This week’s tester’s are: Holly and Chad Hailey from Stafford, VA. Holly works as a Pharmacist, but also lists Mom, wife, maid, chef and nurse as her other professions. Chad is a Marine currently stationed at Quanitco. They both enjoy CrossFit and are new members of Ardent CrossFit in Stafford, as they have only lived in town for five months.

If she can find a minute of spare time, Holly enjoys cooking, reading, playing the piano, pretending to be a wine connoisseur, snowboarding, camping, hiking, hunting (she just got her first bow), fishing, spending time on the beach or in the mountains, and being a foodie and lover of microbrews (she’s originally from Oregon).

I asked how she had heard about PaleoNick and this is what Holly had to share:

“I randomly stumbled on Paleo Nick’s website one day while searching for a Paleo lamb recipe. I was trying to be brave and venture out by cooking things that I’m unfamiliar with and are totally out of my comfort zone. Upon scouring the site a bit further I saw a picture of someone I know so continued to read further about why there was a picture of this person that I know on this website. I mean, at this point I felt almost famous already anyways with that tiny connection. LMAO. This was when I discovered the whole recipe testing thing and I thought to myself, “I love to cook, I could totally do that”! The only recipes I’ve tried of Nick’s so far have been the four tested out here. I plan to continue cooking many of his recipes though as I was thoroughly impressed with the ones I made. My favorite of the four I tested was the slow cooker carnitas. Eating Paleo has definitely changed my life. Not so much in a physically tangible way, but in a way that only I can feel on the inside of my body every single day. Does that even make sense? It does in my head… I started doing Crossfit about 7 years ago and had no intention of changing the way I ate because I love food way too much. I honestly hated hearing people at my box talk about it “all the time”. After almost a year a group of people were doing the 21-day challenge so I decided to give it a shot. I mean, I could do anything for 21 days right? Then I would prove to them and myself that it would make no difference whatsoever. Fast forward 21 days… well, I was dead wrong. *GASP* The first week was tough and I felt like I was going to either starve to death or faint all of them time. Then I began to feel amazing and healthy. Who knew healthy was a feeling? Anyways, I haven’t looked back ever since. I mean, I fall off the train every now and again (ahem, Thanksgiving), but I always get right back on with a big sigh of relief. At any given point in time I would say I’m 90% Paleo only because I am human. At this point in my life I’ve not given any consideration to my macros, I just thought people were wasting their time and trying to sound all fancy and smart. Now that I’m working out much more than I have in the past I am starting to become curious about these macros they speak of… stay tuned, I know nothing at this point. But I do see that they are all measured out on your recipes so that was inspiring.


Approximate Meal Plan Cost As Prescribed:

Chain grocery store (Kroger): $162.00
Warehouse store (Costco or Sam’s): $121.50

Your final tally will depend on your geographic location and how much you rely on bulk purchases. As an example, you can get one quart of extra light olive oil at Kroger for $19.99 or you can get four quarts at Costco for $16.50. You follow? Meat and produce will also be less at the warehouse stores, but might mean you’re buying more than you’ll need for this plan.

Customize Your Plan and Shop It Up!

I have created a customizable grocery list in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Even if you’re no good with Excel, I’ve set it up in a foolproof way that even “The Jo!” could handle. Just follow these instructions:

  1. Open the document and click on the tab at the bottom that says “Menu item & Ingredient Brkdown.”
  2. At the top, you’ll see the number “1” in bold just below each menu item. You can change this number to correspond with the number of portions that you’d like to make. Say you want to double batch of Nick’s Ahi Poke, just change the “1”  to a “2” and it will increase the ingredients for this recipe. Make sense?
  3. Click back to the tab that says “Meal Plan 17.50 Grocery List” and your quantities will be updated.
  4. Print out the grocery list from the first tab only.
  5. Compare what you need to what you have on hand and finalize your list.

Then, head to the grocery store and make your purchases swiftly and efficiently.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

I want you to knock this out in one shopping session and two cooking sessions. I’ll explain these now, but make sure to scroll down to the notes on each meal below. They are listed beneath each picture.

In cooking session one:

  1. Prepare the Slow Cooker “Carnitas”. Place the ingredients into the slow cooker. Put the slow cooker on a foil lined sheet pan and cook for twelve high.
  2. Prepare Nick’s Ahi Poke. Enjoy this meal for dinner. Portion out any remaining food and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-5days.
  3. Clean up the kitchen and pat yourself on the back for a day well done.

In cooking session two:

  1. Portion out the Carnitas and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for up to six months. This meat goes great with a couple eggs as breakfast also.
  2. Prepare the Balsamic Braised Lamb Shanks. Get them in to oven to slow cook for the next four hours.
  3. While the lamb is cooking, prepare the Bacon Green Chile Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes. If you time these out to finish baking at the same time as the lamb shanks, enjoy the two together. Portion out any remaining and store in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
  4. Sit back and take it all in. Your Paleo Bank Account is stocked and now you are a Culinary Ninja who is ready to tackle life with energy, clarity, and confidence. Be sure to tell your friends about!

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Notes: “These carnitas were AMAZING and my whole family loved them, even my 7 and 8 year old kids! It was very authentic tasting. I’ve always been too intimidated to attempt making carnitas in the past; this will now be my go-to recipe. This recipe was super simple and very flavorful. We ate this for two days so there was nothing leftover to freeze,” Holly proclaimed.

“The time it took to trim the fat is my biggest complaint, but maybe I just had a super fatty shoulder? If it weren’t for the time-consuming fat trimming then my prep time would have been cut down to about 15 minutes. I added at least twice the amount of suggested chipotles and adobo sauce because I like a little more kick than most. I was stumped on what to serve it with so decided to have tacos, which were a huge hit with the fam! I topped it with cilantro and red onion as instructed, but also added shredded cabbage, sliced fresh jalapenos, guacamole, fresh-squeezed lime and shredded Mexican cheese. I used what chipotle in adobo that I had remaining and blended it with sour cream to make a spicy sauce for the tacos. I definitely bent the rules a little on this one, but who doesn’t love tacos?!” she noted.

Holly spent one hour prepping this dish (forty-five minutes of which she trimmed fat), twelve hours slow cooking, and yielded fifteen tacos with her meat.

Nick’s Ahi Poke

Notes: “The best part about this was dish is that it took no time at all to prep. I LOVE ahi tuna so I LOVED this dish! It left me wanting more,” the tester exclaimed!

“I viewed it as more of a snack or appetizer. My biggest complaint would have to be the level of difficulty finding all of the ingredients, but lo and behold, I succeeded! I felt that it wasn’t salty enough, perhaps because I used coconut aminos (I have no experience with tamari) so I ended up dumping on a bunch more while I was eating it. Personally, I needed to turn up the heat as well so I alternated each bite with sriracha and sambal chili paste! If I’m being totally honest, the seaweed (nori chips) just kind of got in my way and became instantly soggy if I tried to use them as a sort of wrap, if you will. If I make this in the future I’ll skip that part because I’m more of a give-me-a-shovel type of girl when it comes to eating. Ain’t nobody got time to mess around with “nori chips”, Holly shared.

She spent fifteen minutes prepping the poke and made six-one cup portions (which didn’t last long in her house).

Balsamic Braised Lamb Shanks

Notes: “This recipe was freaking amazeballs on the delicious scale! I cannot emphasize this enough….soooo flavorful! The meat is so tender it just falls off the bone. Again, even my kids like it. I definitely had leftovers on this one so I was happy to store them in my freezer for another day,” Holly said.

The recipe says to place the ingredients into a “hotel pan” which is a pan used in restaurant kitchens and may not be known by most. A large roasting pan will do the trick. Holly used a foil pan and had an issue with leakage onto the bottom of her oven. She placed a sheet pan under the foil pan halfway through roasting, but wished she had used a deeper roasting pan in the first place.

The tester spent one hour prepping this dish, four hours slow cooking it, and yielded eight portion of one shank each.

Bacon Green Chile Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Notes: “BACON… that is all. Seriously though, any time you meld together the flavors of bacon and sweet potatoes and green chilies, how can it not be good? Very intensely flavorful, like a party for my taste buds,” Holly shared.

She ended up having to use mild green chiles instead of hot due to her grocery store being out of hot, which was a huge disappointment for Holly and her need for heat, but she loved the overall flavor nonetheless. She also suggested maybe using maple syrup, honey or molasses instead of the brown sugar for the strict Paleo eaters out there. Holly did happen to have a pastry bag on hand because, well….CAKE. She had an issue with filling the bag and the tip getting clogged and then shooting out way to much filling. She ended up just using a spoon to fill the last few potatoes. While the piping does look much more appealing, the taste is still the same either way.

Holly spent twenty minutes prepping this recipe, one hour baking, and made eight portions of one half potato each portion.

Scroll down to see how the recipes turned out for Holly this week:

17.50 groceries
Slow Cooker “Carnitas”
Nick’s Ahi Poke
Balsamic Braised Lamb Shanks
Bacon and Green Chile Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Thank you Holly and Chad for being AMAZING meal plan testers!! Your feedback is top notch and the amount of photos you submitted made my job super easy this week. I am glad to hear that you stepped outside of the box and tried some new recipes. Now if you just learn your macro breakdown, you will be “Zoned Out Culinary Ninjas.” I appreciate all your hard work and I hope you will test for us again some day.

Holly and her family

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