Discouragement, Honestly… and always some hope

Ok, so I knew this was going to be hard.

I was wrong. It’s been even harder than I thought.

I knew it would be a huge adjustment to cook basically every meal. (My life before now was an embarrassingly haphazard combination of cereal, canned soups, random fruits and meats, breads, crackers, and drive-through meals.) I knew I would have to learn some more advanced cooking skills.  (I’ve never enjoyed cooking, so I’ve always left the complicated stuff to the professionals.) I also knew I would need to plan and prepare more than I ever have before.

What I didn’t understand was the big picture of putting this all together.

This is not a part-of-my-life change. This is an all-of-my-life change. (This is where all of you say, “Well duh! We already knew that!”) I guess I knew that in theory too. Now I am experiencing it!

Just in case you were wondering, let me describe for you what I and one other family member have been doing the last three weeks:

  • Looking at endless paleo recipes on pinterest and other websites.  Printing and organizing them into a binder, then making a meal chart for the week.  Then, taking all those recipes and writing out every ingredient I need to buy. With the quantities (which I forgot several times, so I had to go back through and find the ingredients again). Then, trying to organize that massive list into something that I can actually use in the grocery store.
  • Visiting three different stores, reading labels and perusing produce carefully and cautiously. Checking my list three and four times. I’m not joking– each two-three hour trip left me feeling slightly dizzy with a massive headache afterwards.
  • Learning all about vegetables that I’ve never eaten before.  For example, I had no idea how to pick a spaghetti squash or a butternut squash. I didn’t even know what they looked like! There are tons of types of sweet potatoes out there. Which ones will my family eat?  Why does this store have only two types of lettuce, and this store has five? Which ones do we like?
  • Reading America’s Test Kitchen’s reviews on all kinds of fancy kitchen equipment that I now need and trying to find the best prices for those items, either online or in stores. I don’t have the luxury to just buy things without paying attention to the price.

At the end of round one or two of this, I realized that making basically 21 recipes every week was just not going to cut it.  (A more astute person would’ve figured that out right away, I’m sure.) The most logical thing was to try the “weekly cook-up method” in the “Well Fed” cookbook by Melissa Joulwan. However, I always make things harder than they are and even this has not been easy. It still requires going to at least two stores.  I have been comparing prices online for some items, like coconut aminos and almond flour, with prices in stores. I’m keeping track of prices in three different stores plus online for eight or more items, and my head hurts.

For the weekly cook-up, you need to have a day for shopping and a part of a day set aside for prep.  However, with my Fibro, I don’t have enough energy to get everything done in two days.  The method starts to fall apart in some ways if you don’t have everything there and ready.  It’s also very experimental.  It’s quick and easy (after the shopping and prep work) and requires you to be willing to try a lot of different mixtures of spices, meats, and vegetables.  My family is still getting used to this idea. Honestly, I’m still getting used to the idea.

Surprisingly, in the three weeks that I’ve been at least 60% paleo, I haven’t missed bread or other grains really. I haven’t had any bread in at least three weeks, maybe longer.  I’ve had rice only a handful of times.   I’m truly and thoroughly convinced that gluten and grains have done me much more harm than good.  I’m happy to leave them behind. I’ve learned that I can feel satisfied and full without them.

What I’m really missing is the convenience.

The convenience of grabbing whatever and eating it.  With Fibro, I already feel exhausted most of the time.  Planning and preparing meals is just one more burden.  The shopping, at least right now, is the biggest burden. My grocery bill has tripled, which is causing some sticker shock.

However, my whole family is determined that this is still what we need to do.  We’re surprisingly and stubbornly positive about the whole thing. We are praying hard and doing our best to love one another and ourselves through this process.

The planning will get easier. We’re already learning how to eyeball the amount of vegetables we need per week (it’s astronomical!!!), and I know how to pick a spaghetti squash now. I know where to buy coconut milk and I will remember to stock up so I don’t have to go back more than once a month.

Finally, we aren’t as hungry as we used to be.  Eventually, I know that all this good food will give me more energy. Eventually, I’m praying that the pain will be more manageable.  Even if eating paleo doesn’t change my pain levels, I know I will still be healthier and happier.  And so will my family, which is even more important.

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Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Here is the original recipe. We basically followed it, except we had to cut the spaghetti squash into 8 pieces in order to fit it into the crock pot (ours is only 4 quarts).  However everything fit that way- including the whole pound of italian sausage.  The only sausage I could find had sugar and was highly processed.  I have yet to find any pre-made sausage without these problems.  We also left out the hot pepper relish.  I’m not sure how much of a difference it would have made.

Pros:

– It was really easy to put together; the squash did really just fall apart into noodles! I felt like we were doing a science experiment. 🙂

– It was a whole meal- unlike other recipes, you didn’t have to come up with sides to make it satisfying.

Cons:

– If you have Fibromyalgia or any other pain condition, the spaghetti squash will seem pretty hard to cut. You need a good knife and some serious leverage. When it’s ripe, it’s pretty tough.

– It’s incredibly Italian. My family doesn’t really like Italian, and they’re not a big fan of the spaghetti squash taste.  The spicy sausage helped cut down the richness, but it wasn’t enough.  The leftovers didn’t get eaten.

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