You don't need a Trader Joe's either. I live approximately 1,444 miles by plane from the nearest Whole Foods and Trader Joe's - I live in Alaska and I am assuming that the nearest WF and TJs are in Seattle, WA. Sometimes this means that I don't always get what I want and often end up getting creative or making do with what I can find. Mostly this means that I don't have access to many Paleo/Real food convenience products or treats because let's be honest, almost all stores carry fruit, veggies, and protein. Here's how I maintain a Paleo/Real Food diet being 1,444 miles away from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's:
How to find Paleo products anywhere
1. Learn what is available to you and where.
First of all, no one wants to go to five different stores looking for anything. So, knowing what stores carry any specific products you are looking for can be very helpful. This can extend beyond just the grocery store. Knowing where the nearest farm stand is where you can get eggs if your grocery store doesn't sell organic, pastured eggs or what days the farmer's market is can save you time and gain you some valuable nutrients.
2. Buy non-perishables and specialty items at big box stores...and buy lots.
If you don't live near stores such as Target, Costco, or Wal-Mart, aim to stock up on gluten-free and Paleo products on them when you are able to visit. Fortunately, I live near all of these stores. I rarely go to Wal-Mart and almost never buy food items at Target. I do buy a majority of our food at Costco though. They have a very good and growing selection of gluten-free and organic products. Sometimes you also have to do a little digging to find the product you are looking for. The coconut oil is probably with all the other types of oil, it just might be harder to find if it's not a popular product.
Here are Paleo/Real Food products that you can find (and stock up on) at these stores, especially if you can't find them at your local grocery store:
- Hot sauce
- Gluten-free BBQ sauce
- Canned tomato products
- Coconut oil
- Organic chicken broth
- Balsamic vinegar
- Coconut milk
- Olive oil
- Almond butter (Justin's)
- Flour (almond, coconut, gluten-free, etc.)
3. Embrace the freezer aisle.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you should go buy Lean Cuisine from the freezer aisle, but I am saying that buying frozen fruits and veggies (especially those that are not in season) is not a bad choice. Fruits and veggies that are frozen are picked at their peak and frozen rather than being picked before they are ready and losing valuable nutrients and freshness while they make their way to the store. Frozen items work especially well in recipes such as smoothies and stir fries.
4. Call ahead
If you are going to make a trip to a store for something specific, it might be worth calling ahead to see if they have it. That way you aren't stuck driving to every store near you or driving a long way to a faraway store only to find out they don't have what you are looking for.
5. Ask the store to stock something you can't find.
Stores want to keep customers happy, so they often want to hear from you. If they get enough requests for a product they may start stocking it, or they may be able to put in a special order for you.
6. Buy online
If you absolutely can't find what you are looking for in your area, order it online. You can find almost anything you are looking for on Amazon. Thrive Market is also a great place to get Paleo products, but unfortunately, they don't ship to Alaska. There are even places you can order grass-fed meat and wild caught seafood online (I like US Wellness Meats and have heard good things about Alaska Direct and Sizzlefish for seafood). I am EXTREMELY fortunate that I live in Alaska and have access to fresh, delicious salmon basically outside my door (and get to catch it myself).
Remember that recipes are not written in stone and if you can't find exactly what you are looking for make the best substitution you can. Can't find red peppers? Use yellow or green, or skip them completely. Google is your friend when you can't find what you think you need. There are tons of ingredient swap forums and websites out there that can help you find a substitution.
If you can't find a product that you are looking for, go without or make your own. I try very hard to make my own mayo because I hate that every brand of mayo in my local grocery store has soybean oil in it. Even the so-called olive oil may is mostly soybean oil. I could order paleo mayo online, but it's easier, cheaper, and faster for me to make my own. The same goes for products like ketchup and BBQ sauce. If you can't find clean ingredients, I can almost guarantee you can find a clean/Paleo recipe online and make it yourself!
8. Remember: Perfection does not make you healthier/better.
If you can't find grass-fed ground beef, eat regular ground beef instead (same goes for if you can't afford it). Don't have access to organic produce? Buy conventional. Remember that eating real, nutrient-dense foods are the goal, and everything else is secondary and falls on a spectrum of what is important to you and what you have access to. It's better to avoid processed food than it is to obsess about whether or not you can find organic choices. The other part to remember, and I've said this before, is to not stress about it and to be comfortable with the choices you make. Stressing over the minute details of dietary perfection will be more detrimental to your health and goals than eating some junk once in awhile.
As I said in the beginning of this post, the biggest "problem" with not having stores like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods within driving distance means that sometimes I might spend a little more on food and I might not be able to get convenience products or treats that fit into my Paleo/Real Food framework.
What's your biggest challenge around starting or maintaining a Paleo/Real Food lifestyle?
**Some of the links contained in this post may be affiliate links. To see what exactly that means, click here.**