Paleohacks has been a great source of info over the past 8 months as my family and I have gone paleo/primal. Thanks everyone! We are a happier, healthier family.
I survived the last round of county budget cuts but am now low man on the totem pole and I will definitely be laid off when the next crunch hits. We've been enjoying grass-fed beef, wonderful whole chickens at $26.00 each!!, $5 per dozen eggs, etc. This will all stop when I'm on unemployment.
Yesterday I was at the grocery outlet with my "honey do" list, thinking about Aravind's "coming out" as a paleo-vegetarian, Melissa's non-paleo food choices, Kurt Harris's %50 carbs,etc, and noticed to the left of me: Top Ramen (.16 per pkg), mac and cheese (.79 per box), hamburger helper (1.10 per box) and to the right of me: big, cheap bags of rice, beans, split peas, lentils.
Before we went paleo, we often ate casseroles and soups using lentils, split peas, etc. Often we would add some meat but not much -- a little goes a long way.
However, nowadays, a little meat doesn't go a long way. We need a lot of meat to feed our family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids). I don't believe we'll be able to call ourselves "paleo/primal" anymore. And I'm wondering: Will Paleohacks have anything to offer us in the way of support and advice when all we can afford is a pound of burger and one stewing chicken per week? I'm depressed. It wasn't easy getting those kids off breakfast cereal and pbj's! Now what?
I'm sorry you are struggling financially or about to be. During times of financial struggle I try to look at it as an adventure of sorts. You can try out some new things and have some fun with it. It's only temporary so just know there will be a time you can return to your paleo ways. Nothing lasts forever included unemployment and lack of money.
I have always thought that if I were to be challenged in such a way I would turn to WAPF and include traditionally prepared grains and legumes in my diet. At least that way you are lessening the toxic load on the body and can enjoy some cheaper grain/legume options. They are very close to paleo in thought otherwise so it's not a huge leap. You can eat what meat you can afford but also things like soaked oatmeal, lentils and rice or beans and rice, which are really inexpensive. Not perfect per paleo but a heck of a lot better than Ramen and mac and cheese in the dreaded blue box. You might want to check them out.
Keep the faith. It's just part of the journey and you will come out on the other end all the better for it. Change is hard. Humbling change is really hard. But these are the moments where you get to show your stuff. So take it a day at a time and just do the best you can for you and your family. Whatever that is will be enough.
Having been below the poverty line, I can say that ethnic markets were the best thing in the world. If you stick with a Asiatic-style diet you will be healthier than most people and since I actually experienced health benefits from rice, I stuck with it even though I have a job now. It's interesting...at what point are you not paleo? Considering Don Mastesz and his wife are calling their macrobiotic diet (with soy milk!) primal, I figure I can fit under the umbrella too.
Some staples from the lean years
Top quality pastured meat vs. ramen is a ridiculous false dichotomy. This type of thing is turning into my pet peeve, because it gives the impression that if you can't afford to eat ideally, you may as well eat the worst possible options.
("Pay for food or pay with your health" type comments are my other paleo pet peeve. While I agree that a lot of people could cut back in other areas to make more room for food, if you don't have the budget for top quality food, you don't have it, and such comments only make those in that situation feel bad without providing any solution to the problem.)
Nutrition is a continuum, not black or white. Conventional eggs aren't as ideal as pastured eggs, but they're still pretty inexpensive per serving, and nutritionally superior to ramen, hamburger helper (plus you still need to take the cost of the protein source into account when looking at that price), and other carb-based processed foods. Figure out where you're willing to compromise on quality.
Look at your overall budget for areas that can be cut to make room for better food. Most US households have cable packages, for instance - that's something that can be cut and will most likely improve your health. If you need or want to buy consumer goods, look for them secondhand at thrift stores, craigslist, ebay, and so forth first. Would it be reasonable to get rid of one or more cars and bicycle/walk/public transportation more (again, this would probably be beneficial to your health)?
Experiment with properly prepared legumes and grains while you still have a reasonable food budget. Figure out what works for you and what you'd rather avoid when you can afford to use them on only an occasional basis. Properly prepared navy beans and lentils are allowed on GAPS/SCD (anti-inflammatory diets), and might be good starting points.
Start making these changes now - don't wait until you're forced to. If you can start buying secondhand and put more money into savings, you'll have more of a cushion when your income drops. And right now is prime time for produce - buy a lot and preserve it now (freezing, drying, fermenting, canning, whatever), rather than paying for more expensive, lower-quality produce in December on a more limited budget.
I am on a budget also and eat beans prepared from scratch, vegetables from the garden, fruit from wild trees and cultivated ones. I live out in the country. Just no way I'd pay that much for a fresh chicken when I can go out and shoot a rabbit or deer LOL. I'm not hardcore paleo since most of my recent ancestors are from the Caribbean, Meditteranean, Africa. It's all good my friend. The stress of money will override whatever gains in health you are making if you worry about being perfect paleo.
Hang in there. You are still family no matter what your circumstances.
Eggs and butter (even just normal ones) Some meat here and there...
Paleo is more than just eating expensive food. I like the 12 steps listed here. Even if you can do a handful it is better than none.
Hang in and stay here on PaleoHacks.
Best Wishes - Eric
(Conventional) chicken, eggs, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, porc fat and meat, offal of any origin, butter, apples, carrots, coconuts are quite inexpensive.
The least problematic legume is lentils (soaked and cooked) as far as I know... White rice may do not much harm, if a person is not sensitiv.
Resorting to crap in a bag is no good idea on a budget – what you safe in the grocery store you’ll perhaps have to pay your doctors…
What about gardening and growing your own food? Raising your own chickens?
I would also add that you can stretch that chicken by making big batches of bone broth. With an organic chicken backs and a neck or two (about $2 for the whole batch at my health food store, ask the meat department) I made 330 ounces of bone broth:
I am in a very similar position. Money is tight but I still want to stay fairly Paleo. At the same time I can't bring myself to eat cheap bulk meat products because of the chemicals hormones and other additives in industrial meat. I also can't forget that I would be eating second hand the horrid stew of cheap grains, rendered animal fat, chicken litter and other waste products that factory farmed animals are fed.
Here's what I do stay fairly paleo on a budget while avoiding factory farmed meat. I eat inexpensive fish from the ocean like sardines, salmon and herring. I stay away from dairy products and factory farmed meats. I avoid grains but will eat beans. Bulk dry beans are very cheap and filling and if they are soaked and activated before cooking they are very nutritious.
What it boils down to is inexpensive fish from the ocean (not from fish farms), beans, fruit, vegetables, tubers, nuts and seeds. It's the healthiest diet on a budget that I know.
Do not forget that sitting down to a home cooked meal is time together as a family. Quality time... Spend the time together to shop, cook, and eat. It will prepare your kids for a healthy life, and give them memories that money can't buy.
I am sorry you maybe going through a hard ship soon. I think maybe it can be a chance to learn, grow, and spend time with your family. I really like a lot of the suggestions on here and I think a have a few more.
My first idea is if you are buying meat from farmers. You can sometimes save a lot of money by slaughtering/butchering the animals your self. Some farmers will let you do it on there farm and some will want you to take the animal home. If this interests you I would look for farms raising goats, or sheep. These animals are pretty easy to butcher. You may not get all the fancy cuts but you will get a lot of food. Sometimes farmers will sell older animals for a big price reduction also. Look into chickens and ducks. They are really easy to kill and butcher. The only part that really takes a little time to learn is hand plucking without breaking the skin. Even some of the smaller heritage breeds of pigs can be totally reasonable too butch on your own.
Second would be fishing. Licenses are cheap for general fishing. Look into small fish that are in your area. Most people fish these for bait and you can often get large amounts fast in season. these can be canned, smoked, or pickled and eaten all year. Also if you have reasonably clean water near you look into carp, cat fish, bass, and trout stocked lakes. Most of the really sot after fish like salmon etc... are going to require more money and are more difficult to catch.
Small game hunting licenses are also cheap. Honestly the work for the amount of meat is usually not worth it. Unless you enjoy it. But it is an option. I would also look into if your state has any nuisance animals like feral pigs. If so they usually try to make it pretty easy to hunt them as far as rules, prices, and seasons.
This one freaks people out a bit but I have been doing it for years with no problems. It's picking up road kill. First in most states it's illegal but cops don't really care. If you are worried you can sometimes call up the sherif tell them about the road kill and ask if you can clean it up. In small towns they rarely care. They just don't want people hitting animals on purpose or hunting out of season and saying it was road kill. If the meat smells fine it's fine. Sometimes the animal can be pretty beat up just cut off the bad stuff and save the rest. I wouldn't recommend preparing this meat rare. But you would be surprised how much food this can provide. The best way to get fresh stuff is to head out early in the morning and just see what you can find that's new. After awhile you will know the best spots to look.
Wild plants can also bring in a lot of food if you get the right kind (starchy) but a lot of people are even more scared of those then road kill and you do really need to learn your plants first.
All those are kinda stuff for if you live in the country or suburbs
The only things I got for the city that hasn't been mentioned is dumpster diving and insect farming.
I fed myself for years as a homeless, vegan by dumpster diving. I was eating grains, soy, sugar and lots of juice. But you can get a lot of produce by dumpstering. A lot of grocery stores have a separate produce dumpster and they stay pretty clean (unless they pore bleach on it to keep the dumpster divers out). Not every grocery store has one but a lot of them do. Some groceries will save expired dairy and if you ask for it it's free. If not you can check the non produce dumpster and get eggs, yogurt, cheese all kinds of stuff if it's past date they can't sell it but it's still fine. If you don't want to eat it it's still good as free chicken feed if that's something you can do.
As for raising insects I don't know much about it. But I have had friends that do it. Look into meal worms.
These may sound like crazy ideas but anything that makes you a little freer. I think is worth looking into. Food independence can be a huge step in that direction. You never know when a hardship like this can strike and it's good to have options. Plus if you can spend more time with your family teaching your kids and living directly why not do it.
PS to save a lot of money on heating install a wood stove if you can. They are cheap on craigslist and wood is free if you just keep your eye out for it. Plus hauling/chopping wood will put some serious muscle on you for free.
Edit: If I didn't give you enough farfetched ideas yet. I remembered something else. Learn to identify fruit and nut trees around the city. Then you can go back and harvest them. Also look for trees in yards that seem to be unused. Ask the residents if you can harvest the fruit or nuts and in trade give them a portion or clean up the yard for them. A lot of times elderly people will be happy to have some help. If you don't know your neighbors well this can be a way to build a relationship with them. I know some neighborhoods will frown on this kinda thing but I thought mention it just incase.