A big misconception about eating healthy is that it’s too expensive. Here’s your guide on how to do paleo on a budget, because you don’t need to go broke eating paleo.
I love learning about how other people save money, so I’m really excited to share this guest post from my friend Val. Enjoy!
Is Paleo on a Shoestring Possible?
One of the biggest myths about eating healthy – whether doing Whole30 or following the Paleo lifestyle is that it costs too much. Some people wonder, is the paleo diet expensive or is it really possible to do grain free meals on a budget?
There is a common misconception that eating healthy is expensive, and some people think it’s not a realistic option for their family given the price. I’m here to tell you that is simply not true, and there are many easy ways to eat healthy on a budget, including eating paleo on a budget!
I love to live a healthy lifestyle, but I also believe in being thrifty and not being a wasteful spender. Over the years I’ve figured out some of the best ways to work within a reasonable budget, but still eat high quality, real food for every single meal. In today’s post, I’m going to share many of those strategies with you. When you fill up your cart with healthy foods every week, both you and your wallet will be feeling better than ever!
3 Common Myths about the Paleo Lifestyle
Before we get into some tips for eating paleo on a budget, I want to explore three common myths that some believe about the paleo lifestyle.
Paleo myth #1: You can only eat fancy foods from health food stores when you eat paleo
That is false! There are no Ten Commandments of paleo. Yes, there is a basic template (no grains, legumes, dairy, artificial sugar, etc), but it’s there as a guide. There is no paleo police that will show up at your door to confiscate your food items.
Paleo myth #2: Meat is more expensive compared to grains
While this might be true in terms of actual dollars, this is actually false from a nutrition standpoint. Gram for gram, meat and produce are far more nutrient dense than grains or legumes.
Paleo myth #3: Even if I make healthier food choices, I’ll still end up with health problems in the future
Nobody can know exactly how your future health will play out, but there is mounting evidence for the idea in the role of diet in age-related disease and some cancers. Please check out this study and this study. Both of these studies indicate that it’s possible to change the expression of our genes with environmental factors like food. Eat better now, to enjoy fewer age-related diseases in the future.
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8 Strategies for Eating Paleo on a Budget
Here are 8 helpful strategies to make it easier to eat paleo on a budget.
1. Be selective about buying organic
Here’s a secret for you about eating healthy: every little bit counts! It’s not an all or nothing game where you are either perfectly healthy or a total train wreck. The key is to get the most bang for your buck. Some organic foods are simply a waste of money.
For example: organic candy is still candy so skip it! What about something like organic bananas? Most of the pesticide residue is on the thick peel that you will end up trashing anyway so just buy conventional instead. I’m not saying here that it wouldn’t be ideal to have a 100% organic diet, but if you are on a budget, that is just not realistic. So just pay extra for organic when it counts the most.
For a more specific guide on what is best to buy organic, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, which get updated annually to reflect changes in growing conditions.
2. Buy in bulk both in store and online
Of course this won’t work for everything, but anything that keeps well in the pantry or freezer for several months is a good candidate for this strategy. When you buy in large quantities you save the most money.
Aside from nuts, seeds, dried fruit and other things you’d find in the big bins at the grocery store, meat is a good candidate for this. The only real way to save on meat (and that includes poultry and fish) without sacrificing quality is to buy in bulk. For example, Costco offers some of the best per-ounce prices on organic, grass-fed meat, organic chicken, and wild caught fish.
I have also heard of people buying a portion of a cow (butchered and prepared for cooking, of course) directly from the farmer, and this seems to be the best way to get your hands on quality, hormone free, grass fed beef with no question about how it was raised.
The real secret to make buying in bulk work for you is to do the math! Make sure you don’t look at price alone, but look at the price per pound or ounce and either use the calculator on your phone or look at the fine print on the price sticker on the grocery store shelf and compare the regular price for the average size container to the bulk price.
3. Buying in season will help you eat paleo on a budget
This is actually the best way to buy produce at reasonable prices. When something is in season, it is cheaper and easier to produce and more abundant, so the prices are lower.
Planning your meals around what’s in season is bound to save you some moolah on your grocery bill. You can check out the Seasonal Food Guide to find out what’s in season near you.
4. Shop sales & price compare at multiple stores
If you are lucky enough to have multiple supermarkets in your area, research their weekly sale fliers before you go shopping. Even if you have a favorite store you shop at, you might be surprised by the prices other stores have on items you plan on purchasing. And this doesn’t just apply to weekly sales at your local grocery store.
There are many produce wholesalers that are open to the public, and sell produce at a significantly lower price than the normal supermarket. It is well worth your time to shop around, learn where to get the best deals, and alternate shopping trips between stores.
5. Join a CSA or visit your local farmers market
There is no better way to know how your food is grown than by buying it straight from the farmer, or from a service that works with the farmer. When you buy from the supermarket, food has been passed through many distribution channels on the way from the farm, and every person at every step of the process has to get paid. That means extra costs built into the price. The closer to the source and eliminating the middleman means the cheaper your food should be.
You can even buy directly from a farmer by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). CSA’s may not look cheap at first glance, since many of them require an upfront cost (you pay for the season or year ahead of time). But, it more than pays off in fresh, local, organic produce week after week, at prices lower than what you would find at the grocery store.
Many CSA’s will allow you to save on the delivery fees by picking up your box at the farm, a local farmer’s market, or another central location. Please visit Local Harvest to find a CSA in your area.
6. Exploring different cuts of meat will help keep paleo meals on a budget
Meat can be a huge expense, and usually the source of the most sticker shock, especially for those just starting paleo. One of the biggest mistakes that people tend to make when switching from the Standard American Diet to paleo is assuming they need to fill up on a giant steak every single night.
Meat is, as we’ve all heard, is very costly to produce, to both the consumer and the environment. For the benefit of your wallet and the health of our planet, don’t rely on meat to help you get and stay full. Make sure to stay hydrated, and pile your plate high with plenty of fiber rich produce, healthy fats, and healthy starches like sweet potatoes, squash, and other root veggies. All of these, along with a normal portion of protein will help you feel full.
So what proteins should you explore?
Premium cuts like chicken breasts come with a premium price tag. There are certain cuts, however, such as stew meat or ground meat that are a little more budget friendly. If you get creative, you can use these cuts in so many different ways. It is possible to do cheap paleo meal prep. You can make burgers, meatloaf or hash recipes with ground beef. Consider switching from chicken breast to tenders, drumsticks or thighs, or mixing the cuts of meat in a dish. Make steak a special occasion food.
7. Don’t miss out on the frozen food section
So what do you do when you are seriously craving some blueberries and they’re out of your budget? Check the frozen food section! Frozen fruits and veggies are typically frozen at the height of their growing season. This means they will have greater nutrient density and lower prices than buying the fresh version in the off season.
Frozen meat and fish are also cheaper than their fresh counterparts because it is easier to transport and store these foods when frozen.
Just beware that all frozen foods are not created equal. Shop wisely and read those ingredient labels to make sure that there isn’t anything sneaky like salt, butter, artificial flavorings, or preservatives in your frozen veggies. This is actually common with mixed veggies.
8. Making a cheap paleo meal plan is possible
Make meal planning a part of your routine. Meal planning is a strategy that I have always embraced (even before I became paleo). I can’t tell you how much time, energy, money and mental space that this has saved me. In fact, this might be the best budget-savvy strategy I can offer you.
Make a meal plan that fits within your budget and stick with it! When you have a meal plan for the week, you know exactly what to buy at the grocery store. That way you won’t waste money on foods that may end up in the trash, and you won’t be tempted to throw in the towel and order take out.
Meal Planning can take on any form that works best for you. When we know what we’re eating every day, when we plan to meal prep, cook and eat it, and know just how much of it you need to buy, we are far more likely to avoid expensive surprises.
⇒ This simple program shows you how to eat fresh, whole foods with your family (this is key! no making multiple meals) for 30 days. It’s 100% gluten-free and paleo compatible too!
Do you have any tips to add to do paleo on a budget?