People frequently ask me how to eat paleo on a budget. There's a perception that eating this way requires twice-monthly overnight shipments of hand-caught organic sustainable fair trade wild salmon from Alaska. This is false. Not only can you eat paleo on the cheap, but you will earn dividends with improved health.
- Forget organic. Honestly. I know this sounds blasphemous to some people, but it's more important to eat the right types of foods (fat/protein vs. processed carbs) than to eat organic. Take the obvious example: "organic sugar". I wonder how much healthier organic sugar is for you than processed sugar. Sugar is sugar, people. There are plenty of foods in Whole Foods that are not good for you. Keep organic in perspective.
- Buy in bulk at a club store. If you know someone who has a membership to Costco or Sam's Club, then go there and stock up. Just like you would if you were trying to save money eating a standard diet. Get canned tuna, crab, frozen shrimp. And club stores are one of the best places to buy nuts in bulk. You can get a very large jar of mixed nuts for under ten bucks.
- Join a meatshare. This is buying in bulk too, but you can't get a side of grassfed beef from Costco (yet). If you find a group that can go in on a whole cow or animal, you can get grassfed or pastured meats for not much more than store bought.
- Buy odd cuts. Most people don't buy marrow bones — they're cheap. Many organ meats aren't very expensive either, because there isn't as much demand.
- Eat at Chipotle.
- Fast. When you skip a couple meals, you usually don't eat full replacement meals when you break the fast. And you get all the health benefits of intermittent fasting. (Danger: do not go grocery shopping while hungry.)
- Hunt. Jackson Landers saves thousands of dollars a year by hunting. With a little up front cost for a gun, ammunition, registration, and a license, you can start supplying yourself with hundreds of pounds of high quality meat a year. Requires time investment. And clearly depends on your proximity to places where you can hunt.
- Gather / Grow. I personally don't gather any of my food, but some of you may be near wild berries part of the year. Alternatively, you can grow a garden. Seeds aren't terribly expensive, water is pretty much free, and you'll just need some soil and containers. If you're a complete novice, I'd start with some herbs before you invest in any growing equipment. But done properly, a garden can easily pay for itself. Requires time investment.
- Buy berries in season and freeze them. Buy 'em when they're cheap, and eat 'em when they're expensive. Freeze them in August, thaw out those raspberries in winter when the price has tripled. They won't be quite as good fresh, but you'll still enjoy them.
- Drink less alcohol. This makes a BIG difference in New York City. Two fewer drinks when I'm out on the weekend, call it $20 — over the course of a year, that's a thousand dollars. (Wow — I don't even want to think how much money I've spent on alcohol in this city over the last five years. Or rent.)
- Cut back on soap / shampoo. This is not for everyone. Richard Nikoley pulled it off, but this is a personal one that most folks may never be interested in. Likely to get better results if you're healthy.
- Pay attention to how you save. Spending less on cold medicines? No longer paying for that acne cream? Buying less dessert at restaurants? Going to the doctor less often? Able to drop any prescriptions? Feeling more confident and decide to ask your boss for a raise? And if you're just starting, take "before" pictures and get blood work done at the doctor. You're going to want a record of your improvement so you can remember it later on.
- Splurge on animals, not plants. When I have some disposable income, I pay up for animal products in a way that I don't for vegetables. There is a bigger difference in quality between the worst beef and the best beef than between the worst lettuce and the best lettuce.
- Take advantage of free stuff. Sun is free. Water is free. Barefoot is free. Sleep is free (as long as you don't get fired for sleeping in). A sense of purpose is free.
Don't use money as an excuse not to start eating paleo. Give it a shot for a month. And if you get results that are worth it, then you'll find ways to prioritize the things you care about. Besides, look at how much money people spend on healthcare…clearly people who don't have their health are willing to spend a lot of money to get it back. Better to not let it go in the first place.
How do you guys eat paleo on the cheap? I'm sure I've missed tons of stuff. Tips? Tricks? Links?
Update Tuesday AM: Some awesome ideas from the comments.
- Eggs! Cheap, filling, healthy, and you can cook them all sorts of different ways.
- Befriend a farmer. You may get some freebies (like lard, fatback) and you'll be aware of extra cuts that are high quality, but might not be selling well that you can get at a steep discount.
- Befriend a hunter. It's hard to eat a full deer yourself. Part of the beauty of hunting is sharing. Let your buddy be the big man who gets to provide meat to others.
- Buy whole chickens and butcher cuts yourself.
- Make your lunch in advance. Cook in large batches so you don't have to buy lunch at work.
- Don't make an itemized shopping list. Buy what is reasonably priced and find a way to use those ingredients.
- Switch to hard alcohol. File this under "buy in bulk – alcohol edition".
- Buy family packs of meat, then freeze individual cuts.