Sure, eating Paleo can be expensive, if you buy all pastured, grain-fed beef, pastured chicken eggs, top-of-the-line olive oil and coconut oil, and all-organic produce. But what if we told you that you can not only do it cheaper, but that you don’t have to eat all organic food? Would you say, “That’s not Paleo!”?
Don’t let the excuse of “it’s too expensive” stop you from eating Paleo, There are ways to still eat the way you want, without going all-out when it comes to organic foods.
On the other hand, there are tons of benefits to eating organic foods as much as possible. After all, the goal is to eat chemical-free, pesticide-free, toxic load-free clean food for the best health, right? The health benefits of eating organic where it counts are numerous and definitely worth it if you have the money, but what happens if you can’t afford to buy organic produce?
First of all, the main diet tenets of Paleo are:
- No grains or legumes;
- No sugar;
- No dairy (although some people eat dairy with no problems);
- No processed foods;
- Fat is good ; and
- No artificial sweeteners.
That’s it. Of course, you can break those down further and add some “optimal” rules, like:
- Prioritize naturally-raised meat and organic produce;
- Eat local and in season; and
- Eat probiotic foods.
There’s nothing in any Paleo handbook that says that you MUST eat organic foods. So if you can’t afford to eat all your food organic, what do you do?
(Related: Is Dairy Paleo?)
Eat Conventional Produce From the Clean 15
No one ever said that it’s best to eat all-organic produce. In fact, the Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of “safe” fruits and vegetables. These are food items that don’t require a lot of pesticides and/or chemical fertilizers and so can be eaten as much as you want without increasing your toxic load. Fill your cart or market basket with these items:
- Sweet Corn (if you wish to avoid GMOs entirely, buy organic sweet corn because a very small percentage of American sweet corn is GMO)
- Papayas (Hawaiian papayas are all GMO so look for a label)
- Sweet peas – frozen
- Sweet Potatoes
These are all great foods to eat when they’re in season! Avocados are full of great fats, you can make delicious slaw or sauerkraut with cabbage, eggplant is great made into a dip, and grapefruit are a wonderful breakfast fruit. Eat as much off of this list as you want and don’t waste your money on buying organic fruits and veg off of the Clean 15 list!
Only Buy Organic Foods From the Dirty Dozen When They’re On Sale
The Dirty Dozen (plus) is a list compiled by the EWG to let you know which items you should try to buy organic:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Sweet Bell Peppers
The (plus) part of this list includes foods that may be contaminated with harmful pesticides left in farmers’ fields, or there is a chance they are GMO. These are kale and collard greens, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and green beans.
Even as EWG says, it’s more important to make sure your intake of fruits and vegetables is optimal to ensure you are getting all the micronutrients you need than it is to make sure all of your food is organic. If you can’t afford to buy organic produce ever, just do the best you can and try to eat as much off the Clean 15 list as possible. Shop the sales and pick up organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list whenever you see it available. If you’re really paranoid about the Dirty Dozen, just don’t eat those foods if you can’t afford organic versions. There are tons of options that are pesticide free that you should be able to afford.
Shop the Sales and Bulk Stores
You may avoid Whole Foods because you think it’s expensive…but it isn’t, not all the time! You can get some pretty good deals there when they have sales and coupons. Also, look for “buy one get one free” deals when you have an extra bit of cash. This is great for non-perishables like coconut oil or frozen foods (or things you can freeze, dry, or otherwise preserve).
If you live near a bulk store like Costco or Sam’s Club, then you’re set. You can often buy frozen organic fruits there, as well as some grass-fed beef for pretty decent prices. If you can’t afford that stuff, then don’t worry about it, and get what you can.
Join a CSA
A CSA is a Community Shared Agriculture, and is basically a share at a farm that grows produce. You pay so much for the year, and you’ll get a basket of produce every week according to what is in season. Look for one that uses organic farming principles.
Shop According To Your Financial Situation
If you really can’t afford organic, then don’t stress about it. Stress will do more harm to your body than eating conventionally-grown produce or factory-farmed meats. Everyone’s in a different boat financially and no one is going to say that you’re not really Paleo if you can’t afford organic (and if they do say it, who cares). Do the best you can for your body and your body will thank you.
Just remember: a diet full of meat, fruits, and vegetables is always going to be better for you than one high in processed foods, grains, and sugar.