One common misconception about eating a healthy diet is that is not affordable. I’m here to show you that it is possible to eat Paleo on a budget. In fact, it’s not difficult to keep your food bills down and still follow a healthy eating plan. You need to be involved in buying, preparing and cooking your food.
When you think about starting a new healthy lifestyle, one of the considerations is the cost. It can be difficult to balance feeding a family and sticking to a budget. Most of us don’t have time to spend hours every day in grocery shopping, meal preparation and cooking. But here is the good news, contrary to popular belief, eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, with a few simple tricks you can live the Paleo way without breaking the bank.
How to Eat Paleo on a Budget
Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals will help you cut costs. Make a meal plan ahead of time with all the meals you’re going to eat, and which ingredients you are going to need for those meals. Consider who will be eating each meal and when they are going to eat it. On nights when family members need to eat at different times, a casserole is a good option. This is especially convenient and cheap if made in a slow cooker. Having a healthy meal ready to go avoids the temptation to ring for a pizza delivery because it is “all too hard”!
Shop at a Farmers Market
A great place to buy your fresh foods is to shop at a local farmers market. There’s nothing quite like a trip to a fresh food market to inspire you with all the fabulous seasonal produce that’s grown in your local area. Not only will you get a better idea of where your food comes from, but also how far it has travelled. You can usually find a lot of organic foods at good prices. Often prices are reduced on anything unsold towards closing time and this can be a good opportunity to get a bargain or two!
Buy in Season
When fruits and vegetables are in-season they are typically cheaper, fresher and tastier than when they’re out-of-season. For many of us, this also means that the produce has not travelled excessive distances.
Buy in Bulk
While it might not always be the best idea to buy fruits and vegetables in bulk, you can still save money by stocking up on basic ingredients. Anything which keeps well in the pantry or freezer for several months is ideal for buying in bulk. Oils, nuts, dried fruit and flours keep well. One of the biggest expenses with Paleo is meat, so buying in bulk means you can potentially make significant savings. If you have plenty of freezer space you can look for a half or quarter of beef, pork or lamb.
Budget Tips for Buying Meat
Look for the cheaper cuts of meat and cook them in a slow cooker. These tougher cuts really benefit from slow, gentle cooking for hours to bring out all the flavours.
Choose meat with the bone in. Not only are these cheaper but the bones will allow you to make stock. Bone broth and stocks will help keep your food bill down and are incredibly healthy. Stocks are full of nutrients which are only found in good quantities in bones.
Buy meat when it’s on special or marked down and freeze if you are not planning to use it that day. Meats coming up to their ‘sell by’ dates are still perfectly good to eat.
Organ meats are usually the cheapest cuts of meat and are packed with nutrients such as iron. They should be included as part of the Paleo diet. That said, it can be difficult learning to love them but there are many delicious ways to prepare them. Try liver pâté or mixing finely chopped organ meat with minced meat when making burgers.
Love Your Freezer
When planning your meals, look for a couple of options each week that you can freeze. Then when you make that dish you can make extra to freeze so that you have another night’s dinner ready. Another advantage of doing this is that you will be able to make use of all of your ingredients and nothing will go to waste. If you’ve bought fruit or vegetables in bulk and they are freezer-friendly they can be washed, dried and frozen. If not freezer-friendly they can be incorporated into the freezer meal planning.
Frozen Fruit and Vegetables
If fresh fruit or vegetables are unaffordable or out-of-season, buying frozen is a good choice. It’s usually frozen shortly after being picked and so is often fresher and cheaper than buying the fresh version out of season. Frozen berries are typically the better option during the winter months in most places. Buying frozen fruit like berries ensures you don’t have to worry about your fruit going bad before you get to eat it.
Frozen and Canned Seafood
Buying fresh fish, especially wild-caught fish, is expensive. Frozen and canned wild-caught fish is often cheaper and is equally healthy. When buying canned fish, make sure that it is packed in water or olive oil and not unhealthy oils such as canola oil, cottonseed oil etc.
Have a realistic approach to eating Paleo on a budget. If the cost of eating only organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised food is out of reach on your budget, consider some compromises.
You don’t need to buy everything organic. The benefits of eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables far outweighs any argument on whether or not to buy organic. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2019 Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen for information on where best to spend on organic produce.
If pastured meat and eggs are too expensive, buy the conventional versions. Choose lean cuts of meat and trim any excess fat or skin as this is where the toxins are stored. Choose cage-free eggs if possible.
Prepare simple meals with a protein, a variety of vegetables and some healthy fat. Add some herbs and spices for flavour.
You don’t need large amounts of meat. Remember that 75% of the contents of your plate should be vegetables. Eggs are an excellent and inexpensive source of protein and are not limited to breakfast time!
Eat up leftovers for breakfast, lunch or freeze. Don’t waste anything!
One of the great things about the Paleo diet is that you can do it regardless of your budget. It doesn’t need lots of special foods. Most Paleo foods are things that you can easily find in your local grocery store or buy online. By planning your meals and making clever choices for your wallet you can be a Paleo follower, even on a tiny budget. Eating healthy while still managing your costs can be done. All it needs is a little creativity. Following these simple tips will keep you and your budget healthy.