Paleo on a Budget?

So… you have gone Paleo, and all that grass-fed beef, pastured pork and free range chicken is adding up.  The organic fruit and veg is costing more and your spouse is bugging you about the increase in grocery costs.  Maybe he/she is telling you that you cannot afford to eat this way and that you have to go back to your old (SAD – Standard American Diet) way of eating.

Did you know that there are ways to reduce your food costs dramatically while not compromising on food quality?

These are my top tips for doing Paleo/Primal on a budget.

  • Buy in bulk – we buy half a pig for $250 from the farmers market. We can buy half a grassfed cow for just over $1000 (sounds a lot, but do you know how much meat you get from half a pig or half a cow?). it costs way less that way!  We get it conveniently packaged in meal-sized portions, already frozen and ready to pop in the freezer.  We buy one half pig every 3-4 months and half a cow about once a year.  Yes you do need to invest in a chest freezer and it costs a lot at the time, but the savings are worth it.  From our last half pig ($250 worth, we got 3 hams worth over $150 at their full retail price!  and this was premium pasture-raised pork cured in a sugar-free cure!)  We also got half a dozen packs of bacon (same sugar free cure), several roasting joints, lots and lots of packs of pork chops, and a whole bunch of sausage.  The previous time we didn’t get the hams and went with pork cutlets instead….
  • Keep an eye out for Groupon or Living Social deals for real meat from quality butchers and use them. They can significantly reduce your meat costs.
  • Buy wild salmon during the salmon run and fillet it yourself.  Divide into portions and freeze for later in the year.  There are tutorials on you-tube that will teach you how to fillet salmon.  In fact, consider learning how to fish and catch that damn salmon yourself you get it for little more than any licencing fees and the cost of the equipment that way!  Buy other fish and seafood when on speciall offer and stash it in the freezer.
  • Consider learning how to hunt and score your own wild meats that you can freeze for later use….  licensing requirements vary depending on where you live.  Check it out online via Google.
  • If you live near the coast, buy fresh fish and seafoods direct from the boat – or ask about going on fishing trips where you can catch it yourself.  If you live inland, consider a vacation to the coast and go on the same trips… freeze the catch and transport it home in a cooler….  This does assume you have access to a freezer in whatever rental/holiday home you are staying in and that the trip home won’t be so long that your fish/seafood will thaw before you get home.  Don’t risk food poisoning please!
  • Make friends with the vendors at your local farmers market.  Talk to them, ask about their day and how their sales are going.  And talk to people who are wondering whether to buy the product.  Extol it’s virtues and when the vendor makes a sale you are likely to get a discount…  We regularly score discounts for Wapiti Ways Elk and Buzz Honey by this means.
  • Save all the bones, chicken carcasses. fish bones and shrimp heads and shells and make your own bone broth (I have been known to buy frozen “dog bones” from a grass-fed beef butcher and turn them into broth! there is no difference between a dog-bone and a stock/broth bone apart from the price!).  Add your vegetable trimmings to the broth as well.  There is no need to waste onion tops, broccoli stalks and the tops you trim carrots or any other vegetable trimmings.  Add herbs and other veg from your garden too.  They will all provide nutrition.
  • Waste nothing – if you can turn it into a soup or broth do so….  soups are very frugal lunches (one of my daughters likes soup for breakfast!)  I regularly make “clean out the fridge soup” for lunch – that means I take all the veg that needs using up and dump it into a pot with some bone broth and cook till tender.  Season add herbs and often a can of coconut milk and blend till smooth… no matter what goes into it, it always tastes delicious. You can use broccoli stalks, kale stalks, carrot tops and the trimmings from celery, onions and most other veg this way.
  • Eat the best quality veg you can – join a CSA if it is available in your area. and eat local and seasonal veg. That way you are not paying a premium.  Seasonal veg is always cheaper and by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) you are supporting the farmers who are growing your food.  Don’t forget to visit their farm if they have a Customer Appreciation day and meet them in person… get to know them, they are your friends!
  • Shop on the outer edges of the store – the stuff in the middle (the mass=produced conveninece foods) is more expensive nutrient for nutrient.
  • Plant a garden and grow your own – even if you live in an apartment you can grow herbs in a window box or in plant-pots in a sunny window.
  • Monitor freecycle for fruit and veg give-aways. Every spring I see people offering rhubarb. every summer it is zucchini, evey autumn people are begging you to pick the excess apples off their trees. Those can all be canned or frozen to eat later in the year.
  • Visit U-pick farms and pick your own fruit and veggies. it is a fun day out that gets the kids and hubby involved and you get it cheaper because you are providing part of the labour…
  • Try ethnic grocery stores – we buy really good, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil for a fraction of the price in the grocery store (and much better quality!) at a middle-eastern grocery store. They also are the only place I have found in Calgary that i can get Dandelion greens at a good price and escarole for less than a dollar a head….  I also buy quality feta cheese for my feta monster (A) from this store and the most fantastic kalamata olives.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop at several stores – we monitor the flyers and websites of our favourites – we currently shop at 2 different farmers markets, the middle Eastern grocery store, and Asian grocery store, Costco and a standard grocery store to get the best deals…. all in the same day! It takes a bit more time but the savings are worth it.  Take a cooler to keep temperature sensitive stuff cool, lots of bags, relax and enjoy the process…  Consider it a day out!
  • Costco can be a real source of bargains for the discerning shopper.  Avoid the ready produced stuff that is full of additives and the bakery section.  Head for the produce, and fish..  And then consider some of these gems I have bought from Costco:  Balsamic vinegar, sundried tomatoes, crab meat, hemp hearts, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, almonds, dried figs (and fresh fings, plus goat cheese to stuff in them!),  prunes, dried apricots, almond butter, parmesan cheese and much more.  Read the labels and remember that any meats are likely to be raised in a CAFO, so they are not as good as the pasture raised or grass-fed…. plus in the US they are going to be full of antibiotics and growth hormones…    But you can get some really good stuff at Costco if you are careful – we scored some Heritage beef Albertan grass-fed burgers the other week!  Also any veg you buy is not local bear that in mind.
  • And my biggest tip for saving money while eating Paleo is to cook everything for yourself…..  the more mass produced the product, the bigger the expense.  If you cook for yourself you make savings!

See eating Paleo doesn’t have to be expensive afterall!

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