Paleo on a Budget

You’re eager to jump into a paleo lifestyle. You’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts and made a commitment to change the way that you eat. You’re already looking forward to the benefits: weight loss, increased energy, better sleep. And then the grocery store cashier tells you how much you owe.

The truth is that your very first grocery shopping trip after becoming paleo can be a shock. Meat and produce can be expensive, especially if you’re used to bulking out your meals with cheap dry goods like pasta and beans. Before you decide that you’ll have to choose between food and paying the electric bill this month, however, take heart in the fact that there are some simple ways to keep your grocery bills down when you’re eating – and shopping – paleo.

Image Credit: muammerokumus
Image Credit: muammerokumus

1. Make a meal plan

Every day people throw out spoiled food – all for lack of a plan. This is a surefire way NOT to eat Paleo on a budget. If you know what you’re going to eat for the week, you’ll make fewer impulse purchases and throw away less food. Plan your meals around cheaper sources of protein – eggs, whole chicken and tougher cuts of meat, for example – rather than feasting on t-bone steak every second day.

2. Stick to a list

It’s easy to get side-tracked at the grocery store – especially if you’re already hungry. Make a list based on your meal plan and stick to it. Your list should include everything that you need for meals and snacks for the week. Be flexible when it comes to sales. If you have apples on the list, and oranges are half-price, then make simple substitutions. The simple substitutions will help support your efforts and commitment to eat the Paleo way.

3. Stretch out your food

If you buy a jar of almonds for snacks, and eat them all within a day or two, it’s not budget-friendly – or weight-friendly, either! If you have a hard time exercising self-control, consider measuring out snack foods into single-serving portions. Meals can also be stretched out, by packing the next day’s lunch before putting supper on the table.

4. Choose cheaper cuts of meat

Tough, fatty cuts of meat tend to be cheaper. Throw a cheaper cut of meat in the crock pot in the morning with some vegetables, and you’ll come home to a divine-smelling house and a deliciously tender supper. This is the very definition of an easy Paleo meal.

5. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables

Buying asparagus in December or papaya in March can put a huge dent in your grocery budget. Whenever you can, buy seasonally and locally – food will be cheaper, fresher and taste much better. Think tomatoes in August, or berries in June. Don’t forget to look in the frozen foods section. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often cheaper than fresh, and they’re frozen when they’re in season, ensuring great taste and nutrition.

6. Use everything

A whole raw chicken costs much less per pound than boneless, skinless chicken breasts – and you can easily stretch it out into several meals, including a soup made from the bones. Vegetable scraps can be saved and used to make broth.

7. Buy in bulk

While buying in bulk involves a bigger up-front cost, over time you’ll end up saving a lot of money. A large jar of coconut oil, for example, might seem like an expensive purchase, but it will last you much longer and cost much less per use than a smaller jar. When local, seasonal vegetables are cheap and plentiful, buy extra and freeze the surplus. If you have a large freezer, see if your local butcher sells bulk meat. Buying half a cow is cheaper than picking up fresh meat every week. If half a cow seems excessive, consider sharing the cost with a friend.

8. Buy directly from the source

When they’re available, farm stands, farmer’s markets, and pick-your-own farms are great for stretching out the budget by cutting out the middle-man. Even better, your food will be fresher and you’ll know exactly where it comes from. Even if you live in a major urban center, you can usually find a seasonal farmer’s market.

9. Make informed choices about organics

While ideally the paleo diet focuses on organic produce and grass-fed meat, it’s important that you don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for organics, you’ll still be eating much healthier than you were before. If your budget allows a few organic choices, focus on the “dirty dozen”, like apples, strawberries and sweet peppers. Some produce – avocado, cabbage and bananas, for example – doesn’t have a high amount of pesticide residue, so you can choose conventional and save some money.

10. Plant a small garden

While this isn’t for everyone, it’s worth finding out if your thumb is green! Planting a few vegetables and herbs can really stretch your budget in the warmer months. Even if you live in a condo in the city, it’s possible to plant a small container garden with herbs on the balcony.

11. Look for discounted foods

Often grocery stores and butcher shops discount their fresh meats and produce at the end of the day. If you buy them and freeze them when you get home, they’ll still be fresh and delicious for future meals. Ask store clerks about the best time to buy discounted food.

Yes, paleo can be expensive, especially at first. But then, so can any lifestyle change. Use these tips help you eat Paleo on a budget and just think about how much money you’ll be saving on pizza and ice cream! Once you’ve hit your stride, you’ll find that eating paleo is an affordable way of life. The benefits of paleo – better health, stronger body, calmer mind – are attainable on any budget.

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