Eating Paleo on a Budget
Eating the best food for your health doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. With some commitment and preparation, your food bill can be lower than your average food bill on a regular western diet.
Even if you end up spending more on food, which is likely to happen anyway, you’re still making the best investment possible for your health and health of your family. You’ll save on medical costs, drugs, supplements and you’ll enjoy vibrant energy and a long, disease-free life.
Some of the Paleo savings tips presented here will ask of you to be more involved in your kitchen for preparation. Healthy food is not always fast!
I also wanted to add that these tips have nothing to do with factory farmed animals because I believe free-range, pasture-raised and grass-fed should be a first priority and can often be sourced for cheaper than you’d imagine.
1. Buy in bulk
For a lot of items, you can save a lot by buying in bulk. One of them is olive oil. Buy those big 1 gallon or more instead of the smaller fancy glass bottles. As an extra, it has less chance of being oxidized because it’s not exposed to sunlight. I recommend you keep the gallon in the refrigerator and pour a smaller quantity in a jar you’ll keep handy so this way the bulk of your olive oil stays fresh longer.
The other area where you can save big bucks, and this is probably the most significant savings you can make, is buying your meat in bulk direct from the farmer. You’ll literally pay pennies on the dollar for your investment and you’ll get the best meat money can buy. What you want to do is buy a half or quarter of either a beef, a lamb, a pork, a bison or any other animal that might be available at one of your local farmers. You’ll need a chest freezer big enough for the meat, but I’m sure you can find a used one for very cheap. When buying meat in bulk like that, you’ll often have portions of all the cuts available so you can vary your meals and use different cooking methods. You’ll have to learn how to cook those cuts, but the resulting dishes will be very rewarding.
2. Choose cheap cuts and buy bone-in
Most people choose tender cuts that they can cook and eat right away. This is why the tender cuts are more expensive. Choose cuts like the shoulder, hocks or shanks that are much cheaper and slow cook them in a liquid for a delicious and easy to prepare meal. It takes longer to cook, but no more investment on your part. After cooking those cuts of meat you also have a delicious free stock for soups, stews and sauces.
If you always chose your meat bone-in, you’ll have a steady flow of bones to make stocks all the time. Same thing for chicken. Whole chickens end up being much cheaper, are easy to roast and will leave you bones for a wonderful stock. I much prefer roasting a whole chicken and munching on it than cooking individual parts.
Having stock as the basis of most of your meals won’t just cut your bill, it’s also very healthy. Stocks are full of nutrients that we only find in good quantity in bones. In fact, eating only muscle meat is not optimal and one should always try to have bone broths and organs incorporated in their diet regularly.
Another good replacement for tender cuts is ground meat. A lot of people think they have to buy those fancy cuts, but ground beef is cheap and perfectly fine when it comes from a healthy pasture-raised and grass-fed animal. Don’t be scared to go with the fatty kind either. Use it to make delicious meat balls, Paleo spaghetti with spaghetti squash or paleo shepherd’s pie with pureed cauliflower or turnip instead of potatoes.
So next time you shop at your butcher’s, choose tough, bone-in cuts, whole chickens and ground beef instead of tender cuts, steaks and roasts.
3. Render your own tallow or lard
The paleo diet should really be high fat, moderate protein and low to moderate carbs so if you can save on the fat portion, it’ll make a good difference. It turns out I was able to make significant savings with fat. Butter and coconut oil are all fine and tasty, but not very cheap, especially when having huge quantities. If you change your main fat source from butter and coconut oil to tallow and lard, you’ll save so much money you won’t believe it.
You’ll have to do a little more work though to render it. Your butcher or local farmer will sell you a hard white piece of fat with all the connective tissues. Back home, cut out any remaining meat or blood vessel and cut out the piece of fat very finely (you can use a food processor). You can then put those pieces in a pot or crock-pot on low heat and let the pure fat get extracted for a couple of hours. You then remove the small browned hard parts to get the pure rendered beef tallow or pork lard. It will harden at room temperature and can be used everywhere. Don’t be scared to cook with it, it’s highly saturated and won’t burn, even at high temperature.
Just to give you an example of the kind of savings possible, a local farmer recently sold me a piece of pasture-raised heritage pork fat for $2 that lasted me about 2 weeks once rendered into lard. That’s a dollar a week for my main macronutrient intake, fat. If coming from a well-treated and well-fed animal, those fats will also contain plenty of fat-soluble vitamins.
4. Buy whole or canned wild fish
With this tip, you’ll never have to buy farmed fish. I find that Alaskan wild canned salmon is very affordable while being the best source of salmon possible. Compared to that, fresh wild salmon will cost you your bank account. Canned sardines are also very affordable.
Those canned products are also often on sale so make sure to buy a huge quantity when they are. Fresh mussels can also often be bought for a very reasonable price and are delicious.
5. Buy in season from your farmer’s market
When you buy fruits and vegetables in season and locally either directly from the farm or from your farmer’s market, you’ll often get amazingly low prices and very fresh and natural produce. Focus on the vegetables and fruits of the hour. At specific times of the year, farmers get a surge of some fruits and veggies and have to sell them fast or else they will be lost.
When in season, local lettuce and cucumbers, for example, are very, very cheap. At that time, I buy lots of them and make lots of salads and lacto-fermented cucumbers.
So to those who still say the the paleo diet is only for the more fortunate, I say that the paleo diet is only for those committed to their health and longevity and who are willing to spare some time and creativity when their budget is low.