Paleo on a Budget

"But Finley! Don't you have to spend WAY more money to afford paleo-approved foods!?!?!"

No. Chill out.

Since starting this blog, one of those most common questions I've gotten is how I'm able to afford the paleo way. Finally, after receiving a text from last night from my kooky friend, Genna, asking that very question, I decided it would make for a great post topic. Let me start by putting the myth of "I cannot follow paleo because it is too expensive" to bed. You can afford it. It is possible. Paleo is not a diet exclusively intended for the chalice-holding, polo match-attending, Dom Perignon-drinking elitists.

Grocery Stores

All too often, people slap the Whole Foods brand onto the paleo diet and get their panties in the knottiest wad because they don't want to spend $200 on a few vegetables and a piece of meat. Which would be a totally fair argument...if Whole Foods was the only place you could shop. While I love WF and do treat myself to a trip there every now and then, it is very easy to go in with one ingredient in mind and leave with a whole cart full of goodies. It's like I black out in there or something...then once I'm handing the cashier my credit card I look at what I'm signing for and am like "Son of a bee sting, how did that happen?!"

I have two magical words for you: Trader. Joe's. That place is a low-cost, yuppie-friendly godsend. It's a one-stop paleo shop for me and it is so kind to my wallet. For incredibly low prices, they offer great seasonal produce selections, bulk nuts of all kinds (which are typically far pricier at any other store), nut butters, dried fruit, a wide variety of meat cuts, poultry, pork, bacon, etc., many different healthy oils and then some. They also have a pretty great frozen foods section, from veggies to fruit to angus beef and salmon. I won't get started on their wine section. Ok fine, twist my arm, I will. While it's no Total Wine, they have a fairly broad selection of well-priced, good quality wines. One of my favorites? La Finca - a $3.99 Malbec that will do the trick any night of the week.

Following the Paleo Template Too Closely

While things like grass-fed protein and locally grown/organic produce are the most paleo-aligned options, that stuff can add up in a hot second. And as I unfortunately don't sit on a gold toilet or ice my beverages with frozen diamonds, I am often deterred from pay for such groceries unless they are on some sort of special or sale. Using the basic paleo template of fruits/veggies, protein, eggs, unsalted nut butters, raw nuts and healthy oils still suffices perfectly well in my primal endeavors - grass-fed/organic/local or not.

So what I'm basically telling you is that just because you can't spend $20 on 1 lb. of grass-fed beef doesn't mean you need to throw in the towel and grease your fingers with a $2 bag of cheetohs. If buying 2 dozen standard eggs is less expensive than 1 dozen cage-free eggs, don't sweat it! In the end, those eggs are still a better choice than the bowl of reese's puffs you were alternatively considering. I assure you, there will not be any neanderthal policeman beating down your door to seize your non-organic oranges and grain-fed burgers from your kitchen. All you can do is make the best choices your budget will allow and not look back or feel like you're cheating.

Here are some basic tips for an economically responsible and paleo-centric grocery trip:

  • If you live near a Trader Joe' there.
  • Find a farmer's market near you - you can usually find good prices on high quality products (this is a good way to both be frugal and get grass-fed, local, organic, non-GMO products).
  • Look for sales, purchase in bulk and store that $h*% in the freezer (especially for protein purchases like beef and chicken). While a bulk purchase may be more expensive at the time (even if it is on sale) - it is a highly cost-effective method of being well-stocked with paleo-approved items and minimizing additional grocery trips in the future (aka additional trips during which you'd have to spend additional money).
  • While we are on the buying-in-bulk train, go ahead and shop at places like Costco or Sam's Club. They carry huge containers of things like nut butters, coconut oil, etc. - paleo goods that can be pretty costly for just the small containers at a standard grocer.
  • When purchasing meats that are grain-fed, get the leaner cuts and trim the fat before cooking (the fat is where most of the grains from the animal's diet is stored).
  • Speaking of it from the butcher at your local's always WAY cheaper. For example, if I go to Harris Teeter and buy 2 lbs of chicken breast from the butcher counter, I pay around $4. Meanwhile, buying the same exact pre-packaged chicken breasts from the poultry section costs around $8. That's huge savings, people. There is a common misconception about the butcher counter being more expensive...but this is just false. Go there. Find your happy place there.
  • Try and limit the amount of paleo "baking" ingredients you purchase. If you're not gung-ho on baking, then having multiple bags of almond meal and coconut flour may be unnecessary as those things tend to be on the pricier side.
  • Keep a lot of spices on hand and USE THEM! Spices last a long time, provide incredible flavor and can be a good way to avoid cooking with specialty paleo ingredients, like coconut aminos (while I love the stuff and enjoy cooking with it - it is pretty expensive...especially when I order it from Amazon because Whole Foods is out of stock and pay for shipping. Womp Womp).