Paleo on a budget can be done! I frequently hear from people that they cannot afford to eat healthy, but I’m going to show you that you can! Everyone’s budget for food is different but with a few simple tips you can make this lifestyle much more affordable. In fact, your grocery bill may even decrease when you cut out all the excess junk and only focus on quality food.
Think of all the money you’d save on medications and doctors bills if you could improve your health through better quality foods. Prioritizing your health over some material goods may be a decision you need to make, and what’s a better investment than YOU?
Some of the paleo savings tips here will require you to put in a little more footwork in the kitchen by preparing your own meals. While this does add extra time since most real food needs to be prepared, you can cook in larger portions so that you have extra meals throughout the week and spend less time cooking. I’m going to share with you some tips that have helped my family transition to a budget friendly paleo lifestyle.
Buy In Bulk
Buying in bulk will almost always save you money on any item. This is especially true for any packaged items such as oils and condiments like paleo mayo. Make sure that whatever you’re purchasing in bulk is going to be used up before it spoils otherwise it would be cheaper to buy the smaller portion and not waste money on food that will end up in the trash.
Meat is also a great option to buy in bulk. You’re probably going to need a chest freezer for this but it will pay for itself tenfold in the amount you end up saving on meats. Now days it is becoming more and more common to purchase meats directly from the farmer, such as a half or quarter cow, pig, goat, lamb, etc. Make sure you’re purchasing from farmers who treat their animals humanely and let them free range. What’s great about purchasing half an animal is that you’ll have several varieties of meat cuts so you’ll have so many more options for dinner.
I highly recommend buying in bulk whenever possible, but if you can’t, it’s still easy to find affordable meat. I myself don’t have a chest freezer because I live on solar power so I have to make due with the freezer on my refrigerator so I’ll share other tips to finding affordable quality meat.
Buy From Wholesaler or Butcher Shop
When purchasing meat, it’s always going to be cheaper to buy directly from the wholesaler than going to the grocery store and paying the mark-up. Find the slaughter-house or butcher shop and buy directly from them. The prices can be almost half of what you would pay in a grocery store. Also be sure to ask if they have any cuts of meat that need to be sold soon, because you might be able to get those even cheaper.
Buy On Sale
I live in Hawaii where groceries are the most expensive in the nation, and yet I still frequently buy meat here that’s cheaper than on the mainland. The trick is, keep an eye out for when the grocery store gets in a large delivery of a certain type of meat, and check back a few times a week when it’s close to expiring because they will mark it on sale. Whenever meat is about to expire, grocery stores have to mark it down to get it to sell faster. There’s been several times that I’ve found pork roasts here, that typically sell for $25.00 for a 5 pound roast, that will go on sale for a quarter of that price once it’s close to expiration. I don’t pay any more than $4 or $5 for my pork roasts because I buy several of them at a time when they’re on sale.
This can be said for any type of meat. Keep an eye out for what’s on sale that week, buy more of it than you would typically eat and put most of it in your freezer for later. That way, you’ll start a nice little collection of different cuts and types of meat that you only paid minimal dollar for.
Same goes for canned goods and condiments. When you’re at the health food store and you notice you’re nut butter or paleo mayo is on sale for half off, buy several of them instead of just one because they typically last for at least a year in your pantry.
Choose Cheaper Cuts Of Meat
Typically people purchase the more tender and leaner cuts of meat which are more popular and can be quicker to prepare, but will also come with a heftier price tag. If you’re focusing on healthy, grass-fed, pastured animals, then you can definitely include some higher fat cuts of meat. Think chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts and fattier cuts of steak. Stew meat is another great option, it’s very cheap and although tough, can be made into a delicious meal if you cook it slowly in a crockpot.
Focus on bone-in meats as those will also typically be cheaper. Most people don’t want to deal with the hassle of bones but you’re actually getting a better deal when you purchase bone-in meats because you can use the bones to make your own homemade bone broth. So essentially, you’re getting multiple uses out of one purchase! Whenever I want to make something with ground lamb, I purchase bone-in lamb loin chops, cut the meat off the bones and run it through a meat grinder, and use the bones to make lamb bone broth. This can be done with absolutely any type of meat you can think of.
Eat Organ Meats
Organ meats (liver, hearts, brain, kidneys) are typically cheap and are packed full of nutrition that can be difficult to maintain elsewhere. While these are an acquired taste, there are many recipes out there that help disguise the strong taste of organ meats, such as liver pâté.
Be sure to check at your butcher shop or wholesaler to see what they have available for organ meats because many times these aren’t highly desirable and they may even discard them. Remember in a paleo lifestyle, we try to consume as much of the animal as possible and not waste anything. Ancient cultures all did this because they knew how healthy all parts of the animal are.
You can save a ton of money by purchasing pantry items online through Amazon. Typically, you can save as much as a few dollars per item and if you have Amazon Prime, it get’s delivered directly to your house with free shipping. I almost always purchase all of my flours, nuts, condiments, protein powders, collagen, and even sometimes canned goods on Amazon.
If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, definitely consider getting one. Take note of prices of certain items at your grocery store and then go on Amazon and see what their prices are. It’s usually almost always cheaper.
Buy In Season And Local
Buying produce that is readily available because it is in season will definitely be cheaper than trying to buy something out of season, like an apple in the middle of spring. This produce will also be more nutritious because it was grown in it’s natural climate and within it’s natural life cycle. Also, when produce is in season, there is generally more of it and it will have to go quickly before it expires so it will most likely be on sale.
Make good use of farmer’s markets when the season is right as you won’t be paying for grocery store mark-up. Produce at farmer’s markets is almost always cheaper, as well as fresher and local. What’s better than supporting local economy, right?
Grow Your Own Produce
Consider having a small garden in your yard and adding some fruit trees. Regardless of where you live, you will at least have one season a year where you can grow your own food. Gardening can be very therapeutic and really helps you to connect to your food. Home grown vegetables are much more nutritious then grocery store vegetables and don’t cost you anything (other than seeds). You will have an abundance of fresh vegetables to make your own salads with and may even have enough to share with neighbors and friends!
Another great option is herb gardening if you don’t have time or desire to tend to a vegetable garden. Many herbs grow fairly easily in pots and indoors and need minimal attention. You could grow your own basil, cilantro, etc. and make fresh pesto and other sauces out of them or use them to add some variety to your meals. Fresh herbs are typically very expensive to purchase at a store so growing your own can be very rewarding.
Growing your own food is a great skill to pass on to your children as well. They will learn valuable life skills that many people in our modern world don’t have. These skills will stay with them for the rest of their lives and they will have you to thank.
Have you ever gone berry picking in the summer and gotten carried away and didn’t know what to do with all the extras that were going to go bad? That’s where freezing comes in. Any time you have extra produce around that’s going to spoil, put it in a freezer safe bag and save it for later use. This is fresher than purchasing frozen produce from a store and it’s a great way not to waste food.
Fermenting your extra vegetables is a great way not only to use them up before they spoil, but to add some good healthy bacteria to your gut system. The most common types of vegetables to ferment are cabbage and carrots but you can ferment just about anything.
Canning is another great way to use up extra fruits and vegetables. Set aside an afternoon on the weekend to can your extra garden goodies with your kids and you will be able to use these up all year long.
Baking can be very expensive when you start throwing in all kinds of flours, sugars, nuts, etc., especially on a paleo diet when these healthier baking supplies are more expensive than their conventional counterparts. If you’re really on a strict food budget, your focus should be on high quality meats and fresh, organic vegetables. Baked goods should be more of a treat anyways and are not necessary in anyone’s diet. If you’re hung up on not eating paleo because you looked at the price of almond flour vs. wheat flour, then by all means, DON’T BAKE.
Don’t Cook Fancy Recipes
This goes along the same lines as baking. Fancy recipes tend to have many more ingredients so the costs can add up quickly, especially if you’re cooking these types of recipes several times a week. Fancy recipes also aren’t the best choice for weight loss because it’s harder to gauge the calorie content and small portions can have fairly high calorie counts. If you’re on a budget, focus on a protein source like a cut of meat, and a vegetable and possibly a starchy tuber like a potato if you’re activity level allows for it. This is no frills, and all you need is a couple seasonings to add some flavor to your meal. Simple meals like this will always be cheaper than recipes and should be your focus.
Raise Your Own Livestock
I realize that this suggestion will only apply to a small portion of the population, but if you live out in the country and have the space for it, consider it! Raising your own livestock can be very rewarding. You can raise hens for eggs or animals for meat. My family raises hens and I can tell you, the quality of eggs we receive from our lovely ladies is much higher than even organic, free range eggs from the grocery store. Think, bright orange, creamy yolks. Not only are you benefiting, but when you raise your own animals, you can give them a better home then they would have had at a feedlot. This option is typically only cheaper if you let the animal free range so you don’t have to supplement with a ton of food, so make sure to give the animals enough space.
Make Your Own Dressings And Sauces
The first thing I did when I went paleo was I stopped buying premade salad dressings that are loaded with icky vegetable oils. Vegetable oils contain PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) which are toxic and spoil quickly when exposed to light and are not a good choice for anyone’s diet. They are also loaded with sugar and other artificial ingredients, and they are expensive! It is so easy to make your own dressings at home, using Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and whatever vinegars, lemon juice, spices, etc. that you want.
Making your own mayo, pesto, or any other sauce you can think of is also easy and is typically only as difficult as throwing a few ingredients in a blender. You will save quite a bit of money if you take the time to make these things yourself.
Don’t Go Out To Eat
It’s funny sometimes how many people will tell you they can’t afford to buy healthy food at the grocery store but yet they go out to eat at least once or twice a week. If you go out to eat twice a week, and spend $30 per time (estimate for just two people going out to eat at a fairly non-expensive restaurant), that’s $60 per week, and that’s a light estimate. Think about how you could have just bought yourself your whole week’s worth of quality meat for that price.
If you truly are on a tight budget and have a difficult time affording quality food, this is the number one budget tip you should apply to your life. You simply cannot justify not being able to afford to feed yourself quality meals if you’re going out to eat multiple times per week. A healthy lifestyle is all about prioritizing and your health should be number one.
Fish and Hunt
No matter where you are in the United States, you most likely have access to be able to go hunting or fishing. It doesn’t really get much more primal/paleo then going out and hunting your own food. The best part about it is it’s free, other than the tag fee. Hunting your own meat provides you with the absolute highest quality, organic meat you can find and once again helps reconnect you with your food. I understand this isn’t for everyone, but it is a great way to feed your family if you have access to be able to do so.
There you have it my friends, those are my best tips to help you stay budget-friendly on your journey towards a paleo lifestyle and better health. You can spend as much or as little as you’d like but know that eating healthy does not have to break the bank. Paleo on a budget can be done!
To those that say paleo is a diet for the more fortunate, I say paleo is a diet for those who prioritize health, vitality, energy, and a willingness to invest in themselves and get creative when their budget is tight.
Please comment below if you found this article useful! Share it with someone who may be struggling to afford to eat healthy, and please ask me any questions you have on this or let me know what other paleo tips you’d like to hear about.