I am on a severe food budget - approx $330 a month for 4 people (2 adults, 2 preschool boys growing like weeds). I am trying to go as paleo as possible within that budget. My hubby will join me... eventually (has a serious cereal habit, but we have talked about going full Paleo after the holidays) and I think I can get the boys on board. We do get some help in the form of WIC, but that means I have to get the foods they "prescribe" (low fat milk, cheese, cereal, eggs - yay - juice, produce - yay). As our budget is severe, I am not going to waste essential calories for my kids :)
I know budget questions have been asked before, and I am working through them. I have an idea - after a month of "flirting" with Paleo of what I want to get when I go shopping next month - I shop at a warehouse store and a high quality grocery store 1x a month - we live so far out in the country that it takes too much gas to do anything else.
Here is my list with prices I am fairly certain on. I think the amounts I am thinking will get us through the month. I was wondering if anyone had suggestions or tweaks on how to maximize our nutrition - foods that I need to add or take away... any suggestions will be taken under grateful advisement!
• Paleo grocery list quantities
• Coconut oil 58oz $35.00
• ground meat - bison 8lbs $45.00
• chicken 10lbs $20.00
• cauliflower 10lbs, frozen $12.00
• broccoli 12lbs, frozen $12.00
• bacon 8lbs $20.00
• sausage, breakfast links 2 24 piece boxes $20.00
• coconut flour 2lbs $10.00
• olive oil 16oz bottle $10.00
• eggs 8 dozen $20.00
• butter 8lbs $20.00
• onions 10lbs $10.00
• chicken sausage 4 6-link packs $20.00
• walnuts 2lbs $12.00
• almonds 2lbs $10.00
• curry paste 1 2oz jar $3.00
• coconut milk 3 1/2 gallons $10.00
Looking at your list I have a few suggestions. Coconut flour is a fun ingredient for making paleo treats, but it's not exactly a nutritional powerhouse and it is very expensive. I would skip that.
Because you are buying conventional meats rather than grassfed/pastured, you'll want to stick with lean cuts, so skip the bacon and sausages and stock up on the chicken and bison instead. You could also add in a pork or beef roast since those tend to be inexpensive and can last for several meals (depending on the size of the roast).
You probably don't need to buy all three types of oil at once. I would start with either the butter or the coconut oil since they are the most versatile and buy a different one next month. I wouldn't buy both kinds of nuts either. Walnuts are probably the better choice nutritionally speaking. Really, though, you don't need nuts at all. That money could probably be better spent on more fruits and veggies or more meat.
WIC includes legumes. Although they aren't paleo, they are a decent source of very inexpensive nutrition when properly prepared. I would choose dried legumes over the peanut butter since the kinds you can buy usually have added industrial seed oils. Prepare the legumes by soaking for 2-3 days with whey, lemon juice, or vinegar and slow cooking for several hours. This will greatly reduce the phytates.
WIC gives the option of oats for the cereal. Choose that over the dry cereals and soak it overnight in buttermilk (there are other options for soaking liquids) to reduce phytates. (WAPF-friendly websites like Food Renegade or GNOWFGLINS or Kelly the Kitchen Kop can help you with traditional preparation of legumes and grains which will minimize anti-nutrients)
I would also get the cheese that WIC provides. Again, it's not strictly paleo, but if your family tolerates dairy well it's a good source of fat and protein. Make sure you get real cheese--not American cheese--and stay away from the low-fat varieties. Buy the blocks instead of shredded since the shredded cheese has additives to keep it from clumping together.
The fact that you listed the coconut milk in gallons makes me think you are talking about the kind in the refrigerator section. That is very watered down and has lots of undesirable additives. It would probably be more cost effective to choose a canned variety with no additives (or at least nothing beyond guar gum if you tolerate that ok). If you want to serve it as a beverage, just add water to taste and refrigerate.
I would also look for sweet potatoes and winter squash as your kids will need some carbs. Those veggies are in season now, so you should be able to find some good deals on those. Make sure to get some fruit, too. Apples and oranges are pretty cheap right now.
Lots of good suggestions here, I'll just add that sardines/mackerel and a sweet potato can make an AMAZING meal, for about $4.
I'd also reduce the nuts and try to buy some sweet potatoes/yams. You can find them for less than $1/lb! Also, liver is really cheap.
Sweet potatoes and liver are among the most nutrient dense foods available and are amazing bangs for your buck.
Nix the coconut flour, almonds & chicken sausage. Buy bags of apples, bags of carrots & get frozen packs of whole chicken quarters & whole squash (so you can roast the seeds for snacks).
$330 a month really doesn't sound like a hard budget to keep to in my mind. But it does sound like you'll have to prioritize your paleo purchases. Get the big picture (i.e. whole foods, animals and plants, etc) right first before thinking about the details (i.e. grass-fed, organic, etc). I'm wondering (based on your prices) if you're already trying to do the organic/grass-fed thing.
Your proteins are ok. Why bison, wouldn't beef be more affordable? 1 chicken per week should cover 2-3 meals. Ditch the sausage links, too processed, buy ground pork and add sausage spices. Bacon, again, is expensive for what you get, don't prioritize it. Eggs, great, no qualms with those. How about some fish? I get 1.5 pounds of frozen wild-caught salmon for $10. You can get a pound of canned salmon for $3-4.
You're a bit light on veggies in my opinion. How about some greens? Frozen/canned spinach is around $1 per can/box, which corresponds to a huge amount of fresh since it cooks down so much. Potatoes are paleo, and if you're on a budget they're great. Cabbage is cheap too, chop it up and braise it.
You've got a ton of added fat budgeted in: over 12 pounds per month? Seems excessive, particularly when you're on a budget and trying to maximize nutrition per dollar. Fats are just calories.
If you're on a budget and not needing to lean out, hard to go wrong with safe starches. White rice is dirt cheap.
Ditch the coconut milk (3.5 gallons for $10 though?) and coconut flour. Neither are that great for nutrition, just calories.
I would try and get hold of:
Best of luck with your next shopping trip!
paleo doesnt have to be low carb. you can add potatoes and rice to this for minimal cost. i also would add some fruit for the kids at least, i know in my realistic daily life my daughter loves fruit and a little bit here and there goes a long way.
if you dont have trouble with dairy then dont discount that from wic, it might not always be the best choice but if you handle it well and its free eat it.
i use canned tomatoes a fair bit to mix in with ground meats to make chili.
look for canned tuna on sale i can get it for less than 1$ can and its a preety easy go to thing when i have no time.
if the oil and butter is cheaper in bulk then get it like that if not you dont need that much on a monthly basis. i dont think anyways.
just make sure you are not going to get sick of eating the same stuff over and over, if i dont have diversity i am much more likely to stray and fall off track.
This is a great list. Really good job. I cook without oil of any type. I hard boil or poach my eggs. Now that might not meet everyones needs. I also crock pot meat or grill it. Ground meat can go in a pan by itself. Also cooking in the oven works without oil. Eggs can be cooked in butter... Sweet Potatoes are cheap as well.
You've already gotten a lot of good suggestions. I'll just add, if you have a crockpot, try getting some cheaper cuts of meat or whole chickens ("stew hens"--the old tough laying hens that are no longer laying). I get tomato juice as part of my WIC package and it's really great stuff for slow-cooking tough cuts of meat, such as the cheap roast cuts. I put a beef arm roast in the crock-pot with 2-3 cups of tomato juice at night and let it cook until the next night for dinner. It falls apart, it's so tender! My boys love it. You can also cook a whole chicken in a crockpot. Also, as you buy whole meat, you'll have bones to make broth with and this is really healthy and yummy for making stews or chili. Also, you could cook your kids' rice in bone broth for added nutrition.
My poor student budget staples are
-canned chopped tomatoes
-coconut oil or butter
-bone in meat cuts or offal (thank heavens for slow cookers!)
-apple cider vinegar
-cheap vegetables and fruit like cabbage (great to stretch out meals), carrots, onions, cauliflower, bananas, sweet potatoes, squash
I'd agree with the suggestions to leave the coconut flour, sausage and coconut milk. Stick with most basic of foods until your budget can afford to add in baking and other creative culinary dishes. Joining a local CSA can be a lifesaver for fresh produce so I would really recommend that as an investment if you ever have the opportunity.
Best of luck and kudos to trying to do the best for your family with the limits upon you.
Hi there, bet you've figured this out by now, and I hope I'm not repeating others too much, but...
Do not get coconut oil, unless you're SURE your kids like the taste of cooked foods with it.
Why pay extra for bison? Get regular meat, you're not in a place to be fancy here.
I can get 10 lbs chicken leg quarters for 4.99 total, chicken leg quarters are very cheap. Or buy roast chicken.
Bacon: I would buy ONLY enough bacon to get you started on a jar of bacon fat. Use this bacon fat instead of coconut oil.
Instead of sausage and bacon, buy other meats so you can eat them either at breakfast or other meals. I'm thinking of beef and pork roasts, or stew meat, they'll last you a very, very long time.
Coconut flour? I hope you're kidding, don't waste your money on that.
Olive oil is nice, but I think once you start eating meat and veggies at every meal (oh trust me, it doesn't get boring! I thought it would...!) you won't have much use for it. Why bother cooking with olive oil when you got bacon fat?
Definitely buy eggs, you're on a low budget, eat these for breast-fast instead of bacon or sausage. Cook them in bacon fat and they will be very filling.
Onions are OK, but honestly I rarely use them anymore.
Don't bother with chicken sausage, buy real meats. I suggest beef and pork roasts, you can cook two at once if you're busy. You can cook them at night while you watch TV, even.
Also don't waste your money on walnuts and almonds, specially when the only vegetables you're buying is broccoli and cabbage! Tsk tsk tsk!
Definitely buy the coconut milk :-)
Ok, we freed up enough money for good meat and veggies. For veggies, I recommend:
Carrots, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, parsnips, turnips, squashes, cabbage (green and purple). Once your taste-buds reset, cabbage tastes sweet.
As a bonus, these vegetables are very cheap! If you're going to spend your WIC on expensive vegetables, go for spinach, and other dark leafy greens.
You say there are restrictions on what you can buy with WIC, but have you tried a farmer's market? They don't exactly have bar-codes on their produce, so perhaps that would let you bypass that restriction? Oh, I hope so! (Yes, farmer's markets have WIC, and I bet they'd give you a good price too).
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