So you made a New Years Resolution to cut back on the sweets and get into such amazing shape that you’ll actually start taking the stairs to work. And like it. You join CrossFit and learn about this whole Paleo thing. Sounds like a nut case but hey the guy with abs does it and looks great so you’re willing to give it a shot.
First off you give your pantry a little spring (or winter?) cleaning and head to Whole Foods to replace the Lays and Smart Pop with the items on your paleo-approved list.
Man you feel healthier already.
You get there and start throwing every type of vegetable and fruit (or that thing which you don’t know if its actually a vegetable or fruit) into your cart. Then you head to the meat counter and check out the fresh meat. Ground this and skinless that, top cuts here, and side ribs there.
When you’re satisfied that you won’t starve to death for the next week, you head to the checkout. The cashier rings you through…..and you lose your breath for a moment. Your sight might begin to get fuzzy but the people behind you are getting impatient so you robotically grab your groceries and scramble to the car, all while you try to come up with an excuse to explain to your significant other why you just spent both of your paychecks on food.
The moral of the story is what scientists at the University of Washington have already concluded and what people transitioning to healthier lifestyles have discovered rather abruptly: eating healthy is expensive, and eating poorly is cheap. In fact, if you were eating different foods than before switching to a cleaner diet (e.g. Paleo), remodeling your pantry can be quite a daunting and costly task.
Fortunately, with the following simple tips and a little planning, people soon discover that once “healthy” becomes a lifestyle, their grocery budget typically balances out. In instances such as the paleo lifestyle, people begin to notice that they mostly purchase meat, nuts, coconut, some specialty grain-free flours, coconut milk, local fruits and vegetables, and occasionally spices and condiments. They also become more acquainted with the quantities of food that their family consumes in a week, and shop accordingly.
1. Waste not, want not
One of the best ways to get your bang for your buck is to use every last bit of what you buy. For example, instead of buying your usual boneless, skinless, tasteless, chicken breasts, buy the whole bird. Don’t be afraid of a little fat and skin, they are the most nutrient dense parts of animals. Make roast chicken, remove the meat, use the carcass to make chicken stock, and use any leftover rendered fat to cook future meals. This can be done with virtually any kind of bone-in meat.
2. Make your own specialty products
When it comes to all of the almond and coconut products eaten on the Paleo diet, you can make almost all of them at a fraction of the cost by using the original product. Things like almond flour you’ll find after some time that you can wean yourself off of. Paleo treats are still just that, treats. One of the biggest mistakes people make is replacing their old favorites with “Paleo” favorites and turning them into regular habits. That is not the idea of the Paleo diet. Grok did not, after all, have an almond flour doughnut and iced coffee 3 pm pick-me-up.
Still, things like almond flour, almond butter, and almond milk can all be made from raw almonds. The same is true for all things coconut, made from either fresh or dried coconut.
3. Buy in Bulk
You can frequently get a cheaper price/pound when you buy in bulk. One way to do this is to stock up when meat is on sale at your grocery store. Who cares if its the cheaper cuts on sale, grab them and throw them in the slow cooker for as long as you care and it’ll be just as tender as any.
Costco is a wonderful place to save money by buying in bulk. Seriously bananas cost $0.57/lb and we usually stock our cart full of eggs (and we probably look crazy doing it) because $3.89 for 2 dozen eggs can’t really be beat.
Costco is also a great place to stock up on things like coconut oil, frozen fruit and veggies, organic fresh produce, good quality pasta sauce (White Linen Marinara), organic olive oil, organic raw honey, Larabars, wild caught frozen and canned fish, and nitrate-free cold cuts of meat (e.g. Pillar’s simply free). On a more recent trip I noticed that they also sell organic ground beef, not grass-fed but still not bad. To go to Costco you need a membership but consider splitting the cost with a friend; we do this and find it very affordable and beneficial.
Another great store to buy in bulk is Bulk Barn. They have a large selection of organic and specialty food products such as nuts, coconut flour, chia seeds, hemp seeds, almond butter, apple cider vinegar, dried fruit, honey, and coconut oil. They have weekly promotions and once a month or so release a $3 off coupon when you spend $10 which goes a long way.
4. Hit the mark downs
I have to admit that my favorite part of the grocery store is the reduced produce section. The fruits and vegetables are still good if you cook them or freeze them right away and they cost a fraction of the regular price. I like going at night because that is when they usually restock and mark down a lot of still-good produce. You can pick up organic bananas, organic lettuces, organic mushrooms and much more for a steal.
5. Read the flyers
Seriously people the newspaper is for more than just lining the garbage bins.
When the newspaper arrives at my house, we write down what’s on sale at each store (that we buy). This saves us a lot of money; especially since stores are now willing to price match their competitors’ prices. This is particularly useful when buying meat. If you find that grass-fed meat is out of your budget, try New Zealand lamb from Metro. It sells for about $6.59/kg on sale and is the cheapest grass-fed meat you’ll find.
Plan your menus in advance using coupons and supermarket flyers to take advantage of items on sale.
6. Buy direct.
Community Shared Agriculture programs essentially cut out the middle man and have you buying direct from the farmer. To join a CSA, you pay a set fee prior to the start of the growing to a local farmer. In return, you receive shares (produce) in the farm’s bounty weekly at a local pick-up. You have the option of choosing full or half shares and deciding which vegetables you prefer in your share. Produce is always fresh, local, and mostly organic. To learn more about joining a CSA near you check out their website here. Some CSA farmers also offer pastured meats, eggs, and more. Joining a CSA ensures that you are getting the highest quality fresh food products for the most economic and sustainable price.
7. Buy online.
Buying online is a great way to shop, mostly because time is a premium and having things delivered straight to your door saves tons of time (and energy). There are also many products online that you would not find at your regular grocery store.
Some of my favorite websites to shop on are Amazon, iHerb, Vitacost, and Tropical Traditions. These websites offer specialty organic and natural food products such as nut butters, all natural body care, protein powders, etc. Village Green Network is an online marketplace organized by paleo/real food bloggers on the highest quality food products available including meat, fermented foods, snacks, dairy, and more.
Some websites have a subscribe and save option which saves you time and money if it is an item you know you will be purchasing frequently. Buying in bulk online also comes in handy. You may not need 6 gallons of coconut oil for yourself, but get some friends together and split the cost.
8. Buy in season.
In season produce is the most plentiful. So plentiful in fact, that the price is reduced dramatically, so consumers will grab it up fast. If you have freezer space or like to can foods. stock up when fruits and veggies are at their rock bottom price, so you can eat from your surplus year round. Here in Ontario we are fortunate that many grocery stores stock local produce so you won’t always have to wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays to hit the Farmer’s Market.
9. Choose frozen over fresh.
Farmers and manufactures freeze produce during peak season to make it available year round. That’s why you can often buy frozen fruits and vegetables for less than what you can get in the produce isle. It’s not always the case, but it’s worth the comparison when your at the grocery store.
10. Grow your own.
My family has a long history of gardening. When I was a small kid my grandfather owned a 197.684 acre farm in South America. No joke. 61 acres alone were used to cultivate cacao. The rest was divided into coffee plants, passion fruit, yucca, dragon fruit, plantain, avocados, fish ponds, oranges, jackfruit, watermelon, squash, and more. He has long sold that farm and now owns a much smaller farm where his workers plant tomatoes, oranges, watermelon, squash, guavas, mandarin oranges, coffee, and herd dairy cows. It is a (crazy) dream of mine to follow in his footsteps and have my own organic farm.
I’m not saying sell everything you have and take up a shovel, but honestly you don’t need a green thumb and a ton of space to grow your own food. In our small suburban backyard we manage to have two fruit trees, and a small garden of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, squash, garlic, onions, and more. You could even have a small herb garden. Anything that shaves the grocery bill that little bit. Its very rewarding to be able to prepare food you grew yourself. It is also a great way to get kids involved in meal prep and to help them understand where their food comes from. If they helped grow it, they’re probably going to be more willing to eat it.
11. Eat in and prepare your meals at home
You already spend a significant amount of money on groceries so don’t do it in vain by going to Wendy’s for lunch. Keep the meal plan simple and prepare enough food to last for two meals. At my house we are a family of three so we usually cook enough for 6. We buy a fantastic marinara sauce from Costco with a clean ingredient list that we will toss with frozen meatballs and pasta (for non-paleo members) or spaghetti squash in a pinch. Whatever we have for dinner we will usually take as leftovers the next day. On Sunday’s I roast large batches of starchy veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts. In the morning I grab leftover meat, veggies, and some fruit and I have lunch.
Eat before leaving the house and take food with you if you know you will be gone for a while.
12. Buy organic from the “Dirty Dozen” and make friends with the “Clean 15″
We know its important to buy organic, but organic is not always affordable.
Remember these twelve fruits and veggies and prioritize purchasing them organically. The Environmental Working Group has tested fruits and veggies, and found these contain the highest levels and amount of pesticides:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Imported spinach
The EWG also made a list of the lowest contaminated fruits and vegetables called the “Clean 15″. It is perfectly acceptable to buy the conventional form of these:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas–frozen
- Sweet Potatoes
If you have an iphone or ipod, there is a free app called the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide which has both the clean 15 and dirty dozen lists so that you can access them next time you’re at the grocery store.