One of the main reasons people struggle to maintain a healthy, whole foods lifestyle is the prohibitive cost of eating healthy. I am here to tell you that you can eat paleo and have it be affordable, but you will need to be strategic! Gone are the days of strutting into a Whole Foods on an empty stomach without a shopping list or a meal plan. That is a recipe for draining your bank account and sobbing your way back through the McDonalds drive-thru…
Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the gist 🙂
1.Never shop without a meal plan or shopping list…and always go on a full stomach.
I talked about this in detail in “How to Save Time Preparing Paleo Meals”, but essentially, you will save 30-40% on groceries if you are armed with a meal plan and shopping list when you go to the store. If you don’t, you are liable to buy all kinds of things you don’t need, many of which will end up being thrown away because you didn’t have a use for them.
NEVER GROCERY SHOP HUNGRY! I’ve made the mistake time and time again of grocery shopping on an empty stomach. This is the #1 way to end up with a whole bunch of junk and convenience food you don’t need. Fill up before you go out!
2. Reduce your food waste
Its estimated that Americans waste 25-30% of the food they buy. As said above, meal planning helps reduce food waste. To keep your produce fresh, wash and store your produce in Debbie Meyer Green Bags or buy some Blu Apples for your produce drawer.
Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at turning leftovers into brand new meals (chopping meat and veggies and throwing into a soup or scrambling with eggs are 2 easy ways). My family rarely knows the food was “repurposed” to begin with!
3. Source your ingredients wisely.
Most people waste so money shopping at the wrong places for the best deals! If you haven’t already, spend an hour learning exactly where all of the organic and fresh food stores are in your area and where to source the best meat, fish and local produce at the lowest price. I have a Whole Foods right down the street, but if I bought everything there, my monthly food bill would be triple what it is. I buy organic meat, sale pantry items, and a couple other specialty items at high-end health food stores, find some of my staple pantry items at Costco, and buy my produce at the farmers market, a farm stand, or through a CSA.
Lately, I have been saving TONS of money at Thrive Market, which promises Whole Foods brands at Costco prices. Like Costco, there is a membership fee, but I have already made that back in savings in 1 month of shopping. Here is a post I wrote dedicated to my Thrive Market experience over the last couple months with details on how and where I saved.
4. Buy bulk.
While navigating the grocery store head straight to the bulk bins and stock up, especially when things are on sale! As your bulk food staples grow, you’ll have shorter shopping lists and an arsenal of inspiration for your home-cooked meals. Make sure to store bulk items in air-tight containers like these or these to keep bulk food fresh and eliminate waste.
5. Shop local.
Farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and buying whole or portions of animals from local farms are a great way to get the best products for less. In-season produce is almost always going to cost less, so try to be flexible and cook with the season. I like to go to the market at the end of the day and look for deals on produce the farmers don’t want to haul back to the farm. Offer to take it all off their hands and make them an offer they can’t refuse. Then go home and make a huge batch of soup, sauce, jam, casseroles…and freeze part for later.
Some things like fruit can be chopped and frozen on a sheet tray and then put into a freezer bag when frozen, too.
A CSA is another affordable way to eat with the seasons. If a CSA half-share seems like more veggies than you could eat or afford, see if a friend wants to go in on it with you. You can also freeze a portion of your haul for later or make a green juice!
Here’s an awesome free workshop you can take to teach you even more awesome strategies to source the best local ingredients at the best price, too.
We talk all about CSA’s and eating local in Episode 7 of Camille’s Paleo Kitchen. Check that out here:
6. Batch cook.
I go into detail in this article on how to do that, but essentially when I get a bunch of stuff at the farmers market or find great deals on organics at Costco, I will make a large batch of a couple recipes using those ingredients. Since we always have healthy delicious food in the freezer to pull out and heat up when we’re short on time, we end up eating out much less, which saves money, too.
7. Prioritize spending on organics.
If you can’t afford 100-percent organic ingredients, you can prioritize by buying the things that are known to have the most toxins. Here’s what I consider the most to least important items:
- Meat & Seafood
- Cooking Fats & Oils
- Produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list in 2015 (most heavily contaminated crops, buy organic):
- sweet bell peppers
- cherry tomatoes,
- imported snap peas
- Produce on the “Clean 15” list in 2015 (least contaminated crops, not as necessary to buy organic):
- sweet corn
- frozen sweet peas
- sweet potatoes
8. Stock up on the essentials during sales.
I know I told you to plan your meals, write a list and stick to the list, but if you arrive at the supermarket and there’s a sale on grass fed meat, snag it! It may not have been on your meal plan, but you can ask for it in 1 pound packages and freeze it. The same goes for anything on your paleo pantry list like nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut milk, etc. Click here to get a copy of my Paleogasm Starters Guide, which includes a pantry list. Speaking of pantry items, I can find nearly all the brands I love at Thrive Market.
9. Grow your own food.
I have pot gardens everywhere I live, even without a yard. It’s exponentially more economical to grow your own food. Whether you live in a studio or a mansion, there’s always room for a few pots of greens. A two-dollar packet of mixed lettuce seeds will support your salad habit for months.
Here is an AWESOME free workshop to teach you how to grow produce for pennies a day and exactly how to source local meat and eggs cheap.
10. Cut back on restaurants.
Not only do trips out to eat add up, the quality of the food you’re getting can’t compare to what you can make at home for a fraction of the price. The biggest offender at most restaurants is conventional oils that are loaded with omega-6 fats. You can still eat out from time to time, just set yourself a budget using a service like Mint or YNAB (our personal choice). If you’re consistently saying “I don’t have the money for organic produce or pastured meat”, but are eating out regularly, you do have the money…you’re just allocating it towards convenience instead of quality.
Checkout my “How to Save Time Preparing Paleo Meals” post if finding the time to cook is among your challenges.
11. Buy used kitchen items.
I have gotten some of my favorite kitchen appliances and items on Craigslist, eBay, garage sales and thrift stores. Just make sure you test it if its electronic before you purchase.
12. Make the pricey paleo goodies at home for a fraction of the price.
If you’re like me, the first time you shopped to prepare a paleo meal plan, you got a big shock when you got to the end of the checkout line!
In Episode 5 of Camille’s Paleo Kitchen, I teach you how to make some of the biggest offenders at home so save your hard earned $$$: Ghee (clarified butter), Nut milk and Sauerkraut!
I hope this article has inspired you to find a way to keep on keepin’ on with paleo and provided you a roadmap to do so. If I’ve missed any of your favorite strategies for eating paleo on a budget, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
This article is a sneak peek from inside Paleo Cooking School. If you’d like all of the recipes and videos that go with this lesson, you can join me inside now!