Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sara - Paleo on a Budget: A Guide to Keeping Costs Down

For those that don't know me, I'm a married mom of three. 

Wait, let me clarify - mom of three boys that never stop eating.

When I first decided to try Paleo, I was doing it for myself.  I have inflammation issues that have caused me problems for years.  But the more I read and the more I understand, the more I want to bring my whole little clan over to the "dark side."  I want my boys to start off on the right track.  I want them to develop good eating habits now so that they don't have issues when they're older.

I'm aslo the primary grocery-shopper and "chef" of the house, so if I don't buy it or cook it, they don't eat it! (This includes my handsome husband, for the most part, too.)  I decided it was time to ease everyone into the "lifestyle."  Granted, we aren't 100% Paleo (I'd say we're about 70%), but we're getting there.

One of the biggest concerns I hear is over the cost of eating healthier.  I could sit here and discuss the costs of eating right vs. medical bills, etc.  But I won't.  Instead, I want to show you how I'm making it work.  Hopefully you can take something away from this, whether you're single, part of a big family, or anywhere in between.

Shop the Sales

This sounds like a no-brainer, I know.  Bear with me.

Don't just "shop" the sales, get the fliers ahead of time.  Use the internet - most stores post their ads online.  Many of them also allow you to create a shopping list with just a click!  Speaking of websites, did you know that many of them also offer coupons?  Kroger and other big stores let you load those coupons right onto your club card, so you don't even have to carry the paper coupons with you.  Other sites - such as and offer coupons of their own!  This was news to me!  I shop Sprouts often and if you combine their online coupons with their sales, you can save big.  (If you can also manage to shop on Wednesdays, you get the previous week's ad in addition to the current week's ad. Double the sales on Wednesdays!)

If you watch the same ads often enough, you'll also find patterns.  Don't get stuck in a rut looking for that item you love to go on sale - try something new!  Sprouts rotates their bulk goods, price-wise.  One week, raw almonds are on sale. The next week, it's cashews or pepitas, etc.  Watch long enough and your favorites will come back around. 

Plan your meals

Another "no-brainer," right? 

I list this after shopping the sales because the sales should inspire your meal planning.  Don't try to plan your meals first.  Take stock of what you already have on hand (don't forget the freezer) and then use what's on sale to figure out what you (or your family) will eat for the next week.  Again, don't be afraid to try something new.  There are so many Paleo recipe sites out there on the internet.  If something random is on sale, do an internet search and find a recipe.  Don't forget to plan for snacks!  If you have kids, get them involved as much as possible.  But DO NOT TAKE THEM TO THE STORE, if you can help it!!  I don't know about you, but I always spend more than I meant to if I take one (or more) of the kids along.

Buy in bulk

Granted, not everyone can do this, but sometimes it's worth it.  If your family loves strawberries and you find them on sale for a ridiculously low price, buy as much as you can afford.  Most veggies and many fruits can be frozen and eaten later. 

In fact, don't forget to check your grocer's frozen aisles for savings, too. We often buy organic frozen broccoli from Costco.  You can get 5lbs for under $6!  If you have a deep freezer, fill it up bit by bit - it can be a life saver later on.

Eat local & seasonal

Break out of the mold.  Don't spend your hard earned money buying produce that's not in season.  First off, it's more expensive.  Secondly, the quality will be lacking. 

Buy local when you can.  Find a produce co-op or CSA in your area.  We participate in Bountiful Baskets.  Granted, I have no idea what produce we'll receive each week, but that's part of the fun!  In the past few months, we've tried red corn, leeks, pluots, asian pears - and a dozen other items I would likely never have thought to purchase on my own.  A "basket" (which is two round laundry baskets' worth of food) is $15 and just about a weeks' worth of produce for our family of five.  (The more we get the kids into eating produce, the more I think we might need to get two baskets!)

For $25, you can upgrade to an all-organic basket.

Do the math

Finally, do the math.  Seriously.  Figure out how much you're spending on groceries and divide it by the number of people in your household and then divide that number by the 21 meals you're feeding them (or less if you are eating out, buying school lunches, etc).

My family only eats out maybe once a week now.  I make the kids' lunches, my husband and I eat leftovers for our lunches.  Our grocery bill has sky rocketed!  Oh my gosh, I thought, what am I doing?  I know we're eating better, but am I really saving us any money? Or am I putting us into the poor house with my quest for grass fed beef and nitrate free bacon?

On average, I spend $150-180/week on groceries for our family of five. (This includes the "basket" purchase.)  Let's call it $180, for argument's sake.

$180 divided by 5 people = $36.
As I mentioned, we rarely eat out.  Still, let's say we each eat out for lunch one day/week and go out for dinner one night/week.  So that means we're each eating roughly 19 meals/week from the groceries I buy.

$36 divided by 19 meals = $1.89 per meal.

$1.89 PER MEAL.   I was shocked when I realized that.

A school lunch costs $2.75! 
And let's not even think about what $1.89 would buy you at a fast food restaurant.

Try this yourself.  Compare what you were spending to what you spend eating Paleo.  No, you may not be able to afford all grass fed, organic, etc, etc, etc.  You do what you can.  You make the good stuff stretch, when necessary.  Add more veggies.  Add more fruit!  Don't give up on the idea just because you can't go full monty.

Don't just dismiss it as "too expensive." 

Reach outside your comfort zone and try something seasonal and local.

Stop buying sodas and pasta and bread.  Stop eating convenience foods. Plan ahead.

Please share your own ideas for saving money while eating Paleo! 
I know we can all use the help!

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