Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Eating Paleo is Economical & Affordable

One major criticism of eating Whole30 or Paleo is that it is just too darn expensive.

And frankly, that is a legit concern: these nutritional plans are focused mainly on produce and meat, specifically that which is organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised, characteristics that make it that much more expensive than run-of-the-mill grocery store finds.

However, despite the higher-than-normal grocery bills I've been accruing over the past 23 days, I believe that I am actually saving money on Whole30.

Sounds crazy, right?

Over the past four weeks, I have spent an average of $165 per week on groceries. This includes my weekly run (generally to a big store like Hy-Vee or Dahl's as well as a specialty store like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) as well as my initial run to Costco and smaller visits to the aforementioned stores during the week (when I run out of eggs, asparagus, or the ever-important La Croix, for instance).

When I first looked at that average, I was shocked. That is A LOT of money -- especially for one person who used to spend between $80-100 per week on groceries. However, I then broke it down even further by comparing how things are now versus how they used to be:

  • Now, I do not go out to eat: in the past 23 days, I have eaten out once, and I added that $8 into my weekly total. Prior to Whole30, I went out to eat much more often than I care to admit: a Friday night out with friends, a brunch out with BFF, a quick bite on the way to a meeting, etc. I never totaled those out-to-eat meals into my weekly food bill.
  • Now, I am not purchasing alcohol. While I wasn't necessarily a total booze-hound prior to starting Whole30, I spent quite a bit on wine, beer, and drinks, either at the grocery store or at restaurants. And, like my out-to-eat expenses, that was not calculated into my weekly food bill.
  • To tie both out-to-eat and alcohol expenses together, I recently went back through bank statements. I was shocked at how much I was actually spending on food and drink when I actually factored everything together -- shocked. Suffice it to say that I am saving a lot of money on Whole30.
In addition, I have prioritized things differently now. Rather than wanting to spend $5 on a latte at Caribou, I want to spend that extra money on something good for my body. Instead of tossing $30 toward a new top (aside from yesterday's shopping spree, of course), I want to put that toward organic, grass-fed meat. (Here is a really great, extremely funny article that talks about that exact thing.)

And speaking of organic, grass-fed meat, I want to spend the extra money on that product -- if I can find it, that is (and sometimes, I'll be honest, I can't). Not only do I want the meat that I put into my body to be of the best quality, I more importantly care about the treatment of the animals from where that meat came, especially since I just tried watching Food, Inc. (I couldn't even make it through the movie due to the images of the abhorrent treatment of animals.) If it costs an extra dollar or two per pound to get meat from animals that led clean and quality lives, I'm all about that.

Finally, I think it is really important to discuss the topic of each of these "inspirational quotes" that I've been posting. The food that we eat, the nutrition that we take in, is so closely tied to our overall health. I mean, as a very basic example, I was shocked at how much my sleep was affected by my diet: just because I am eating good, quality food, I am sleeping infinitely better.

If I have to spend a little extra money on cage-free eggs, organic apples, and coconut oil, and avoid the unnatural ingredients in Lean Cuisines, Healthy Choice soups, and Skinny Cow desserts, so be it. I would much rather pay now to stay healthy rather than pay later to get better.

If you are interested in Whole30 or Paleo but are worried about budgeting, here is my one piece of advice to you: prioritize: figure out what is really important to you. For instance, do you need to buy everything organic, or is it more important to buy local? While I think buying organic is a great idea, I completely understand that it would get a bit pricey to buy everything organic. So, I prioritize: I focus on organic, grass-fed beef; cage-free and pastured eggs; and organic apples. For the rest of my produce, I can pretty much go either way. (The Environmental Working Group has a list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to help prioritize organic vs. non-organic produce purchases.)


And in case you are interested, here are a couple of great articles about eating Paleo on a budget: one by Robb Worf ( Paleo guru) and one from U.S. News & World Report.

What are your money-saving tips for grocery shopping? How do you eat healthfully while not going broke? :)

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  1. Great post! I am still working on creating a budget for eating healthy without going broke. Tonight I wasn't feeling like cooking a real meal, so we got a rotisserie chicken already cooked, baked sweet potatoes, and satueed kale. Easy and affordable.

    1. Rotisserie chicken is always a good go-to meal. Another good one is shrimp: it's super fast and easy to cook, albeit a bit on the pricier side.

  2. Also check out this nice paleo recipes

    1. Thanks! I'll definitely check them out.