Tips for making the paleo lifestyle affordable

Posted on April 1, 2012

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So by now we’ve all realized something about paleo, whether we’ve been doing it for years, or only a few days.  Eating paleo, or healthy in general is EXPENSIVE!  Things labeled “organic”, “grass fed” “raw” and “wild caught” are often twice as expensive as “conventional” meat and produce.  Likewise, almonds and almond butter can be up to three times as much as their peanut counterparts.  And if you are like me, and have cut out processed foods all together in favor of real ingredients, you’re entire grocery bill has doubled.  So, then the question arises, how do we eat healthy without going broke?  While I’m still learning more tips every day, here are a few things that have worked for me so far.

1. Waste not, want not.  We’ve all heard the stories about how the Native Americans used every part of the buffalo, so nothing went to waste.  We should follow this example and do the same at home.  Save your beef bones, shrimp and fish heads, chicken and duck carcasses etc. for stock.  The same goes for all of your vegetable scraps.  Instead of running your leek tops, broccoli and mushroom stems, carrot and potato peels, etc. down the garbage disposal, save them for stock as well.  If you don’t have enough of these things all at once, just put them in the freezer until you’ve accumulated enough to make a large pot.  Now, not only have you gotten your money’s worth out off your meat and veggies, but you don’t have to buy stock either!  And as an added bonus, you have complete control over the ingredients in your stock, ensuring no added preservatives, salt or sugars.

Save your fat.  Ever had a bunch of bacon drippings in the bottom of the pan after frying?  Non paleo cooks use this for gravy (I’m sure there’s a way to make paleo gravy with arrowroot and almond milk), but you can reuse yours for a later time.  Simply drain off your animal fat into a sealed container and stick it in the fridge.  You now have a flavorful frying fat you can use in place of butter or olive oil.

2. Shop around.  This is almost a no brainer.  We do it with everything else, why not groceries?  It is slightly more difficult than conventional grocery shopping because not all supermarkets carry paleo friendly items, but if you’re willing to make a couple of stops, you’ll soon find out which stores in your area have the best priced farm fresh eggs or raw almond butter.  Buy local whenever possible, and hit the farmer’s markets when they are in season.  Buying direct works for food just like it works for furniture.  Not only that, but you are supporting small businesses, and can ask questions about production directly to the farmer rather than relying on the accuracy of third party labels in the supermarket.

3. Buy in season.  Items that are in season not only taste better, and have more nutritional value, but are often cheaper than those that are not.  Berries in the spring, stone fruits like peaches and plums in the summer, apples, pears and squash in the fall, and citrus in the winter.  If you are like my boyfriend and have no idea what is in season when, a big clue is usually abundance and price.  If you walk into the supermarket and the produce section is filled with melons, peaches, plums and nectarines all “ON SALE!” they are probably in season.

4. Make friends with a hunter.  I saw this tip on another website, and laughed a bit, but totally agree.  I am lucky enough to come from a rural community where hunters are abundant.  Now that I live in the city, I stock up whenever I go home.  Venison, rabbit, quail, duck, pheasant, and wild caught fish are all going to be organic, flavorful, and affordable when purchased from the hunter that shot them, or the fisherman that caught them.  If you purchase these meats at a supermarket, or online they are either going to be farm raised, or cost a fortune.  For instance,  farm raised rabbit purchased from D’Artagnan.com is $24 plus shipping.  Farm raised rabbit purchased from an amish family farm I visit whenever I’m in their area is only $9.50.  I’m also lucky enough to get my venison for free since several of my family members hunt.  Venison purchased from farms can cost upwards of $200 depending on the cut, and where you purchase it.  This isn’t restricted to meat either.  Did you know that people actually “hunt” mushrooms?

5. Buy low on the food chain.  Vegetables are cheaper than meat, and in most cases more nutritious.  I’m not saying you should be a vegetarian, (though you can get most of your omega 3’s and protein from oils nuts, eggs, etc) but step away from the salmon and tuna, and try some sardines or mackerel.  They have just as much nutritional value, and are far less expensive, and sustainable to boot. Other vegetarian fish like tilapia and catfish are also sustainable, and far more affordable than your wild caught atlantic salmon.  If you must have your red meat and poultry, the same rules apply as conventional meat.  Grass fed flank steak is cheaper than grass fed filet, and organic thighs and legs are cheaper (and far more flavorful in my opinion) than chicken and turkey breasts.  If you can’t afford organic or grass fed, at least make sure your meats are hormone and antibiotic free.

6. Grow or make your own.  If you are lucky enough to have the space, plant a garden.  If you don’t have the space for an entire garden, you can have a small herb garden in a pot, or get those hanging pots to grow strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers etc.  All you have to pay for is the cost of seeds, and a bit of soil and organic fertilizer.  Use compost for fertilizer.  Another option, if you aren’t squeamish, is feces.  Yep, that’s right.  If you have a dog, instead of emptying those little plastic baggies in the trash after a walk, mix them in the garden soil (I would recommend thoroughly washing your veggies before consumption if you use this method).  I’m not a gardener, so I’m sure there are many more organic methods to fertilizing your garden.

Making your own pickles, relish, mayo, stock, bread, chips etc will cost you a bit of time, but save you money in the long run, and as always, you have complete control over the ingredients.  These things aren’t generally paleo when purchased at the store, but if you make them yourself you can guarantee they are 100% organic and paleo friendly.  Not only that, but doesn’t homemade always taste better?

7. Buy whole foods.  While I am a frequent shopper at the supermarket chain, in this instance I’m talking about the actual food, not the brand (though store generic brands are often cheaper than name brands, even the organic varieties).  While the pre-packaged, pre-cut fruits and vegetables may save you time, they always cost significantly more than the whole variety.  Taking the time to cut up your own melons, carrots, squash etc, will save you a ton of money in the long run.  You will also have the scraps for compost, or stock later on.  Likewise, have you ever noticed that an entire chicken is usually less than the cost of 3 skinless boneless chicken breasts?  Hmmm…..more food for less money…..sounds like a no brainer to me.  Also, bone in cuts are usually less expensive.  Not only will using a whole chicken, or bone in breasts cost less, but then you have bones to make stock.  The same goes for red meat.  Those huge porterhouse steaks you see?  They actually contain two cuts of meat.  The smaller portion is a filet, and the larger side is a sirloin.  Then you have the bone to start some beef stock.  That’s three meals from one cut of beef.

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