A friend of mine recently said that she was interested in Paleo but was worried about her food budget getting out of control. This is a rational fear as Paleo eating is rather more expensive than the Standard American Diet (SAD). So, I made a list of 10 tips that have helped me as I learn about the Paleo way. I do spend a little more money than I used to when I was eating the SAD way; but these strategies help me keep my grocery spending in line. Unfortunately, I don't have any advice for those of you who can't stop shopping for new clothes because you are loving your new bodies too much after trying the Paleo diet!
10 Tips to do Paleo on a Budget
1. Shop locally at farmer's markets whenever possible -- they usually have the best options for cheap locally-grown produce.
2. Buy certified organics at Trader Joe's. I don't like to buy non-organics there because I don't trust their business practices; but I do find that their prices on organics often beat supermarket prices on the same non-organic equivalent. And since the FDA is fairly rigorous about certified organic labeling, I like taking advantage of the great pricing at TJs for this stuff.
3. Avoid Whole Foods like the PLAGUE. We refer to to this store where I'm from as "Whole Paycheck" because you go in there and before you know it you have spent a hundred dollars and you don't even have enough food for a week. I LOVE Whole Foods and when I need specialty items (like organic hemp seeds), or if I want a salad bar where everything is well-labeled so I can avoid eating off plan, I will stop there in a pinch. However, it is not a cost-effective place for regular daily grocery shopping.
4. Buy frozen veggies when necessary. Frozen veggies keep costs down and they keep longer. TJ's has some great organic veggies in their freezer section, and I also buy certain things like okra at regular grocery stores.
5. Don't worry too much yet about switching to grass-fed/pastured/wild meats. Right now, just try to get a grip on this way of eating. Switch to grass-fed when you have the budget to do it, and when you have a good understanding of how the diet works.
6. Buy meat (especially chicken and steaks) in bulk and freeze it individually. You can even buy it at Costco, BJs, or Sam's Club in the freezer section already wrapped individually, but you might not save as much $$.
7. If you have a family, try to get them on the same eating plan by NOT TELLING THEM what you are doing. This is easy to do by following great recipes and serving starchy veggies instead of pasta and rice (sweet potatoes, yuca, taro, plantains, etc.) This way, you aren't shopping for two separate menus. I do this a lot when I am feeding guests. A few nights ago for example, I made a Creamy Coconut Chicken with mushrooms and onions, mashed plantains and carrots, and a side of spinach & kale with onions and peppers. My guests did not even know they were eating Paleo and one person said, "Aren't you still on your diet? You're cheating tonight!" I resisted the urge to punch the person for policing my plate and then told her that actually she was on my diet tonight also! She said, "You're losing weight on this plan?" I said, "The proof is in the pudding!"
8. Make ahead as much as possible and always pack your lunches. Just as if you were planning for a SAD week, make ahead meals for your Paleo week. I like to make frittatas on Sunday nights and take them breakfast throughout the week. I ALWAYS make enough food for dinner so that I have lunch the next day.
9. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. I have started creating a weekly meal plan and grocery list. That helps me to not buy random things at the grocery store. I go in, I get the things that I need, and I move on. No muss, no fuss. I have reduced my grocery bills exponentially by doing this. Check out Paleoplan.com for meal plans if you are cooking only for yourself and up to one other person. Check out Wholefamilystrong.com and thepaleomama.com if you are cooking for a family.
10. READ, READ, READ. Commit to reading about the Paleo diet -- at least one article or book chapter per day. KNOWLEDGE is POWER on PALEO. That is my slogan. The more you know about what you are doing and why you are doing it, the easier it is to manage everything, including costs.
Here's my Coconut Chicken dinner. This is definitely making another appearance!