Our Whole 30 Experience and Tips and Essentials for Busy Moms

As promised, I am here today to share our Whole 30 experience with you! We finished last week, staying completely compliant and really finding a new meaning to how we eat. There are so many great resources out there so I won’t go into detail about Whole 30 itself, but more on how as a busy mom I managed to go 30 days without a vanilla latte ;).

We chose Whole 30 primarily because we wanted to change how we were eating and revamp what we stock our pantry with. Generally speaking my husband and I ate pretty healthy, but we weren’t necessarily eating nutritious, does that make any sense?! We ate organic as much as we could, had salads with protein for dinner, but then would top it all off with low-fat cheese and salad dressing that was full of sugar. Honestly, I really was just lazy with our meal planning, and caught myself not looking at ingredients anymore. We weren’t eating breakfast and for lunch I was admittedly eating the boys’ leftovers (tell me others do this?). We recognized we needed to make a drastic change…so we turned to Whole 30.

My husband and I are both so happy we did it, and it really does feel like an accomplishment. I mean 30 days of no sugar, dairy, gluten, processed foods, etc. is really a feat in my opinion! So any of you that have completed the Whole 30 or a cleanse like this should pat yourselves on the back. I honestly didn’t know if we would be able to do it between how busy we are with the kids, work, and life. If we can do it, surely you can too!

I really believe the hardest part is starting it. We said for at least 3 weeks prior to actually starting, that we were going to be “starting Monday”. And then Monday would come along and we would come up with 5 reasons why it wasn’t a good time to start it! Finally, we meal planned for the 1st week, stocked the fridge, cleared out the pantry, and dove right in.

Like I said there are soooo many great resources for Whole 30 from not only professionals, but also those that have done Whole 30 many times. I found this to be one of the most helpful parts of this cleanse in particular. There are so many great resources and you most likely know someone who has done it! Right when we were starting my son’s preschool teacher was finishing Whole 30. I couldn’t believe how many people we know have  done Whole 30 or are interested in doing it!

We really could not have gotten through Whole 30 without reading all the great tips out there, especially in that first week. So I wanted to take some time to talk about our experience with Whole 30, specifically for busy moms! I figured the easiest way would be to answer questions I get asked all the time about our particular experience. There’s a lot here, so let’s just jump right in!

Why did you do Whole 30?
Simply put, to rethink how we look at food. My husband and I recognized that we needed to revamp our meal planning and what we were eating on a daily basis. We are overall healthy people, but we knew we were doing our bodies and even our kids an injustice in what we were eating on a daily basis. It was time to start fresh and go back to the days before kids when we actually took time to think about what we were eating.

Did your kids follow Whole 30?
No! My husband and I always say our kids eating healthier and more nutritious than we do. Right?! I spend more time on their meals and snacks than my own (obviously a problem right there, thus Whole 30!). While they did eat many of the meals that we did on Whole 30, their diet really didn’t change much.

Where did you buy your groceries during Whole 30? 
I found most of our groceries at Costco, Trader Joe’s, Target (or local grocery store), and Thrive Market. This was convienent because it was the same stores I have always shopped at but now I have a better idea of the better choices at these stores. However…I did grocery shop a lot more frequently during our Whole 30 and had to visit multiple stores to grab all of our essentials. At first, I was pretty annoyed by that, but by the end I enjoyed the process of grabbing all of my healthy essentials.  I think it’s worth going into a little detail on what I found at each of these stores!

  • Costco – It never disappoints right? This is where I grabbed our deli turkey, sausages, sweet potatoes, avocados, fruits, veggies, and salads. Costco is by far the most cost-effective way to do the Whole 30. I would buy two bags of sweet potatoes and avocados at a time and by the end of the week we would be out of them! It’s also a great place to buy the rest of your fruit, veggies, and lettuce wraps. I was a little too excited when I found a package of lettuce heads that you can use as wrappers for tacos and turkey wraps. I have been drinking La Croix for a long time (like since high school!) and did a happy dance the day it arrived at Costco. It’s also where we buy our nuts (cashews and pecans), eggs, and avocado oil.
  • Trade Joe’s – I was expecting Trader Joes to be the key to our success during Whole 30, and it really was! Again, my Whole 30 tips are for the busy mom and busy family. Trader Joes made it so much easier on us and of course the prices are on point. Nuts I couldn’t find at Costco I got at Trader Joes (hazelnuts, pistachios). My Trader Joes list usually looked like this: papayas, precut fruit, sliced mushrooms, compliant chicken and turkey patties, ground turkey, filets, Larabars, coconut oil spray, guacamole and coffee. Trader Joes is hands down our favorite spot to shop!
  • Local Grocery Store/Target – I grabbed the same things at my grocery store as I did Target. So it just depended on what side of town I found myself. I didn’t grab much here besides compliant mustard, Tessemae’s salad dressings, and proteins. Because we were eating so many fruits and veggies I just found it better to grab those at Costco, but obviously your local grocery store will have all those too!
  • Whole Foods – Guys surprisingly enough, we purchased only 1 item from Whole Foods! I know shocking, I figured Whole 30 = Whole Foods, but no! Of course you could probably do all your shopping at Whole Foods and call it a day rather than going to all the different stores like we did. But it really didn’t bother me and I preferred buying in bulk and the Trader Joes items. So that one item was sugar-free bacon! It was an essential for us and I don’t have it pictured below only because we didn’t have any left. If we had it in our fridge we were making it. We had it almost every morning during Whole 30, and will never do any other type of bacon.
  • Thrive Market – We did the 30 day free trial.  Thrive Market is an online market (obviously!) that carries organic and natural foods at a lower cost than say Whole Foods. They do charge an annual membership fee but they promise you will save that and then some. Thrive Market is so great if you don’t have a local store by you to grab Whole 30 compliant staples and are much less expensive per item than Whole Foods (for the items that I was buying I found them to be almost $1 less than Whole Foods, but not all items may be like that!). I did find similar items at Trader Joe’s, so I ultimately canceled the membership. But I will miss there Thrive Market brand garlic pasta sauce because it is so delicious and Whole 30 compliant.

What were your Whole 30 essentials?
The creators of Whole 30 really emphasize meal planning and having your pantry staples together prior to starting and it really can not be emphasized enough. I completely agree that Whole 30 is either lost or won in how you prepare for it. Thankfully, I had a ton of friends that had recently finished it and gave me some great tips on essentials to always have on hand. We will definitely continue to keep these as staples in our pantry and diets!

A quick note to make here, if I don’t recognize the brand then that essential was easy to find anywhere. For example, coconut spray. If I do recognize the brand name then it wasn’t easy to find it Whole 30 compliant and that specific brand is what we chowed down on. For example, “True Story Turkey”, not just any old deli turkey. Make sense? 😉

Let’s start with dry goods:  

  • A good water bottle – We found ourselves so thirsty in the first few weeks of Whole 30, a good reusable water bottle was an essential.
  • Coconut Oil Spray – Brilliant, right? We used this for sautéing our chicken patties for lunch, and eggs in the morning. No more Pam in this house!
  • Canned Tuna – Easy lunch for when you are in a bind.
  • Larabars – I snacked on these only when it was absolutely necessary. On those days when lunch was so far away these were a lifesaver.
  • Salsa – Mateo’s Salsa from Costco was a huge hit. We put it on our eggs every morning and will never use any other salsa. We could not believe how many brands have sugar in them!
  • Tessemae’s – Can’t say enough great things about Tesseemae’s salad dressings. We used solely these on our salads, lettuce wraps, and even to dip sweet potatoes in. These will be the only dressings we use from now on. A big bonus is we found these at our local grocery store!
  • Avocado oil – The best! We use this for everythingggg.
  • Cashew butterThis one from Target is our favorite. My husband was a peanut butter addict and he says he will only do cashew butter from here on out. I am not a huge fan of butters but this one is tasty!
  • Stone ground mustard – It may seem silly to put this on the essential list, but we couldn’t go without it. I used it daily in my turkey lettuce wraps, and even used it on potatoes and our sausages.
  • Nuts – Snacks are frowned upon, but a handful of nuts got me through the day some days.
  • Good coffee – A good cup of coffee is a big deal, right? We made sure we always had good coffee on hand especially in that first week when our energy was zapped.
  • Ghee – not pictured. We used this sparingly because we like avocado oil so much. But we really enjoyed this on a sweet potato when we were tired of avocados (we ate soooo many avocados).

Our refrigerator never saw so much action as it did during Whole 30! Let’s take a look at how we stocked it (and will continue to).

  • Fruits and veggies – These are the stars of Whole 30. Get creative and try out new fruits and veggies you haven’t before. Zucchini and carrot spirals were a favorite for us with pasta sauce. A half a papaya was a morning staple for me. And of course sweet potatoes! We never got bored of these guys because they are so versatile. Load them up with avocado, bacon, and scallions, turn them into “fries”, or just go simple. I had a few bags of frozen veggies always ready to go, for when I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store and needed a quick side.
  • True Story Turkey (Costco) – This one came highly recommended. It has zero sugar and is just good clean turkey. I ate it almost every day in my lettuce wraps for lunch. A keeper, and the boys love it too!
  • True Story Organic Sweet Italian Sausage (Costco) – We enjoy these grilled with onion and mustard, or with pasta sauce and zucchini noodles. Another must have for easy dinners!
  • Califia Farms Dairy Free Better Half Unsweetened Coconut Cream & Almond Milk – That’s a mouthful! Guys this was my favorite. I talk all about coffee below, but cold brew or iced coffee with a splash of this is my new go to drink. Some hate it others love it, I would recommend at least trying it!
  • Cold Brew Coffee – So clearly not one that Whole 30 itself would say is an essential 😉 ! But for me it felt so indulgent and was completely compliant. Win win!
  • Eggs – Obvious, but the egg situation is bonkers! You will eat a lot of eggs. And believe it or not we didn’t even get tired of them. Hard boiled eggs with turkey lettuce wraps for lunch are filling and delicious.
  • Trader Joes Chili Lime Chicken Burgers – Total essential for me. I alternated one of these patties or the turkey lettuce wraps every day for lunch. I would top it with the Trader Joe’s guacamole, sliced red onion, and be one happy girl! And bonus one of these only takes minutes to cook!

What were some of your favorite meals?
So this is where I will say again…there are so many great resources from the Whole 30 cookbook to awesome bloggers who have the most delicious looking Whole 30 posts. We kept it super basic. I felt the way we would continue to do this after Whole 30 was to really eat clean and simple and get more creative when we were just so f****** over Whole 30.

Our typical breakfast on Whole 30 was 2 poached eggs (with avocado oil), salsa, avocado slices, 2 pieces of bacon, and fruit salad. If we had left over potatoes we would add that too, but didn’t feel it was necessary. Neither my husband nor I ate breakfast before (again another pre-Whole 30 fail) and felt this was really an important part of the program.Lunch varied. My husband packed his own lunch from Day 1, I just couldn’t keep up with that too. This was really the only meal my husband and I ate that wasn’t exactly the same. He usually would pack leftovers from the night before with a hard boiled egg. I typically ate 3-4 lettuce wraps with deli turkey, guacamole, red onion, and mustard. It was the bomb! When I got tired of that I would sauté a chicken patty and serve it with guacamole and red onion. When I was in a jam, I would quickly stuff a baked sweet potato with whatever I had on hand. We both plan to continue to eat Whole 30 compliant for lunch everyday.

We rotated the same 4-5 dinners throughout the 30 days. A grilled protein (steak, chicken, burger patty) with a  sweet potato stuffed with scallions and guacamole and side salad was our most simple yet go to meal. It was easy to make, filled us up, and delicious. Whole 30 compliant spaghetti sauce (love this one) with turkey sausage, mushrooms, and onions over zucchini noodles was a huge hit with the boys too. I always doubled it so we could have this for lunch the next day. We also would bake fish with compliant mayo (love this one), dill, and lemon juice and make sweet potato wedges to go with it. Speaking of sweet potato wedges! Those felt like such an indulgence and were great as a side for lunch and dinner. I would make a huge batch at a time. Lastly, this Whole 30 compliant taco seasoning is amazing (and every other recipe on her blog, she is one to follow!). We loved making this seasoning with ground turkey in a lettuce wrap with guacamole, red onion, and salsa. I will never do tacos any other way! We really enjoyed eating like this for dinner. It was easy, clean eating, and didn’t feel like a ton of dishes at the end of the night. Although I have never used my dishwasher as much as we did in the past 30 days!

Did you snack on Whole 30?
You bet I did! I know…Whole 30 isn’t too keen on snacks, but as a busy mom I felt they were a necessity to get me through. Of course, I chose compliant snacks and did try to do it as little as possible. Guys there were days when our schedule was so packed I couldn’t eat lunch till 2 pm, and I felt it was better to have mixed nuts and a banana or a Lara Bar and some carrots then wait that long to eat. But if you don’t want to do snacks I totally understand! My husband didn’t do snacks as he could eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at normal 4-5 hour spaces and always felt full. Me…not so much! My go to snacks were: trail mix of unsalted mixed pistachios, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and unsweetened raisins, Lara Bars (cashew only), hard-boiled eggs, banana with cashew butter (the best!!), carrots dipped in guacamole, and of course fresh fruit.

Did you drink coffee?
Anyone that knows my husband and I, know we like our coffee. Being a nurse that worked at night the majority of the time, I drank a lot of black coffee. I didn’t want the added sugar and cream in the middle of the night, but have really scaled back on it all together since having kids (weird I know!). In the early days of Whole 30 especially I really needed the coffee, come 3 pm I was desperately needing something to get through the afternoon. I tried cold brew coffee with a splash of the Califia Farms creamer and I was hooked. Seriously, the best coffee drink I have ever had and will never drink anything else. Whole 30 for the win!

Did you run into any obstacles during Whole 30?
Yes! Around almost every corner. In the first few days the hardest part was prepping meals for the kids. The wheat toast in the morning smelled heavenly and there humus at lunch made my mouth literally water. But I kept telling myself this is only 30 days. My husband ran into the same types of things at work. Cupcakes for a co-workers lunch and donuts in the kitchen for National Donut Day. But he pushed through too. We even went on vacation! It was a last-minute decision (we would have never planned a trip during Whole 30). We packed two huge coolers with all of our essentials and headed to Telluride. It was definitely challenging especially because we were so active while there biking and hiking, but we had our meals planned and never felt hungry. I wouldn’t recommend traveling while on Whole 30 (neither does the book), but if a trip is calling you unexpectantly it can be done!

How do you plan to eat now/ what are you eating now?
Our goal is to stay as closely to our Whole 30 diet as possible. In other words, we aren’t going to deprive ourselves of things we really enjoy (wine, vanilla latte, dark chocolate). When we are at BBQ with friends or out to dinner for a special occasion we will most definitely splurge. But we also see food so differently now. I read every label, and if I don’t recognize an ingredient I don’t bring it home and I definitely don’t put it in my mouth. I see treats as truly what they are treats, not a necessity every day. We are so much more selective on what we put in our bodies and for that reason alone I would say that Whole 30 was a total success for us.

Would you do Whole 30 again?
Absolutely. My husband and I are both in agreement here. We said probably again in 4 months we will complete another one. However, as I mentioned before we plan to stay pretty close to our Whole 30 diet as possible, with a few splurges in there ;).

So let me finish by saying I am no Whole 30 expert. However, I could not have gotten through Whole 30 without all the great resources encouraging me that it was possible and the tips that others have taken away from the program. I hope you can find that here! If you are on the fence like we were (for 3 weeks), make your grocery list(s) and jump in feet first. I promise you won’t regret it!

I know this post is off from the normal DIY and house posts, but it’s been such a big part of our lives the past 30 days so I felt it was worth the share! Have you done Whole 30 or a similar cleanse? What are some of your essentials for surviving it? Have you kept up with it? I would love to hear your experiences! As always, thanks so much for stopping by.

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Hi, I'm Jess. Soon to be mom of three and lover of all things decor and design. Follow along as we renovate our newly bought farmhouse one room at at time, and welcome baby #3. So happy you are here!


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