While I admit that I do spend a larger portion of my budget on groceries than the average American(because it is an investment in my health), I still try to be as thrifty as possible... and I'm happy to report that I'm spending much less than I used to before going primal.
It's amazing how quickly those restaurant/delivery meals add up. If you're willing to give up eating out most days, you really can eat much healthier at home for a fraction of the price.
Tips that I've found useful:
1. Cook only what you like; it's great to be adventurous and to try new foods, but if you hate every ingredient in a dish, chances are you are not going to like the end result; you won't want to eat the leftovers, and it will go to waste -- even worse, I find that I crave bad-for-me takeout dishes whenever I am unsatisfied with my home-cooked meals. Far better to just cook what satisfies me in the first place. If you're hurting for ideas, follow some tumblr, pinterest, or facebook pages that post primal/paleo recipes daily (there are tons of them!). Worst case scenario: just google the ingredients you want to use and see what comes up -- the internet is rich with recipes!
2. Know which fruits and vegetables need to be organic in order to avoid pesticide residue, and which can be purchased non-organically. Also, check out farmers markets near you for much cheaper and fresher options (localharvest.org).
High In Pesticides (The "Dirty Dozen" to buy organic): Peaches, Apples, Bell peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Lettuce and other Greens, Grapes, Pears, Potatoes, Corn*
Medium-Level Pesticides (buy organic if possible): Carrots, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Raspberries, Plums, Oranges, Cauliflower, Mushrooms
Low in Pesticides (buy non-organic to save $$):
Onions, Avocados, Pineapples, Mango, Peas, Asparagus, Kiwi, Bananas, Cabbage, Broccoli, Eggplant, Papaya, Blueberries, Watermelon, Sweet Potatoes/Yams, Tomatoes, Winter Squash, Grapefruit, Honeydew Melon.
*Sweet Corn is actually low in pesticides... but I put it on the dirty category because it's almost certainly a GMO unless you buy it organic. If you are not OK with eating corn that has been genetically modified to produce Roundup -- a known carcinogen in humans (and I know I'm not) -- then stick to organic corn!
3. Proper Storage
Reduce waste and avoid spoilage by storing your veggies and fruits smartly.
Don't put ethylene producing fruits (like apples) next to the rest of your freggies or they will ripen very quickly. For more info on storage, check this out: www.sparkpeople.c
Also, make use of your freezer! Buying frozen meat in bulk and then thawing it in the microwave can save $$... and cooking in bulk and freezing leftovers allows you to have meals on hand for days when you cannot cook. I keep several liters of homemade stock in there, too, in case I have a surplus of veggies that I can make soup with.
Finally, the best way to store herbs is in an herb garden on your porch! This has saved me so much $$, though it only grows about 1/3 of the year. I would love to try a hydroponic indoor herb garden someday.
4. Figure out the value of your protein choices and plan accordingly depending on your weekly grocery budget. High-quality protein is, by far, the most expensive part of eating primally; If you are aiming to eat only wild-caught fish, pastured free-range poultry and pigs which don't eat GMO feed, and 100% grass-fed cow/bison/lamb, it's even more expensive! Check your local farmers (EatWild.com) to find farms near you which sell meat and eggs cheaper than your local Whole Foods or other natural grocery store.
Here's the breakdown of my most common protein sources in grams protein per dollar:
If you're on an extreme budget, it's OK it to buy poultry, pork, and eggs that are non-organic and non-pastured, etc. (just try to find a source that is not a factory farm and does not administer antibiotics). That being said, I would argue against eating grain-fed beef and farmed fish except in moderation, as they can be inflammatory / filled with toxins. Don't even get me started on how much I hate factory farms... I will rant for days -- suffice it to say, sick and sad animals beget sick and sad humans.
*Also, be careful not to buy fish or meat which comes in cans lined with BPA.*
Why Grass-fed?: www.eatwild.com/b
Why Pastured Poultry?: en.wikipedia.org/
5. Save the grease! Cook your bacon in the pan and save the fat in a glass jar to cook with later (brussels sprouts and asparagus are particularly delicious cooked with bacon!). You can also render the lard (pork) and tallow (beef) trimmed from your cuts of meat, or bought in bulk from a farmer near you.
How to Render: dontwastethecrumb
. If you are buying grass-fed beef, the fat is the part that contains all of those Omega-3s and CLA that you are paying the premium price for, so you don't want to waste it!
Why Most Vegetable Oils Suck: www.marksdailyapp
Is Saturated Fat Healthy?: www.marksdailyapp
6. Consider investing in a vegetable spiraler (like this one: www.amazon.com/GE
And/Or a Juicer
You can make quick, delicious meals and beverages out of your leftover veggies so nothing goes to waste.
Spiral Meal ideas:
Zucchini "Noodles" for soup or pho
Sliced Carrots baked with ginger and butter
Stir Fry vegetables
7. Stews! It's so easy to throw some root veggies, onions, and meat into the crock pot -- set it and forget it. Cooking tough, sinewy (cheap) cuts slowly in a moist environment will render the meat tender, juicy, and flavorful, and turn the collagen into gelatin, which is good for the skin and nails. It's also great to braise dark meat chicken with some wine. Bonus: you get bones in these "tough cuts," which you can use to make...
8. Stocks and bone broth. What a delicious way to stretch a dollar! Also easily one of the best things you can do for your health -- there is a reason chicken soup makes us feel better when we're ill.
Health Benefits of Bone Broth: www.realfoodrn.co
Just be sure to use filtered water.
9. Dried Grains and Legumes -- If you eat them / can tolerate them, invest in steel-cut oats, quinoa, buckwheat, dry beans, and lentils, etc. I know that these aren't "paleo," but some individuals do better digesting legumes and grains than others... if you do eat them, they offer some great fiber, protein, vitamins, and mineral benefits for very little cost. If you can tolerate gluten, bulgur and sprouted bread might be a good choice.
Same goes for grass-fed dairy -- if it works for your body, great. If not, no biggie... that's why God made avocados (lol).
10. You can make your own almond milk to save money and avoid preservatives and potentially-inflammatory compounds like carageenan -- here's how: allsortsofpretty.
. I add a calcium supplement to mine because I don't eat very much dairy. Save the pulp -- you can bake this to make almond flour and use it as a breading with which to "fry" foods in the skillet and oven.
11. Finally, be creative. Don't be afraid to combine things you like in new ways -- it will usually be awesome, and if not, you can make a mental note of how to make it more awesome next time.
Today's lunch was a complete whim... I used my handheld veggie spiralizer on a baby zucchini and carrot, and mixed it with 3 cans of tuna, a dollup of homemade mayo, diced onion, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper, golden raisins, almond flour, and two eggs... then I pan-fried the patties in some olive oil and served over a plate of spinach. SO good and so satisfying... and I would never have known if I had not tried :)
So, I hope this may help someone who is transitioning to a paleo/primal diet! I certainly have more to learn, and I will share it as my journey continues. Eat well!