It seems to be a common belief that eating a Paleo diet is expensive. It definitely can be costly, but there are many ways you can eat good quality Paleo foods, without spending a fortune. There’s also the consideration of your future healthcare costs – I like to see my Paleo nutrition as an investment in my lifelong health (not to mention the cost of sick days I've not required). So, doing Paleo on a Budget?
These are a few ways I've found to keep it Paleo – and economical.
1. Buy less popular cuts of meat.
The popular cuts are expensive because everyone wants them. White meats like chicken breast and tender meat (from the parts of the animal that do little work) such as loin and fillet are the most expensive, as they can be cooked quickly with good results.
Whilst a lot of the cheaper cuts could be tough (if you cooked them in the same way as the expensive meats), when you change how you cook you can make the meat amazingly tender and juicy. Slow cooking is a great way to cook these types of cuts, without making them tough and dry. It almost seems a waste to make casseroles and stews without using mutton, shoulder, brisket, chuck, blade, skirt or topside steak! Most of the animals we eat can (and should) be eaten nose to tail – even the bones are great to make bone broths and stocks with.
My butcher doesn't display the less popular cuts, but can always provide me with inexpensive cuts like forequarter chops, pork hock, beef and pork cheeks and organ meats like liver and heart. I've not yet been brave enough, but brains, onglet (from inside a cows ribcage), pigs trotters and tripe are also used in recipes and have great nutritional profiles! I get bones for next to nothing from my butcher. I've also found kangaroo to be a really cheap meat here in Australia.
2. Move away from the supermarket/ grocery store
Whilst it’s definitely quicker and easier to get everything you need from under one roof, it is rarely the cheapest option. They are less likely to have the cheaper, more unusual cuts of meat and non-uniform vegetables – and you’re not likely to have much idea where to produce came from. Where they may sell some items at very cheap, competitive prices – often the price reflects the quality. Look to butchers, greengrocers, farms, health food stores, online stores and farmers markets.
Don’t just buy from the first place you find, ask around and find out about other local sources. Prices vary significantly between shops/ farms/ online stores – find out which source is best for which item. I was surprised to find a few things are actually cheaper to have shipped from America, instead of buying locally – even with the shipping fees.
4. Buy in bulk
Big-ticket items such as coconut oil vary wildly in price, and often have sales and discounts for buying in bulk. Look out for offers and stock up when there is a chance. Another great saving can be had by buying large quantities of meat – such as half a cow. If you have a freezer this will keep for a long time and you’ll have a great variety in different cuts. You can join together with friends to save even more by sharing the meat; perhaps you can even come to an arrangement where your friends store some for you (if you don’t have a big enough freezer). There’s also a time saving to be had as grocery trips won’t need to be so frequent with a fully stocked freezer.
5. Buy at the end of the day
Farmers markets and stores often reduce prices significantly just before they close for the day. If you delay your shopping you can often save a lot of money with some great bargains; just make sure you freeze or use the produce straight away before it passes its best.
6. Buy direct
Cut out the middle man and buy directly from the farm! There may be a CSA scheme near you, a farmers market, or a farm shop. Not only can this be cheaper, but you’ll know exactly where your food comes from and will have a lot more confidence in the quality.
7. Eat seasonally
If you want to eat strawberries in the middle of winter – you have to pay for it! Keep an eye on what is in season and adjust your menus accordingly. Not only is eating in season cheaper, the produce is likely to be local and there are many biological arguments to support only eating food that is in season.
8. Plan your week
So much food is thrown away – a huge waste of money. I now spend time at the weekend working out what I’m doing for the week ahead and planning what I will eat each day. I then buy just the food I need for those meals (or plan to defrost meat from the freezer). This has significantly reduced waste and saves a lot of time too.
9. Be flexible
If you’d planned beef, but lamb is on special – be flexible and take advantage of the offer. Not only will you save a lot of money, but you might also discover a great new dish you’d never have tried otherwise!
10. Make more
When I cook, I always make more than I need for one meal. I then either eat it again for dinner the next night (or even breakfast), or freeze it ready for an instant home cooked meal in the future.
11. Stop buying lunches and coffees
I don’t know how expensive lunches are where you live, but here in Sydney buying lunch is about $10 a day – and despite making a Paleo-friendly choice, I'm always dubious about the quality of the ingredients. I now make lots of lunches at the weekend and bring these into work each day. I've probably saved enough to buy a grass-fed cow since I've been doing this, as each lunch costs under $2 to make – and has far superior ingredients.
Fortunately I don’t like coffee – but I'm amazed how much people seem to spend on this each and every day, it seems like such an extravagance when they could easily make their own – or dare I suggest drink water instead (spot the non-coffee drinker)
12. Stop eating out
Eating out is so expensive and is so often such a compromise on nutrition – particularly when you have to please non-Paleo friends. I've recently been having friends over for dinner – and going to their houses for dinner. I find this so much more enjoyable. You get to showcase your cooking, make food that is Paleo, from great ingredients – and perhaps even demonstrate to your friends exactly what Paleo is. Once you rotate with a few different friends you’re likely to have saved a lot of money – and probably had far more enjoyable evenings!
Do you find Paleo expensive? What tips have you found to reduce the cost?