How can I stay Paleo when broke?

by 198 · March 11, 2014 at 12:38 AM

I have been Paleo for 6 months, never eating gluten, but now my family and I are in a bind. For 2 months I have only a $50/week budget for all food, and there are 6 of us. The rest of my family refuses to give up bread, so I will break into our emergency food storage for pasta for them. I also have some home grown vegetables so it's mostly protein I need to get. We do not eat pork, but other than that I will try anything.

Unfortunately, I have added rice, beans, potatoes and corn to our diet this month because otherwise I couldn't have fed everyone with what we had. I would like to stop that and go back to a full paleo diet.

I spend a lot of time preparing for shopping, going online to find the best sales. Grass-fed or natural beef or is not feasible on this budget. Also, we don't know any hunters. Do you have any suggestions for how to stretch my budget and stay paleo until our financial situation gets back to normal? Thank you!

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23 Replies

15120 · August 07, 2011 at 12:38 AM

thats not very much money. think outside of the food buying economy.

*do you have a yard, or any outdoor space? its fairly easy to grow some food in a pretty small space without a lot of skill. a friend of mine in a studio apartment in boston grew about a hundred pounds of tomatoes one winter in a "topsy turvy". there might be a community garden in your area that you could access, or even lease land from a friend with more space nearby- offer a percentage of your bounty in exchange for gardening a 12'X12' spot, for example.

*do you have anything that someone might want? i recently bartered the stroller and infant car seats along with some baby clothes, for a bunch of pastured pork, pastured beef and wild venison. a hunter/farmer friend of mine in vermont was having a baby. i also make skincare stuff and trade that for eggs.

*if you do qualify for some temporary assistance, i would take advantage of it. its just for the short term. there are a lot of food banks and coops and churches who would be happy to help your family out. if youre children are very young, maybe you qualify for WIC.

*are you near any farmers markets? if you go to the market at the end of the day, you can get much better deals on any produce thats leftover.

*some of the farms near me do work-for-share. if you have the time, it might be a great way to get some healthy produce in exchange for some exercise and time in the sun.

11113 · August 07, 2011 3:30 AM

Definitely start splitting up your shopping trips! Like Karen mentioned, get the cheap stuff where it's cheapest: canned tuna 10 for $1 at Save A Lots or Dollar stores. Get your meats on sale (Buy one/get one)--may have to hit up several stores to take advantage of their sales. Produce I would never buy from a grocery store, farmer's markets all the way. Asian veggies are dirt cheap and Mexican stands sell more traditional produce for super cheap. Buy large melons instead of individual fruits like peaches or apples (unless you get a good deal on a large bag of them). You can cut it up into slices/cubes at home (and even freeze it, would taste good on a hot day!).

I can go to the fleamarket on the weekends and buy a week's worth of produce for less than $10. Carrots, potatoes, onions, greens, squash, oranges, bananas, etc. I have to bring a canvas tote bag to fit it all, and my shoulder is hurting by the time I get back to the truck!

Chicken quarters are always cheap and may even be cheaper if you buy them in large packs. If there's a Sweetbay near you, they have a 10lb bag of them on sale for $5.99. Sausage (not links or brats, but the loose stuff) goes a long way and can be used for either breakfast or dinner. Make a giant egg & sausage veggie scramble for breakfast, it could feed you guys for a couple of days!

Buy eggs in flats (4 doz.) instead of individual dozen packs.

Ignacio mentioned making stew, which is an awesome idea. Stew meat is fairly inexpensive, and when dumped into a crock pot full of potatoes, carrots, onions & celery, goes a loooooong way! I make stew in a crock pot and I can't even finish eating it all before it starts to go bad. The dog wound up getting the leftovers this last time. She was a happy girl! Plus there's lots of fat that melts into the rich broth, and if possible I would save some of that broth and freeze it as a soup base for another meal.

The most important thing is not to buy too many lean meats, because that will make it more difficult to keep everyone's bellies satisfied. Plus, the fattiest cuts are often the least expensive!

12048 · August 07, 2011 2:10 PM

like someone said earlier, potatoes and rice are a great way to stretch your money. my grocery bill dropped by $15/week when i started including potatoes daily in my meals. also, you should talk to the butcher at your grocer and if you're not too proud, let him know your situation and ask him the general schedule of when the meat goes on "special". i know that ground beef can get to 1.49/lb or lower. you can do ALOT if you are able to pick up 10lbs or so of that a week. $15 would have the majority of your meat covered. also you can get the bones and scraps for dirt cheap or even free. Those with some of those aforementioned potatoes and various other vegetables can feed a family of six for a day for $5 or so with a delicious stew. properly prepared beans with neckbones can be useful with this also. there are tons of "poor people" recipes out there that have five star taste. i would start perusing "soul food" recipes because that's what they were originally. one other thing that needs to get mentioned is cooking oils. walmart sells the dirt cheap louana brand of coconut oil. if you can't get to that, see if you can find some reasonably priced pastured butter. if that is also out of the question, talk to your butcher about lard and explore the joys of fatback in your stews, and vegetables. also keep that tin on your stove for bacon grease. speaking of bacon grease, you may want to eat liver- which is dirt cheap- once a week just to make sure you're covering your nutritional bases.

we're in hard economic times, unfortunately, and i really do feel for your situation. i think it's fair to say that in this situation we're aiming for good, satiating and nutritious and throwing optimal to the side for the time being. it goes without saying that the meat you will be eating will be CAFO and the vegetables conventional. that's ok because as long as you're still eating whole foods and not consuming industrial seed oils, gluten grains and excess fructose, you're going to stay relatively healthy during this ordeal. best of luck to you.

3916 · August 07, 2011 7:35 AM

Are you qualified for food stamps? If you are a tax payer there is no shame in using them. You paid for them. Better than eating a bunch of cheap garbage food and destroying your health.

4246 · August 07, 2011 3:55 AM

Dont forget about offal too. I know that its not all that palatable, but you can hide it in ground meat fairly easily. See if your butcher has livers, hearts, brains, sweetbreads, etc. Often they will give that stuff away or its ridiculously cheap. Grind or food processor that and mix it into ground beef. Not only will you not even notice it, but it will make your ground beef even more healthy. Take that, an onion, a can of tomatoes, and some spices and make chili!

2630 · August 06, 2011 8:50 PM

Tinned sardines and tuna are fairly low cost, as well as eggs as others have noted.

Also, buying some of the cheaper cuts of meat (beef shank, short ribs, ground beef) might work for you as well.

1884 · August 07, 2011 2:01 AM

The occasional famine is paleo, and the response then, as now, was to eat suboptimal food until you can get something better.

Others have mentioned rice, potatoes, eggs, ground chuck and organ meats. I'll add my voice to theirs.

Also, BROTH. It's relatively cheap pre-made (just check the ingredients first) or you can make your own out of the remains of a chicken. Mixed with leftover beef fat and served with rice, a little broth goes a long way.

Hope things work out for you soon.

929 · August 07, 2011 6:03 PM

pork belly is the cheapest cut of pork (and consequently any meat) at my butchers, has far more flavour than the expensive loin cuts, extremely satiating and is definitely more paleo. Leaves great lard for cooking greens in,and is even tastier cold. Long may people be afraid of saturated fats !

2285 · August 07, 2011 at 12:59 AM

I'm all for making friends with a grass-fed beef producer. I get my beef heart for $2 a pound, and that's what I primarily ate for four or five months, due to money, and wanting a good source of protein.

What I did was talk to my grass-fed beef producer, explained to her what paleo is, and that I eat a rather large amount of meat, and I was willing to eat the cheaper cuts and such. Now I'm one of the only people buying her beef heart, and I get a good deal on it.

If you're (or probably more like your family) not averse to organ meat, you're good to go. I pressure cook mine to get tenderness, and just spice it like a real beefy roast.

7300 · August 07, 2011 at 12:35 AM

Potatoes! Lots and lots of them. They have tons of potassium and some protein even too. I'd skimp on other produce, even with sales. They just don't provide enough calories to be worth your money right now. Get eggs, the cheapest you can, tinned fish, and whatever protein is cheapest. You could also ask if your grocery store has meats like liver or kidney. You can generally get it pretty cheap. Rice and beans are also good to use, even though they're not the healthiest. Your diet won't be very fun for a while, but if Stephan Guyenet is correct, it should be very good for weight loss or maintenance.

3428 · August 07, 2011 at 12:10 AM

Stew prepared with some inexpensive meat cuts plus squash, carrots, potatoes, etc is very nutritious and inexpensive. Eggs are also inexpensive and you can combine them with either potatoes or white rice. Depending on where you live, fresh vegetables might be affordable too. As long as you stay clear of wheat and flour, seed oils, sugar and most industrial foods, you should be fine!

12804 · August 06, 2011 at 11:13 PM

Potatoes are paleo and extremely cheap, I don't see any reason to stop including those. Rice is also extremely cheap and fairly benign.

As far as protien goes egg and organic dairy(if you tolerate that) are the cheapest and best option. Look out for deals in the newspaper at local shops or ask your local farmer for bulk discounts for meat.

105 · August 06, 2011 8:30 PM

I eat hamburgers a lot (no bun, obviously) - you can get a pack of hamburger - even ground chuck like I eat - pretty inexpensively. That could be lunch for a week if you prepat them out and freeze them and cook as needed. I actually spend about $60 a week every other week for my family's groceries. I try to cook things that I can eat as leftovers the next day for lunch. Tomorrow night I am making honey-glazed chicken wings with a veggie. I will make pasta to go with for my family. Then I will eat the leftovers for lunch on Monday. I do eat out at lunch time a couple of times a week when I run out of time or when I make my family an easy non-Paleo dinner the night before. Also, I'm not sure why you are in such a pinch financially, but I would look for local food pantry options. They are made for situations just like yours and you don't need to feel bad for getting a little help to get you through a bind. Also check out http://www.angelfoodministries.com/ - their food is pretty inexpensive. It is not "perfect" to feed your family regular food especially when you believe in the Paleo lifestyle, but it is okay to do if you are in a pinch financially.

4232 · November 17, 2011 8:00 AM

This is a "different strokes for different folks" comment. This may sound crazy to a city dweller: when we are short on meat, I will purchase a (live) grass fed lamb, kill and butcher it myself. Stow it in the freezer. As, for various reasons, I do not wish to stress the animal, I will normally travel to the lamb's farm area and slaughter it there without transporting the live animal.

1458 · November 17, 2011 3:58 AM

What about eating garden snails. escargot anyone? I was thinking of doing this myself because they were eating everything. You could also go fishing if you live near water.

77338 · August 07, 2011 6:12 PM

, what ican suggest. go foraging wild edible.s maybe everyday nettle soup or other wild plants.

11555 · August 06, 2011 9:36 PM

If there are dollar stores or a big lots in your area, they often have very inexpensive canned tuna, salmon and sardines. Flea markets often carry produce also. Be sure to check the stands run by Hispanics and Asians - they have the best prices and on some things you can buy a crate or box full and save more. Depending on your location, farmers markets can be a great deal. Sadly not here in NoVA, but in SC the prices were much better than grocery store. Pick your own farms are usually a great bargain, and you can't get fresher food. If you are in an area where fruit trees are grown in yards (FL & CA very common) you may find people who aren't harvesting their fruit and it's lying on the lawn. Knock on the door and ask them if you can pick up the fruit for a share of it. A lot of people are very grateful and will tell you to take it all. (be sure to share - it's usually more than one family can eat) If you are in an area where possible and know what you are doing, do some foraging for pricy goodies like berries and wild greens (If you are in the US, lamb's quarters are doing great now, and when cooked taste much like spinach.)

0 · March 11, 2014 at 12:38 AM

Adding my voice to rice, you can stretch your dollar a long way with a big bag of rice. I would try to avoid the gluten at all costs, since the effects of consuming wheat last so long after you start eating better and the appetite stimulant effect is strong, but then I am gluten-sensitive. Dollar stores that stock produce can be good, just keep checking back because whenever they get something good it goes quickly (says the person who shoveled the entire flat of fish oil capsules into her cart).

Ethnic food stores can be unexpectedly cheap sometimes too - Food City will often have avacados 10 for $1 this time of year, for instance. Asain supermarkets can have great deals, but if it's anything like mine all the packages, signs, and salespeople will be in a foreign language, so you're kind of on your own as to what's what. One near me sells live fish - they haul it right out of the tank and will even throw it in a bucket of water so you can butcher it yourself right before cooking. Which is a bit beyond my level of kitchenese, but it's certainly fresh. Don't know where it comes from either, as we're hundreds of miles from any coast. O.O

1239 · November 17, 2011 at 12:44 PM

clean water, eggs and fatty ground meat. ditch the rest. (add milk for the kids)

1231 · August 07, 2011 1:47 AM

dumpster dive..

6849 · August 06, 2011 at 10:18 PM

Coupons, coupons and more coupons. Safeway and Fred Meyer regularly have sales on frozen vegetables. I swear by the clearance meat section. Cascadian Farms had coupons out not too long ago for organic vegetables. Safeway still has a coupon available for $1 off your produce purchase of $5 or more and has an organic vegetable section. There were Larabar coupons out not too long ago. Also Tom's of Maine coupons about a month ago. There are currently coupons available for organic kefir, krill oil, organic half & half, natural cleaning products, etc. Oh, and at least two coupons out right now for organic chocolate. And, now that I think of it, two coupons available for eggs - one of them being organic and cage free.

There seems to be some myth going around that coupons are only on junk food. I believed it myself for a while. It's not true, you just need to know where to look.

28 · August 06, 2011 8:23 PM

egs and quinoa since quinoa is a seed not grain. Also for meat usually grocery stores have a clearance section for meat that is near it's sale date.

0 · August 07, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Intermittent fasting ...

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