Budget Paleo: Priorities and Strategies

November 13, 2011 in Categories: , , by

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In a perfect world, our diets would consist purely of pasture-raised meat, free-range poultry, wild game, wild-caught fish, and organic, locally-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables.  The fact is that this is prohibitively expensive for many families, including mine.  But does that mean you can’t eat a paleolithic diet?  Of course not!  Feeding a family a paleolithic diet on a budget is similar to any budget constraint:  it’s all about priorities and some good money-saving strategies.  

As for priorities, I would love to buy exclusively pasture-raised meat so that I don’t need to think much about our omega-3 versus omega-6 intake.  But, instead I balance our omega-3 intake using canned wild-caught fish, omega-3 eggs, and some butter from grass-fed cows.  I buy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, organic when the price difference isn’t too great.  Usually, whatever is in season is cheaper anyway.  

Not surprisingly, the biggest money-saver for eating paleo on a budget is investing time.  Actually, time ends up being an important component of paleolithic nutrition anyway because many convenience foods contain ingredients we’re trying to avoid (fortunately, avoiding pre-packaged foods ends up saving money).  I try and optimize my time investment by making a huge batch of a recipe and either eating it for a few consecutive days or freezing several meals worth (or both!). Also useful is devoting some time each week to chopping veggies for the freezer (useful for quick stir-fries, frittatas and side dishes later in the week).

Other money savers include:  buying in bulk, taking advantage of sales and coupons, using discount stores, and buying specialty items online.  I save a ton of money by having extra virgin coconut oil, blanched almond flour, unsweetened coconut flakes, and high quality canned sardines shipped directly to my house.

It also helps to know your prices. I have a brain for numbers, so it’s easy for me to keep track of which stores have the best prices on which items. If this is a bit much for you, try keeping a simple spreadsheet of your most common items in your phone or on a scrap piece of paper in your purse or wallet. You don’t need to get the best price on every grocery item you buy, but it really helps to get the best price on your most commonly used items.  This also helps in taking advantage of sales.  I have certain grocery items that I look at every time I am in the store to see if they are on sale (things like cauliflower, frozen vegetables, good quality meats, and frozen wild caught fish). When red bell peppers go on sale for one dollar each, I buy four or five, then spend some time chopping them for the freezer.

As my mother is fond of saying, “Waste not, want not.”.  I try never to throw anything out.  When I roast a chicken, I always make bone broth out of the carcasses (see recipe).  When my kids eat only half a banana, I peel the other half and stick it in a re-sealable bag in the freezer.  Then, when I have the equivalent of two or three bananas in that bag, I use them to bake paleo banana muffins. I also keep a close eye on the produce in my fridge to make sure that it gets used or frozen before going bad. 

Finally, it helps to have a repertoire of cheaper meals (like soups, stews, frittatas, and pumpkin chili!).  Even if you have to make some sacrifices to implement paleolithic nutrition for yourself and for your family (like buying regular whole chicken instead of free-range), you are doing a great thing to improve your health!


Good points all!

I’ll add to your “buy in bulk” statement… Get a chest freezer ASAP, and fill it up! My family (sister, her husband, parents) and I all take a share in purchasing an entire cow each year from a local small ranch (actually a grad student and her husband who do a few dozen cattle each year as a hobby). We take the kids to the ranch to pick out our animal and to check out the conditions. Then at the end of the year it gets sent to a local licensed game processor who packages it all up for us (including organ meats etc if you’re into that kind of thing).

In the end, we end up with antibiotic-free hormone-free entirely range grass fed beef at about the same price as regular grocery store beef. Of course, the reason we can get it this economically is because we deal directly with the producer and we take all 800 pounds at once.

It rather glorious to have some amazing ribeye or t-bone steaks and feel exactly zero guilt, either nutritionally or financially 😀

Howdy! Love your blog, very excited to see it. Nodding along with several posts I have read. 🙂 I have two girls as well, and my oldest is addicted to carbs… specifically pasta. She has sensory issues that interfere with her eating and enjoying many foods (i.e. no crunchy vegetables, etc), and would pretty much live on pasta with butter & parm, or pasta with pesto (she does like garlic, that’s a plus!)

Anyway, I was looking at Subscribe and Save myself on amazon… I found organic coconut flakes that look good… but would you mind sharing some particular brands that you like of the sardines and anything else you enjoy? Thanks so much. 🙂

Thank you so much Elizabeth!

I am still struggling with my oldest. Her addictions are frosted mini-wheats and cheese with club crackers. I am starting to find some sweeter paleo snacks that she’ll eat, but I am a loooooong way away from getting her off wheat.

I’m trying to work on more baby/toddler foods with a focus on picky eaters. Please keep checking back for those recipes.

As for coconut, I really like Let’s Do Organic brand, both the unsweetened flakes and the shredded (which is a very fine shred). I buy a case at a time, and it usually last me about 3 months. As for sardines, I love Crown Prince Brisling Sardines in olive oil. They are small fish, so texture is pretty good, and very mild. I get the ones in the red box, which are slightly cheaper than the yellow box for exactly the same sardines. I buy my almond butter at Costco. For coconut oil, I like Nature’s way (available with Subscribe n Save) and Tropical Traditions (trick is to keep an eye on the tropical traditions website for good coupons). Hope this helps!

For your girl who likes crackers, have you thought of making her some seed crackers? Simply soak a cereal bowl of linseeds and another (can be smaller) bowl of mixed seeds of your choice throughout the day, drain the mixed seeds and then combine with the linseeds (they should be like a gel). Spread thinly onto baking trays and dehydrate at 50 degrees Celsius overnight 🙂 that or try to get her onto having apple instead of crackers – super delish!

If you are still paying a dollar per pepper, you need to find a fruit/vegetable stand! Perhaps you live in a city and there’s nothing like that within driving distance–oh well. However, I live in a medium/large city and can think of 3-4 stands within a reasonable distance. I do live in Florida, and maybe since you were posting in the winter, fruit stands were closed. All I know is that I wouldn’t buy peppers at a grocery store unless it were a dire emergency. At a fruit stand, you can walk out with bags & bags of good veggies for $20, and peppers are probably 3-4 for a dollar.

By the way, I just noticed your comment about bone broth, and since I noticed elsewhere that you’re not yet buying organic (I can’t, either), I thought you may like to be aware of a problem with conventional chickens and broth made from them. They’re full of fluoride. I have been trying to avoid fluoride for many years, and that has benefited my health in several ways, but recently I came across a blog called The Cellulite Investigation and started learning even more about fluoride, such as the way it can cause acne (fluoroderma), as well as other health problems. I sure wish I’d known this when I was younger, because I had the same kind of acne as the blogger.

Although my acne has improved over the years I’ve avoided fluoride, I had no idea there was a link. The main issue that made me avoid it is its effect on the thyroid. Fluoride was formerly used as medication for hyperthyroid conditions–and I don’t need that kind of help! Incidentally, fluoride does much more harm than good for teeth and bones. For me, stopping fluoride toothpaste practically eliminated my tooth sensitivity. Anyway, the problem with broth is that commercially raised chickens are full of fluoride (from their feed–I think because commercial pesticides contain fluoride) and when they are processed in fluoridated water, that makes it even worse. So when you make bone broth from chickens, it’s almost like fluoride soup, especially for those who are extra-sensitive to fluoride, like the writer of the blog.

She’s got a free e-book about healing acne caused by fluoride, and other resources such as a pocket guide to fluoride sources. Of course, googling “dangers of fluoride” will pull up some good sites, too, with information far beyond the acne problem. I’m just making you aware, if you weren’t already, that in balancing the benefits of bone broth with the possible risks, you might want to know more about fluoride first. Hope it helps!

Thank you. I actually only buy pastured/grass-fed meat now, mostly organic fruit and veggies but some conventional too. It’s made a huge difference to all of our health to make the switch (and tastier too!).

We keep our own chickens and a big garden in the summer. I give my chickens a lot of food scraps and free range them but it’s still advisable to make pellets available to them, and I’ve yet to find soy-free pellets. Also, we’re still buying produce for a lot of the year in addition to what we grow. Working on that…

I appreciate the way you’re realistic and honest about standards. When we get wild game or buy a 1/4 bison from a nearby ranch, we eat that as exclusively as possible. But life is life, and sometimes you gotta ride the gain.

I think it’s an important hallmark of the paleo community that it tends to be very non-religious and compassionate. I appreciate that very much.

Thanks for all the information!


Okay, what’s the deal about fluoride being bad for you and causing acne? I still buy toothpaste with fluoride, I didn’t have any idea about it being BAD! Is there a toothpaste you recommend?

Hi Karen –

You may be talking to ThePaleoMom, but since I have this thread tracked and was notified, I might as well answer. Just look up the website I mentioned (http://www.celluliteinvestigation.com/fluoride-acne if this site lets me post a link), or Google “dangers of fluoride.” You’ll soon be enlightened! There are several toothpastes without fluoride. You’ll probably have to go to the health food store to find them. The one I’m currently using, which I like best so far, is Xyli-White. You can Google that, too…and it’s not expensive.

The best of health to you!

Yes!!! I try and feed my family ” lite paleo” I call it that only because we don’t eat meat daily , I’m like a half paleo half vegetarian , high plant based with quality animal products thrown in, but it’s still very expensive to keep all organic produce and wild fish, oils, alternative sweeteners and flours, raw dairy and organic pastured meats in house.
May I ask what a high quality sardine recommendation is on Amazon?! I’d love to know,
Thanks! Summer

For freezing, I use mason jars, Pyrex and other inexpensive, glassware that comes with a tight lid. Mason jars of various sizes are my favorite for liquids and baby food in the freezer. When I freeze things like baked goods or other items that normally would be wrapped in plastic, I first wrap it in parchment paper and then wrap the outside in saran wrap or a plastic gallon bag. This way, the plastic is not touching the food. :).

Thank you for this! Speaking of not wasting, I purchased a pound of ground, grass-fed beef this week for making meatballs. I accidentally over salted them…a lot! I cooked just one meatball to taste and see if I should add more spice…and, well… I was slapped with a salt-filled pallet! I sealed up the prepared meat (eggs and spices added already) and put in in the fridge until I can think of how to make use of it. Grass fed is expensive 🙁 any ideas on how to rescue the meat??

Turn it into a “pasta” sauce with lots of veggies and serve with vegetable noodles or kelp noodles? Or make something like chili (I have a pumpkin chili recipe that’s really good).

Why not just add another 1/4- 1/2 lb meat to the mix to disperse the salt. Make another small meatball to make sure the other ingredients you had in the mix dont need to be adjusted too. Meatballs freeze well cooked, quick meal for another night.

So glad I read this article. Trying to raise a family (teenagers) who seem to eat more than their own weight some days is stressful, mostly because of the costs of paleo foods. You have some wonderful advice for saving money, which I will immediately put into practice. Thanks so much.

Great ideas! Thanks for the tip on the sardines, that is a great price. For folks who are in their delivery area, Azurestandard.com is a great source of bulk items. I get coconut shreds for .15cents/ounce there.

Thanks for this great information. I’m in Canada and it’s hard to find a lot of the products that I see in the amazing paleo recipes I find online. I just received an email from a company where I FINALLY found grass fed butter and they told me it’s $15.00 a pound. They have very limited quantities so you can only purchase 1 pound with your order, 2 pounds if you spend over $200. It’s crazy and sad how expensive it is to try and keep your family healthy.

My husband recently had a heart attack and I’ve been researching like crazy to learn all I can about the proper diet for him.

You might want to look into the health claims of omega 3 enriched eggs. I’ve read they are not actually better for you, as the omega enriched feed that’s given to chickens is rancid and not of any quality. Which I don’t find surprising.

Thanks for the tips!

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