How To: Affording Paleo

My first co-op basket! Something I needed when I went paleo.

When I started eating paleo, our grocery bills went through the roof. Skyrocketed. No joke.

Previously, we’d eaten a pretty “healthy” diet that included a lot of quinoa, lentils, multi-grain bread and rice. I’d make a simple skillet for dinner, using pasta and tomato sauce to stretch some ground beef, or we’d have meatless quinoa salad with apples, green onions, dried cranberries and almonds. Sometimes, we’d just melt cheese on some locally baked bread and call it dinner. I made risotto like it was going out of style because it was simple, delicious, cheesy and just fancy enough to make me feel accomplished.

All of that changed in July 2013. Without cheap, starchy fillers, I found myself unable to keep enough produce in the house. I split our fridge into “paleo” and “non-paleo” sections, and my half was always bursting with apples, nectarines, kale, spinach, zucchini and packages of chicken, beef and lamb.

This was exacerbated by the fact that in the first month of paleo, as my body was getting used to the new diet, I was constantly eating. All the time. I wondered if I was pregnant, that’s how bad it got.


But as I got more used to this lifestyle, my appetite calmed down — and I eventually figured out how to shop reasonably. Your mileage may vary, but groceries where I live are typically very expensive. If I can feel good about eating paleo here, anyone can, anywhere.

Shop at Costco and Winco
I can’t do this all the time, nor would I want to. A lot of their items are…well, let’s just say I would not feel comfortable buying fresh food at either place. But they can be awesome resources for other staples. Almond butter, coconut oil, olive oil, dried plums, dates and especially nuts can be found for cheap and in large quantities, and they are almost non-perishable. I have yet to see if I can get coconut milk by the case here, but I promise you, if I can, I will.

Otherwise, shop on sale
When I see whole chickens on sale, I go a little nuts. Same goes for fresh produce; I shop seasonally and get really excited about produce that is on sale. Of course, that has its limits as well — not a lot of fresh produce in winter. But I make do.


Join a co-op
I recently joined Bountiful Baskets Idaho, a co-op dedicated to buying as locally and sustainably as possible. For $16.50 a week, I get a laundry basket full of fruit and vegetables. Usually I get a mix of things I use regularly and things I usually don’t buy — perfect for getting creative.

Don’t eat meat at every meal
I know, people love paleo because it allows them to eat a lot of meat. Especially bacon. For whatever reason, paleo people are really excited about bacon.

Paleo does emphasize grass-fed, free-range, humanely-raised animals. I eat a lot of lamb because I’ve actually visited the ranch where the lamb I buy is raised; they are local, humane, and the lambs graze on the National Forest north of me. I’ll eat chickens because I feel good about the chicken I buy. Not so fond of pork. Pigs are really smart, you guys.

But I don’t need meat all the time. There are other sorts of protein. I eat a lot of eggs from organic, vegetarian-fed, free-range chickens. I eat a lot of nuts. I almost never eat meat for breakfast, only sometimes for lunch, and save the “money cuts” for dinner. This definitely cuts down on expense.

What do you do to stay solvent on Paleo? Let me know in the comments!



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