We just received our 1,459th question about how to eat Paleo inexpensively. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but there are a lot of people who ask for help with budgeting their Paleo groceries.
Luckily, my husband and I just decided to try to cut our food budget in half because it was getting a little out of control over here, so I have a lot of suggestions. Here goes.
First of all, go to eatwild.com and find a local rancher to sell you pasture-raised/grass-fed meat for cheaper. I have half a cow and half a pig in my extra freezer right now that I bought for about $4/lb and $3/lb respectively. Both are pasture raised. My freezer cost me $140 on Craigslist. Here’s a tutorial on the process of buying local meat (summary: it’s not hard at all).
Then when you have that meat in your freezer, EAT IT! Get in the habit of taking meat out a day or two in advance to prepare for when you’ll actually need it. It’ll save you emergency trips to the store, where you’ll be forced to buy good ground beef for $8/lb.
If you can’t find a source of meat locally that’s cheap (I don’t think you looked hard enough), here’s what you do at your health food store. Buy whole chickens, or just the cheap parts of chickens, and make soups and stews. Buy cheap cuts of all kinds of meat and slow cook them. Or cut them up into really small pieces and make goulash-type dishes. When tough cuts of meat are cut up into small bits, they’re way less tough. Or buy ground meat and organs and mix them together for a really cheap, nutritious blend of animal protein and fat. You can really make any cut of meat taste delicious.
Buy cheap veggies. Stay away from the peppers and other really expensive ones and stick with carrots, onions, celery, cabbage, and the other cheap varieties. We now have a limit in our house of $2/lb for veggies, and most of them are under $2/lb – all are organic. Get involved in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) co-op, where you receive produce and other goodies weekly for relatively cheap from local producers. LocalHarvest.org is a good place to find one.
No More Luxury Items
Don’t buy unnecessarily expensive foods like bacon, olives from the beloved olive counter, really expensive chocolate bars, dried fruit, etc. Buy cocoa powder and make chocolate bars yourself (heat up cocoa powder, honey, coconut flakes, and coconut oil and then freeze it on parchment paper in the shape of a large thin “bar” – it’s amazing). And make sausage or bacon from the pig you buy from a local rancher (the meat processor you use will actually do this for you).
Make your own coconut milk ice cream instead of buying it for $7 a tub. Our ice cream maker was $70 and one of the best investments we’ve ever made.
Dry your own fruit in the oven or dehydrator.
Get a Costco or Sam’s Club membership. We went the other day and found a 4-lb tub of organic coconut oil for $20. Yes, $20. Also, if you buy a local pig or cow, you can ask for the fat and then render your own tallow or lard. It’s really easy – it just takes a little time. You could do it while you watch a football game on a Sunday…
Get coconut and almond flours in bulk instead of in expensive, small bags. Then make large batches of baked goods if you’re into that. Then freeze them and take them out as needed. There are cheap sources of the flours online, too. Always look into buying stuff online! If you have the premium membership to Amazon, you get free shipping, so things like coconut milk and flours can end up being cheaper there than grocery stores.
I just found an organic, pastured egg source at Vitamin Cottage for $3.50 a dozen, as opposed to the $8 ones at Whole Foods – see if you can do the same. We also used to get our eggs from a local egg producer for about $2/dozen. She was just too far away for it to be sustainable, but you might have better luck with that. Again, look on eatwild.com. Or buy yourself some chickens :)
Broth really does go a long way. We just bought two organic turkey wings this week for $2.30/lb, stuck them in a large pot of water with some chopped up wilting carrots and celery and let it simmer overnight. Now we have this delicious huge pot of broth that is the base for all kinds of foods. For instance, our breakfast consists of soup made from broth, a little bit of pork sausage from our pig, eggs, and whatever veggies we feel like eating that morning. We also use it in stews, dinner soups, chili, and other large dishes we make in bulk for use during the whole week.
Don’t Waste Food
Don’t throw food away. I mean, you’re literally throwing money away when you do that. That’s a really good thing about Paleo Plan’s meal plan is that we tell you how to use all the food you buy on the list we provide. But on or off the meal plan, you have to be really diligent about knowing what’s in your fridge at all times. If you make a lot of meat at one time, with the plan of eating it later in the week, make sure you eat it later in the week. And don’t wait three days to eat it or you’ll start to wonder if it’s gone bad, turn your nose up at it and start pretending it’s not there.
Don’t buy more food until you really need to. Take stock of what you have in your cabinets, freezer, and fridge, and don’t buy more food until you’re actually out of things. That way you’ll actually end up using the stuff you have, even if it’s getting a little wilted. Wilted veggies really are usually just as delicious in cooked dishes as fresh ones. They may not have quite the nutritional value they once did, but oh well.
Eat potatoes, especially if you’re active and not diabetic (please no comments from the die-hard low-carbers: some of us really can tolerate carbs). Potatoes are really cheap. And yes, they’re Paleo :)
On the carb note, make stuff out of tapioca flour. It’s cheaper than coconut and almond flours, and it mixes really well with both of those to give baked goods a sort of glutinous texture.
Overall, just try to buy things on the cheap in smart and healthy ways, don’t waste food, and plan out your meals for the week so you don’t end up going out all the time for lack of preparation. In other words, channel your great grandmother :)
I’m sure I missed a bunch of things – anyone else have tips?
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