EGGS AND DAIRY PRODUCTS
When buying eggs and dairy products, locating local sources should always be your first choice, depending on where you live. Keeping local farmers in business helps local economies and communities thrive. I love Organic Valley products, which is a large co-op of more than 2,000 farms nationwide that operates in a way that protects the land, animals, economy and consumer’s health. There happens to be 24 Organic Valley family farms in my state (Oregon), and they label the products they sell as “Local” if they came from the state you live in. Organic Valley also offers grass-fed products including milk and cheese, and the pricing is pretty middle-of-the-road. Look for coupons, which they offer frequently in stores that carry their products and online.
BUTTER AND GHEE
Every fridge has butter, and every paleo fridge also has ghee. Mine has both. I used to recommend Keri Gold butter because it comes from cows that graze on grass that is not treated with pesticides and who are raised with no hormones or antibiotics, but I’m a bit more skeptical these days since I read that up to 3% of a Keri Gold cow’s annual diet may be from GM sources. While that is still a much lower number than what we see in butter in the United States, it still makes me think twice. I use Organic Valley butter exclusively.
Ghee is clarified butter, and is used in paleo cooking and baking because it contains no milk solids. There are many great versions of ghee and grass-fed ghee on the market, but I prefer Organic Valley ghee or 4th & Heart brand, which is grass fed.
I keep fish sauce in my fridge because I add it to a variety of recipes to achieve a greater depth of flavor. When I first started using it I could not find Red Boat brand anywhere but on the Internet, but now it is widely available in grocery and specialty stores. Red Boat is the only brand I use because it is incredibly different from all other brands. I use it in soups, sauces, stir-fry dishes, casseroles, marinades and a host of other things. This product is a staple in paleo cooking, and it must be refrigerated.
SOY SAUCE & COCONUT AMINOS
Soy sauce is also a staple in many kitchens, and is pretty widely available in organic versions. Kikkoman and Ohsawa are good ones, and San-J Organic Tamari makes a good gluten-free version.
Coconut aminos are close behind traditional soy sauce, and is made from aged coconut sap and sea salt. This product has a deep savory flavor but with a touch of sweetness and less salt. Coconut aminos is naturally gluten free and vegan, and is widely used as a soy sauce substitute by the paleo community. You can buy coconut aminos in most grocery and specialty stores I am particular to Coconut Secret brand.
When it comes to condiments, most are available now in an organic version, but be careful about the brands you buy. Many grass roots organic food product makers have sold out to large food producers who have changed processing practices, cut corners and changed suppliers, which have cheapened and diluted the products. For example, Annie’s Organics was purchased by General Mills and the name changed to Annie’s Home Grown. More recently I’ve seen a few references to Annie’s Naturals products that used to be organic, but no longer bear the USDA Organic label. If you’re buying pre-made products like salad dressing, mayonnaise, catsup, barbecue sauce and other condiments instead of making your own, make sure you’re purchasing a properly sourced organic product rather than one marked “Natural” or “All Natural,.” which doesn’t mean the product is safe.
The best produce on earth comes straight from the ground in our own yards, but if you don’t grow food at home, here are other options.
The next best thing to home grown is to buy from your local farmer’s market. Keep in mind that many small local farms grow without pesticides, chemicals or GMO feed but cannot afford the USDA Organic certification. Generally speaking, the food is clean and safe just like its organic counterpart, but if you’re not convinced and the farm is local enough to the town you live in, drive out and check out how they grow food. It will be worth it – I promise – and you will feel more connected to your food. You might be surprised by the number of people who grow food close to where you live, and how much you’re missing out on my not knowing that.
If you don’t have the time or desire to do all the leg work, find a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program where you can become a member and purchase a “share” of fresh vegetables and other tasty things from a regional farmer that you can either pick up or have delivered to your door once a week or once a month, whichever works for you.
Almond milk is a staple in many refrigerators these days – even in mine. Most vegan milks and milk products contain carrageenan, which is derived from seaweed and acts as a thickener, which gives the milk a fuller mouth feel and taste. Carrageenan has been attributed to ulceration and inflammation and has no nutritional benefits, so there is no good reason to consume it. Further, store-bough almond milk has but a handful of actual almonds – most have only 2% almonds – making it a poor source of protein, and incredibly expensive for what you get. Many brands also include added sugar, so you’re paying for water and sugar. The smart choice is to make it yourself, which is easy. Really. Here is the recipe I use.
Coconut milk is also a staple in my fridge because I use it for baking, cooking, soups, curries and much more. There are some really good coconut milk products on the market, but none of them currently sold in glass or aseptic cartons; therefore, I buy them sparingly and only when I’m desperate or need the cream for making things like frosting or meringues for baked goods. Native Forest is a great brand if you’re buying it, and it is sold in most grocery and specialty stores. Homemade coconut milk does not produce the layer of cream on top that you see in the store-bought canned version, which is useful for many applications, like those mentioned above
For every-day use, this is my recipe.