peppers, and onions and serve the pasta sauce on top of that? Would that work? There are six pasta variations in Simplified Dinners:

  • Sausage Penne: Well, this would work just fine if you can find Whole30 sausage (no sugar used). Good luck. Let me know if you find any at a normal grocery store.
  • Quick & Easy Spaghetti: Totally works; just leave off the Parmesan cheese on top.
  • Clam Penne: Check to make sure the canned clams don’t have soy in the broth. Use olive oil instead of butter. Instead of a roux, just reduce the broth and add a splash of chicken broth instead of cream (it will take longer and be richer and not quite so thick).
  • Stroganoff: You could serve this over broccoli instead of zucchini and it’d be delicious! Of course don’t add butter or Worcestershire sauce or wine soy sauce or sour cream. Instead, use 2 cups or more of beef broth and reduce it by half. I might try a squirt of balsamic vinegar or tomato paste.
  • Chicken Alfredo: Sure, it won’t be creamy, but you can replace the roux & dairy with chicken broth and just let it reduce by at least half and it will still make a yummy dish! I bet it will be yummier than trying to make cashew cream.
  • Asian Penne: Well, it won’t have soy, so maybe it’s not-so-Asian, but you can still make it with broth and leave off the forbidden ingredients.

See, you don’t need totally new and special recipes. You can simply adapt. Cooking is art and it’s ok to try your hand at it without a paint-by-numbers kit that a super-specific recipe provides.

So, even the normal edition of Simplified Dinners, the one that assumes dairy and grains, can be adjusted, amended, and still useful for Whole30 cooking. Most of the roast recipes (and that entire page is free in the Simplified Dinners sample) and the marinades are compliant with Whole30; a couple do call for sugar or soy sauce, but guess what? Just leave it out. It’ll be ok. It’ll be less sweet, but it’s not going to ruin anything. Maybe you’ll even discover you like it that way!

Simple, Family-Friendly Whole30 Plan

I start posting pictures of everything I am eating on Whole30 on Wednesday! You can sign up to get those pictures delivered by email for free every morning, too:

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Preparing a Simple Strategy for my First Whole30

Simple Whole30 Plan

To those who downloaded the free plan, but might not be familiar with the Simplified Dinners concept: my plan assumes I keep my basic pantry staples on hand, so only the vegetables and meat are on the weekly grocery list. In addition to those items, I will still also be restocking the pantry with things like canned tomatoes and mustard as we use them.

As I gear up to start, I know that if I want success in my first attempt at Whole30, I need a plan and I need to prepare.

Whole30 Grocery Trip

Today I go to Costco and WinCo and buy twice as many vegetables as I usually do. Although having fresh, seasonal vegetables with every meal sounds lovely, I need some easy options that hold well. I only have so much room in the fridge, and I can’t go to the store every other day. So, I’ll be keeping a Costco bag of onions in the cool basement storage room. I’ll be keeping the fruit in the cool garage rather than the fridge. I’ll be buying frozen broccoli and frozen green beans. Canned tomatoes count as a vegetable, right?

whole30 grocery shopping

Then, as the month goes on, my plan is to go to Costco on Mondays and WinCo on Thursdays. This will help spread out the vegetables so my fridge isn’t crammed and so it doesn’t all go bad at once.

Whole30 Cooking in Advance

Saturdays are my kitchen day. Whole30 will require even more chopping and cooking-from-scratch than is normal for me, and I already cook real foods mostly from scratch.

So on Saturdays I will be

  • baking sandwich bread for the kids
  • poaching or grilling chicken breasts for lunch salads
  • cutting a veggie tray for Sunday snacking
  • mixing a vinaigrette for salads during the week
  • caramelizing 5-6 onions to keep in the fridge to jump-start breakfasts & dinners
  • roasting yams or squash and also garlic for my homemade paste
  • whisk up a recipe of paleo mayo

I’ll let you know how long this takes me, but taking the time will be worth it because of the amount of time it will save on busy weeknights.

make ahead food for whole30

Tools for Whole30 Cooking

Having the right tool for the job is a time and effort saver, as well. Using tools that simplify the process can also make the work more enjoyable – or, at least, less awful. These links are Amazon affiliate links, so if you buy something after clicking through, I receive some compensation for my time in compiling these resources. Thanks!

These are my three top tools I will be using during my Whole30:

a sharp knife

My husband gave me Wustof paring and chopping knives for Christmas last year, and I absolutely love them! Nothing beats a sharp knife. If you’re going to be chopping mounds of vegetables everyday, make sure you have a sharp knife!

A silicone baking mat

A silicone baking mat that fits on your baking trays makes roasting vegetables a breeze to clean up. The vegetables don’t burn to the pan, they slide right off, and I just wipe off my mat and store it with the pan for the next day’s roasting. Roasting vegetables is my favorite way to prepare them, and a baking mat makes the entire process easier.

An oil mister

My Misto oil spritzer is another of my favorite tools for preparing veggies. It makes oiling and salting the vegetables quick and easy, and they don’t get drenched or unevenly coated. I’ve had mine for two years now, and it’s still going strong! I have a post with tips for using your Misto, if you want more information about it.

Free Simplified Whole30 Plan!

So, next week January arrives, and with it a short-term diet-overhaul: Whole30. It’s a rather daunting project to eliminate grains, legumes, sugars (even artificial or herbal), alcohol, or dairy for 30 days without cheating. You can see the official Whole30 plan here.

Simple, Family-Friendly Whole30 Plan

Supposedly, by eating vegetables, protein, and healthy fats with every meal (and no snacks), I will feel amazing.

I will settle for losing some extra pounds, but amazing would be great, too.

The only way I can complete a Whole30 without cheating is to have a good plan. There can be no flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, trying to figure out what’s for lunch when I’m already starving. A plan will make this doable, even while I’m still feeding my family. The kids will have bread and potatoes and peanut-butter-and-jelly, but I will not be cooking two completely separate dinners every day. It has to be practical. I have other things to do in a day than chop vegetables and cook.

You can download my plan for free if you are curious or if you’d like an easy way to do a Whole30 yourself. And follow me as I blog my way through my first Whole30 with daily pictures! And I must say a special thanks to Pam Barnhill for making this menu plan pretty for me.

It not only includes a plan for 30 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but also includes a weekly grocery list and the daily preparation needed to make it run smoothly. I hope it will help your Whole30 be successful!

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Monday I’ll post my strategies for success!

Bagging Your Own Groceries | 31 Days of Grocery Shopping Made Easy

Simplified Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is something that must be done, but would be better done efficiently and as infrequently as we can manage. This month I’ll be sharing some of the strategies I’ve found most helpful in my 12 years of intentionally improving my food-management skills.

Yesterday: Sort your cart as you go.

Grocery Shopping Tip: Bag your own groceries when you can.

simple grocery shopping

The “low-cost leader” grocery store in our town, WinCo, saves some of its cost by having customers bag their own groceries. This store (first called Waremart) came into town when I was still a kid, and it’s where my mom shopped. I helped her bag groceries then, and I’m pretty good at it by now, if I do say so myself.

And, that’s why now, I actually hate having other people bag my groceries. Those cashiers at other stores are always putting one random cold thing into my bag of dry goods or some such nonsense! At WalMart, I always self-check. I want to bag my own groceries so that it’s done Right.

And now, my kids bag my groceries at WinCo. And they’re pretty good at it, because they have been taught how to do it Right. It’s not complicated. It’s logical.

Put like items together.

grocery shopping without stress

grocery shopping without stress

Put the cold items together.

Put the raw meat in its own plastic bag.

Put the dry goods together.

Put the bulk items together.

Put the cans and bottles together.

Put the produce together, with the heaviest items on the bottom.

It’s not rocket science, and my 6 year olds have all learnt this basic principle pretty quickly.

grocery shopping made easier

And, after all, your items are already coming at you sorted from your cart, right? (This does not prevent store baggers to misbag items, though it helps). And you have your pretty bags that are durable and attractive, right?

You’re the professional, the expert. You can bag your own groceries.

Bag like items together.

Tomorrow: Unloading your groceries at home.

Simplified Dinners eBook

Mystie Winckler began menu planning at 11 years old when her mom delegated one dinner a week to her. Marrying at 19, she’s had a lot of practice over the years. But between growing and homeschooling her family, meal planning often requires brain power that just isn’t there any more. Simplified Dinners is her solution to take the effort and thought out of healthy, frugal cooking. And now it is available for you, too!

During the month of October only, while this series is running, use discount code 31days and receive $3 off!

Sort Your Cart As You Go | 31 Days of Grocery Shopping Made Easy

Simplified Grocery Shopping

As mothers, we spend untold amount of time making sure our families have food to eat. Let’s look at some ways to take the stress and redundancy out of the process!

Yesterday: Kids’ Grocery Shopping Jobs

Grocery Shopping Tip: Sort Your Cart As You Go

simple grocery shopping

I categorize and sort things by default, by nature, without thinking. Things that are like each other, go with each other. I don’t really even think about it. So I’ve been categorizing my cart as I grocery shop from the very beginning simply because it’s the way I operate, and it never occurred to me to just toss everything in willy-nilly as I went.

Having a sorted cart helps at check-out time. If all your cold things go up onto the conveyer belt at the same time, they’ll be bagged together and help keep one another cold. If all the cans are together, and the produce all last, then cans won’t bruise the produce – even if you have children bagging your groceries (which I do).

grocery shopping without stress

grocery shopping without stress

Try it next time you’re at the store! Just put the packages that are alike near one another, and then pull one type out at a time at checkout.

My cart is usually sorted with produce in the back, then bulk items, then cans and boxes and packages, then cold stuffs. Meat goes on the bottom of the cart. However, your arrangement will depend on your route and the order you approach things at the store.

I think it makes the process simpler. You might find it’s helpful, too.

grocery shopping made easier

Keep like things together in your cart to simplify the checkout and bagging process.

Simplified Dinners eBook

Mystie Winckler began menu planning at 11 years old when her mom delegated one dinner a week to her. Marrying at 19, she’s had a lot of practice over the years. But between growing and homeschooling her family, meal planning often requires brain power that just isn’t there any more. Simplified Dinners is her solution to take the effort and thought out of healthy, frugal cooking. And now it is available for you, too!

During the month of October only, while this series is running, use discount code 31days and receive $3 off!