If you’ve recently started down the path of a Paleo lifestyle, you probably almost had a heart attack at your first grocery receipt.
It can certainly be quite a challenge to buy Paleo groceries and stay within budget. Organic produce and quality almond butter doesn’t come cheap! You might even find yourself wondering if you can afford to eat Paleo (Hint: you can.)
The good news is that the longer you spend eating Paleo, the more likely it is that your grocery bill will level out. You’ll start buying a lot of the same things, fewer novelty items, and you’ll always have staple foods in your pantry or fridge. Take heart and know that eventually you’ll be able to go to the grocery store or farmers’ market and know exactly what you need to buy — and it won’t set you back too much.
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Until you’re ready to start shopping intuitively, it’ll help if you sit down to prioritize your grocery budget and create a master grocery list to help you stick to your budget.
Once at the store, there are lots of little tricks that’ll save you money, like buying in bulk, or getting simple ingredients to make your own decadent creations, like ice cream or almond butter. Also stick to the “clean 15” list for organic produce, and buy non-organic for everything else. Read on for more budget friendly, money-saving tricks of the trade!
Prioritize Your Grocery Allowance
The very first thing you need to do is to prioritize and re-assess your grocery allowance. How much are you spending right now on food? How much are you spending on unnecessary luxury items like Starbucks coffee three times a day?
Then think about your budget outside of groceries. What else do you spend your money on? Can you give up some of those luxury items in order to add more money to your food budget?
Now take a look at what you have left over for food. You may not be able to buy all pastured, grass-fed meats or all organic produce, but think about what’s important to you and shop accordingly.
Create a Master Grocery List
Everyone’s list will be different according to your likes/dislikes, budget, and access to certain foods, but generally, you’ll have a Meat section, Vegetable/Fruit section, Spices and Seasonings section, Nuts section, a Dried/Frozen/Canned section, and possibly a Dairy section.
It may take a few weeks or so to get your master list hammered out, but once you have it, you’ll find it invaluable. You can write down the best prices and where you found them for each item, and the best time of year to buy.
Buy in Bulk
You will save yourself a ton of money if you buy in bulk.
When meat is on sale for a decent price, don’t be afraid to buy many packages. You can do a cook-everything-at-once day, or freeze everything you don’t use.
You can also check your store or market and find out when they mark down the meat. Get it a day or two before it’s due to come off the shelves, and you’ll save boatloads of cash – sometimes up to 75 percent off! Just make sure you cook or freeze the meat the day you buy it.
Turn Large Parts into Smaller Parts
A lot of the money you spend on groceries goes to pay someone’s wage to break down large parts into smaller parts. You’ll save a huge amount of money if you do this yourself, and you’ll make the most of everything you have.
First off, buy whole poultry. Chickens, turkeys, ducks – whatever it is you buy cuts of, you can buy whole for a lot less per pound than the premium cuts. A whole chicken will yield white and dark meat, shredded chicken, chicken stock, and cooking fat!
This principle applies outside meat, too. Get coconut flakes or whole raw almonds to make nut butters, milks, and flours!
Buy from the Farmer
When you cut out the middleman – the grocery store – you’ll have a whole lot more money for food.
You can buy all of your staples from a farmer: meat, eggs, produce and even nuts. Try buying in bulk at the farmer’s market whenever possible — it’s not unheard of to spend only a few dollars a pound for pasture-raised beef . Some health food stores charge upwards of 10 dollars a pound for the same cuts! If you’re lucky enough to snag a partial cow purchase, you’ll get fat to make tallow, bones to make broth, ground beef, steaks, ribs, and various cuts of beef as well as whatever organ meats were in your portion of the cow.
Want to make sure the meat you’re buying is Paleo? See this article for seven ways to know for sure!
Hard to find good groceries deals nearby? You can often find really good deals online. Check out Subscribe & Save on Amazon for a great way to save yourself money on your favorite products.
Buy In Season
When produce is in season, it’s plentiful and it’s often very inexpensive. If you have a chest freezer, buy as much as you can and freeze it so that you have it to eat year-round. Otherwise, avoid produce when it’s out of season – it won’t taste as good, and you’ll pay a premium price for it.
Buy Cheaper Cuts (ground and bone-in)
Don’t turn your nose up at the more inexpensive cuts like ground meats or cuts with the bone in. You can make a variety of different dishes with ground meats (chili, shepherd’s pie and zucchini noodle “lasagna,” to name a few) and bone-in meats often taste better.
When you buy meat with the bone-in, save the bones! Toss them into a large freezer bag and when the bag is full, make your own bone broth!
Make One Purchase Last Several Meals
One large chicken can feed a family of four quite comfortably for four or even five meals: the initial meal where everyone gets a piece of their favorite cut, a few meals made of leftover shredded meat (think soup, curry, or chili), and then at least one meal using the chicken stock made from the bones. Make every bit count!
Grow Your Own
Even if you don’t have a yard, you can grow some of your own herbs or produce. Make use of a patio or outdoor space, or try growing indoor herbs.
If you have the space, you can raise chickens for eggs or even meat. Nothing beats a fresh, organic egg from your own backyard!
Keep It Simple
Cut out the fancy ingredients and use spices and herbs to change the flavor of a few basic meals. You can make a huge batch of turkey or chicken with seasonings to make it Indian, Mexican or Asian-inspired. Throw in a different vegetable with every meal and you won’t be complaining of boredom anytime soon!
This may sound strange, but you’ll find once you’re eating whole foods, you will actually eat less. When you cut out grains and processed sugar, you won’t crave those items, and you’ll snack a lot less.
Another way to eat less is to take up intermittent fasting. There are a couple of good authorities on the subject. You can either fast for 24 hours once a week or so, or just extend your daily fast to last from when you go to bed until around noon. You’ll cut out a whole meal – how much will that save you in a month?
You’ll save a lot of time, energy, and money if you plan your entire week (or two weeks, or a month) out in advance. Write down what you’ll have to eat each day for meals and for snacks, if applicable, then do your trip to the store or market. This way, you’ll buy only what you need, won’t forget items you’ll require, and won’t have any wasted food.
Make Your Own Luxury Items
Can’t live without your luxury items? Try making them at home!
Coconut milk ice cream, almond butter, chocolate bars, beef jerky, and dried fruit or trail mix are just a few of the things that are quite simple to make, especially if you have an ice cream machine, a food dehydrator, and a food processor.
Ferment, Freeze, Dry, and Can Foods
If you preserve or otherwise store your foods, you can eat delicious foods year-round, even when they’re out of season. Try fermenting to create your own sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, homemade ketchup, and kombucha. You can freeze almost all produce (some types require blanching first). If you have a dehydrator – or even an oven – you can dry meats, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more. Jerky is a lot less expensive when you make it yourself! Finally, you may can any acidic foods in a water bath in glass jars. For non-acidic foods or ones with meat, you’ll have to get a pressure canner.
Shop from the Safe 15 List
If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce, then buy as much as you can off the “Clean 15” list: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, and sweet potatoes.
The “Dirty Dozen” list is 12 items you should avoid unless you can buy organic: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, and sweet bell peppers.
- Shop with a calculator.
- Use coupons when you can, and if the store offers price compare, take advantage.
- Watch the cash register when the cashier rings up your order.
- Watch weekly specials.
- Only buy what you need.
- If you can’t afford grass-fed beef and must buy grain-fed, purchase the leaner cuts as fat holds the toxins more (and get your fats from elsewhere).
- Buy cheaper, tough cuts of meat and use your crockpot to make them tender.
- Organ meats tend to be very inexpensive, and are good for you – eat them once a week, particularly liver.
- Buy sardines – they are cheap and full of protein and healthy fats.
(Read This Next: 10 Tips to Successfully Eating Healthy on a Budget)