Monday, July 23, 2012

My Top 10 Tips for Eating Paleo on a Budget

"Paleo is expensive!!" 


"I can't afford to eat paleo!"


I hear things like this a lot. Every time it surprises me. I guess because it doesn't seem that way to me. We are a family of 5 living on much less than the average family of 5 and we eat paleo. 


First, I think you have to look at what you're NOT buying on paleo that will save you money. You're not buying convenience meals, soda, juices, energy drinks, candy, snack foods, breads and other baked goods, grains, beans, sugar... Take those things right off the top of the grocery budget and that leaves a lot more for paleo-friendly foods.


I agree that good meat, healthy fats, and veggies (the bulk of what makes up a paleo diet) aren't cheap, but I don't find eating paleo prohibitively expensive. In fact, I'd say I'm spending about the same as I was before. 


My grocery receipt for last week.
My top 10 tips for eating paleo on a budget


1. Eat out or order in less. I realize this one may not be popular, so I thought I'd put it right up front! My family rarely goes out to eat. Yes, you can generally find paleo options while eating out, but when you're talking about how to do this thing affordably: eating out should be the first thing to go. No matter which way you slice it, it's more expensive and usually less healthy. I know we're all crunched for time these days, but if the health of our family is a priority sometimes we just have to shuffle things around and figure it out. 


2. Menu plan and make a grocery list. Just having a plan can save. Each week I take stock of what we already have, decide what meals I want to have (utilizing what we already have as much as possible), then make my grocery list. This will also help cut back on extra trips to the store.

3. Coupons. I used to be the coupon queen and I'll admit there's very little extreme couponing when eating paleo. Coupons do tend to be for things we don't eat, BUT I can still find some coupons. Check your sunday paper and look online at sites like coupons.com or sites for brands that you buy frequently. Every little bit helps.

4. Stock up when there's a sale. I stalk the sale ads at Natural Grocers. When a staple like Wild Planet tuna, frozen vegetables, the turkey bacon we like, or canned coconut milk goes on sale. I stock up big time. If it's a really good deal I'll buy 10+. The same with Tropical Traditions. I signed up for their emails and watch for a great sale, say on their gallon sized coconut oil, just one and I'll be set on coconut oil for quite a while. Most stores have their ads available online and will email them to you weekly. It makes it easy to quickly check sales before you go shopping.

5. Buy in season or on sale and freeze it. Check out Epicurious' map for what's in season by state and month. Shopping in season is a great way to save money. Things are cheaper in season and if they can be frozen you can stock up. When berries are in season and super cheap buy a ton. Wash them, pat them dry, lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Once they're frozen transfer them to a freezer bag. I once found strawberries for $1 a package and bought 40. You don't have to go that crazy, but you get my point. I buy grass fed butter when there's a good sale and freeze it. You'd be surprised by what you can freeze. Google it, or look for a good book on it (I found several at my library).

6. Get your meat from a better source. I guess the cool kids are calling it 'cow pooling' or some such thing. Around here we just call it buying a half a beef, or whole, or quarter or whatever. Basically you deal directly with a local (or however close to you is available) rancher to purchase a whole or part of an animal. The quality is amazing and if you divide out the price it's quite a value. We raise our own beef, but if we run out of hamburger early we buy from a local rancher friend (The Elbert County Meat Co.). The same type of thing can be done with pork, buffalo, just about anything. Most offer grass fed options. Perfect for the paleo eating family, plus you can feel good about supporting your local farmers and ranchers. Something near and dear to my heart. Check out sites like Eat Wild  if you don't even know where to start with this.

7. Grow your own. I think every family should attempt a garden. Even if it's just a couple of containers on your balcony. Work with the space you have and give it a shot! Lettuce and spinach are very easy to grow. Herbs too. If you have more space you can branch out to all kinds of things. We've got everything from tomatoes to spaghetti squash planted right now.

8. Try your local farmers market. Again, you're supporting your local farmers and ranchers and getting quality food. Which is a big part of why I love farmers markets. Generally they're cheaper, although I have found things priced higher on a few rare occasions (and when I can afford to I don't mind paying more). But we're talking paleo on the cheap, so just know your prices and stock up on the good deals.

9. Join a CSA. CSA stands for community supported agriculture and can be a great way to get fresh local food on a budget. Check out Local Harvest or google your area and csa to find one near you.

10. I'm talking paleo, not perfect. If it's just flat not in the budget to buy all organic, I don't. I'd love to, and some day I hope to, but it's just not possible for us all the time, and I'm OK with that. Check out things like the "Dirty Dozen" and make informed decisions on where to cut back when the budget demands. I have my deal breakers, for instance wild caught. If I can't fit wild caught in the budget I don't buy fish. Prioritize and do the best you can.


What do you think? Is paleo too expensive? Do you have any other tips for eating healthy on a budget?