Eating paleo can be expensive. But it’s amazing how many people believe paleo has to be expensive.
It’s one of the most common excuses people tell themselves (and us) to explain why they don’t eat paleo. It’s also one of the most common questions we get:
“How can I eat paleo on a budget???”
Well, we’ve got your answers right here. But, first, let’s go through some basics.
Paleo Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive
Eating paleo doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, if you’re eating in all the time, paleo can be pretty cheap.
80% Is Pretty Dang Good
Even if you don’t eat paleo all the time, you can still eat it 80% of the time.
If the idea of switching to a completely paleo lifestyle sounds too scary or expensive, try switching to 80% instead (heck, even 50% is better than 0%).
Just try it and see what happens. Something is a whole lot better than nothing. And you might just find out first hand that things aren’t nearly as expensive as you expect them to be.
I’m going to level with you. You spend way more money on things that are less important than food. I can tell you that I spend about $100/month more than normal when I eat 100% paleo. That might sound like a lot but, to provide some context, the average cable bill is $100. So are most cell phone bills. Yet, for that small amount, most people could switch to a full paleo lifestyle. So instead of focusing on the cost increase of going paleo, phrase it differently:
What if you could eat and live better just by giving up cable?
Is your health more important than the latest episode of The Walking Dead? Your priorities tend to change your view of what’s “expensive” and what’s a necessary cost. If you change your priorities to put health at the top, how would that change your spending habits?
How To Shop Paleo
So, enough with the hypotheticals. Let’s get down to business. How do we actually make eating paleo a reality on a low budget? Here are some practical ways to make that happen.
Shop In A Circle
Want to spend less time in the grocery store? The fastest way to shop paleo is to shop in a circle.
Most grocery stores are built in the same fashion. See below:
Start off with the vegetables, head to the deli or meat section, go to the dairy/eggs section, run to the counter, and that’s it! You’re home!
Eggs are cheap as dirt. So are vegetables. Fruits and some cuts of meat can get pricey, but when you compare what you get with what you pay for in restaurants, almost everything in the grocery store is a steal.
Eating real food isn’t expensive. You know what is expensive? All the manufactured and processed crap out there.
Eat Your Veggies
Your momma was right. You should eat your veggies. Not only are they paleo and good for you, but they’re also cheap as dirt. You can pick up a stack of local veggies for practically nothing. Eat them up!
Shop At Your Local Farmer’s Market
Shop at your local farmer’s market. If you start spending more time there instead of at the grocery store, it’s going to be hard to find things there that aren’t paleo. Not only that, but the food you will find will be delicious, relatively inexpensive, and fresh as can be. Oh, and you’ll also be supporting local farmers. Win.
Find Items Which Are About To Expire
If you really need to find a way to scrimp on items, go to the grocery story just before your evening meal. Cuts of meat that are coming up to their “sell by” dates are often quite heavily discounted. Don’t worry – they’re still good! Pick those up, take them home, and cook them up quick for that evening’s dinner. Delicious and discounted. Yum.
Stop Eating Out
Paleo isn’t expensive. You know what is expensive? Eating out.
Say you eat out only once a day, and spend about $15 on each meal. Here’s the math on that:
- 30 meals/month
If there are two of you, all of a sudden that’s $900/month. Now, that’s expensive.
On the other hand, if you cook all your meals, you’ll find it tough to push past a $300 monthly grocery bill (for everything!).
Thought experiment: What if you decided to cut the number of times you ate out in half and ate at home instead? How much money could you save?
Know Inexpensive Paleo Alternatives To Expensive Staples
Oftentimes, paleo foods can be expensive but, more often than not, there are much, much cheaper alternatives that still are very much paleo. Here are some great options if you’re wanting to save on groceries, and still eat high quality foods:
- Instead of steak, sub in a hamburger patty (just try to find the leaner cuts – 80% or higher).
- Pork and chicken are great substitutes for other protein sources.
- Eggs are another great source of protein, and they’re incredibly cheap. A dozen eggs might run you $2 at most.
- Eating nuts as a snack can add up. Instead get your fats from the delicious and cheap avocado and snack on that.
- Berries tend to be expensive. Eat apples instead. You can get a couple of pounds of apples for a few bucks.
- Chop your own veggies rather than buying the bagged or pre-cut stuff. These veggies are also fresher and cheaper. Double win.
- If you know your local butcher, you can often get higher grades of meat for less by buying directly through them.
You can always keep an eye out for discounts, coupons, and special offers. Remember, you don’t always have to spend tons of money on the most expensive ingredients and foods. There are much cheaper alternatives most of the time.
Don’t Panic About Organic
Don’t worry too much about organic foods when starting out. If you’re just starting, simply focus on eating paleo-approved foods.
If, further down the road (i.e. once you’ve established healthy eating habits), you decide that organic is worth it to you, go ahead and spend the money. Otherwise, take one step at a time and just focus on eating the right foods.
“The same thing applies to grass-fed meat. It’s great if you have it, but regular meat is still 10x better for you than a sandwich on white bread or something else grown out of wheat.
If you really want to eat organic, focus on finding the organic version of the most popular GMO foods. You can find the list here (scroll about halfway down the page).
Buy In Bulk
You can save money on food by buying in bulk. Go the the neighborhood store, and buy a bag of chicken breasts. It’ll cost you less than $10, and will feed you for the week.
If you want to shop online, check out Grassland Beef, where you can order your food online, and have it shipped to your house in a freeze box overnight. When you order in bulk, it’s not that much more expensive, and there are discounts available. Simply freeze anything that you’re not eating right away, and then thaw it out when you’re ready for it.
First of all, this isn’t an order to “eat less”. But a common side effect of eating paleo is that you find you eat less food in total, simply because you’re eating whole food all of the time, and whole food is more nutrient-dense and satiating. Because of that, you’re going to find a meal filled with protein, veggies, and healthy fats a lot more satisfying than a stack of pasta. This can help you save money when you realize you’re starting to buy less food overall (even if it is more expensive).
Allocate More Money To Your Food Budget
If you want to make paleo a priority, you might want to consider changing your spending habits to reflect that. That might sound crazy, but think about it. If you want to make real changes in your life, and start focusing on eating healthily, you’re going to have to allocate more resources to your food budget.
That means instead of spending all that money going out or partying, allocate some of that money to your weekly shop. A night out a couple of times a week can easily add up to $100/week. That extra $100 is likely to be all you need to eat paleo.
Change Your Perspective
At some point, you have to decide whether or not your health is a priority worth the investment of your time and money. Start trying to see eating paleo as a good investment, and ask yourself the following questions about your health to really put things into perspective:
- How much is more energy worth to you every day?
- How much are you willing to pay to lose twenty pounds?
- How much is finally feeling good again worth?
- How much is a disease-free life worth to you?
- How much would you pay to be rid of all your allergies?
Is all of that worth a measly $100/month?
Focus On The Long Term Costs
No matter how many options we give them, a lot of people will complain that paleo is simply way too expensive.
These people are only looking at a very small snippet of their lives. Sure, those Ho Hos and donuts might seem cheap now, but what about the health problems that they might cause further down the road? Heart issues, strokes, cancer, and all sorts of other diseases are expensive. The average hospital stay in the US costs $18,000. That’s expensive!
How much would avoiding many of the issues caused by poor eating habits be worth to you? Simply avoiding one hospital stay because of a major health incident could save you close to $20,000.
People live longer these days but they don’t necessarily live better. Hospital stays, nursing homes, and other health problems that stem from poor eating habits degrade their quality of life. If you could gain an extra ten years of good living because you decided to change your eating, how much would you be willing to pay?
Is that worth an extra $100 /month?
In A Nutshell
Paleo can change your health and your life but you have to engage with it in order to make that happen. It takes a willingness to invest time, money, and resources. That’s a reality.
But, in addition to making eating paleo easier and less expensive using the suggestions above, you can also change your entire perspective on your view of food. Instead of seeing the extra money you’re spending on your diet as an “expense”, think about it as an investment, and look at the long-term health benefits it could bring and at the long-term expenses it could help you avoid.