How much money do you spend a month eating Paleo?

by 50 · April 06, 2013 at 3:17 AM

I love paleo and feel better the more paleo I eat, but it can be expensive. There are a lot of tips available on how to save money on paleo, but I haven't found any info on what it costs the average person to eat paleo for a month. The reason I ask is that my wife and I have seen a substantial jump in our food expenditures since switching to paleo and are wondering if it's worth it.

As a point of reference, we live in Colorado, have a 14 month old (also eating paleo!). We eat few grains, lots of meat, eat organic when we can, mostly shop at Whole Foods, make the most of frozen meats and produce and don't drink alcohol. We're spending about $1,200 a month on food.

Every non-paleo person I've mentioned this too is shocked. I'm curious what paleo people think. Thanks for sharing!

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31 Replies

2218 · February 27, 2011 at 1:31 AM

My boyfriend and I spend around $350/month, not because our money is going elsewhere, but because we don't have any. (When I say that I am not being melodramatic--our combined AGI last year was just over $12,000.) A large chunk of this budget comes from SNAP benefits. We are proof positive that one can maintain a bare-bones paleo diet even when living well below the poverty line which makes the charges thrown around of paleo being elitist and inaccessible to most Americans hard for me to swallow. Sure, we aren't eating optimally or anywhere close to where we want to be, but we are working with what we have until circumstances change and feeling way better than we did on our old beans/rice/peanut butter/oatmeal/(insert typical poverty food here) diet.

We have to make a million concessions to be able to eat relatively well. We eat conventional meat, renting a car share car once a month to go to the butcher where we get a 55 pound freezer special of assorted meats (they allow you to customize for your particular tastes) for $129. We supplement with roasts and other cheap cuts when on sale. We eat supermarket eggs and occasionally barter with neighbors who have backyard chickens when they have a surplus. We buy veggies at the supermarket and supplement with wild edibles and container garden crops in the summertime. In the fall I get moose and venison for free from various family members. We eat a lot of canned wild fish. This still allows for the occasional splurge--a pound of bison or a jar of coconut oil, for instance.

Being of an age group where almost everyone I know, me included, is a chronically underemployed service job wage slave has its benefits, though. I know a lot of people in the food service industry which garners the occasional free meal and expired products from fancy kitchens (two gallons of raw milk yogurt was my best score). There are potlucks a plenty. Cultivating good relations with butchers and fishmongers and farmers has also been crucial and has resulted in lots of cheap or free bones, fish heads/scraps, veggies, etc.

Medium avatar
39204 · February 26, 2011 at 9:01 PM

Historically speaking, Americans spend a fraction on their food now compared to 50 years ago.

"In 1901, according to a 1997 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the average family spent almost half of their budget on food. Just 3% of that went to meals away from home. Today, we only spend an average 13.3% of our budgets on food--but 42% of that money is spent in restaurants."

"In 1949, Americans spent 22% of their income on food, whereas in 2009 they spent a meager 10%."

In addition to harming our health, factory farming has inculcated into our minds that food should be worthless. I just paid $7.08 for a dozen organic, pastured eggs that are absolutely delicious with deep orange yolks. Our conditioning tells us that we should buy battery eggs that cost 99 cents a dozen. 99 cents doesn't buy you a lot of nutrition when it comes to eggs.

I consider one's health to be by far the most important monetary investment, principally via high quality food. That being said, I don't even think I spend more now than if I were buying the standard low quality food that most people eat. I go to sushi every week or every other week and that's the only time I go to a restaurant. It's all sustainably harvested wild fish, and it is expensive, but a few times a month isn't actually all that much. I also don't go to bars (or drink in general) so I save a lot of money there. I don't buy value-added processed trash food, so I save there.

The bulk of my diet is grass-fed lamb, pastured butter, eggs, potatoes and spinach. I mix in some chicken, sausage and crustaceans/fish here and there as well to keep it interesting. All the produce is organic and all of the meats are the best quality that I can find. Even so, it doesn't add up to all that much money, and if it did I would certainly be cutting other expenses before food. In fact, if I came upon a higher quality source of anything I currently eat, I would definitely buy it, even if it costs twice as much. I could see this happening if I went from free-range veg-fed chickens to pastured. Hopefully some day I can find them.

12118 · February 25, 2011 at 4:20 AM

I can't get out of Whole Foods for under $100 in a very short trip, so your quote doesn't surprise me. The nearest one to me is 45 minutes away, otherwise I'd probably be there more often and have an even higher bill myself.

Us: Two adults, near-4-year-old, 14-month-old. Meats: conventionally raised, mostly. Dairy and eggs: organic, mostly. Butter: Kerrygold salted, via Sam's Club. Produce: Mix of conventional and organic. We might buy alcohol once or twice annually, usually for guests. Specialty items (like coconut flour) are sometimes bought via Amazon for the best price.

After my first budget busting month of paleo, where I was buying all of these new condiments and fancy schmancy items like macadamia oil, I had to focus on basics of whole foods. And still? Around $1000/month to feed us, the bulk of which is the cost of conventionally produced protein - mainly beef, some chicken and pork, and some lamb - and organic eggs.

I'm constantly rethinking strategies on how to trim it. Curious to know how others manage!

4620 · February 26, 2011 at 10:12 PM

Less than when I was fat and addicted to mcDonald's and Burger King.

22684 · February 28, 2011 at 9:15 AM

Buy an entire grassfed cow. Save you tons! Get the fat to render tallow. Buy veggies at Costco/Sams. Butter from trader joes. On average I eat for $10-12/day for all grassfed. Cheaper on egg eating days.

Avoid Whole paycheck. Waste of a ton of money,3-4x the cost for Everything.

Check out Eatwild.com , it's totally worth getting off the grainfed garbage and will save you tons!

If you can find a local farmer who sells grassfed by the cut, sometimes you can get crazy good deals. I get ground beef for $4/lb and London broil for $5, liver for $3 to supplement my cow.

I buy onions by the bag. Garlic in the pre diced fresh bin. Spinach in the bulk. Mushrooms by the pound. I buy the mini sweet peppers in a big bag for like $4 instead of big bells for couple bucks each. Extra stuff I predice on a "prep" day and freeze so that I can quickly grab ingredients for speedy meals.

With a good freezer and prep, you don't have to give up quality.

639 · February 27, 2011 at 4:20 PM

We spend about $600/month on food for a family of four. We buy our meats grass fed AND finished from a farm. There are many online to choose from. BJs Wholesale has some great deals on Organic spinach, romaine, spring mix, carrots, frozen berries, coffee and green tea. We buy select things at Trader Joes and a local co-op every week. Whole Foods is WAY too over-priced and had a hand in the Organic Industry folding to Monsanto.

4813 · February 26, 2011 at 2:37 AM

I found that it seemed I pay more, because often i pay a lot for single visit to a store where I buy meat... suddenly it's around $60-$80... But then I don't buy anything for couple weeks. I have a once a month (generally) parcel with grass-fed franks from USWellness, which is about $100-$120. I add some veggies (mostly frozen), eggs (I mix regular with better quality/more expensive), some fish (mostly canned, sometimes frozen). The rest is dairy, and nice heavy cream can take some... I am about to cut on dairy, so I hope to save a bit on it. Better to buy good dozen of eggs than a brick of cheese. Buying things like coconut oil, macadamias and supplements is a serious addition as well. I don't eat out, and I buy cheaper cuts of meat only, often ground. I eat mostly kosher meat, which is unfortunately more expensive.

I haven't been counting my grocery bills (I used, but kind of fell off the wagon), but I think I am under $350/mo for one person, without counting supplements.

1959 · February 25, 2011 at 10:08 PM

Our average breakdown per month (thank you, mint.com!) for two adults, in the SF bay area is:

  • $900: groceries
  • $300: restaurants (a couple nice paleo dinners plus a few from Chipotle or similar)
  • $60: supplements

Groceries are a combination of Safeway.com (staples), Amazon.com (dry goods, vitamins, etc), BrandonNaturalBeef.com, Trader Joe's (mostly wine & coffee), PlanetOrganics.com (produce, meats, cream, eggs), and Whole Foods (they're a 5 min walk away and the only ones with the amazing Wellshire bacon).

I'd love to get raw dairy and pastured eggs/chicken, but as you can see, most of our shopping is online and that's a little harder to come by :)

However... as of January, we added a major line item: personal chef services at $200/week. Sounds crazy but it is one of the best things we've ever done. My husband took a senior position with a startup this winter and I run a small business. I enjoyed paleo cooking while life was a little slower paced and learned a lot, but there are too many other fun things to do beyond preparing good food right now.

We had got to the point where dinner was the two of us standing over the counter devouring a pre-roasted chicken at 9pm and knew that this wasn't going to be sustainable. For ~$900/mo (+ groceries -- she shops/cooks/delivers weekly) we get almost all our meals prepared for the week (we eat twice/day) in handy containers, causing us to eat out less because of the awesome flavours and variety. I still cook steaks or egg breakfasts 1-2 days/week. I've educated her on paleo-friendly ingredients and techniques, and she is motivating us to try new foods like veggies I've always been afraid of and organ meats.

So our current monthly food budget (not including occasional restaurants) is about $1800.

EDIT: I realize this is probably not a helpful post for those looking to trim down their food budget, but it has been quite a revelation for our particular situation. I haven't seen chef/food prep services discussed anywhere, so I hope it's useful to someone else who might be in the same boat.

13583 · February 25, 2011 at 2:57 PM

Average $400/month. That's high because I was getting lunch at my work cafeteria's salad bar. I've dramatically cut back on that and I'll see how this month's total comes out.

12048 · February 25, 2011 at 2:06 PM

For me personally, i spend about 300-350 a month. I rarely do grassfed/finished beef- i do organic grain finished, i do grassfed lamb, 1-2lbs of wildcaught fish a week. The little vegetables i do get these days are potatoes and organic spinach, broccoli, carrots and turnips. i shop the sales for meat because i eat between 2-3 lbs of it a day. new zealand and australian lamb are very reasonable in some of the chain stores. the organic beef i get is about $4 a lb at harris teeter. The fish depends on which wild caught is on that sale that week. usually it is either salmon, mahi mahi, cod, or yellowfin tuna. it's usually $6 a lb and i buy 2 lbs of it. if it happens not to be on sale, i'll buy 1 lb at $11 a lb.

4983 · February 25, 2011 at 1:02 PM

Yes we have found it initially expensive, although when we really started looking into it, we were actually probably breaking even, or even paying less then before. I was sorting out last years receipts for tax returns and the sheer amount of "one off" trips to the petrol garage with chocolate bars, or crispy cremes, or pastries etc (you get the picture) the extra money on top of the food bill piled up! Then your take-aways on top of that, the odd chinese, indian or domino's pizza delivery, trips to macdonalds (just down the road here :/) and then add to that the cost of eating out which we don't do so much anymore we are probably quids in!!

1377 · February 25, 2011 at 12:46 PM

I agree with what some others have said: buy a half or quarter of a cow, a pig etc. and put it in a freezer. A small chest freezer is only a few hundred dollars. I also frequent the Asian supermarkets in our area. Not organic or anything, but their prices and selection are awesome. All sorts of greens, fish, and any kind of offal you can think of. I particularly like fresh sardines which are 1.50 a pound, and they clean them on the spot for you. I get whatever else I need at Trader Joes. I am also thinking about taking up hunting....

4888 · February 25, 2011 at 8:05 AM

I've just been costing this out - I THINK for two of us we are managing to eat well (organic pork, free range chicken) for about £200 per month. Mainly shop at markets here in the UK, where we can buy veg, meat etc at really keen prices and then freeze it. Lots of offal (kidney, liver, marrow bones) and inexpensive but omega 3 high fish such as mackerel, herring roe (milts) and tinned wild salmon.

Also, we eat out MUCH less as I always feel it will be inferior quality food, omega 6 high oils etc etc.

So - I reckon we are saving lots over the "old" way of eating.

Medium avatar
1032 · April 06, 2013 at 3:17 AM

Dang, that's a lot. We don't do grassfed beef, get cheaper cuts on chicken, but we do try to get in our omega-3 salmon, two cartons of eggs (not organic), 1 lb grass fed butter, veggies, heavy cream, etc. 3 people, 800ish dollars a month. I also need to figure out where to cut down, but we'll get it one way or another.

0 · April 06, 2013 at 2:40 AM

we spend around 1600 for 6 people. I am trying to make it cheaper but its hard. I buy grass fed beef by the side and a half will only last us 3 months. Costco is great and has tons of great organic items we get wild salmon patties, coconut oil, canned tuna, veggies, fruit...

7741 · February 28, 2011 at 6:35 PM

Whoa, that sounds crazy to me. It does depend a lot on where you live, though. Right now I usually make just a little more than $1200 a month! I live in a nice suburb outside Philadelphia, food prices are fairly high here.

I spend $40-$60 a week on groceries, mostly for me alone, but my boyfriend and his family eat some of what I buy as well. And I eat a lot of calories compared to many people on this type of diet, easily 3000+ some days.

Staples foods are fairly cheap: eggs, heavy cream, butter, coconut oil, ground beef and lamb, organ meats (I try for grassfed, not always). Most of the seafood, fruit and veggies I buy are frozen. I also eat white rice, potatoes and other roots and tubers. And some pork and fowl, but not much.

0 · February 28, 2011 at 8:01 AM

If I may respectfully suggest:

CSA: communuity supported agriculture gives you huge quantities of food at a great price, while supporting your local farmer. In my area, there are a couple chicken CSA's (purchase a baby chick and get eggs for free or at a discounted rate). Also, check with community gardens where you can grow your own veggies, school gardens (the best harvests are when there are no kids in school!) join the gleaners, and don't be afraid to ask your friendly neighboor produce clerk for a discount on products that are wilted, yellow, have bug holes, etc. They would rather sell it than compost it, but be nice and be prepared, store policies vary.

Work trade: LOTS of farmers, ranchers, mushroom growers, fishermen, need a hand. In many cases, your task will be to complete a repeated, simple job, very quickly. Offer trades if you can, many people don't have time to build a website, take photos of their farms, or man a market stall.

I know it's tough when you're living a busy city life, or in the suburbs raising kids, or miles away from anything, but if you want amazing food, getting to know the people who grow it is pretty good place to start.

883 · February 27, 2011 at 6:20 AM

$450-500 a month on food. I feed my husband and myself, I pack my husbands lunches each day and honestly I could feed 3 people with the amount of food I buy, I am just trying to fatten up my husband so I give him extra portions hahaha.

3142 · February 26, 2011 at 1:09 AM

I became a master of eggs, canned salmon and ground beef. I eat cheap staples throughout the week and have something different, special and more expensive on the weekends. I also use bottled sauces and packaged spice mixes rather than buy a long list of ingredients. For example, I just had spaghetti squash for a few days. I cooked a spaghetti squash and topped it with a meat sauce. I browned a pound of ground beef and added a jar of Trader Joe's roasted garlic spaghetti sauce to the pan and that was it! It seriously rocked and was pretty cheap and easy.

3747 · February 25, 2011 at 2:02 PM

It's just the two of us (my wife and I), and we spend about $400 monthly, in Texas. We spend more at the store, but we save because we don't eat out. We save by buying frozen fish, canned tuna, frozen veggies etc.

15334 · February 25, 2011 at 1:52 PM

I spend around £38 per week ($61.19) or $244 per month. (In the UK obviously).

That's for something like: 2.5kg of beef per week (a joint of brisket or topside, which ridiculously are about the same price), 20 or so kidneys (two days worth), 0.5kg of liver, four tins of wild salmon and a dozen eggs. Then a large cauliflower, single broccoli, bag of kale, huge butternut squash, kilogram of carrots. Also two packs of butter and a few blocks of creamed coconut. Infrequently I'll have to buy more spices, seaweed, garlic etc, but these aren't much of a cost.

I could easily make this cheaper if I replaced some of my vegetables with frozen spinach (but I'm trying to avoid the oxalate), as before, replaced the salmon with fish oil and cut out the eggs. Removing the eggs alone (which I'm only really eating for the yolk) would reduce costs to £140/$225 per month.

1112 · February 25, 2011 at 8:30 AM

In Spain, less than 200€ a month, one and a half people. If I eat out, it becomes more expensive. The cost has been a complaint of other people I've tried to convince. Originally it was far more expensive for me, but since I have been doing intermittent fasting, eating 1-2 meals less per day,the price went down significantly. I buy all my vegetables at the market - local and in season. I told my butcher I have dog and to save me any left over bones or organ meats (I don't own a dog), I also buy left over meat at the bullring - a spanish tweak.

78 · February 25, 2011 at 7:12 AM

I just posted about this over at MDA - I recently kept us under $350 for THREE people, including SAD items (I am the only primal, but I planned all the meals - the extras were bread + peanut butter, cereal). The shelves were slightly bare, but only because you had to actually prepare all your meals (as opposed to loads of pre-packaged stuff that usually frequents our fridge).

Costco is your friend. Farmer's markets. Trader Joe's (if it's in the area) & CHECK THE SUNDAY SALES.

5245 · February 25, 2011 at 4:56 AM

My significant other doesn't eat Paleo, but our combined grocery bill is about 80-100$ a week at the grocery store (mine is +/- half that amount, depending on what was on sale this week), and about 100$ a month at Costco (again, about half of that is mine, half is his), and probably about 50$ a month at the natural food store (all me on that one, save for the random item he selects for himself every once in a while).

561 · February 25, 2011 at 4:42 AM

I live in the San Francisco Bay area. My family includes two adults, two four year olds, and a two year old. We eat very few grains. Most of our produce and eggs come from local farmer's markets and produce markets. We buy our poultry, butter (and milk for the kids) at Costco, go in on bulk grassfed beef with folks from our gym, and my husband hunts, so we have around 80 pounds of elk in the freezer. Most of our incidental stuff (coconut milk, nuts, dried fruit, etc.) comes from Trader Joe's. I buy a few products in bulk from Amazon because it's cheaper (coconut oil, fish oil, etc.) All told, we probably spend $1000 a month on groceries including diapers for one of my kiddos. I try to never go to Whole Foods because it drives up our grocery bill by 40-50%.

To save money I'd recommend buying as much as you can in bulk. If you can go in on a whole cow with somebody, buy grassfed beef in bulk. Look at amazon to see what incidental/partially processed stuff you can get. If there's a local farmer's market, buy your eggs there. At Costco here 18 omega eggs is roughly $5. At the farmer's market, higher quality eggs are $5 for two dozen. Produce is also cheaper at local farmer's markets than at whole foods.

2932 · February 25, 2011 at 4:35 AM

In Hawaii I spend a LOT (mostly because I have a car and eat at whole foods/ health food stores all the time). When I lived in Canada and didn't have a car/ wasn't working I managed on about $60-80/ week and that was a very limited selection of food.

0 · February 25, 2011 at 4:34 AM

If you are looking for competitive pricing check out Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers. I live in the Denver/Lakewood area and there are two stores within a 10 minutes drive from my home. I rarely go to Whole Foods unless I need something very specific.

4540 · February 25, 2011 at 4:33 AM

I manage about $200 (Canadian) a month. Local grass-fed ground beef, fatty bone-in chicken thighs/wings, and New Zealand lamb (I get it for 50% off the day before it "expires", then freeze it!) take up the biggest chunk of cash. I get organic veggies that are on the pesticide dirty dozen list, and buy conventional fruits and veggies that are said to have less pesticide residues. Usually seasonal. My local grocery store has sweet prices on coconut oil and coconut milk. If I'm watchful, I can usually hover around 200 a month.

My "delicacies" (which are sometimes found in my kitchen based on how the life of a money-making musician is treating me): pastured butter, macadamia nuts, organic frozen berries, dark chocolate, cheese, tasty tasty bacon.

4275 · February 25, 2011 at 4:26 AM

Gosh, it is a lot of money, but I can see how it can be done. Here in Australia I could easily spend $100 a fortnight on good organic chicken and $100 just on a weeks worth of organic veggies (not even a big box).

I've sadly had to rein in the amount of organic produce I buy as it just became unaffordable in the end. Would love to grow my own veg and have hens in the near future...

18236 · February 25, 2011 at 4:18 AM

my wife and i spend about $450-$500 for the two of us in san diego.

25197 · February 27, 2011 at 2:57 PM

about a thousand a month.

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