One of the biggest misconceptions about a whole food or paleo diet is that it costs astronomically more than a standard American diet. That's just not true. Are organic produce and grass-fed beef more costly than their conventional counterparts? Yes. Are there ways to include those things in your diet and not break the bank? Absolutely. First of all, let's talk about the price of processed foods and sugary drinks. On sale, a twelve pack of Coca-Cola is $4.99, the same price as a pound of grass fed ground beef. A box of 'healthy' cereal like raisin bran or muesli will run about $4.00 itself, the price of a carton of eggs AND a pound of zucchini combined. See where I'm going? Just by cutting out processed foods and replacing them with whole vegetables and fruits, you will actually end up saving money.
Here is tip #1: BE STRATEGIC.
+ Seek out which stores have what you want, and buy it in bulk when it is on sale: We buy locally farmed chicken from Publix, so when it goes on sale at $3.99-$4.49 per pound, we buy all they have and freeze it. We prefer to buy our grass fed beef online from a farm in South Georgia, so we place a large order every 4 months or so.
+ Use what stores you have. You may be surprised to find they have what you want:
We don't have access to a Whole Foods or a Sprouts or even a Trader Joe's without making an hour drive into the city. We primarily shop at Kroger and Aldi, sometimes Publix. I buy organic unrefined coconut oil at Aldi for $4.99.
+ Have flexibility in your weekly grocery budget: When it comes to budgeting, we make allowances for things such as large orders of meat or trips to the farmer's market. While we look at our grocery budget on a monthly scale, we try to keep it in check with weekly allowances. We will 'borrow' money from the next week's budget to cover what we spend on sale meat or stocking our freezer. And it works. If we have a freezer full of meat, we can get by with only spending $20 at Aldi on produce for the week.
+ Have a monthly farmer's market date: About once a month we get up early on a Saturday and head into the city for breakfast and a trip to the farmer's market or Trader Joe's. When we go to TJ we stock up on some of our favorite items, such as Kerrygold butter ($3.99) chicken sausages ($3.99) and freeze them for use later in the month.
This past Saturday we went to one of our favorite local spots, Rise-n-Dine, and then hit up the Dekalb Farmer's Market. This is where we typically buy oils and vinegar, nuts & seeds, spices, canned coconut milk, and seafood because it is so affordable. We looked for seasonal produce, stocked up on spices, and splurged a little on fresh tuna steaks for the weekend. For $100 dollars we bought: 2 tuna steaks, 2 locally farmed pork chops, a dozen eggs, goat milk yogurt, two bunches of green kale, red kale, rainbow chard, rainbow carrots, avocados, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, green onions, eggplant, yellow squash, lemons, bosc pears, anjou pears, bananas, kiwi, local honey, chili powder, cumin, allspice, onion powder, paprika, ginger chili sauce (our fave!), blanched almond flour, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, ghee, coconut milk. That's a LOT of food. And since we have chicken and grass fed beef in the freezer, this will be all we spend on groceries for the week. And since we got a lot of produce, this will carry over a little into next week, so next week we will buy just a little fresh produce from Aldi.
With student loans, a car payment and a little one in the mix, we have a tight grocery budget, but we still manage to eat tons of vegetables, clean meats, fruits and avoid processed foods and grains. I hope that this series on budgeting tips for a whole food diet will make it less overwhelming for anyone wanting to make the switch.