Let me begin by telling you a little about my own budget. My husband and I love Dave Ramsey, and we’re on the “get outta debt FAST” plan. We live in a tiny 1 bedroom / 1 bathroom apartment that has a VERY TINY kitchen with no dishwasher. We do not pay for cable. We have super-cheap cell phones (they are not “smart”) and a minimal cell plan that doesn’t even include texting (GASP!). We drive older cars so we won’t have to make car payments. We are able to toss alot of money toward paying off our debt because we live very modestly and frugally. And we are HAPPY this way! Our time together, our memory-making, and our health is more important to us than “stuff.” For more of my thoughts on this topic, click here.
(Update: We are now debt-free! And we have added texting to our cell phones… fun!)
That being said, I am no stranger to a tight budget. I know what it’s like to stretch the items in the back of the refrigerator into an actual meal. Trust me, I do not want to spend more than I have to spend on anything!
However, a major part of every human being’s budget (written or not) is “food.” Unless you live on a self-sustaining farm, stocked with plants AND animals, you probably make several trips to the local grocery store or Farmer’s Market each month.
How much will you spend? Well, you have a couple of options… You can get a whole week of groceries for $50 (or less) if you stock up on rice, beans, boxed pastas, cans, processed foods, and other fake foods. This may be a great solution for your wallet, but it will wreck your body (both now and in the future).
The other option is to BUY REAL FOOD. You know… meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Paleo foods! Is it more expensive? Yes, real foods will cost you more than fake foods (very similar to the way a REAL Coach bag will cost you more than a knock-off… just not quite to that extreme).
What you have to do is answer this question: Is it worth it?
Let me make a few points here to help you decide…
1. In today’s culture, the expectation of how much we should spend on groceries is SERIOUSLY skewed. Sure, grocery prices have gone up in the last few years, but if you are expecting to feed a family of four on $75/week, you must be filling your cart with cheap crap. The folks on television give you ideas about how much you should be spending on groceries, but what are they suggesting you purchase? From what I’ve seen, their suggestions are often based on the USDA food pyramid (which has GRAINS for its foundation!). Think a little harder about how you came up with the amount you allow yourself to spend on groceries.
If you spend more on your cable or cell phone bill than you spend on food (the sustenance that nourishes and sustains your body), there is a problem.
2. When you make wise choices for your body, you protect your health. So while it may be a little more expensive to buy REAL FOOD, you are almost certainly saving yourself from the inevitable medications, supplements, and even hospital bills that are looming in your future. I’d say that’s worth the investment. One of my Facebook fans also made the point that a Paleo diet may also prevent missed time at work due to digestion issues, migraines, joint pain, sickness, etc… not to mention the money that you would have spent on medication to treat these issues! My husband and I have definitely found this to be true.
3. If you are eating REAL FOOD, you do not have to purchase supplements! Grass-fed meat and healthy produce will provide almost all the vitamins and minerals you need. Eat clean, and trust that you don’t need to make so many stops at GNC.
4. REAL FOOD makes you feel better! Do you know how much people spend on feel-good items like alcohol, nicotine, coffee, etc.? I have found that the increased energy and more steady moods I experience when I’m eating clean really helps minimize my stress-level. So say “goodbye” to that outrageous Starbucks bill!
5. Eating REAL FOOD allows you to seriously chop the “eating out” allowance. Now that we make real, delicious foods at home, we don’t have much of a desire to go out to eat. We will occasionally go out on a date, but most of the time we would rather KNOW exactly what we’re eating, and enjoy the comforts of home! We always make enough food to have leftovers for lunch the following day, so no need to go spend way too much money on crap food then either!
So yes… eating REAL FOOD may be more expensive than eating processed, knock-off foods.
Is it worth it? My answer is ABSOLUTELY!
As a matter of fact, when people ask me if Paleo is “expensive,” my immediate answer is NO! I believe that a Paleo diet is one of the most important ways I can take care of myself and my husband, so I would find a way to make it happen no matter what!
In my opinion, you can either pay for real food with your wallet, OR you can pay for crap food with your health.
You may think you’re winning with that cheapo grocery budget right now, but you’re going to regret it later… maybe even tomorrow morning.
Now that we’ve established that Paleo-eating is worth the money, let me give you some good news!
IT’S NOT THAT EXPENSIVE!
Unless you are buying everything organic and only shopping at health food stores, a weekly grocery-shop shouldn’t break the bank! I spend about $150 each week on groceries, and that covers real foods, grass-fed meats, any other grocery items, PLUS all our toiletries and paper products. This amount also covers all breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners (including a few dinners that we share with friends).
While there are not usually a multitude of coupons for Paleo foods (usually they are for boxes and cans!), there are several ways to save money while you eat well.
*Don’t go all out on pre-packages snacks. If you want to save money, you have to be willing to put in a little effort. When we first started eating Paleo, we bought alot of Larabars, jerky, individually-packaged nuts, etc. These items are pretty pricey! I like to keep a Larabar or a PaleoKit/PrimalPac in my purse “for emergencies,” but it is far cheaper to make your own jerky, pack your own nuts from bulk bags, and generally just snack on vegetables! The majority of our snacks are vegetables and fruits.
*Shop the Farmer’s Market! You will be amazed at how much you can save by skipping the middle-man! Support your local economy, and go directly to the farmer! PLUS you get the added benefits of eating seasonally!
*Not EVERYTHING has to be organic. Check out this chart for guidance.
*Take a few weeks to shop around, and compile a list of the best deals. For example, I have learned to only buy almond meal at Trader Joe’s. It is $3.99/lb. there, while almond flour costs $10.99/lb. at a regular grocery/health food store.
*Check out Paleo on a Budget. She does a great shopping list and coupon match-up every week!
For more information on the “expense” of Paleo-eating, check out these fantastic articles:
“Paleo is EXPENSIVE!” (Robb Wolf)
Priorities for Eating Paleo on a Budget (Diane Sanfilippo, Balanced Bites)