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Is it even possible to feed a family of 7 under $200/ week? And recipe ideas!

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Updated September 16, 2014 at 8:07 PM
Created April 12, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Really, really, really trying to get the food budget lower. It's been a real challenge. I have a family of 7, two adults, kids ages 9, 7, 5, and 2 year old twins (one of the twins has a feeding tube that I blenderize food for, allergies to dairy, wheat, eggs, tomatoes, and nuts and is in kidney failure, so basically low protein autoimmune proticol for her, cause that's not complicated AT ALL! ;)) Paleo has near doubled our food budget, which isn't working out so well with the finances! I could keep it incredibly low when we were on a diet of mostly grains and dairy, and I prepared everything from scratch. I've recently added white rice and potatoes, and moved to buying conventional meats and eggs, and I only buy organic produce when it's the "dirty dozen" or I pick something else, but berries and leafy greens I think are an important part of a healthy diet, so I buy frozen organic berries for smoothies, but that's it. I have a freezer full of chicken feet for bone broth, and keifer water I put in smoothies to get those good probiotics in there. Also have beef liver to throw in ground meat.

I think where my biggest struggle is, is that I mostly understand (but am open to suggestions) which Paleo foods are more expensive, but I'm having a hard time with the recipes. I swear I'm a pretty good cook, but Paleo cooking is a whole new ball game (and switched a big family to Paleo from the SAD is a whole other feat in itself.) I feel like 90% of the good looking Paleo recipes I see use those more expensive ingredients and lots of specialty coconut products.

I tried to take a look at the cheapest, healthiest foods, and came up with this list. Please hack away. And if you could point me to some budget friendly recipe ideas, I would be eternally grateful.

Protein: whole turkey, chicken, or pork or beef roasts, ground beef, turkey, or pork, conventional eggs. Chicken feet to make broth and sneak beef liver in where I can. Canned tuna, and cheapest best fish cut once per week.
Fats: Coconut oil, olive oil Fruit: Apricots, avocado, banana (for kids) cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, nectarines (domestic) tangerines, watermelon, starfruit, plantains, pineapple, organic frozen berries for smoothies.
Avoid apples and apple sauce, bananas, grapes, mango, pear and dried fruit for sugar content.
Sweeteners, use honey very sparingly, skip the maple syrup, use coconut sugar. Starches: Giant bag of rice, white potatoes Veggies: broccoli, parsley, canned tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, any kind of squash, cabbage, onions, green onions, snow peas, frozen okra, brussels sprouts, and alfalfa sprouts. Buy dark leafy greens organic.
add in keifered water, and lacofermented fruits and veggies.
Not budget friendly, use sparingly: milk substitutes: homemade nut or coconut milk, occasional coconut chips/shreds and coconut or almond flour and nuts.

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5802 · April 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Yeah, I went for years without a food processor, and it's life changing! Def a necessity for Paleo, even more so than a blender.

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70 · April 13, 2013 at 4:47 AM

You have some excellent recipes going there! Thanks! Now I need a food processor! stat!

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1981 · April 12, 2013 at 11:33 PM

I second the cow share. it's a big investment up front, but you can save 30-40%, and generally they won't charge you for organs, bones and suet.

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1021 · April 12, 2013 at 9:26 PM

i would buy dry beans in bulk and make beef and bean burritos out of them. make sure to soak them at ~140f for 10 hours

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3043 · April 12, 2013 at 10:19 PM

My dad lost his job, so I can feel for your experience. How much do you pay per pound for convetional meat. At the grocery store it would cost me 7-20 dollars a pound for a cut. If I get on the internet and make connections with my local farmers (think kijiji too) I found grassfed beef for 2.99-3.25 lb. That would actually save you a lot of money. Also we get our chickens and eggs from the farmers (99 cents a pound and 3 dollars a dozen). Also a chicken can last us a couple meals (roasted, stock and soup). I would spend more money on the good fats and proteins and not worry as much on the extras. Sardines tinned in water are like a dollar a pack and delicious. Coconut milk smoothies (calorie dense, nutrient dense are good too). We get cans of coconut milk for 1.80 a piece and that will be 1000 calories in each can (Thai Kitchen). Look for deals on organics, we sourced yams for 99 cents a pound organic and bought enough for 6 months worth. There are great fried, mashed and sauteed and are again nutrient and calorie dense. You get full fast from them.We used to spend 400/week for a family of four and two raw doggies now we spend 50-100 a week (after our intial big purchases of a cow,lamb and pig). So its very doable. You can strech something like chili with sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Avoid gmos, corn and soy and all other chemicals but don't sweat everything else too much. Coconut oil is a great fat, buy in bulk (Nutiva-a gallon for 50) which will last you a year. Stress is unhealthy too. Try cutting elsewhere (take a smaller cellphone plan, cut down on the t.v. package, elminate unecessary wants-which are not needs). Your health is so important. I think what your doing for your family is fantastic. :)

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5802 · April 13, 2013 at 1:27 AM

Hey Ashley - I have 4 kids, ages 13, 7, 5, 4. Our food budget is right at $200 a week. (I try to keep it lower, like $170, but I usually end up spending it when I need to repurchase large items in bulk like coconut oil or almond flour). I used to go to farmers markets, local farms, etc, but as I had more kids, and my husband deployed, we hit survival mode. For a few years. :)

I am linking my personal blog where I try to keep our favorite recipes updated. I've been meaning to go through and start calculating cost per meal now that I've pretty much paleofied everything, but not there yet.

http://kennedycircusunleashed.blogspot.com/p/recipe-index.html

I'd love to brainstorm ideas on how to tweak things to be cheaper, so feel free to comment any ideas you have on my blog. I'm not autoimmune, but I do tend to minimize some of the things I react to. I am trying to get more efficient as well ... like every few months I buy big bags of celery and carrots, mince them, saute in a stick of butter, and freeze in 1/4 cup servings. Then any time I have a sauce that needs flavor, I grab a baggie. (This is the french flavoring called "mirepoix" - it also includes onions, but I've been leaving them out due to my reaction to FODMAPS). Stuff like that, basically to minimize chopping time!

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5802 · April 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Yeah, I went for years without a food processor, and it's life changing! Def a necessity for Paleo, even more so than a blender.

12d62aa5dc366c8aae129c51aefd36b0
70 · April 13, 2013 at 4:47 AM

You have some excellent recipes going there! Thanks! Now I need a food processor! stat!

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442 · April 13, 2013 at 2:07 AM

Maybe.

Realize that Grassfed, pastured, organic are all optimal solutions. There's optimal, then there's practical. First and foremost, Just Eat Real Food (http://undergroundwellness.com/just-eat-real-food/). In the long run, it's less expensive than eating the SAD (characterized by many illnesses and expensive prescriptions).

My suggestions:

  • Grow your own vegetables

  • Shop at your local farmer's market for vegetables or buy direct from the farmer

  • Blanch then freeze vegetables, if possible

  • No large capacity freezer for storage, buy frozen vegetables

  • Buy 'tougher' cuts of beef

  • Use slow cooker (crockpot)

  • Combine meat purchases with other families for greater cost savings

  • Keep it simple. Every meal doesn't have to be a gourmet endeavor

  • Shop online and take advantage of online 'specials' like free shipping (e.g. Vitacost, Tropical Traditions, Amazon).

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2293 · April 12, 2013 at 9:37 PM

Do you live near a Costco? I would get a membership and buy as much in bulk of as most of those things as you can. It would also be wise to get a big freezer (you can probably find a good used one on kijiji or craigslist in your area) and join a cow sharing program where you can buy pretty much a whole cows worth of meat in one shot, freeze it and use it as you see fit. It works out to be cheaper in the wrong run in most cases.

I like to can or ferment veggies that are in season for the off season too. So for example in the summertime when tomatoes and cucumbers are cheapest I'll buy loads and can/ferment different sauces/salsas and dills and store them for the winter.

Making soups/chilis/stews can really stretch a dollar. For all of my broths I'll get the cheapest knuckles/feet/hocks/backs from the butcher for pennies, throw in some veg (whatever is on sale) and it tastes like a million bucks.

You could also consider quinoa and like nada mentioned, bulk beans.

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1981 · April 12, 2013 at 11:33 PM

I second the cow share. it's a big investment up front, but you can save 30-40%, and generally they won't charge you for organs, bones and suet.

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1981 · April 12, 2013 at 11:34 PM

You can often get suet for free or dirt cheap, and it's a simple process to render it into tallow: lots of healthy fat for free or near-free!

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70 · April 13, 2013 at 12:07 AM

I'd get the children very involved in coming up with menus... this is one cool site for inspiring ideas: http://fastpaleo.com/ if the kiddies don't like http://fastpaleo.com/sweet-potato-fries/ they will like http://fastpaleo.com/two-minute-paleo-mug-brownie/

Second the idea of finding a local organic farmer- They are out there. Our Farmer sells a huge bag of chicken legs for $15, and the price of half a cow, etc brings the price per pound very low. (I won't get into a freezer though- we get enough every month at a good price.) Once the meat is taken care of the rest is bulk at BJ's, and the farmer's market, or Wegmans/ Tops.

Really, with that size of a family you need a monthly menu plan otherwise you're constantly searching for ideas.

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