If there are two things that I am passionate about, it is nutrition and budgeting. Unfortunately, most people don’t make a connection between those two things. Most people don’t believe that if you want to eat health, you can also live on a budget. I don’t buy it. Clean eating and Paleo on a budget works, it just takes a little preparation and planning.
The more I know about food and nutrition, the more I care about what I put into my body. Paleo is a lifestyle that I stumbled across in that journey. It is a whole foods based lifestyle diet that encourages people to eat only real foods that will build a healthy gut and won’t cause inflammation in the body (there’s a much longer explanation that I won’t dive into now. That being said, unfortunately, we live in a society that real foods are expensive and processed foods are cheap. However, it is possible to follow Paleo on a budget.
Here are some tips that I have found that allows me to eat healthy, while sticking to my budget:
Prioritize your Spending Within Your Budget
If eating Paleo or Clean foods is really important to you, make your grocery budget a priority. That may mean making sacrifices in other areas. I’m not saying how much should go to this area of your life, but you have to make a choice about what is important to you. A budget is all about making sacrifices for a greater cause and goal. If you are on a budget but your family’s nutrition is important to you, then you have to allocate more money to that area and cut back in other areas. Budgeting is all about the choices that you make, choose your health.
Prioritize your Food Choices
If you want to eat a Paleo or clean diet, there are many choices that you can make. Is your meat grass fed? Is your food organic? Are your eggs free range? The list goes on. Again, being on a budget is all about choices. If all these choices are important you, your grocery bill will reflect it. You will also have to make serious sacrifices in other areas. However, you can choose which ones are important to you and your family. If you feel like you don’t need all grass fed meat, then sacrifice in that area to save money. You do not need to make those choices to consider yourself Paleo, or even to improve your health. You are able to make those choices, but you will spend more. What are you willing to sacrifice on? If it is not this, then what areas of your life are you willing to sacrifice in order to budget your money wisely? Be true to yourself and your beliefs, but recognize that the money has to come from somewhere.
Shop in Season
Fresh fruit and vegetables have varying prices. If you shop in season, you will save a ton of money on produce, and your fruit will taste amazing! Plan your recipes and meals around what is in season and shop based on those items. Experiment with substituting items in recipes for in season options.
Meal Plan around Sales
Meal planning is a big must for anyone on a budget. When you meal plan, you make your shopping list. A shopping list allows you to shop intentionally and not randomly. If you shop intentionally, you avoid buying things that you may not need or things that would go to waste. You also eliminate the need to go to the grocery store 7 times a week because you forgot something. Remember that each time you go to the store, you open yourself up to buying something you do not need.
While meal planning, look through the weekly ad for whatever store you are going to. There are likely great deals on all the essentials – from meats to produce. Plan your meals for the week around the sales that are going on that week.
When you meal plan, choosing to make t-bone steaks and lobster every night of the week, while tasty, may not be the best budget friendly option. I’m kidding, but seriously, you need to choose your meals wisely.
Typically, the easiest thing to do with Paleo is plan your meals around a meat, and then add a vegetable and a starch to your dish. When I look for recipes, I tend to gravitate towards the recipes with fewer ingredient or common ingredients that I already have in my kitchen. If there is a bunch of ingredients that I would have to buy and wouldn’t use otherwise, I steer clear of the recipe because it simply isn’t budget friendly.
Here are a few of my favorite staples:
- Chicken thighs, wings, drumsticks or breasts
- Ground beef, turkey, chicken
- Sausages made with clean ingredients
- Cut your own veggies
- Apples and bananas (berries are typically more expensive for fruit)
- Sweet and white potatoes are my go to starch unless squash is in season
I’m not saying that you should go to 5 grocery stores every time you have to get groceries. But once in a while check out your local grocery stores and find which place has the overall cheapest prices. For example, Aldis is a great place to look and see if they have what you need because their prices are often the lowest. Likewise, if you check your local ads each week, you may be able to shop all sale items for the week and go to a different grocery store for that week.
Go with a List
Once you meal plan for the week, use your list and stick to it! I’m not saying grocery items won’t suddenly pop into your cart that you didn’t expect, but go with the intention of only getting what is on your list. If you plan well, this can help you save time, money, and food waste. There are so many list apps for your phone. I love this because it helps me to make a list in real time. When I run out of coconut oil I immediately add it to the list, rather than wait and forget.
Get Creative: Use your Leftovers
At the end of the week, before you go shopping again, make sure you have used everything you can in your refrigerator. If you are not eating processed foods, unless you freeze something, it will go bad quickly. So use what you have before you buy something new! At the end of the week, I like to throw together a hash in a skillet or the oven. I use some kind of meat for my base (typically sausage or kielbasa) and then chop up whatever veggies I have leftover, usually I add in a sweet potato and I am good to go! I have a delicious meal and I am not wasting my food.
Stop Eating Out
If you are eating Paleo on a budget, you are going to want to stop eating out. Eating out is SOOOO expensive and if you are serious about sticking to your budget, you have to make the commitment to cook most of the meals yourself. Again, being on a budget is about making choices. If you want to eat nutritiously and be on a budget, you have to plan ahead and cook your own meals. If you find that you are often in a time crunch, meal prep at the beginning of the week or on the weekends and eat leftovers. Eating out will gobble up your money, so avoid it at all costs. Don’t beat yourself up if you do choose to eat out, but make sure that it is a conscious choice and not a result of poor planning.
If you Bake, Bake Smart
Paleo baking is expensive. If you like to bake, make sure you look at ingredient lists before you decide to make something. I would say, if you are on a budget, you may want to forgo Paleo baking for a while. But I get it, it is a nice treat. So if you choose to bake follow these rules:
- Don’t use too many flours. Almond flour is EXPENSIVE! If you bake, look for something with just coconut flour. Although this can be a tricky flour to bake with, it is the least expensive and if you find the right recipe it can turn out great! Tapioca flour is also an ok one to use and have on hand in your pantry.
- Don’t bake with too many nuts.
- Find recipes with fewer ingredients or ones that use your staples. The more you don’t have, the more you will have to spend from your grocery budget (DUH!).
Remember the Long Term Savings – Your Health
Lastly, remind yourself, if you spend a little more on food now, you may save yourself some massive medical bills later. Do you know how much a hospital stay costs??? A LOT! What you put into your body directly affects how your body functions, and so investing in your health now may save you money in the long run. It is a choice you have to make but decide for yourself what is worth it for you and your family.
You can manage Paleo on a budget. You can save money if you plan ahead and shop smart. If you put in the work are intentional about your choices, you will invest in yourself, in your family, and in your future, all while saving money.