My doctor has recommended the Paleo diet to me to help with losing weight, and fighting off the first signs of diabetes. I understand it's a lifetime commitment, and one I'm willing to make. The diet doesn't scare me, but the cost does. I have a family of five, and we live off of one income while I'm in school full time. I'd like to purchase grass-fed beef and free range chicken, but the cost is daunting. Will it greatly effect my diet to purchase grain fed meat? I do think our budget will increase by cutting out all processed foods, but I'm not confident that it will be such a great increase that doubling our meat budget will be an option.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Concentrate on eating the right categories of food (meats, vegetables, fruit, etc..) at first. Then you can work on improving the quality of foods in each category.
Too many people give up on a change when they can't be perfect. Just worry about moving forward, not about getting things perfect the first time.
Skip the grass-fed and free-range buzzwords if the cost is daunting. An overwhelming majority (SWAG: 80-90%) of paleo benefits can be had without purchasing overpriced meats.
I'd say, that since the reason we avoid grain fed meats is due to the amount/quality of the fat in the meat, buy lean cuts of grocery store meat, and cook with healthy fat like butter/coconut oil(can be had cheap on amazon)/lard. Eggs are fairly inexpensive as well. That's what I'd do anyway if I couldn't get my grass fed beef.
Skipping processed foods and buying fresh meat you can afford (even if it is not grass fed) and you will do fine.
Here are some other tips to help you out:
Buy directly from a farmer, buying a side of cow is much cheaper and you can usually arrange a payment plan. We stick with local meats (antibiotic, hormone free) if we can't afford grassfed which can be hugely expensive.We don't bother buying leaner cuts either, we all seem to be benefitting from the paleo diet still. Its so much more important to cut the grains, processed sugar and legumes. Good luck.
Like others have said, you can reap a lot of the benefits with conventionally raised meats, especially if you A) buy leaner cuts, B) cook with healthy oils (olive, coconut & ghee) and C) eat wild caught oily fish (look for canned salmon & sardines).
With a family of 5 to feed, cutting out junk may save you some money, but you are going to need to replace that junk with a lot of nutrient rich meats, vegetables, fruit & possibly dairy for the kids. If you do find yourself with a little bugetary breathing room, go for grassfed ground beef and/or grassfed organ meats (like liver) over things like pastured chicken & pork. The differential in price between grass fed & conventional is better for ground beef, organ meats and beef roasts/stew meat compared to true pastured chicken or pork. At least in my part of the country, I hear in other areas the differential is not quite as high on pork. (I live in California where there's extensive grazing area in the eastern & middle parts of the state, so we get good beef producers in our farmers markets.)
Also, if the budget is a consideration and you have a small plot of land, you might consider digging up part of your lawn to grow food this summer. This can free up some budget that can go to grassfed in the temperate months at least.
The quality of the meat should not affect your diet with regards weight loss and diabetes. That said, there's more to health than weight you may be surprised how much you can save with a fresh way of approaching food. Organ meats around me (from grass-fed animals) are ridiculously cheap, and my bone broths are so tasty and satisfying now that some days I don't need anything else.
Absolutely don't let the challenge put you off making whatever steps you can, but don't let it overwhelm the excitement of exploring new possibilities.
Congrats on finding an enlightened doctor!
Agree with Korion's comment.
Personally, I think that avoiding the hormones and antibiotics in conventionally-produced meat & dairy is a great investment in the long-term health and fertility of your children.
I found it much easier to make the decision to go grass-fed/organic at the beginning of changing my lifestyle. I got very creative in terms of finding clean food I could afford!
There are several threads on this site about eating clean Paleo on a budget. You can do a more search, too.
Eatwild.com is a great resource. Shopping at your farmer's market/food co-op is helpful.
ETA: This film about food sourcing is free to watch until the 3rd of March, 2012.
Totally agree with Talldog -- don't sweat it. But would also suggest that you shop around. I find wide variance in price at local farms / farmer's markets / health food stores -- eventually you may find one or two reasonably priced local sources for properly raised meat products. Doing that, plus switching to less expensive cuts, meant (for us at least) that everything did pretty much even out given the money we now "save" by not buying processed foods and by doing more of our own cooking.