No. No it’s not.
Why I went into health & fitness and did not sell vices is beyond me. If this whole Paleo thing goes fanny-up it’s going to be hookers+cocaine+baked goods, finished with a smoke. No one will argue with that buffet but in this health shtick you deal with the mass illusion of “cave men lived short lives, meat causes cancer, this is not sustainable.” Then there is that pesky Evolution thing!
Well, I guess I can be assured of job security. It’s not likely the ADA is going to change course nor will folks like Dr. Melina get a clue anytime soon, so onward an upwards.
Back to the affordability of Paleo: This way of eating, like virtually any way of eating, can be made much more, or mush less expensive. Now, similar to cooking or meal options, I thought this was a pretty straight-forward concept (if you are broke, buy cheap, if you have some cash, kick your heels up a bit) but alas, it is not. So, I’m going to walk through some basic shopping and put an arrow in the head of the “Paleo is expensive” idea, then we will look at some basic finance ideas as I think some folks may benefit from that.
WholeFoods or WholePayCheck?
We ran a piece recently on shopping at Wholefoods which was pretty well received but I wanted to share a recent shopping trip I did and the chow I procured on that excursion. Check out this receipt and then I’ll talk about what I bought and why.
I bought Two organic chickens, and a mix of ground beef and chuck-roast. Why these items? Because when I walked into the store they had these nifty yellow “sale” cards on them. Even the color-blind cannot find an excuse for fracking this up…I also bought a “bunch” of chicken, ground beef and chuck roast. things broke down like this:
- 9.15 lbs of [email protected] $1.39 per lb
- 16.7 lbs of [email protected] $3.99 per lb
- Total cost: $81.10
- Total carnage: ~25lbs
Here is what that all looked like:
Now, the meat was NOT grass-fed, but when I hit the Santa Fe farmers market I always buy similar cuts of Grass-fed meat for $4/lb. Can you spend $30/lb on New York steaks? Uh, yea, but Keystone needs to eat too, so I go for the inexpensive cuts and just kick my heals up occasionally. When we were living in Chico we routinely bought a half a cow and the average price was $4-5/lb. We have not set that system up here yet, so I make do with the situation I’m in. So WholeFoods (or the Hippy Santa Fe farmers market) can be navigated in a reasonable way. I’ll pause a minute and wait for the inevitable complaint that arises when you are trying to help people….Ok, I think it’s just about here:
“But Robb! That is still too expensive for me!”
Ok, shop someplace else. I’m going to look at some produce shopping I did at one of the big food outlets (FoodMax) but you could buy your meat there and save a ton of money. Sale items will likely range in the $1.50/lb to $2.50/lb and given that the meat I just bought at WholeFoods is not Grass-fed, the quality is likely similar at a CostCo or Food-4-Less kind of location. anyway, take a gander at the produce I bought:
I cannot for the life of me find the receipt for this, but it was about $20 for all that produce. This is one of the reasons it’s hard for me to not bludgeon people when they make ignorant statements about everything from fiber to the nutrient content of eating Paleo. I mean, how much more fiber and nutrients DO you need? If I was really tight I’d ditch the coconut and avocados and cut at least $6 off that bill and put it elsewhere, but it’s still a lot of food for not much money. Was it Organic? No, but it was largely seasonal, and this particular place turns over a mountain of produce. It is amazingly fresh and you cannot beat the price.
Here is another staple, a gallon of coconut oil:
I think the Tropical Traditions Gold Label goes for about $75 per gallon but if I recall I got a “buy-1, get-1” deal on this. I eat this stuff constantly and 1 gallon last me 6-9 months. So, this may be a significant up-front cost, but you just need to think ahead and pro-rate this over the long haul. Now I’ll wait for the next question…..
“But Robb! How long will that last you!?”
Well…I don’t know. The coconut oil will last over a year, the produce 2 weeks, the meat similar or longer. If I was doing a mass-gain I’d cut those times in half. I have finally come to my senses and being 170-175lbs, lean and strong is plenty good for me. The bottom line is we are talking about ~$100 for two weeks of food for Nicki and I. If I’d bought the meat at one of the big-box mega food places I could have likely cut that bill in half, bringing the bill down to about $60 for two weeks, neglecting the fractional coasts of the coconut oil. Either way, not too bad on the pocket-book.
“But I want to save the world! Shouldn’t we eat organic and grass-fed”
Well, grass-fed and organic are certainly optimal, but if you cannot afford it you cannot afford it. If it REALLY matters to you, make sacrifices and make it happen…but you might need to shelve your idealism long enough to survive, and reverting to bagels is not the way to go. Your health will be better served by eating conventional meat & mega-farmed produce than a largely grain based diet. This reminds me of the following:
- Hippy Excuse for Failure #1: I can’t find grass-fed meat…so I’ll eat a bagel.
- Hippy Excuse for Failure #2: I can’t find organic produce…so I’ll eat a bagel.
Substitute Afford” for the word “find” above and we have the same story. I can’t tell you where your value system should start or stop, but I will definitely tell you when you are sh*tting the bed with faulty logic.
But I’m a starving college student!
Ahh…the College Student. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to create some framework here!
At the age of 16 my dad became disabled and could not work. It was not until I was 22 that his disability went through and I was freed from largely supporting my parents. Through all of high-school and part of college I worked full time to not just float my families boat, but also to get the things I wanted like a motorcycle, spending money etc. Even in college I sent money home to may parents, while maintaining an academic load of 18+ units. I worked at a vitamin shop and I tutored chemistry, physics and Spanish. I was president of the Chemistry club, VP of the pre-med club and it was a grueling schedule. But I WANTED it. I was the first person in my family to go to school since the time of Socrates. That’s a long winded way of saying I do not have ANY sympathy for the folks in school trying to make ends meet. It sucks, it’s also your opportunity to do something with your life. If eating clean is important, you will find a way to make it happen. If you are better looking than you are smart, become a stripper, they make great money. I’m not that smart, I’m not good looking, but I will out-work just about anyone.
Robb, I’m REALLY broke
Everyone’s situation is different. Many folks are out of work and things are legitimately tight. If I was really tight, I’d do my best to follow the above, and add a 50lb bag of rice (prices range from $25-$50). or, I’d eat a LOT of coconut oil as my main calories. Let’s look at some specific numbers:
Gallon of coconut oil is $75 with a total calorie content (117 cals per serving x 256 servings per container) of 29,952 cals. Cost: $0.0025/calorie
Bag-o-rice is $25-$50 with a total caloric content of a 50lb bag (3600 cals/kg x 22.68 kg/bag) of 81,648. Cost: $0.0003 to $0.0006/calorie.
So, calorie per calorie the rice is indeed cheaper, but both options are pretty damn inexpensive overall. I seem to remember getting a buy-1, get-1 on the coconut oil which effectively cuts the price in half, making them almost identical in price.
That first section is concrete in that smart shopping can make Paleo quite affordable, but again, you need to make decisions appropriate for your situation. Unfortunately, some people are not well suited to modern living on a variety of fronts. Case in point: I received a comment a while back that went something like this “I cannot pay my mortgage because of spending money on grass fed meat and organic produce…eating paleo is MAKING me bankrupt.” I was initially pretty cranky with this person because it seemed a remarkable lack of self accountability (and indeed, it is) but I also understand that this is part of a much larger problem. In the same way that we are not genetically well adapted to resisting the wiles of modern foods, so too do many of us fall prey to the lure of conspicuous consumption, credit and the like. Similar to food addictions, when we sit down to talk about the why’s of these situations we can either turn this into a moral quandary (this person is just stupid, bad, lazy etc.) or we can understand this is yet another example of an evolutionary discordance, with some of us navigating spending and finances reasonably well (like carbs) others…not so much. From an evolutionary perspective spending and budgeting do not make much sense. If we were mobile and carried few possessions why would we need to worry about procuring stuff? If we had food we ate it. ALL of it. If it was more than we could reasonably eat before spoiling we’d give it to extended family, thus cementing social bonds and “banking” on the notion that when those other folks hit it big in the hunting-gathering lottery, they’d reciprocate to us. Credit, cash and spending are a technological and cultural advancement that is obviously very useful, but a lot of people do not know how to handle is effectively.
One of the most popular chapters of my book is chapter 6, the cortisol/stress chapter. I receive more comments about that specific chapter than the rest of the book combined. What folks consistently focus on is not sleep, or work stress, but financial stress. Do they own their stuff or does their stuff own them? For a lot of these people they have simply never thought about things in the way that I present there, and it is (apparently) powerfully liberating because instead of feeling bad about difficulties dealing with finances, people understand there is a reason for it. THEN…they DO something about it. You can be excused of your behavior until you are enlightened as to it’s cause. If you keep doing the same goofy shit after that, then we get to start talking about stupid, bad & lazy.
So, part of the issue whether folks can or cannot afford to eat this way may have some deeper issues related to spending on a macro scale. If this is NOT your issue, fine, ignore all of this, but I know for a fact it’s a pervasive problem based on the emails and communications I receive. If you think this may all apply to you I’d highly recommend checking out Dave Ramsey’s material. He does amazing work and there are a variety of ways you can get started down a better financial path.
- Paleo is affordable.
- Everyone has a different situation and must adapt to it.
- Understanding your finances may liberate some cash you were previously squandering.
- Many of our problems are an outgrowth of a diet and lifestyle at odds with our genetics.
- If you really understand #4 we can quit feeling bad and make effective changes.
Steven did a nice reverse analysis in the comments that looks at the costs of these foods in a more intuitive way, here that is:
- Random but I think looking at it as calories/dollar is more enlightening to most people then dollars/calories.
- The rice ends up being between 1633 calories/dollar and 3266 calories/dollar depending where it’s at in the $0.50/pound and $1.00/pound range.
- The coconut oil ends up at 399 calories/dollar
- Kerry’s Irish Gold butter is 400 calories/dollar (At $4.00 a stick)
- 85/15 Ground beef is 960 calories a pound so at $5.00/lb (about grass-fed prices) it’s 192 calories/dollar
- Canned Wild Alaskan Salmon is 237 calories/dollar. 34 grams of protein/dollar, and 8 grams of Omega 3
Need help with your budget? Want grocery shopping tips?
We’ve gotten hundreds of requests for it, and so we wrote the book on budget grocery shopping for the Paleo diet. The Paleo on a Budget Guide is the solution you’ve been looking for. I’ve got a 70-page interactive downloadable guide that shows you how to make healthy Paleo meals for yourself and your family while saving time and money. You can stick to your budget, find extra money, save time, and make Paleo work for you. Read about it and buy the book here.
Dennis ODonnell says
Great post! I also did a post about this subject, not nearly as in depth though. I found that assuming 5 meals a day for a weeks worth of food for 2 people, it comes to less than $2 a meal! Of course this is from one of hte big box grocery stores and is not organic or grass fed. But at the time of the shopping trip, we were newbies to the whole paleo thing. Here is the post: http://blog.reformedfatty.com/2011/06/preparing-for-challenge-shoppingparsing.html
I just wrote a post on a similar topic. Paleo vs the fast food dollar menu. I showed how much it cost me to feed my family paleo (and mostly organic) and compared that to the dollar menu. Turned out we actually saved $2 by eating paleo. Check out the full breakdown http://imsimplyadad.com/budget-paleo
Robb Wolf says
Diane @ Balanced Bites says
Amen! Thanks for this post and hopefully my guide to prioritizing food quality on Paleo helps people out. IThis also goes along well with the one I made a while back about people who complain that they don’t have TIME to cook. Hmm… Priorities, indeed!
Great post Robb. I find that when I take better control over my food and exercise, I almost always have better control over my finances as well. So for me at least, they are definitely related some how.
Great post Robb!
Sure, if I’m not organised and in a hurry it can be expensive. But when I’m careful to look at prices; ask my butcher to give me a cheap cut; go to my local market, I can do it really reasonably.
Also cooking for myself I always end up with lots of leftovers, so I get several meals for the price of one!
Well you just blew me away!! It is all so true and I have been trying to explain this same thing to people myself. Now I might just send them here.
As someone who once ate and shopped herself into bankruptcy, I now manage my money without credit and eat amazingly well on an income so low I earned a tax credit this year.
In fact I do have credit – I finally bought a car after five years on public transport – the same week I started Paleo.
I am not sure I could have afforded the car repayments on the lifestyle I lived prior to eating Paleo: I ate out 4-5 x/week – fancy places. Now I cook for myself, once maybe twice a day. I eat the BEST meat and produce. I think the food tastes better and it is certainly better for me than what I was eating before! 20 kg weight loss and a normal BP are kind of good indicators!!
Meat I buy in bulk cause it can be frozen and is cheaper that way – a whole fillet for $35 Aust gave me 10 thick steaks. Produce I tend to only purchase a couple days worth since I love it fresh, and there is a great local greengrocer that is not organic but has good quality veges for the ‘tide over’ till the weekend market. I would rather do that than end up wasting good food.
Thanks for another great article. sometimes I just want to hit someone over the head with my whole fillet!!!
Robb Wolf says
Steak bludgeoning should be allowable on some days :0)
Love this! We have gone more strictly primal lately and I definitely have been spending a bundle on food, but I have to say the quality of our meals have increased 10 fold. The price is worth it for sure. And we rarely eat out (no one wants to anymore, not even the kids). Do I have to make budget cuts elsewhere? Yes, I am willing to do that to buy grass-fed, organic, all natural products. Am I becoming a savvier shopper for sure. Buying a half cow soon. Up front cost big. Long term cost equals big savings on meat (about the same amount as conventional meat). Recently joined a CSA. Up front cost big and first delivery not impressive. May get better. If not, then I don’t sign up again and keep looking elsewhere for my organic produce. If I can’t find organic at a reasonable price then some conventional produce is definitely better than a bagel. It is trial and error. I am determined to live a healthful life and if I have to pay a little more to the farmer I am happy to do that. Better than paying the doc and the pharmacy.
Paleo, for us, is expensive because we are feeding a family of 7. But our choice was to have 5 kids and now our responsibility is to feed those 5 kids the best diet possible so I will find other areas of our lives to cut back on. I mean, really… we don’t ‘need’ cable or fancy phones. 😉
Robb Wolf says
that would be tough to feed no matter what! I’m intimidated at having two whipper-snappers. You are TOUGH!
LOL The word you’re looking for is ‘hardcore’. Having 5 kids is expensive no matter what I feed them and I had the choice to keep feeding them a standard diet or bring them along onto the primal/paleo wagon. I chose the wagon. I have to give my kids credit..the transition wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated but I think it’s because I’m a kick ass cook. (shameless plug for my kitchen skills)
I have 5 as well and suffer from Hashimotos Thyroiditis and Hypothyroid. One of my children do as well. Paleo would help lessen the inflammation for both my daughter and I in regards to our Autoimmune Disease. Trying to switch to a paleo/gluten free diet but money is tight already. Sigh….
You simply can’t put a price on good health. I’ve stopped thinking about how much I spend on real food. It really doesn’t matter, as I’m passionate about making sure the gang eats right and eats well.
Ann Harris says
Justin you said exactly what I was going to say! Ditto!
I had a liver transplant, for auto-immune hepatitis, in 2001. Fortunetly I had insurance plus secondary insurance, for which we paid extra. Without the secondary insurance my out of pocket cost- > $100,000. That does not include all of the co-pays for doctor and meds. If this can help to prevent stuff like this it is worth every penny. My sister is going Paleo in an effort to fight MS!
I’m currently a college student attending Georgia Tech, and while (thank goodness) I’m not working a full-time job in an attempt to keep my family afloat as you did, my family’s financial boat is more of patch-work, duct tape raft as of right now. My entire family has, however, been fully Paleo-ed out for 6-7 months. So, in light of the situation, I’d like to proudly say that I returned from Publix the other day with 13 LBS OF FOOD for $24. I was listening to an old Paleo Solution podcast on my way back–I’m a bit of a masochist and a total dork about this stuff. I’m adjusting my major to biochemistry or biology and as such, cling to some basic knowledge and refuse to eat the mounds of sugary rubbish in the dining hall that will have my gut doing acrobatics for hours. (Although I can sometimes find vegetables or meat that has been baked, rather than fried or stir-fried in corn oil. Those are “eat until it hurts” days.)
Thank you so much for all you do Robb, my family and I really appreciate it, and on a lighter not, I’m beyond geeked-out on this entire world of health, fitness, biology, biochemistry, evolutionary roots, etc., so hopefully I’ll get to correspond with you via email or podcast question.
Robb Wolf says
Right on Ian!! Georgia Tech rocks, good school.
I’m the same situation. I’m about 3 months into paleo after reading the book over summer. I’ve been listening to podcasts from episode 1. I’m now on 37 lol. i have lots of time walking from class to class, ASU is pretty big.
at first this was hard to buy cheap until i started to do it more and had some trial and error. now i go to the store once a week and spend about $75 that gets me the essentials and maybe one thing to kick my heels up with. this feeds me for about 2 weeks.
i also work at a crossfit gym and we teach paleo. this is really changing peoples lives.
Tonya Adams says
I agree! We buy groceries every two weeks, although since I’m starting my family on the plan in the back of your book I shopped once a week to get fresh veggies. On a normal “anything goes” grocery trip I spend 175 dollars for two weeks of groceries plus we also ate out like MAD. This past two weeks eating Paleo I spent 210 dollars for the two weeks of food. I get all my groceries at Earth Fare…..all my poultry and veggies are organic……all the beef is grass fed……and this is for a family of four. (well 2 adults a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old) I say 35 more dollars every two weeks is worth it for health. It can be done!
Tonya I would love to see one of your shopping lists! My food bill as of now, before paleo is 250$ for 2 weeks and there is only myself, my husband, and my toddler. I’ve been fearing this whole time paleo would put me over (which I can see is way not the case!). I just don’t know where to start and how to make sure I can shop cheaper. I think it all comes along with my nervousness in this big change Im about to make!
Amber Karnes says
Hey! Have you checked out Robb’s Budget Shopping Guide? It could be really helpful for you!
Chuck Charbeneau says
I was thinking about this recently as well.
Robb Wolf says
Jaska @ Helsinki Paleo says
Nice Angry-Robb post! 🙂 I had to share this, thanks.
People in Atlanta can get cheap, good produce at the Dekalb Farmers Market. We drive in from an hour away because it drops our produce bill in half over local grocery stores. And they have a much, much larger variety.
I miss that place! When I lived in Atlanta, I shopped at the Dekalb Farmers Market every week. What a great place! They have such a big variety of produce and meats and the prices were unbeatable. Now I live a few hours away but when I am traveling through the area, I bring a cooler and buy my favorites.
My wife and I spend about $500 per month on food to eat Paleo.
That’s not really very expensive when you consider that it is literally ALL of our food…no outside snacking, no take out, no fast food, no paying for lunches at work.
Consider the “cheapest” alternative…if we were to go to McDonald’s and get a sandwich, drink, and fries from the Dollar Menu for each meal all month, the total cost for that would be $540!
Of course, you don’t notice you’re spending that much, because we’re only paying $6 at a time ($3 each per meal).
When you put it in perspective like that, Paleo is actually a pretty good deal.
I don’t eat grassfed and all I have to say is paleo IS expensive. My grocery bill doubled from my previous life of lots of pasta. I substitute this by mixing in a bit of gluten free pasta (rice or spinach or whatever) now and again. I know its not paleo but whatever.
Robb Wolf says
this was my comment about the rice. Moderate the protein intake, be smart on the veggie purchases…and weigh all of that against the reality of your situation. I suspect coconut oil and a bag of rice is remarkably less expensive than the pasta. i’d be shocked otherwise.
Don’t forget you don’t have to count pennies. For some people even the slightest increase in food costs is a MAJOR problem. I can afford the increase within reason and cut back on other things to do so. Many people have nothing left to cut back on.
Robb Wolf says
I know Dom, I was there not many years ago.
Tom Chon says
Word! People who can’t see to agree to eating paleo is a deeper issue on a macro level.
I’m on a shoe string budget too and I only spend $40 for on paleo groceries and most of it is organic produce with the exception of no free range/grass fed meats.
I was able to get down from 152 lbs to 146 lbs doing paleo and getting lean.
Robb without your work, I would not be where I am at. Not only did I obtain good body composition but I have more energy and reaching new levels in my fitness. I’ll submit my story via this website sometime.
Robb Wolf says
Please do! These testimonials are critical for motivating people and putting a face on success.
i am one of those families that has turned paleo/primal. We started Febraury 1, 2011. At the time finances weren’t quite so tight, but definitely tightening as I hadn’t been working for a year at this point. We are a family of 5 left at home. Husband does have 6 kids, but three are grown and self supporting elsewhere. 2 in high school one boy in middle school in sports.
On Aug 22 which was my husbands 52 birthday and had been 3 1/2 years since his quintuple bypass. He was in the doctors office that day going over the lipid results and other stuff. For the first time they were either right on or even lower than desired that there have been medicines reduced. I owe this fact to the new eating lifestyle and not organic/grass fed. And yes the whole family is on this. Plan at least the kids are when at home.
Recently finances became even tighter than had before, for a variety of reasons, but no debt either, just income slightly reduced more.
Grocery shopping is not easy and I do buy grass fed on clearance. I rarely buy orangic. I can easily spend $130 a week on groceries and it’s gone within a week. So I do buy the standard meats, even on clearance when something good left. I buy somewhat seasonally and lots of frozen partly for ease, and partly because It will keep. I buy on sale and coupons too. I haven’t been going to the warehouse stuff yet as the distance and fuel do hurt the savings I might get. Kids do get reduced lunches at school, yeah we qualified. Now those lunches are not paleo by any stretch of the imagination. But I try with omelets and even using some potatoes with eggs and such for breakfast. I use lots of soups and stews or meat chilies to stretch the food. Salads are other standard filler.
The only thing I gave up from paleo is Norcal Margaritas, as I decided that the tequila money was better spent on food for now. Now does anybody know of a business jet pilot jb opening.
Robb Wolf says
Good stuff Tamara. the pilot scene is TOUGH. I talked to a woman the other day with a MS in physics and was a pilot for 17 years. She is heading into nursing now. Hang in there, and great job navigating all this.
Hey! You forgot the huge savings in medication! I am going to get off my triglyceride-lowering medicine in a few months. $25 a month savings. How many prescriptions are you on?
Robb Wolf says
Oh…that will be the subject (in part) of my next book. Our “health care crises” is 100% preventable>everyone is one meal away from starting down a better path.
Ooohhh! Excited for a new book from you but I have a special request please—it needs an index! 🙂
Robb Wolf says
You’ll get one, promise.
I also saw amazing results on paleo. Being a type 2 diabetic for 20 yrs my health was worsening and I was sick ALL the time. I won’t bore you with the details but after a bout with cancer 11 yrs ago things went south very quickly. I finally had to leave full-time employment 2 yrs ago and was just trying to survive on part time. Best I could do. Each day was a painful struggle. My youngest brother was having health problems and his naturalist put him on a modified paleo diet. My father told me about it and I researched it for 2 weeks. I was so sick at that point I thought “what do I have to lose?. I read about the 30 day challenge and started on July 3,2013. I am now almost 6 months into this journey and realize I was eating food that was making me sick. I now see the poison control sign when I see these foods and am doing so much better. Instead of new diabetes meds I am cutting back and my body is healing itself. I am saving money on Dr bills. I have my life back!
Thank you for laying it out on the table. We as a society are just too into making excuses. I had to work late so a Big Mac it was. It was just easier to grab a bagel. Um want to grab some diabetes with that bagel?? I have a coworker who yesterday for lunch ate a HUGE whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and an apple. She takes Metformin. She does weight watchers. It took everything I have to not slap her with your book!! I would have been ASLEEP on my desk if I ate that. My pile of beef (Sarah’s paleo strogonoff)over spinach and green beans and some macadamias was plenty to power me thru the afternoon and early evening. Thanks again for all that you and Nicki do!!
Robb Wolf says
Isn’t ti shocking the difference on a meal choice and the after effects with our energy?
My husband and I cannot eat sugar or heavy carbs. We will pass out within an hour. Ever since I added more fat I have much better energy. I tried low carb (not paleo/primal) a few years ago and gave up. Why?? I was eating egg white omlets and turkey sausage for breakfast. No wonder I was hungry 2 hours later NO FAT! Now it’s a few eggs, some bacon (We LOVE bacon), avocado. Good til lunch.
No way still to expensive, haven’t you seen the price of gas to just drive to whole foods. I can just walk to the 7-11 and pick up a snickers bar. Not sure what my snickers bar costs per the pound?
Anyways thanks for the write up gonna forward this off to the powers that be (the wife)
As for oil, take a look at this 1 gallon of macadamia oil for $29 (plus shipping). I have used it and taste great, just like those little $12 bottles you find at places like whole foods.
Robb Wolf says
Is this place for real? They have very low prices for coconut oil as well, is this stuff really safe to eat? “If it seems to good to be true…” If so, this would be AMAZING!
Actually I ran a real food on a budget ‘contest’ (http://praguestepchild.blogspot.com/search/label/7-day-challenge) to lay this canard to rest. Two guys ate for around $30 a week, and a couple other women for $60-80 for a week of really high-quality Paleo-ish food.
Using USDA data (http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/cpifoodandexpenditures/data/Expenditures_tables/table1.htm) the average American spends $76/week on food. So a Paleo diet can be less than half the average.
Robb Wolf says
This was a great post, but I would just point out that you neglected to mention eggs. Eggs, even free range eggs ($3.79 per dozen even her in Chicago, are increadibly cheap. They are also quick and easy to make. Indeed, whenever I am in a pinch for time, money or both, I’ll just scramble up some eggs with a bit of salsa garnishing. In short, when you mention this: “Hippy Excuse for Failure #1: I can’t find grass-fed meat…so I’ll eat a bagel.” I think, “Hippy Excuse for Failure #1: I can’t find grass-fed meat…so I’ll eat an egg.”
Also, not to be too much of a bother, but to save money you may want to look at Amozon. For example, I pay $42.23 a month for 2 12 packs of Native Forest Cocnut Milk, or $42.23/mo for 24 11.5oz cans. The coconut milk also makes a great thickner for scrambled eggs.
Robb Wolf says
Great point, thanks Raph.
Great break down on the low down on Paleo. I need to start organizing my shopping to see how well/poorly I’m doing with eating and buying clean.
damaged justice says
Yes, yes, yes.
“Expensive” is like “low-carb”, is like “extreme”: Meaningless without context. Compared to…what?
I live in one of the crappiest economies in the country, on an income less than half what the feds consider “poverty level”. Farmer’s markets and farm shares are a huge part of how I eat not just paleo, but mostly local and high quality food. The rest, as Joel Salatin said in that recent video, is just not buying crap.
Robb Wolf says
When we got the gym going Nicki and I floated our 2 person + 1 gato family on less than $9K/year for 2 years. I have no idea why that woman stuck by me starting the gym. it was hard as hell, but I was committed to doing it and we still ate well in that time. What we have managed to do however is although we make better money, we set budgets and did not simply expand our consumption to match our income.
Sheilla Salinger says
Wow, Robb now that’s inspirational! Can’t imagine how you did that!
Robb Wolf says
Well…I committed to NOT heading down the same paths I saw all around me. I had a few friends with parents who really took an interest in me and encouraged me. It was that or literally give up & die. Thanks for the kind words Sheilla!
Anna @ Fair Flavors says
I always tell people who complain about high fresh food prices, that they shouldn’t ask why fresh foods are so expensive, but that they really have to wonder why all the other food is so cheap!
How is it possible that my local butcher has to ask € 10 for 2 pounds of ground beef, for his grass fed (no hormones, no antibiotics) cows, and supermarkets charge half of that amount? I’m sure my butcher doesn’t try to rip me off. He asks an honest salary for his work. And I’m glad to pay it. At the local discount supermarket, I can buy a box of 10 burger patties, for € 2. Now, that’s suspicious! And awful, because there are at least 15 ingredients in it (and they’re not 15 herbs)
What strikes me most, is that a lot of the people complaining about the cost of fresh foods and how they can’t afford it, are (at least around me) usually the people who don’t have any problems with spending a lot of money on alcohol, cigarettes and other expensive things that are really bad for you. But, like you showed in this terrific post: it can be done. Maybe not always organic and/or grass fed, but at least fresh and unprocessed. Thank you 🙂
Your comment reminds me last week, in my local farmer’s market.
There was a booth that her owner felt a bit grumpy and uninviting. However, they were the only ones that had celeriac, and I wanted one. So I pick one, and then I remembered to check the price, so I turn and I ask my husband behind me: “what was the price again?”
And she replies: “one of these small roots take 6 months to grow, you know”. This sounded a bit rude with the way she said it (not what she said), but you know, she was absolutely right. These things ARE taking a long time to grow! I paid $2 for a celeriac root, which was actually very cheap considering the pains a farmer has to go through to grow these things.
Robb Wolf says
Ha! She needs to focus on cultivation and get a friendly PR person selling!
I love celeriac. Great flavor mashed with beef.
I always tell people who whine about food prices “to quit their F%#$ing whining”. Why? Because my husband and I work our bloody asses off raising 300 grass fed cattle, every day ALL year and what do we get paid – this year our grassers sold for $1.38/lb the highest in the last 10years…and with expenses we will still lose money. So maybe celeriac lady was having a bad day because everyone was complaining (I don’t think you were) about the price of her hard work???
Years ago, when I worked for Statistics Canada, I remember my boss at the time doing some work with farmers’ income.
On average, Canadian farmers seemed to only emerge from below poverty incomes after they retired and started collecting their pensions. Most farmers held second jobs in addition to their farming… keeping a second job to support your farm… something off about that.
Community gardens and local producers are worth supporting… people who feed us shouldn’t have to be poor or work another job to support their farming hobby…
Another good tip is to join a warehouse club, like Costco. Not only can you get protein cheaper, most of Costco’s vegetables are organic. I know we all joke that you can get a 5 lb. jar of mayonnaise, but in all actuality, it’s very paleo-friendly.
Jason Sandeman says
hell yes!!! Paleo is just as expensive as conventional wisdom’s “DIE”t which has you eating or snacking every 3 hours to maintain your high blood sugar. I can eat some scrambled eggs with avocado, bacon, hot sauce, and be satisfied until 7-8 hours later. Then I might eat a salad, with plenty of EVOO, tuna, lots of veggies, and be goo for another 6 hours or so. Then it’s dinner time – maybe a touch of rice, and toasted chicken in it’s own juices. Served with carrots glazed with grassfed butter- I’m good until the next morning!
If I eat the CW way, I have to eat cereal, milk, toast, OJ, then look for something 2 hours later – maybe a “snack” granola bar. Then lunch is a sandwich, maybe some veggies in there, a coke, (or for more “healthy” option – fruit juice – which has MORE sugar than the coke!) maybe some cookies. By 2 PM, I’m ready to eat someone, so I down a chocolate bar or two, with some coke because I’m tired, right? Then dinner – maybe I’m too tired working all the time to buy all this “cheap” “food” like the Crisper chips for a dollar a bag – I really don’t want to cook tonight. So, to the golden arches I go. Slap down 8$ or so per person, and I’m good to go. Until 2 hours later when I’m snacking on those chips again, or “treating” myself to ice cream because hey – I work damn hard you all!
So? Paleo is expensive? Maybe on paper – it’s hard to argue that meat costs more, and so does fresh produce – but people NEED to look at the UNIT price. Sure, that butternut squash might cost you 4$ – but it will feed a FAMILY of 4-6 if prepared. That’s less than a dollar a piece.
Compare that to them chips on “sale?” TTY feeding a family of 4-6 on a couple bags of chips, or ice cream. Oh, that’s right, a LOT of Americans ARE doing that.
Perhaps it’s time to get rid of the Extreme Couponing, and have people direct their energy into feeding themselves. Robb, you have an uphill battle, but I’m willing to join the fight!
Robb Wolf says
Thanks Jason! I wish I could box with a roll of quarters in this fight! We need some “equalizers.”
Our family is paleo and I am an extreme couponer. I save where I can ie household, and pricematch meat, all on 50-60 a week. It can be done…
Excellent article. I was just pondering all of that, including how to make main meals a bit cheaper so-as to buy more paleo friendly snacks (e.g.: paleo jerky) for the teenage boys currently eating us out of house and home..
Those snacks would pretty much complete the dietary transformation for the whole family.
Aside, if you multiply your figure above by about 8, you get what it costs to feed a family of four w/ two teenage boys (paleo or not). Crimeny can they eat!
BTW, I agree that Dave Ramsey’s program is da bomb. That program along w/ Paleo/Ancestral eating could together save Western Civilization.
Very well said, Robb!
I, along with several of my close friends, am on the Paleo Diet, and it’s the ONLY diet that makes sense to me. Over the years, I’ve eaten relatively healthy, and for the most part cooked at home rather than eat out. I’m one of those people that values my health well above many other things in my life, so I opt for the grass-fed and organic way (sometimes going a step further and choosing even higher quality foods where available – local organic vs. imported, humane vs. careless, etc…). This did prove incredibly difficult when I wasn’t working, but instead of compromising on food quality, I chose to cut back on other lifestyle choices.
You’re absolutely right about making lifestyle chance and being aware of different alternatives. I get the same story about organic foods, and how expensive it is. Yes, it CAN be expensive, but there are several different places to get them. The local Sprouts market often has sales on organic produce, so that’s when I buy more. They also had a coupon for $5 off a purchase of $30 (then it went up to $35, then $40). Just like conventional produce, keep an eye out for sales and alternative places to buy. Farmer’s Markets are great. Also get to know what is seasonal and local. These are always less expensive. This makes a big difference.
Another thing I keep in mind is that organic foods are “normal” foods, and conventional foods are “discount” foods. Just like bargain foods and lesser quality, you’ll pay less. That’s why conventional foods are usually less expensive (note I say usually) – they’re grown specifically for higher yields, larger size, faster maturity, longer shelf life, and don’t need extra care to keep pests and weeds away (hence the pesticides and herbicides). Same goes with cows and chickens. Feed them corn and grains (incredibly inexpensive food source), keep more animal per square foot, inject them with hormones to accelerate growth, and there’s much more I won’t get into, but you get my point.
Thanks for the articles, keep them coming!
Jenn R. says
I’d like to add to the affordability issue that I can spend about what Robb spends AND get organic/pastured food for two adults. I’m fortunate enough to live near several fabulous farmers markets in South Carolina where many of the farmers use sustainable practices. My weekly groceries run about $60 USD. I can get chicken, pork, beef, lamb, eggs, & cheese (yea, we do dairy); and a lovely supply of fresh veggies and fruits from these markets. I usually only have to go to one market per week to get everything, but they are open on different days, so if I run out or a market is sold out of something, the longest I have to wait to get to another is 3 days. Now, I do supplement what I get from time to time so we can enjoy things that don’t grow locally, but that’s hardly ever more than another $10/week.
Excuses are just that – excuses. If you want to eat this way, you can and will find a way to do it.
If you don’t happen to live in a town/area with great farmers markets, you might need to plan ahead a little better and order things online. But it’s absolutely possible.
Get a couple of teenagers and tell me eating isn’t expensive!! Actually – it doesn’t matter how you feed them, it’s expensive. I don’t think that paleo is any more expensive then any other way. Maybe less because they are probably eating a little less and not snacking as much between meals.
I was just thinking – if we didn’t eat ‘in the paleo tradition’, the kids would come home and eat a whole bag of chips. I just checked the local King Soopers ad – 10 oz lays potato chips for $2.28 => $3.65/lb. That’s getting into grass fed beef range.
On a side note – a friend of my wife’s is severely obese – 5’4 and about 275lbs. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last year and colon cancer a couple of weeks back (that’s a different sad story). To pacify my wife who has preached the paleo/primal lifestyle for quite awhile, she finally agreed to cut out grains (based on your interview with Dr Harris). This woman has ‘worked out’ at Curves for years and has not lost a pound. 2 weeks into no grains, down 10 lbs. Insulin down to 25% of her regular dose. A second diabetic medication she is on (name evades me) down to 1/2 the regular dose.
And this stuff doesn’t work.
Robb Wolf says
Yea…I’m living in terror that we end up witha couple of boys like me. I ate the house bare daily as a kid.
Good word on your wife’s friend! It’s almost like this stuff works!
Phil Bear says
My wife and I end up splitting up our shopping to go to three different stores to get the best results (local stuff, cheap bulk stuff, Co-Op, so I’m with you: no sympathy for those who say they can’t do it.
It’s either a priority or it’s not.
I love you, Robb!!! 😀 ^^
sorry… just NEEDED to say that ;D
Robb Wolf says
All good, we run a “don’t ask, don’t tell” gym.
Great post. Might I also recommend the humble pork steak. I got 2.25 lbs. of it at Whole Foods for $9 and change the other day. It is like a fatty and delicious pork chop.
Totally agree with everything you just said! As a college student it is rather irksome when I hear people complain that they can’t afford food (of course there is never a lack of money for booze). I’m paying for my education and am still able to afford 10-11lbs of grass-fed beef and 40ish free range omega eggs per week.
Adam Ball says
I’m sure it’s been asked before so I’m sorry for asking again. When is the paperback version of your book being released? I’ve bought and re-bought the book about 5 or 6 times (to give out to patients) and I’d like to be able to save a little bit of the cost of the hardcover.
Robb Wolf says
DOC! I’m not sure. Wd could certainly wholesale you a case of books which would drop the price dramatically.
Adam Ball says
That would be amazing – Can you shoot me an email with a link or something?
We (the wife, kids and I) recently finished going through the Everyday Paleo 30 day cookbook. We feel awesome and have lost a lot of fat. We did spend a crap load of money shopping at Whole Foods b/c we figured the beef, poultry, and produce were organic and therefore pesticide free etc…
Are you saying that the conventional beef at WF is comparable to Costco, Sams Club or other Super Market Chains? That is surely and eye opener if true and I will take your word for it. I guess I was under the assumption that conventional at WF was heads and tails above conventional at Costco in terms of quality, nutrition, and franken factors.
Love the blog and podcast!
Robb Wolf says
I do not know that to be a fact, but it’s my guess.
Coincidentally, I just got back from WF and will continue to stock up on Wednesdays! Some nice deals on Meat and other things like Muir Glen Tomatoes.
Whole Foods does have quality standards for all products sold in their stores, including their meats (although much of the beef they sell is grain-fed, and not all of their meats are organic). They’ve started using a 5-step animal welfare rating system, so I think that even the lowest level (Step 1) seems better than most of the factory farmed products you’d find at standard grocery chains (although not everything they sell meets this Step, but it will meet their general standards). Given the regional variations in sourcing products, I’d talk to someone in the meat department–I’ve always found them helpful in steering me when I’ve had concerns like these. Just my $0.02.
Robb Wolf says
PB- Yes, and the standard meat is (IMO) no different than what one would find most anywhere else.
I wish we had Trader Joe’s in Canada. I buy my coconut oil at the local health food store and it is a bit expensive. We have Whole Foods but not in my city. I’ve recently been getting some great deals on meat through websites like Dealfinder and Groupon. I’ve been able to buy meat for 1/2 price and the latest deal I bought was $200 worth of grass-fed meat for $25. If you can take advantage of these deals it makes the grocery bill much smaller. The pics of all that food made me hungry. Off I go to find some eats!
Kevin Costello says
I always buy coconut oil in bulk from a wholesaler or an online retailer.
There are cheaper sources out there, but for convenience, Amazon will auto-ship Nutiva for $0.37/oz with free S/H. http://tinyurl.com/3pm7oqg
What an amazing article, Robb.
Hopefully, this will help eliminate some of the common excuses, or problems people have starting or staying on course!
Robb Wolf…on a mission to keep the word “shtick” in our common vernacular
Robb Wolf says
I think I’m degrading the collective language, one post at a time!
I loved this! No need to become victims to excuses for failure
I started paleo again August 15th after failing catastrophically four other times to make the transition.
This time I made a very careful plan of what to eat. And since I’m currently unemployed and living off dwindling savings, I needed it to be cheap.
Using a spreadsheet of exactly what I needed in terms of fat, protein and carb, I narrowed my numbers down.
Each day I eat 10 eggs scrambled with loads of black pepper, onion powder and hot sauce for breakfast.
Each night I eat 16oz of 80/20 ground chuck browned with loads of black pepper, onion powder, hot sauce, and chili powder, making a sort of dry, loose chili.
Both of the above are delicious and after 36 days I don’t have even a hint of wanting any variety.
1) I am never hungry, even going 18 hours between dinner and breakfast the next morning, this gives me a nice boost from Intermittent Fasting. It works so well I had gotten to 19 hours yesterday without realizing the time.
2) I feel spectacular. Energy, mental clarity, a complete lack of the anxious/depression episodes that have plagued me for years.
3) I have lost 21lbs in just over a month with almost zero exercise. Actually I was walking every day during the first three weeks of paleo and had to quit because I was literally too busy. My weight loss didn’t even slow.
4) This is the kicker. Buying 80/20 beef in 6lb flats and eggs 7.5doz at a time both from Sams Club, ($2.78/lb and 11.5 cents per egg), combined with organic unsalted butter to grease the pan I’m eating for…
Four Dollars and Twenty Two Cents per day.
I realize that many people can’t eat the same thing each day. I also realize that some people reading this will rail about the fact that there’s no vegetables in my diet. This works for me when combined with supplementation.
This is not how I plan to eat the rest of my life, but it’s been instrumental in getting into the groove.
What I eat isn’t grass fed, isn’t organic (other than the butter) or chemical free. But considering that the last meal I ate before I went to Paleo involved eating an entire box of Chips Ahoy cookies for dessert, I’m miles ahead of where I was.
I’ll do this until I can’t, but my current status is so wildly positive that may take a while.
Paleo the way I’m doing it is incredibly cheaper than my traditional diet where I was spending $20-30 a day on crap.
Robb Wolf says
Chris-I’d love a write up on this, great stuff.
Healthy Amelia says
I’d take your simple meal plan over raman and mac and cheese any day! Great job finding a way to make this work for your situation. Very inspirational!
Luke Terry says
Yes, this post is on the money. Hehe. Great points, and I have to say I like your swagger: “WholeFoods is pro-vegan, so I only buy meat there!” That line is priceless.
My messages to clients for the past 2+ years have been essentially what you wrote here regarding purchase choices & general strategy on food. Farmer’s market, farmer’s market, farmer’s market.
Or go one step further–go right to the farmer & buy 1/8 of a cow, or more, at one time. I always ask that the purchase includes organ meats AND the kidney fat, and often the ranchers I do business with will throw that stuff in for free or for a pittance. Not many people know what to do with beef hearts, kidneys, or suet. With this strategy, I keep my meat costs down to $4-5/lb for food of the highest quality, and I know I’m maximizing the profits for my local ranchers, for whom I have massive respect and admiration.
And that’s not even going into home/self-generated food production–gardening, animal husbandry, fishing, hunting, etc.
Keep up the good fight, Robb. But if this thing does go ass-over-teakettle, you’ll excel at trade in “street pharmaceutical product sales and distribution” and “female companionship human resource management.”
Robb Wolf says
You will do PR & Marketing for that “2nd career” if it ever comes to pass!
Luke Terry says
Haha, thanks man, I will get to work on that plan, just in case. It will keep us in bacon, at least.
You recommended “Spent” by Miller, re: evolutionary approach on choices, . It’s already on its way, I’ve been looking for something like this, so thanks.
Can you also recommend a good Evo Medicine primer? Something besides “Why We Get Sick,” which is not bad but a bit dated.
BTW, you might enjoy a term I coined to encompass this idea, which Paleo eating is a major component, of examining evolutionary roots to help us make wiser choices: “Enlightened Atavism.”
Robb Wolf says
We are workign on curriculum on this stuff form top academics. there is not much out yet.
A hidden cost not many think about is the cost of getting sick and staying sick. It’s gonna get increasingly more expensive to be unhealthy.
Robb Wolf says
Oh yea, it damn well may bankrupt us.
Sheilla Salinger says
Wow Robb, awesome post again! Thank you! I just want to say how much I appreciate what you bring to the Paleo community. My husband and I love that you are willing to look at something and maybe change your stance (like the fish oil) and aren’t so out to make a buck and set on being right at all costs for the sake of being right. We first met you and your wife (and heard about Paleo) about 3 years ago at your box in Chico. I just want to express our gratitude to you for what you are doing, trying to do and trying to change. Please don’t grow weary. We really trust your view on things and don’t want to see you (nor anyone for that matter) get beat down and discouraged by the system or misinformed public. Please keep doing what you do, you do a great job and we are so thankful for the information you provide.
I just have to say, I am grateful you touched on the grassfed issue, there can be a lot of pressure to eat only grassfed or organic from within the Paleo community. We are guilty of succumbing to it ourselves and found our food budget in the thousands of dollars a month (granted we are feeding a family of 9, 4 adults and 5 children). But one of the things that had to go was grassfed and organic everything. I had to decide which things were worth sacrificing Organic or grassfed in order to stay on budget. I’m thankful to say we are back on track and on almost on our pre-paleo food budget once again, which says a lot as the cost has gone up substantially. I can usually get grassfed ground beef for $2.59 a pound which is cheaper than the stuff from Coscto (though not as lean) so I stick with that, it is our primary meat source, when we have chicken now days it is almost never Organic, because around here it is usually to expensive. All that to say thank you for pushing people to look at their finances and base their food purchases on what they can afford. Everyone can afford to eat Paleo, it just may mean some sacrifices on quality and variety. The other thing we did which is really helping is we put in our own garden this summer so I haven’t spent much on veggeis at all for months. That is another option for people, grow your own fruit and veggies.
Robb Wolf says
5 kids! Kreiki!
Well, this is the stuff we need to fight. Paleo is great, it saves lives…and everyone has a different situation and need. We need to come visit you guys when we get back to Chico!
Sheilla Salinger says
Robb we would LOVE to have you visit, you are always welcome!
We actually have 7 kids living at home, but the two oldest are “legal” adults, 20 and 18 (and active young men so they eat a TON!)so I listed them as adults. My food budget is still a huge chunk of our income, but so worth it!
Jennifer Higgins says
This is the… best… blog post I have read about how to eat in eons. Thank you so much Robb.
Fully agree Rob! I’m also a proponent of the camp “buy the kind of Paleo food that you can afford”. Even when buying non-organic food, as long as your groceries are generally Paleo in nature (e.g. meat, fish veggies, fruits, nuts), the health outcome will again be way better than eating SAD. I wrote a similar article yesterday btw about this (among a few other random thoughts about Paleo).
Oh, and when I’m on farmer’s markets now, I feel like a kid in a candy store. My husband said that I have a big smile when I browse vegetables and fruits that he never believed anyone could have for buying such products! 😮
Overall, Paleo has changed my life in the 3 weeks that I follow it. It has almost cured my IBS-D in this early stage, and even if it never manages to cure it 100% (although I’ll insist), I’ll still stay with the diet for life, because I’ve seen a multiple of changes on other areas of my health too. Lost 8 lbs so far too, although that’s not my main focus. Health is.
Thanks for this Robb–very helpful, as this is one of the objections I get most often. Well…after all the Dr. Jampolis/Oz stuff, the kinds of questions are a bit more frustrating, but that’s how it goes.
I’d really love to see a post that chronicles your actual prepared food for an entire week. I was reaching my calorie minimum of 4000/day (mass gain) but it’s slowly gone down to about 2500 because I get tired of the foods I eat since I go through so freaking much of it. I’ve checked out Everyday Paleo and the other paleo food blogs goolge could find and none seem to be particularly friendly to huge bulk-type meals. I need ideas!
I’ve pretty well exhausted shredded/ground meat w/ sautéed veggies, curries, and steaks. Recently stuck paleo biscuits and gravy into the mix (modified from the recipe here on your blog) and that’s a big success.
Keep up the great work–as much as it feels like it’s not the case, social change happens socially, not politically (though everyone seems to think it does). I duno if this helps or is just a kidney shot, but beware the russian literature paradox here…unless you’ve studied political science+political philosophy. This is my area of expertise but everyone looooves to tell me about how social change does or doesn’t happen. But I get it, and I get discouraged at times too. Just keep pluggin along.
Robb Wolf says
I guess I can post a week of my chow. Honestly, i’m just so tired of trying to “get big” and eatign to excess that I’m trying to embrace “wiry strength” in the words of Pavel.
Soccer player look. Foreign chicks dig that sort of look.
Haha yeah, for sure. I haven’t actually given it a good go so I want to see what I can do. Just going for lean and strong with a bit more mass, nothing crazy. Without attention, I usually hang at about 6’1, 140lbs. Now at 155, going for 175. Thanks!
Isn’t milk nature’s magic mass-gain elixir? The raw, non-Holstein stuff. If I needed help gaining I’d certainly consider it.
I think people just baulk at the up front cost of the gallon of coconut oil. But I see as the gallon lasts for like 6 months which is $12.50 a month. The small jar I get at the health food store is like 20 bucks and barely lasts a month. That’s a savings of $33.
When I am really broke I just go to the local grocery store and pickup what they call “Hamburger Meat”. Its all the trimmings from the streaks and other cuts ground up. for 1.5lbs its 3 bucks. Then I grab some frozen mix veg bags at about a dollar each. So for 4 to 6 bucks depending on the amount of veg I toss in, I got around 3 to 6 meals.
Robb Wolf says
that’s not far off from how I do it.
Jim C. says
A favorite of mine is oven skinned baked chicken thighs (remove the skin yourself, if you want. I likes it on the bird!), or oven baked pork steaks (you can coat either one in almond meal, if you want. Makes it like fried chicken!) The pork steaks, if overly thick, can be filleted (which also doubles the meals you get from them)both meats are purchased at either Sam’s Club or Publix (Florida/Georgia grocery chain) when on sale, and frozen until needed. Served up with some salad or veggies (frozen veg at the financially “thin” times)Done properly, it can be stretched into 6 meals for 2 people. $8 dollars for 10 thighs. $12 dollars for 9 chops. $20 bucks for quite a bit of meat!
You don’t get to excuse good health.
Another huge factor people don’t account for (mostly because they are myopic with their analysis) is sickness, now and in the future.
Those are *real* costs. Missed work, doctor visits, medication, etc.
I watch the guy who sits next to me at work miss 4 days of work with bronchitis. Another time he was telling me that he appeases his kids with cookies sometimes for dinner.
Yeah, “cheap” cookies.
Wow, Incredible deal on the farmer’s market stuff!
I wish we had something like that up this way (Boston)
Whole Foods is about $8/lb for grass-fed meat, the farmers market sellers are around the same or more (I thought farmer’s markets were supposed to be cheaper?!) and CSA averages out to $7/lb I believe (for mix of beef, lamb, chicken, etc)
if anyone has cheaper Boston options, please share!
Farmers mkts here in NE Connecticut are more expensive than supermarkets, too, like double. I found a farm up near the Mass. border that sells whole or partiaL COws for a reasonable price: $4 and change. If you think you would be willing to drive that far, I will look up the link to their website for you.
becky yo says
I want to comment on your last bit about financial stress. My husband and I can easily spend lots of organic grass-fed meats (avg $6 lb from our meat CSA) and organic veggies because we otherwise live a very low-cost lifestyle.
We made a conscious decision to live this way: close to work (so commutes are by bike or transit;) job hours that allow me to watch our daughter after school (no day care costs!); we haven’t traded up to a bigger more expensive house in a better neighborhood; our kid goes to public school; our cars are old and paid off (my 1990 Corolla refuses to die!) and we also do weird stuff like gleaning fruits (plums, pears, apples) and nuts (chestnuts, walnuts) from urban trees.
(our big cost lately has been clothing! My husband and I have both gone down so many clothing sizes that just tightening our belts (the literal kind) looks too sloppy.)
Great post. I’ve thought about trying to do a “paleo on a budget” experiment and see how cheap I could eat for a week or a month, do a blog post about it too.
I did a short post on food budget a while back. In the US we have one of the lowest percentages of income spent on food as a % of gross income per capita of any country in the world. I tell people they need to prioritize. I’d rather be eating really good food and have my health than a new car or new house, or super cell phone plan, the most expensive clothes, etc. But you can eat really good and really well for not that much money at all. I can get pastured, all grass-fed beef for $3.50 a lb, pastured pork for $3/lb, organ meats from pastured goats for something like $3/lb or less. Sometimes I can get some cow and pig organ meats for free or super cheap. You can find organic whole chickens at the grocery store that are about to go past their date and are put on sale for like $1.29/lb. If you can get the space to store it, buying whole or partial animals can save a good bit of money. You can even buy BPA free cans of wild-caught Alaskan salmon for less than $2.50/lb. Hunting or making friends with hunters can get you a lot of meat too. You can get really great produce at farmers markets or by going to the farmers themselves for really cheap sometimes. Theres always growing some of your own stuff too if you can. If you take the time to shop around and find out what’s in your area, it’s not really that hard to eat on the cheap.
Hmmm, I still may do the experiment to see how cheap I can get by just to show people.
Great Post. The deals are out there. I consistently find meat for around $2 per pound . I’ve recently started documenting prices at different grocery stores in an excel sheet every week to illustrate to my friends, family, or whoever that you can find inexpensive meat/protein choices. I’d definitely be glad to share the info with you or anyone else who wants it.
By the way, Dave Ramsey is the man. I’ve been following his plan for two years, bought a car cash, and will pay off my undergrad in less than two weeks. The key is prioritizing your expenses. Joel Salatin made a great statement about expense prioritization in the previous posts.
Thanks again, Robb.
I picked up (literally) a very heavy quantity of free black walnuts from my woods this past weekend…felt like a modern day HG! I cleaned them and stored them and can’t wait to get cracking on them later in the winter. I will be after another large load this weekend…all free except for the effort 🙂
Good luck with the black walnuts. I hear they are a tough nut to crack.
Years ago I collected hickory nuts. I spent hours cracking and ended up with just a cup or two of nuts. They were delicious.
Robb Wolf says
THAT is actually a good point in the whole nut dealio. How long does it take to collect those, how much do you really get when you are done? No wonder folks can over-do these.
People used to use walnut shells as dye. Did they dye your hands while collecting and working with them?
Yep, even though I wore gloves I still have some black finger tips but I don’t mind. It didn’t take me long at all to collect them…just hiked down the hill on my property and came back up when I couldn’t carry any more. Once you know what you’re doing the process goes pretty quickly. Used to this all the time when I was younger; gives you something to do in the winter. Well worth it to me 🙂
I have often been asked if it’s “more expensive” buying paleo friendly food. The answer is always, “no.”
I spent FAR more money on groceries pre-paleo, AND we went out to eat more. I started eating pretty strict Paleo in February. I have a teen who while not a convert, eats what I cook. Even with her odd dairy and bread add-in’s our average grocery bill went from about $300 a month to a solid $200. Then I added in not going out to eat twice a week, for $20 to $30 each… that’s another $200 a month.
A lot of factors led into me making the decision to change the way I eat. I have MS, arthritis and a host of other autoimmune conditions. I was suffering from bone deep depression and grief from losing my Dad the previous fall. I still hurt, but I’m completely mobile. I don’t hate life, and I started “playing” at a Crossfit affiliate about six weeks ago.
Every day only gets better. When people tell me “I can’t do that,” my answer is only “you just don’t want it enough.”
Dave K says
It’s important to note for some people that in Canada eating Paleo will cost about double what it does in the US. If you’re buying half or whole cows the cost of eating will be about 70% higher. Veggitables are considerably more expensive here, as is poultry. Beef and pork are more expensive but the gap isn’t as wide.
My brilliant wife did a post on this very subject not long ago:
She’s a clever girl and used lots of “facts” and pesky “numbers”. good stuff.
Robb Wolf says
Damn facts & numbers! How can you whine then??
My husband and I have become sooooo much healthier with Paleo eating. We save money, as we don’t eat out as often, we have discovered that we enjoy cooking, thanks to all the helpful recipes and tips available through the Paleo community. The food is awesome, no hunger pangs and food cravings, and we don’t spend money on Statins, blood pressure meds, or other pharma crap.
After losing 55 pounds and regaining my health, even it it were expensive (which it is not), I would find a way to live this lifestyle, anyway.
Thanks, Robb, for your straightforward, no BS writing.
You got some great deals even if you don’t think they were that great. So here’s my question: what do you recommend to folks who have no grocery shopping options? We have ONE brand of mass grocery store within 25 miles or so. No Whole Foods, no Trader Joe’s, not even a Publix. We do have discount grocery stores like Save-a-lot, but talk about bad quality food, yuck! The cheapest I can find meat is about $0.99/lb for chicken and $1.50 for ground beef. Yep, that’s on sale, and that’s NOT organic, grass-fed, or local. The veggie situation is just about as bad. We have a wonderful farmer’s market, but can’t afford to buy all our food there (or even all our meat). We’ve looked into getting a side of beef (local, grass-fed), and found some decent prices that average out to around $5-7/lb, and we’ll probably take advantage of that soon. For veggies, we’ve been trying to grow our own, which is an adventure since neither of us have any experience. Any other suggestions for people like this?
Robb Wolf says
I don’t know Lindsay…I tend to do a lot of onions, potatoes are a good option if no metabolic/blood sugar issues. You just need to tinker!
Medical bills are also expensive. Here is a quote I found on MM Livestock Co. Facebook page (they sell grassfed beef, not a promo, just a fact). Here it is:
There’s no culture on the planet that pays less on food per capita and more on medicine than the United States. You can Pay the Farmer, or you can Pay the Doctor!! – Greg Higgins
I found that very interesting.
Well played Robb Wolf, well played sir. Sometimes you just gotta bring a pictures to a word fight.
Robb Wolf says
HA! Yes indeed.
Thanks for the great post!
We have eaten gluten/dairy free for almost eight years while also being involved in a meat coop and CSA during those years. People constantly comment that they could never afford to eat like us. (Co-workers are always amazed that I bring my own lunch and think I wake up really early to prepare whatever wonderful smell is coming from my thermos – leftovers!) However, we rarely eat out and when we do it is generally something like Chipotle bowls with no rice. My kids and I volunteered several summers in a row at the farm our veggies came from so the price for veggies also included entertainment and an education for my kids and myself.
As a family we have focused our attention on eating well to feel good and then plan events around doing things that we enjoy together as a family like bike riding, camping, hiking, etc rather than spending tons of money at movies and etc. I always comment back to friends that we could never afford to eat out or go to as many paid events as most people. I guess it is priorities. Living with RA for eight years, my family and I realize that good food is mandatory, not an option. I have been paleo for over a year and haven’t been able to reduce any meds yet, but the combo of meds and diet seem to be working for me right now and the goal is still to eventually reduce the monthly payments we spend on meds and more importantly to this momma – prevent this same disease or any disease from being a part of my kids lives.
*By the way, once we stopped making all the “gluten free” meals of pasta and homemade muffins, we started saving! The flours and such are expensive and generally full of junk. I think everyone has enjoyed replacing those with in season squash and cabbage. Oh, and the sweet potatoes are a must. My 15 son even found a photo recently of a 1920’s street vendor selling sweet potatoes. We both agreed that would be a nice treat to find when out and about.
Josh Frey says
Doing paleo “right” is a bit more expensive than SAD (I did it as a college student anyway, however, and I still do it)but poor man’s paleo is ridiculously cheap if you shop sales.
When I used to shop the regular grocery store, I’d often find discounted whole chickens for $2-4 a piece (that’s a mean for a whole family), bulk fruits and vegetables for next to nothing, and so on.
Don’t think it has to be all or nothing.
Clive Staples says
Dude! Dave Ramsey helped change my life! Nice reference.
Patti Jeanne says
I have 4 kids 3 are full adult size. 4 of us are over 5’11” and my boys are 6’4″ tall. The amount of protein I have to buy to keep them fed is ridiculous. So I go to Costco. Sometimes I splurge on grass fed but mostly I buy ground beef for less than $3 per pound. I also buy sausages and pork cuts at great prices. I make double batches of chili to keep on hand for lunches and yes Snacks!! For my very hungry boys. Now that I don’t buy bread or expensive “healthy” cereal or pasta my food budget is about the same or less. I mean eggs are $2-4 a dozen depending on cage fre and omega 3. A college student or struggling family could get great protein eating eggs and ground beef. I have sympathy but most people waste tons of money eating out or buying pre made food.
That’s my rant! Put a little time in , plan ahead if you are on a budget and paleo will save you money. How? You won’t have to pay copays for sick visits at the doctor, you will spend less on medication (no more acne medicine in my house and no one is grabbing the ibuprofen anymore), fewer prescriptions and last but not least- YOU MAY BE MORE SUCCESSFUL as you have more focus and attention!
Paleo is HUGE in my house. The kids are seeing real changes in their bodies and minds.
Paleo SanDiego says
I know you mentioned this in prior posts but another way to cut costs is to grow your own veggies and learn to hunt or fish. My garden started with just one cucumber and one tomato plant. In two years it’s turned into thirty plus fruits and veggies, now supplying lots of food year around.
One trick I found with my wife and kids (2, 5, 19) is to provide each of them with their own 4×4 plot, previously it was just a family garden with dad doing most of the work, my wife and kids were engaged but their much more engaged now that they pick their own plants and have their own space. If you can’t do plots you could just give each kid a plant that they own.
Side note: They would never listen when I said to keep soccer balls, footballs, and other things out of the garden. Now that they own their own space they protect their plots and keep balls away from squashing their plants. Guess we all try to protect what we own.
The other thing I’ve learned is how to extend meals to save money. I wrote an article about the fish I caught and how I extended the meals from my catch, and also how I even ended up eating the bait. http://healthuprising.com/?p=63
Even if we have the money we should all look for ways to extend the resources we use, it saves money and helps the environment.
Robb Wolf says
Hence, my focus on the Liberty Garden.
Great post Robb!! It’s all about choices. Everything in life is. If you don’t like a particular part about your life (i.e. diet, finances, etc), research and do something about it. BTW, I’ve been through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and it was truly a GOD send. Dave is an awesome motivator and instructor. You are too. Thanks for all you do on the Paleo-front!
Mark. Gooley says
I buy and eat a lot of offal. Then again, I actually like liver, and my version of menudo (omit the posole, so it’s tripe in cow-hoof or pig-trotter broth with chiles and so on) is low-carb and one of my favorite foods. Tripe and other organ meats seem to be getting more expensive, though: big stores like Wal-Mart SuperCenters are offering them at low prices, but those are steadily creeping upwards.
I suspect that offal from pastured animals isn’t especially cheap, mind — merely less expensive than the meat. Mostly I don’t bother seeking it out: perhaps a mistake.
Dinis Correia says
Robb, thank you _so_ much for this post. This just made me feel a lot more comfortable with the way I’ve been shopping lately.
I live in Portugal and it’s fairly easy to find quality meat (supermarkets and grocery stores don’t use the grain-fed/grass-fed “labels”, but there are quite some traditional beef producers that sell grass-fed), fish and seafood (fishing is also a major economic activity around here so we eat a ton of fresh mackerel, sardines, octopus – yum! – hake, etc). However, some other stuff is just way too expensive or impossible to find: I’m looking at you, coconut products and organic veggies! I live in Lisbon, the capital and biggest city in the country, and so far I’ve only found three stores that carry coconut oil. Not to mention the price: a gallon would cost me roughly $150.
I “went” Paleo six months ago and, in the beginning, I’m sure that worrying over the prices of grass-fed beef and organic veggies was sending my cortisol levels through the roof. At the time, I stumbled upon a post by John Durant and was kind of shocked (in a good way) by is advice to ditch organic if you couldn’t afford it – and focus on higher quality meats and fats when possible.
So lately that’s what I’ve been doing, taking a more laid-back approach: I try to buy the best fat and protein available (and yes, that includes obscenely priced coconut oil) and stick to – non organic – local and seasonal veggies and fruits. If I’m short of money, grain-fed it is. I also eat plenty of fish and seafood so that will probably that care of any n-6/n-3 issues that might come from the grain-fed meat. I do try to follow Diane Sanfilippos’s advice on priorities for eating on a budget.
I think Mark Sisson sums it up well: “if conventional is all you can afford or have access to it’s better than no meat at all.”
Robb Wolf says
Where in Portugal do you live? You should meet Pedro Bastos, great guy. I LOVE Portuguese and would really like to spend some time in Portugal.
Dinis Correia says
I live in Lisbon. I’ve searched for a sign of Pedro’s online presence, but apparently he doesn’t have a blog or Twitter account.
Do come to Portugal! Some food and dishes really are paleo heaven – after all, we’re the country where rural families not long ago would slaughter a pig and eat the whole animal (yes, blood, guts, ears… the bladder’s the only thing they wouldn’t eat but would fill it with air and make a soccer ball out of it 🙂
Robb Wolf says
that sounds awesome!!
Great post! It’s good to see someone else who eats tons of vegetables. My co-workers seem mildly freaked out / amused at the amount of fruits and vegetables I eat… and the amount of food that I eat in general (because veggies are so low calorie). My food bills are a little higher than what you post, but I also buy the grass-fed beef, some organics and nut butters. Additionally, I have food allergies to 34 foods, which forced me to be pseudo-paleo, but also makes it harder to take advantage of “deals”, since my diet is so limited. But for now, all of this is fine… To some extent, I think that the “expensive” excuse is just an excuse. Whenever strangers or aquaintances see me eat (I have to take a lunch bag everywhere, since I can’t just eat whatever is available), they tend to say, “Wow, I *should* eat like that… so healthy!”. They don’t realize that I *have* to eat like that because of the allergies. The upside is that I’ve been feeling so much better… Initially, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and then with all of the food allergies. Although I am not 100% cured, I am now able to go to dance classes and have minimal pain (just a lot of muscle tightness). I think part of it is because of all of the nutrients. At the outset, I used a piece of software called Cron-O-Meter to document everything and make sure that I was getting enough nutrition. After a couple of weeks, I realized that I was regularly several hundred times over the recommended RDAs (except for calcium — haven’t figured out how to get enough with the food rotation and limitations). Anyhow, I can’t imagine going back to how I ate before with all of the processed / chemical food. If someone wanted to save money, they could also buy frozen veggies. Frozen veggies are cheap, cheap, cheap per volume and are great for “filling out” the diet. I just found this blog, and it’s been some great stuff so far… I look forward to reading more!
Random but I think looking at it as calories/dollar is more enlightening to most people then dollars/calories.
The rice ends up being between 1633 calories/dollar and 3266 calories/dollar depending where it’s at in the $0.50/pound and $1.00/pound range.
The coconut oil ends up at 399 calories/dollar
Kerry’s Irish Gold butter is 400 calories/dollar (At $4.00 a stick)
85/15 Ground beef is 960 calories a pound so at $5.00/lb (about grass-fed prices) it’s 192 calories/dollar
Canned Wild Alaskan Salmon is 237 calories/dollar. 34 grams of protein/dollar, and 8 grams of Omega 3
I did a lot of these for a class a couple years ago but the hard-drive with my spreadsheet got formatted unfortunately.
Robb Wolf says
I’m going to add this to the original post, VERY helpful. Thanks Steven.
Love the spreadsheet idea, I do the same thing.
I wanna know where you found Kerrygold butter that cheap! can’t find it here. I get the Nutiva Organic Coconut oil off of amazon for 630 calories/dollar (shipped). And the only place local I can find Kerrygold is about 200 calories/dollar.
Robb, I couldn’t agree more! You can go as gourmet or as frugal as you want with this lifestyle. Another one of the most cost effective ways to get your fats, proteins and ever-important gelatin is to make your own bone broth.
Bones are super inexpensive (even from grass-fed animals), I usually buy a bag for broths and my pup for about $5. From this you can make probably 4L of stock. You just add about 5-6L filtered water, about a cup of raw apple cider vinegar, and whatever veggies you like (I usually throw in a whole head of garlic, a couple of onions, some carrots and celery) and some woody herbs like rosemary or thyme and bring to the boil. Then you reduce the heat and skim any of the bubbling scum from the surface for the first 20 minutes or so, then leave the stock uncovered at a very low simmer for anywhere between 8 and 48 hours! You can use it to cook soaked legumes or rice, as a base for soup, to make your own sauces or even as a hot drink with a bit of sea salt added. It is so nourishing and such a cost effective way to get vital nutrients 🙂
Well done on spreading the word of how to take care of your health on a budget. No excuses now everyone!
tom scott says
Matt @ 0658 briefly touched on this. Dr Jack Kruse said something on his blog that so struck me I wrote it down on my calendar. “Cheap food leads to expensive medicine.”
Just starting to get into Paleo Solution even tho’ I’ve been pretty much low carb for several years. Finished Paleo Solutions about two months ago. Am going to Taiwan for a month in October and plan to re-read it. Last night I put about 15 podcasts on a flash drive so I have something to listen to on the 12 hour flight.
I think we had similar beginnings in life. While I didn’t contribute to my parents income I bought all my own school clothes, provided my own spending money during the school year. This started about the 7th grade. My dad owned a feed store in Wisconsin and every summer he had me a job on a farm for about $40 month and room and board. This was in the mid-fifties.
AJ Wow says
I have a question a little off topic, but still in with the food discussion.
Do you peel your Yams or Sweet Toes or do they not have anti nutrient skin like regular potatoes?
Robb Wolf says
hmm…I’m about 50/50 on that. When I make SP fires, no, when I bake them, yes.
Monica Jun says
this was awesome. that is all.
Paleo is sure less expensive than shelling out a hundred bucks a month on cholesterol & BP meds.
Robb Wolf says
Yes…but folks just get those meds for “free” as part of their insurance….Food COSTS them something. This, is a direct quote from my (still) non-compliant mom.
Peggy Holloway says
I shop at Trader Joe’s and can get a week to 10 days worth of groceries for two for around $100.00 (including cleaning and paper products). I always figure that eating the way I do saves a ton because I don’t buy packaged foods, and of course, the savings in medical costs is incomparable.
I’ve switched recently over to primal/paleo eating, and I’ve found that flexibility is pretty key to keeping things inexpensive. There’s no Whole Foods of farmer’s market near me, but there are a few different grocery stores, and all of them have sales every week.
Steak is usually more than ground beef. I love steak, but I have ground beef a lot more often.
Is chicken on sale this week? Ok, guess I’m eating more chicken.
Ooh, spinach was on sale last week but now it’s spring greens. I’ll use that in my salads this week.
It’s also easier for me to find the sales now, because I’m searching in less of the store. I believe with a bit more practice, and tinkering with food I’ll be able to cut my food budget down from what it was before, though I might leave it where it is and just have room for treats (like more steak).
Bill Strahan says
I always enjoy shooting holes in this one. Sure, you can talk about how you pay now or pay later with failing health, but the choice is even easier. If they are willing to do it, I tell people it’s easily doable on about $5/day, which is far less than most people spend on crappy fast food and Starbucks.
Grassfed beef is available at a chain of stores here in Dallas on sale regularly for $3.99/pound. Veggies at the same store vary from 49c to 89c a pound. I realize I’m mathematically gifted, but I think most people can see that they can eat a pound of quality protein and a pound of veggies each day for about $5. Throw in 20-40c per day for spices and some additional fats. Budget $6/day and you’ve got a good buffer.
And there is no need to take more than 20 minutes to do the cooking once you learn how. And on top of that, if you’re so inclined, do all your cooking AND eating in the evening. The days are more productive without those lunch and snack breaks, and you’re spending less daily than most people will spend on a single meal. Win win win. Actually I think the phrase now is “Winning!” Heh.
Oh, and you’ll end up trim, healthy, and feeling good.
Rant on Robb, rant on. I’ve heard that if enough people say something people will believe it even if it’s not true. In this case it’s completely true, we just need more people saying it!
And a little ruthless compassion when someone tells you they can’t afford to eat well while you see them spending more than $6/day on crap is time well spent.
Robb Wolf says
Years ago, when my sister asked me to fly out to visit her and I told her that I could not afford a ticket at that time she said – “you will find a way to afford what you really want.” I bought the ticket that night and had a wonderful visit. I figured out a way to get it into my budget. She was right.
I feel the same way about my food. I know that my decreased medication costs and decreased medical bills more than offset the increase in my food budget. My improved health is priceless.
Great blog post – thanks. I am so sad you will not be on Jimmy’s cruise next year.
Kevin Costello says
Yes – it’s time to call BS on the “I can’t afford to eat Paleo” excuse
My wife and I have been eating a very strict autoimmune paleo diet for 17 mos and have cut our food bill by > 50%. We just eat less food, less often, and we also eat out less often. We eat pastured animals, nose to tail with a lot of organ meat. We make bone broth by the gallon. We render our suet and make our own jerky & sauerkraut. My wife conjures up amazing desserts using coconut, roots & tubers, fruit, cocao, spices, etc. Our diet is now 60-70% fat, and fat is cheap. We also buy our meat in bulk from local farms, which we store in a 7cf deep freezer we picked up off craigslist for $80 [lightly used, 2yrs old].
Not counting the <5% of meals we eat out, we spend $70-$100 per week or approx $4000 per year.
We could easily get by on $50 per week if we
1. purchased CAFO meat
2. ate some of the cheaper paleo foods like nightshades, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds
3. had our own garden
4. didn’t splurge on pricey spices, cocao, tea, wine, etc.
the keys are:
1. only buy on-sale and in bulk [except for produce]
2. eat nose to tail: cheap cuts, organ meats, etc.
3. find cheap sources via web or wholesalers
4. make most meals from scratch
5. fat is very cheap
Meat – $35
– 10-12#s at an avg of ~$3/#
– 90% of meat is local, grassfed, pastured.
– Our beef is $3.85/# [table-ready wgt]
– Pork is $3.00/#
– Poultry is $2.25/#
– Wild caught fish is $2.50/# [canned salmon, mackeral, herring, sardines, anchovies]
– We also buy CAFO meat when there is a big sale: we will buy as much as we can store in our freezers.
Produce – $25
Summer/Fall we buy from an organic CSA. It's always way more than we can eat, so my wife freezes/preserves a lot of it, which we then eat all winter. Plus a lot of frozen veggies from Costco, like broccoli & spinach. And I recently discovered Kale/Collard Greens, which are much cheaper greens. I get my sweet potatoes for $.75/lb.
Our fruit is mostly berries, plus apples & peaches. My wife and I do u-pick in-season and then freeze most of it, which lasts all winter. We are thinking of planting some berry bushes this spring: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, cranberry.
Other – $15
Cooking supplies [vinegar, oils, etc], coconut products, spices, cocao, tea, wine
Fat is incredibly cheap and it's easy to store, so we buy in bulk: coconut oil, red palm oil, olive oil, lard, suet. We also get our coconut milk/cream/butter, etc in bulk very cheaply from an Asian food wholesaler in Jersey City.
To anyone who thinks Paleo is expensive I feed my girlfriend and I (plus a hungry dog with a great beg-face) on 50$ a week in groceries and I like to eat… a lot!
nice work Mr Wolf. Once again you swoop in with your Super Hero costume and save the day!
Shared on FB/Twitter
Robb Wolf says
I hope I remembered the underwear in that costume…
LETS NOT FORGET ABOUT A HUGE GAME CHANGER, CANNED SALMON… 2 BUCKS A POUND AT WALMART FOR WILD CAUGHT. WITH THAT ONE PIECE OF KNOWLEDGE PRACTICALLY EVERYONE COULD GO PALEO AND EAT 5 – 15 OZ MEAT PER MEAL + SWEET POTATO AT ONLY (YOU GUESSED IT) 2 BUCKS A POUND… WHAT A SUPRISE.
AS FAR AS NOT HAVING TIME TO COOK:
1. GO LOOK IN THE MIRROR
2. FLATTEN HAND AND DRIVE TOWARDS FACE (SIDEWAYS) AT HIGH VELOCITY
ROB YOUR THE MAN.
I know this post seems obvious to you, but thank you for posting it. It helps tremendously to see a more ‘relaxed’ side to this.
Here are the points you’ve made over the past few podcasts which have made the most impact on me:
(1) You eat sushi every once and awhile (allow yourself white rice and explaining how it’s actually better than brown in terms of reactivity)
(2) That you eat corn chips because they are largely non-reactive for you (where as even a small amount of gluten exposure sends you running).
Yes, these seem basic and obvious but these practical examples help me understand how to better reintegrate and test foods I’ve previously cut off.
Here’s where I’m coming from: I’m a year and-a-half “paleo” (Grains, Dairy, and Legume free). I’ve already done the ‘enlightened journey’ – (First) I’ve already annoyed my family and friends with the fact this is a life-changing concept and they NEED to try it; (Second) I’ve reached the point where I was told I was annoying;
(Third) I’ve stopped talking and am instead leading by example.
When I first read your book your advice came off as very militant and strict – only in retrospect do I understand why (reestablishing the best baseline possible to correct previous damage and setup for future success).
As I begin to evolve this into a more live-able lifestyle based on my personal issues and goals it helps immensely to see a model of where “to the letter of the law” can be massaged.
Examples and correlation:
‘No Dairy’. When I followed 30 days without dairy I felt great and was acne free for the first time in 20 years (even to the point of taking Acutane)! On day 31 when I reintroduced dairy (Pizza!) and it CRUSHED me – I felt awful, spent an hour on the toilet, and later busted up with acne.
In my mind this linked up as: ‘Robb was right. I’m probably lactose intolerant. I will follow all his advice exactly as he prescribes’.
This ‘rule’ transitioned to my thinking that ‘Robb said grass-fed beef is superior and supported it with a valid reason so I will eat only grass-fed’.
For me simply seeing you acknowledge that you massage your own ‘strict rules’ (‘yeah, of course I eat non-grass fed when I can get it cheaper!’) allows me to see where and how I can do the same in my own situation.
…I feel like I’m rambling… I guess I can sum it up like this:
Without your insistence on starting with strict adherence I would not have likely made it to the point I’m at today. While looking at how to practically integrate this into a lifestyle it’s extremely helpful to see where and how you modify your own rules. As you said, you’ve been at this for 15 years. I’ve been at this a year and-a-half and am still learning; thank you for being patient and thank you for showing me how to change my life.
Robb Wolf says
This likely deserves a whole post. How to get people “bought in” without creating an army of mindless Zombies? I’m militant on the buy-in because 10 years of dealing with clients has made me that way! People great at self deception and will fuck up a good think in a remarkably short period of time. So, hard-ass up front, deal with the consequences later! I really appreciate yoou taking the time to share all this. Important stuff.
Sheilla Salinger says
I just thought I would throw this out there while people are discussing what they spend to feed themselves or their families. I feed a family of 9 (my husband, myself, 20 year old son, 18 year old son, 14 year old daughter, 8 year old daughter, 6 year old daughter, 4 year old daughter, 2 year old son) for $400 a week, some weeks I can keep it under that number so I use the “extra” to stock up by ordering in bulk online, things like almond meal, coconut flour, macadamia oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, etc. And most weeks that covers eating Paleo and inlcludes toiletries. And I might add we eat quite well.
As for the person that was looking for bulk recipes (Nathan I think), I have a blog I run and since I am so used to cooking large amounts (4-5 pounds of grass fed ground beef is one meal around here), I struggle to scale my recipes, your welcome to check it out, it might be of help if you are looking for large quantities. http://www.budgetpaleo.blogspot.com
Love this post Rob,
Seriously the KISS principle has to be invoked here. I am middle of the road with my purchases and go for good meat and fish, but buy veg in season cos its fresh and cheap. 1 piece of oven baked salmon with a bowl of of fresh and cheap broccoli or coleslaw this offsets the cost of the Salmon a little. Anyway love your work and the circus show that is Dr Oz is just that a money printing circus show.So F*%%!!k him and all the sheep that watch him.
Cat Alberts says
Thanks for this post!
I am on a tight budget as well, and am always looking for bargains. My solution was to buy a freezer, and stock up when something is on sale. My aim is to only buy meat under E10,-/kilo. So I buy half a lamb (which unfortunately does not agree with me. Histamine?)from a butcher that just puts it in the post with ice packs to be delivered the next day, bacon pieces, ground beef, porc shoulder, hamburgers etc. Grass fed or organic, and if lucky both. Eggs for brakfast, an apple a day, celery and carrots for every stew or soup, and a salad. I think I am at 4-5 euros a day.
It is do-able on a budget, we just have to hunt for bargains and gather it all in a freezer.
Great post. When I first went paleo, my grocery bill did increase a fair amount. However as I have progressed and eliminated a lot of innapropriate foods, especially snacks (granola bars, etc) my food spending has returned to pretty close to its previous level. Without the constant hunger pangs I no longer find myself doing a lot of between-meals snacking, and I make my coffee at home and skip Dunkin Donuts. One big change is the frequency of my grocery runs (every few days instead of just once a week) in order to avoid spoiling produce and meat, also I have decided to eat in season as much as possible (no more $5 pints of blueberries in January…) I feel better at 48 than I did at 38, and I figure I will save a bundle down the road in health care costs; I would rather spend money now on organic foods than later on Depends.
Honestly, Paleo money tip number 1, NO NUTS!!
Hey Rob – wish i lived where you do – i started pricing the food in your picture from the left – i was over twenty bucks by the time i had calculated my local costs for cauliflower, avocados, mushrooms and sweet potatoes all on sale here….so I stand NO chance of getting the amount of food you got for around 20 bucks -it would be more like 60 bucks. I am doing a meat CSA for $7 a lb which was the best price i could find- no 3-5 $/lb. half cow deals anywhere in my area (WNC)
That said, I totally agree people can figure out how to do it – but your prices there are nothing like what I am facing here. How dreamy it would be to get 2 weeks worth of meals for 100 bucks.
Robb Wolf says
If I bought that same stuff at our lowal Raleys it would have been $100. this was one of the BIG food warehouse places.
Joe Bloom says
Just wanted to share another resource for people trying to get a grip on their finances. I’d been through a bunch of financial software and found it all pretty useless because they’re almost solely retrospective (“Oh, shit, I spent $400 on beef jerky last month…”) but give no useful mechanism for moving forward except beating yourself up about it and “promising” to do better.
But to actually do better what you need is a plan (“This month I’ll only spend $20 on beef jerky”) and a way to monitor your spending in comparison to that plan in real time, not AFTER the month is over.
Anyway, enough of my diatribe against Quicken/MS Money/Mint.com and countless others. What I use and highly recommend is software called You Need A Budget (http://www.youneedabudget.com/), which let’s you input your income as you earn it, then assign it to budget categories, then input your spending, assign it to categories, and easily monitor your spending in relation to your spending plan.
It took me a lot of digging to find software that works this well, so I just wanted to share it since it’s made a huge positive difference for me.
Thanks for all the great work,
Joe Bloom says
Ooh and I just realized there’s a little gem in there for Greg: an impostor apostrophe in what is neither a contraction nor a possessive. Mea culpa!
Nice try! I live in Manhattan on $200 a month after bills are paid (on disability), I loved paleo, but could not afford it! Vegetarian is cheapest way to go, even if it makes me sicker. Ironic isn’t it! One tub of “gold seal” for two would wipe me out – in a month – I’d do very well if I had a job and I could buy in bulk and if I didn’t live where I do! I think it may be affordable for mid-america.
C J Hunt says
Trader Joe’s Markets carries a grass-fed & organic hamburger (1lb, imported from New Zealand-AU) under their label for $5.99 lb,
and now pre-cooked Wild Salmon (sockeye I think) in the fresh deli area ready to eat (prepped in water, lemon juice and salt only)… $6 and change for 1lb ..
less expensive than canned Tuna.
Onward and upward!
Robb Wolf says
OK-you know why I like you so much? -I realized after reading this post-you are a huge smart ass-takes one to know one-
I try this rational with everyone I talk to about this diet–if you break it down Paleo is no more expensive than the American diet filled with Cheetos and coca-cola. But I really liked your vivid photo explanation with receipt and meat wrapped pic’s-and the veggies-yum.
One tip I could give on saving money is get into a CSA-I did this for the first time this past year and I was swimming in fresh and the best tasting and huge variety of veggies. So much so I ended up sharing with friends- in turn ended in my neighbors going in and splitting the cost with me-which saved me money and expanded my variety of veggies–I tried so many new veggies that I normally would have never picked up on my own-a win win all around!
On the financial end-people need to be accountable and choose whats important-their health or those new shoes–one book that sits on my shelve and never ends up in the goodwill bin is “Voluntary Simplicity” by Duane Elgin-and actually I am going to spin thru it again–I always need to be reminded that my possessions don’t own me-and to value my time and my family and my health and my community over what I own and how much I make. Keep it up! I like big smart ass, question provoking post!
Robb Wolf says
I am fluent in smart-asssary.
First I want to thank you for your dedication in spreading your knowledge and experience. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you and others like you, constantly being told your wrong by our scientists and the government.
Our family of 7 is in the process, and have been for a few months, of switching to a primal lifestyle. I think it is definitely affordable especially when you negate the cost of future health care, medicines/etc. However, I still believe you can feed your family more cheaply on grains. That said, I don’t think it is worth it and I admit that I wasn’t feeding them as in nourishing them, it was more like we weren’t dying of starvation. Instead, I opted for the drawn out and painful death process. I am so thankful for all the recipes and tips you and the pale community offer.
You spent $20 for produce for 2 weeks. How do you prevent it from spoiling?
Thanks again and I apologize for the rant 🙂
Robb Wolf says
The cauliflouwer and coconuts wouldn’t last two weeks in the fridge, but the rest is mostly stable produce – unless those avocados are ready to eat right now.
When you shop once every two weeks, you plan your meals accordingly. Use up the produce with the shorter shelf life at the beginning of the two weeks and the rest after. You still get a great variety because in two weeks you can re-stock the avocados, cauliflower, greens, etc.
Also, once you make it into a stew or something, it has a longer shelf life, so some people just do a lot of cooking at the beginning of the two weeks.
John Torres says
I love this post. To me it is one of your better posts so far. Also thanks for the link to Diane’s on this subject (she and Liz have a great new podcast going on).
You have a new fan in me.
Great post. I think food costs are a big obstacle, whether mental of actual, for a lot of people. I appreciate that there is room for compromise, in terms of adding rice, or buying conventional items. It’s important to be creative and think outside the box. We recently moved to England, and although we were racking up big grocery bills at first, we realized that we could do tons of shopping away from stores– at roadside stands, farms shops, etc. We have spent the last few weekends driving around, exploring the area and doing a kind of foraging for meats and produce, for much, much less. And what could be better than eating from someone else’s garden?
Here’s a fun post about what we found in one day: http://tinyurl.com/5uskyhm
I’m finding new ways to cut my food bills all the time, but that does mean lower quality produce (as in value frozen veg) but I always buy the highest quality eggs and mince as I’m also trying to bulk up. Even with a 3 week trip to Thailand to save up for (oh god, the grains!) I’m sticking to this (4 weeks in now) as now, thanks to you, I have a six pack for the first time in my life! I’ve even educated my boss on all things low carb as she wants to fit into her wedding dress and she’s already lost 8 pounds in 2 weeks!
Keep fighting the fight, we fought mammoths before, now we’re fighting the mammoth task of the modern diet!
All the best!
P.S, I need to develop a paleo friendly pasty as, being Cornish, I’m programmed to seek them out haha
Hmmm… as I was passing by the frozen food section, I noticed that a small container (less than 1 liter) of Hagen Dazs is $8.00.
Seems to me that some of the processed crap is very expensive for what you get.
Just moved to Sacramento. Who did you purchase your 1/2 beef from when you lived in Chico? Will be looking to do that soon and was looking for any recommendations. Thanks.
Thanks for this post! So true, and I’m sick of this argument. Yes, our food bill has gone up, but I’m insistent on buying grassfed meat & offal, I’m 7mo pregnant and want baby to have the best whenever possible. That being said, we aren’t spending THAT much more, and if I wasn’t so insistent on the meat we wouldn’t be spending any more, in fact maybe a bit less. Unfortunately my husband’s brother & his wife spend very little on groceries because they are all into that “extreme couponing” thing. Ugh. Yeah, you spend $100/mo on groceries, enjoy your chef boyardee, mac-n-cheese, and other assorted non-food crap. I have to explain to my husband, yes we spend $500/mo on groceries (“5 times more than your brother”), but I PROMISE we will spend much less on medication in the future, and we will protect our child’s health. Funny enough, it was Dave Ramsey that got them on that extreme couponing track, but he has good plans and my husband and I paid off our credit cards using his plan.
I’ve now purchased and given away 4 copies of your book, not counting the one on my Kindle. Thank you for your hard work, it is greatly appreciated.
I spend $80 per month on my co-pays for prescription message my insurer is spending about $900 per month on those meds. I hope to be off it all by the end of the year–if I hadn’t changed my ways I’m sure I’d be adding more rx’s for hypertension and diabetes instead. So that leaves me with plenty to pay for real, whole foods.
This makes sense, but just eating meat + veg cooked in coconut oil for every meal will make anyone go insane. I think people also buy things like, tea, coffee, dark chocolate, some dairy products, various coconut products, random paleo friendly snacks, berries, fruit, nuts, olive oil, something paleo friendly and frozen because cooking every single mean is nearly impossible etc. And all these things run up the bill real high. I know that these things are non essential, but for a more realistic diet and food enjoyment these things are pretty essential.
very very true, thanks for posting. “Conditionally Essential”
organ meats are a cheaper source of vitamins and minerals than fruit. look up freetheanimal for a comparison of 4 oz of beef liver and 5lbs of fruit. shank is another cheap cut, and very yummy and nutritious as a stew. yey for bone marrow.
if your really poor and your metabolism is not out of wack, you can eat organ meats, some greens and some cheap starches like peeled potatoes or white rice as a filler for most meals, and hopefully have some money left over for occasionally eating out or other meals. a little fish oil probably wouldnt hurt if you could afford it.
One thing that is interesting to note is the big discrepancy in calories per dollar between rice (not Paleo) and the cheapest Paleo source of calories identified (coconut oil in big containers). Many people who are on extremely tight budgets for whatever reason really do eat large quantities of very cheap rice and pasta and beans to make ends meet. So, when people in those circumstances go Paleo, it really is more expensive for them. I agree 100% that there are ways to make it more doable for more people, but some people will tell others on the forum that Paleo is not really more expensive if you shop smart. That’s just not true. Many truly poor people also know how to “shop smart”, and when they do that with non Paleo items they can get their grocery bills down to a very, very low amount. If you are really eating Paleo (no grains at all, including rice” shopping smart will never get it down as low as non Paleo. I know all of this from experience. Pre-paleo I had periods when I was eating only rice, pasta and beans. These periods made me very sick (which is how I ended up finding Paleo). Now I am working a very demanding, full-time job in an office, which is very hard for me (I am a single mom with two little boys, one of whom is autistic). I have enough money to eat really high-quality Paleo (which I do, religiously), but I am sick from the stress of never being able to rest!
yes, because beans, rice etc are subsistence crops. if we lived in a traditional setting, those foods would be last resorts in an entire context of hunting, gathering, and harvesting seasonally. some people are so poor nowadays that every season is the lean season, and all they eat are the subsistence foods. fluctuating between high density nutrition and low density nutrition was how traditional peoples intermittently fasted year round. not because it was sexy, but because their lives and nature’s cycles were completely interconnected.
also we are trading health for money because many people do not have support structures/tribe/family, like you, and cortisol is telling them to stop, but current society laughs belligerently at nature’s warnings. it’s weirdo Darwinism.
Primal Toad says
Possibly my favorite post Robb. Thanks for posting it. People do make lame excuses to not eat this way and it sometimes pisses me off.
My bro is the perfect example. He used to tell me that eating healthy, aka paleo was expensive. That was when he would eat lunch out every day. A JImmy Johns sub, one of his favorites, is about $7 per sub. Uh… I can make a sweet ass, nutritious meal with grass-fed beef for under $3.
He also used to tell me that it costs too much time to make paleo meals. Ha! I lived with him for 5 weeks in Chicago… I was in the shower when he left to walk to Subway. When I came out of the shower I started to make what I call a primeal. I was done making it by the time he came back with his subway salad (I give him credit for not getting a sub for possibly the first time ever). It amazes me.
He is now way more primal/paleo then he has ever been thanks to me. I lived with him for 5 weeks and we made some sweet ass dinners. He is close to 80% primal. I am curious to how he has been eating since I left and moved to Hawaii for 5 weeks. I’m guessing not as good as he was when I was there but not too far off track.
I’ll be starting a primal blog for him asap.
My partner and I live in Australia and we easily spend $300+ a week on our weekly shopping (so this would include some non-food items, but not much). We try to eat local produce and grass fed where ever possible. We don’t try to save money, but we also don’t go out of our way to buy extravagant food. People who are commenting that they spend $100 a week on food have got no idea how good they have it.
Could not agree more. And I’m about half an hour outside of NYC. I don’t shop at Whole Foods or Kings (I go to the Stop & Shop which is of less quality, but more affordable) and I spend at least $200 a week shopping for 2. The haul of vegetables posted here is unfathomable for $20. Robb says cutting out the avocados and coconut would save about $6, but for me, the avocados and coconut alone would probably be at least $20 by themselves. And chicken at $1.39/lb? If I’m lucky, it’s on sale at $3. I understand that things are more expensive here than Santa Fe in general, but if I were to eat the Standard American Diet, I’d be saving at the very least $200 per month.
Robb – it might not be expensive for you, but for a lot of people, it is. I’ve looked at the prices in all the stores in my area, looked into joining a co-op for veggies, gone to farmer’s markets, and everything else I can think of, and while I’m trying to make this dietary decision as frugal as possible, it’s costing me significantly more than the S.A.D. That said, it’s definitely worth it.
I just finished Robb’s book and am starting on the 30 day challenge. I cleaned out the fridge and pantry and then went to the grocery store. I bought only the ingredients for the 1st week of recipes listed in the book. I did not buy all organic or grassfed. I think I bought a few organic veggies and 2 packs of grassfed meat. The cost was $200 for the 1st week of food – for recipes from the book.
So, in my experience, it’s not exactly cheap. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly expensive either though. I think it’s a reasonable amount and worth it to improve my health. I will try to hone my bargain hunting and food selection skills as time goes on. I will probably nerd-out and make a spreadsheet tracking food expenses.
I also think a freezer purchase is happening in my near future. We have relatives who hunt and local farmers who may be able to supply us with cheaper bulk grassfed beef.
Some Dumb Stripper says
“If you are better looking than you are smart, become a stripper”
Really? Seriously? I came here for nutritional advice, not some bullshit sexist condescending commentary. Maybe you should give your preaching a rest and focus on the subject of nutrition. You really sound like an arrogant, pompous judgement ass – but I guess I’m just better looking than I am smart because I paid my way through college as a stripper.
Robb Wolf says
If a nerve was struck, that’s your problem not mine. I’m inundated by the modern college student who has little idea how to sacrifice to get what they want. So, you are panty-twisted because you assessed your situation and found stripping to be your best way to pay for school? You gotta understand, whenever I put forth one solution (tutor chemistry) someone has another damn excuse (Robb, I’m just not that good in school) hence the above referenced quote. My girlfriend during 2 years of college was a stripper…and a double major of physics and mechanical engineering. Sounds like yo need to come to terms with what made you successful as there was not an ounce of judgement in that statement. Just trying to get people off their ass and quit finding excuses.
Robb, you just made my day. And my husband’s day.
Robb Wolf says
Yea…i’m sure TAHT will be popular ;0)
Just to weigh in and add another data point to the collection – I spend over $200/week (probably close to $250) on groceries to feed a family of 4 (kids aged 6 & 8). I don’t buy grass fed meat. I don’t buy pastured eggs (I buy the cheapest 60 pack at Walmart). I can’t bring myself to buy meat at low-end grocery stores, so try to buy it on sale at high end ones (as per Robb’s example above) – but I don’t buy the fancy stuff nor the organic stuff. I buy half my produce at Walmart (whatever looks fresh/edible/semi-local) and the rest at Whole Foods (chard, local tomatoes, non-mouldy strawberries, etc.). I buy most of my dairy at Whole Foods (greek yogourt, nicer butter, whole cream). We butchered a whole cow for not much more than $3/lb all told. I buy a low of bulk stuff online (e.g., coconut products). I buy at Costco (e.g., bulk nuts, olives, some meats and cheeses, cleaning products). Despite these cost-saving efforts, the prices are pretty high.
The main reasons for the high cost are:
(a) We eat a LOT. I wouldn’t be surprised if we consume 150% of the calories many other people do.
(b) I buy a lot of nice stuff. To balance every brick of cheap no-name brand cheddar or mozzarella cheese, I buy a chunk of fancy cheese as a treat. I also buy things like a couple of nice dark chocolate bars a week and some sort of fresh seafood every couple of weeks. And bacon. And respectable sliced meats for kids’ lunches, etc, etc.
The point is… it adds up. If I bought all organic and all grass fed, I could spend $400/week on food. If I went super cheap (without cutting too many calories nor too much comfort – just the superfluous), I doubt I could bring it much below $175/week.
Nick Barber says
SO happy you mentioned Dave Ramsey! I’m a junior in college and between reading all the paleo material I can get my hands on, and following Dave’s guidelines, I’ve been able to afford eat paleo 95% of the time. I think I may be one of the only students on campus who doesn’t own an xbox or even a tv. Great post!
Ruben Nunez says
Great Post Robb.
Actually, we found that eating paleo was CHEAPER for us once you consider how much money is spent eating out. Not only that, my family of four (two adults, infant and 4 yr old) eat all organic produce that we buy at our local farmers market. Our beef we’ve bought from a local, grass fed beef farm and our eggs, milk, butter and bacon we get at Trader Joes. Our coconut oil comes from Whole foods.
Factoring all the costs in, we are spending about $550 a month total on food. Before paleo, we were spending close to $1,000 due to eating out, buying expensive sweets and junk food, etc….
We are saving money, losing tons of weight, getting healthy and eating delicious, quality food!
Robb, thanks for another great post. I was recently at a farmers market speaking with a grassfed beef producer. I was asking about getting some beef suet for rendering into tallow. He said he normally only sells it to hunters who mix it in with ground venison and that most of it he throws out (WTF)?! He sells it at $2/lb, it is easy to render, and the little meaty bits left over after the rendering are awesome on eggs or salad. If you buy meat in bulk most butchers will give you the animal fat for rendering at no additional cost. It surprises me that tallow and organ meats don’t come up more often when people talk about the affordability of paleo. A person could also make a good case for using animal fat for building a stronger local economy and being more sustainable. Is it just to loony of a concept to render fat?
After the Dr. Harris interview I’ve also been thinking about why when many people talk about healthy fats they don’t talk about tallow or lard. Dr. Harris listed grass fed tallow and grain fed tallow as his top recommended dietary fats if I remember correctly. You have addressed questions like this before so maybe I am putting my head on the Robb Wolf chopping block by bringing it up.
Just in case it wasn’t said in the comments above people need to learn how to grow their own food. There are many reasons for this.
You can make your own ground beef pretty cheap. Buy a piece of chuck steak 2-3 pounds and 1-pound of sirloin steak grind it up in a food processor . Cost about 10-12 bucks and taste a lot better than the supermarket hamburger.
I really think an excuse is all it is. About 1.5 months after discovering Paleo living, I got laid off and remained that way for 6 months. The entire time despite being broke I still managed to keep following a paleo diet. It can take a bit of effort sometimes, looking for the sales and good values, but it’s like anything if you want to it work you have to make an effort.
Alison Golden says
OMG, I loved this post! I recently got in an online argument with someone who gave me the Wholefoods/Whole Paycheck thing. He’d gone in and bought ingredients for one simple meal for 2 and it cost him $30! I spend $100 at WF for 2 for a week! I told him he was being stupid paying $2.50 for a bleedin’ avocado but he wouldn’t have it. Some won’t. Their loss.
I say it all the time but I’ll say it again. When I switched from Safeway to Wholefoods to shop for a family of four I spent exactly the same. I organized my meals, shopped to a list, bought on sale but did not buy silly 4:1 deals (they rarely have them in WF, anyway) which just filled my pantry shelves with goods I didn’t eat.
Robb Wolf says
So…your friedn proved he is a moron who cannot price compare and make smart decisions! And then that is YOOUR problem. Wacky.
Fat Guy Weight Loss says
Paleo can be expensive, but the rewards should easily outweigh the costs. Buying in bulk is a great idea to keep costs down. Now just have to get all the packaged frozen foods out of my freezer so I can fit a half a steer in there 🙂
Dave Ramsey is the bomb. Between him and you I got my finances and body all healthy. Why I love the advice of all these libertarian dudes when I hate the principles of libertarianism, I don’t know. I just close my ears when I hear any political messages and wait for the stuff that actually helps me make my life better 😉
I have learned to spend less on Paleo than I ever did eating crap food. I buy organic or grass-fed meat that is on sale. I buy it with bones in because it’s cheaper that way. Once the meat is cooked, I remove it from the bones and bones are saved to make soup stock. Making stock takes a long time but is not lab-intensive. Throw the bones in water with half an onion, some celery tops, and let it boil. Buying this way, I can get about 10 meals out of a whole chicken. At $2.99/pound for organic chicken that comes out to 29 cents per meal. Beats your dollar menu up and down the block!
I also buy produce when it’s in season because that’s when it’s cheapest. Whole Foods buys a lot from local farms and that means it’s freshest and will last longest. I use coupons for things like cage free eggs and tomatoes. I eat more and pay less. I win with Paleo!
I finished reading your book & Sarah Fragaso’s about a week ago. I’ve been doing Paleo pretty much by reading about it on the internet for the past couple of months. My husband will join me when “I get down to his weight,” which is probably only a couple of weeks away. LOL I haven’t found it expensive at all & the way I feel is worth 100 times what I’ve paid. To me, it boils down to this, “You will find a way to do the things you want to do.” It’s that simple. If you want it, you will do it. I want to join the CrossFit that is two blocks from my house but my husband said I couldn’t until I got a job…guess what, I have a job now & will be joining w/ my first paycheck. Life it short, quit making excuses; live clean, be healthy & smile, laugh & be happy. Paleo puts a twinkle in one’s eye…I can’t wait to see what CrossFit will do. You’ll probably see me on YouTube as the first person to fly across the continent w/ just her arms. Happy Paleoing!
i live in san francisco, and even buying in bulk, things are more expensive than the list above. not by much, but they are, especially if you factor in travel time/gas mileage/taxi cabs/shipping & handling/etc.
$5/lb of grass fed ground is the lowest you will find, only if you are buying in bulk in bolus. but if you run out you’ll pay $7 at whole foods, tj’s, or bi-rite.
salmon is seasonal and the best price i’ve found for wild caught (pink salmon) is at tj’s for $6/lb. anything of better quality and the price jumps from there. non-bpa canned wild caught salmon is at least $3 for 7 oz. if you do research and again, buy in bulk. i could never afford this stuff if i bought from the shelf.
organic greens, vegs, and fruit are all far more expensive per calorie and per pound than animal products, even when going to farmers markets. i would go broke if i ate a pound of green a day.
it is possible but its all very contextual and relative. i fluctuate between eating the same things over & over again, and then binging on olive tapenade or some such thing. trying to pend $20 or less on food each day, and this is not counting supplements or lab tests to try and heal myself. i couldnt do this if i had a family, and i even have to consider whether or not i can pay for classes at this point. i could bust my ass 60+ hours a week, and then be in the hospital for adrenal exhaustion, so its always relative.
if you include shipping, this comes to $147.77, which is 1017 calories / dollar.
Nice post, Robb! I’m one of your podcast listener and lurker on your blog..and love this post about Paleo is affordable. I also recently did my Paleo on the Budget post… 🙂
I live in the rural Minnesota and starting up Paleo in the middle of winter is in no way inexpensive. Only grass fed anything is at least 60 miles away and at $7.50/pd at its cheapest. Veggies are terribly expensive too. Nearest TJs is 150miles. I don’t exactly have a ton of options for what to buy. Just hoping when summer rolls around I can stock up on cheaper, local veggies.
Hey great post.
I joined Crossfit last November. I have dropped some weight and definitely gotten stronger. My family and I started a very strict paleo diet yesterday (We’re following the 30-Day transformation, I know you hear “strict” all the time and always want to know the details). The more I learn and learn the more interested I am into learning even more. While cutting off all grains and dairy is making me feel like shit a little bit, it is my understanding that this is just an adaptation process correct?
Also, what is your take on sushi? I’m a financial advisor out of Long Island, NY and I spend a lot of time in the office and driving and I love sushi. I know the rice is a no no, but any suggestions?
I’m beginning to catch up on the podcasts as well. I ordered your book and I will also start reading that as well.
Oh one more thing, Dave Ramsey may be the worst person to follow when it comes to financial advice (I can prove it, I know you like to see science behind everything), please don’t send people to him or promote him. I have come into situation where ENTIRE churches have followed his program and it’s just horrible.
Anyway, thanks for everything and be well.
LEGENDARY artiel Rob.
Couldn’t agree more.
If you really want it, you can get it. There are always solutions, and as with me, as long as i don’ start to work and get a steady financial intake, i just go with big markets and buy the food wich is on special. We do have a lot of this, here in Slovenija, and meat/vegies are usual from local farmers. So all good here.
And again, GREAT GREAT articel and it DOES help.
Taking note of food waste is another way to save cash. If you go nuts and buy a ton of produce on sale, but it goes bad before you get to it, you wind up spending way too much. If you cook up a big pot of chicken curry but there’s only two of you, you’d better freeze it in small batches or risk losing all that deliciousness too.
I admit not having a tight handle on planning meals for the week and arranging my shopping list accordingly, but once I stopped ambitiously snapping up every delicious looking vegetable I could see, my costs dropped. It’s nice to want to buy two eggplant to make some of the Paleo Comfort Food’s Baba Ghanoush (or Really Tasty Dip), but if I stop to consider whether I’ll actually have time to do it, that’s two eggplant saved from a terrible fate of not becoming food.
“If you are better looking than you are smart, become a stripper, they make great money.”
Hahah I love it!! Great post. You’re right – if you want it, then you must go get it.
You forgot to mention preventative maintenance vis-a-vis medical bills and pharmacopeia costs for the option of NOT choosing Paleo. I am not 100% paleo – bably 70%-80% and have exercised at a Crossfit gym for 2-1/2 years: most my common ailments have all but disappeared. The 30% error zone diet consists of the occasional pizza slice, cinnamon cake donut from the local baker, wine or other small sweet/ pure chocolate. I struggle with the “last 5” pounds always and am 46 years old. My biggest struggle is that I drive 40,000 miles per year and this road warrior life is hard on the protein sourcing. Jerkeys and deli meats are not “good”. Hard boiled eggs are OK but not great. I overheat nuts because they are convenient. Oh and I hate the grocery store like I hate laundry: the store being worse because I am always astounded at the dollar amount spent!
In Poland, a kilo of meat from grass-fed cow costs $ 20, with most people earning $ 400 per month. All products “natural” are very expensive and the average salary of the Pole is not enough even for a month. And you still need to pay the bills.
1.39 a pound for organic chicken?!? I hate you! We can’t get ANY chicken for that price up here… I’m in Canada, stupid government regulations… excuse me, I think I’ll go have a lie down.
I did a few months experimenting with extreme couponing. The SAD diet and the Paleo diet just can’t compete on price, I’m sorry. You can get cereal, candy, pasta, granola bars, and other processed crap for FREE using the couponing tricks. Legitimate whole food you will not get for free unless you grow it (even then there are a lot of costs), or stand outside a food bank and beg. However, I have come to the conclusion that it’s not worth it. I have fibromyalgia, and I need to eat real food, paleo style, or I cannot function as a human being. But I definitely appreciate all the wonderful tips on how to at least cut the cost down a little by shopping smarter.
Robb Wolf says
Interesting insight on the coupon angle.
I would like you to do this on NYC, you won’t find this prices here!!!!
I am new to Paleo. I found out about it at Crossfit. I am really excited to learn more. Thanks for the info!
Our local Costco has the grass fed beef and poultry. It is in Clearwater,Fl in the Clearwater Mall on Gulf to Bay.
Alex B says
Awesome post Robb! It always disappoints me when people give up on Paleo so quickly for cost reasons. The truth is these people are lazy. All it takes is a bit of smart shopping and meal planning to keep the costs down.
The other tip I love to share is encouraging people to make some expensive ingredients on their own. Almond butter and almond flour are common ingredients in a lot of Paleo foods, and I can admit the grocery store price of those products can be very painful on the wallet. The good thing is that anyone with a food processor can make both of these themselves and save a ton! Just Google “homemade almond flour” or “homemade almond butter” and you’ll find several recipes to choose from.
This really sounds interesting to me and for obvious reasons. I notice that it is suggested to avoid dairy so where is your calcium and vit D requirement coming from from? I realize that you can get these from veggies but it may be important to mention this for all women who require increased amounts for obvious reasons; Just might be good to throw that in. I am looking forward to giving Paleo a try very soon. Thank you so much.
I’m Lacto-Paleo, specifically BECAUSE my vitamin D is low. (Ironically, I also appear mildly lactose-intolerant…) However you get increased calcium from cooking fish until the bones are edible and eating broccoli and leafy greens. Oddly, since I’ve started eating Lacto-Paleo, I’ve stopped having my supplements and only have yoghurts and a bit of milk or cheese. So maybe I’m getting vit. D elsewhere or just absorbing it better.
Anyhow: Paleo or Lacto-Paleo, either’s better than the SAD!
Happy hunting! 🙂
Students don’t have an excuse! I’m a student and I’ve been eating Paleo for a month now with BARELY ANOTHER DENT in my budget.
Sure, I may eat supermarket meat, tons of eggs and organs and cheap veg, but at least I’m not eating sugar-dense foods, grains, ready-meals…etc When you remove the cr*p, you have more to spend on good food!
And I can make Paleo/Lacto-Paleo meals for under £1. Here you can see how (shameless plug): onepoundmeals.blog.com.
And even THAT’s healthier than SAD. :p
We make it happen and grain fed meat is expensive in Australia! Grass feed you can probably add another $8-10 or more per kilo from below!We can only do grain fed at the moment but will hopefully make the switch one day!
Chicken Breast is a minimum of $9 a kg
Beef on average $16-$39 a kilo (cheap cut to eye fillet range)
Free Rage eggs $4 for 12
Broccoli is $7.50 a kg at the moment
Almonds $12 per 750gm
White Fish (Blue Grenadier – cheapest local option from New Zealand) is $10 a kilo
Salmon $24-$30 a kilo
For 2 people F24 and M23 we can spend about $200-$300 a week in food easily!
It must be said though we have pretty good produce here!
afrikansk mango kjøp says
Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board
and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot.
I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.
I don’t get how you guys can save so much or have that cheap of prices. WholeFoods near me is minimum 5 dollars a pound for grassfed beef ground up all the way up to 8 for ground beef 90% lean. Then from there is all the way up to 22lb for various cuts of beef. Turkey is 5 for ground or 7 for cuts. Chicken is 3.99 for whole bird per pound non organic, up to 9 per pound for organic breast meat. Bison is 10 a pound, lamb is 6-9 a lb. & seafood? bloody hell don’t get me started. You’re looking at MINIMUM 8 dollars a pound for their less desired fish. Salmon can be up to 25lb for good quality. I don’t know if its because I’m in the midwest, but I would think (especially) cow prices, would be cheaper here. I dunno. I’m an ex-vegan looking into the paleo lifestyle, and i’m coming from a high carb low fat diet. Just seems so expensive to me!
Galo Naranjo says
This post is the serious kick in the ass that I needed man! I’ve been on a high horse about organic and grass-fed (thanks to several documentaries) and was think of reverting to low quality carbs and protein like milk and grains, knowing that it messes my system to all hell. Time to hit up CostCo and stock up for this mass gain cycle I will be going through along with the Gymnastic Bodies Wods and Progressions. Will be fun and challenging.
Italy Paleo says
I was introduced to Paleo by my Personal Trainer and laughed at him at the start… I am not someone who accepts stories but well I lost 15KG in 5 months doing nothing besides ORDINARY excersise and PALEO (not eating pasta in ITALY is not easy….)
BUT found the best grass fed meats in (non publicised…not martketed) Tuscany. About 80% of producers have grass fed meat and dont realise they have a premium… My grass fed meat goes about 3-4euro/lbs ….that is sustainable for me and my wallet…
long live the countris that remember how food is made,,, please exclude the US
Italy, yeah that would be rough. I was there last year and lots of pasta and cheese.
I’m an American living in Seoul. Vegis and meat are quite expensive here. My grocery bill certainly increased, but there is nothing better to spend one’s money on in life.
Eating out however is fairly cheap in Korea and they have lots of good caveman foods: grilled pork or beef wrapped in sesame leaf (ultra caveman!). Whole fish baked, with egg, seaweek and kimchi side dishes. Shabu Shubu (meat and vegis). The rice often comes on the side so you can just ignore it.
Koreans know what’s up and it shows in their health.
How in the heck do you keep all of that produce and meat good for two weeks??!!
We live in Chico, Robb, and LOVE it…starting the Paleo diet on the 1st. I am able to find reasonably priced organic meats, which we already eat, and awesome veggies and fruits at the various farmer’s markets here in town. Can’t wait to get the fam on board…myself, the hubbs and our three children 9, 2 and 1 🙂
Actually…when you think about it; grains and dairy are “peasant food”. The Earth can’t support all these people eating fresh vegies and meats. The masses are fed using corn, wheat and rice. So it makes sense living “non-peasant” with quality meats and fresh vegis is going to be expensive, and it’s worth it.
Glen PDQ says
Not all good veggies are expensive. A large bag of sliced okra is less than $3 at Wallyworld. We grew okra in our home garden lots of times and I don’t recall it needing lots of attention or any pesticides. It is really more like a weed and can be grown in a tub on a balconey. Harvest the pods when they are smaller. The less you cook it the less mucilaginous it is. Or make Okra pickles. I’m thinking the mucilaginous goop may help to bind intestinal bile acids so excess estrogens can be eliminated.
Summer Davis says
Robb, I posted a Paleo Meal Plan of relatively inexpensive meals yesterday and I’ve had an enormous positive response. Unfortunately, I’ve also had an enormously huge negative response from a bunch of Paleo Elite who say, and I quote: “if you can’t afford grass-fed beef you should just eat grains because grains are better for you than Industrialized meat.” True story. Coming from someone like you, this just completely validates my article, and the fact that even people who live paycheck to paycheck CAN afford Paleo.
Jess Blackwell says
You know, for those of us who are starting out and dealing with the learning curve, this is helpful but the dick attitude is not…
Hi There Robbwolf,
Speaking of which I assume it would be eggology but that can be pricey not sure if they have a large bottle to make it cost less like jay robb at least with his stuff you can get a huge tubb to cut the cost in half.
All the Best
Samantha @ lunch ideas for paleo
Glen PDQ says
I found that Jedwards sells a 1 Gallon container of MCT oil for $26. Their Virgin Organic Coconut Oil is $36.75 before adding the shipping cost, and their gallon of Refined/Bleached/Deodorized Coconut oil is $21.00 before shipping. Economy UPS shipping is for gallon sizes is $12.90.
They have filtered, unrefined avocado oil as well as the macadamia oil someone previously mentioned. I have not ordered anything from them yet. I don’t know why more paleo people don’t try to get more calories from fat instead of trying to eat mostly meat. Arguably, mitochondria can make more ATP with less ROS from a ketogenic diet with loads of proper fats than through the carbohydrate pathway.
If there is anyone not convinced by the post, keep in mind: you get 80% of the paleo benefits just by avoiding grains and seed oils.
Derek Blais says
Paleo is completely doable on a budget in Japan. Food in Japan is thought to be expensive, but it’s quite reasonable if you eat seasonally and locally—no shit.
In my situation it’s about 5,000 yen (approx. 50 dollars US) for two adults. Our major satiaters are meat, eggs, fish and other seafood, coconut oil, and butter. We eat a small portion of white rice once or twice a day, sweet potatoes about once a week, and bone broth made in a pressure cooker about once a week. Last but not least, we eat more vegetables, especially in variety, than most vegetarians.
Robb, though I don’t “need” your book, I bought several copies of it for my family and to show my support.
Thanks for all your guidance on the podcasts, Robb and Greg. You’ve literally changed the lives of many (for the better).
PS I’ve caught up to episode 125. After I’ve caught up, I’ll probably restart from the beginning.
Barbe Zimny says
My husband is getting really discouraged as he joins me on a grain free Paleo diet. He actually felt better before but decided to give it a go because of his high cholesterol and blood sugar. He is a 63 year old distance runner and also lifts weights regularly. He had always eaten a lot of grain (cereal, cookies, etc.) and dairy. Now he is having trouble with his energy level and does not seem to be getting the benefits that I got almost immediately. He has been on the regimen for 30 days and we are wondering what we are doing wrong.
Amy Kubal says
If he’s active he likely needs more carbohydrates – sweet potatoes, white potatoes with out the skin and other roots and tubers are great choices and especially important post workout.
Jeff Curry says
I am completely changed due to your book and starting to tear into Loren’s book. I have been through a lot and that includes VERY slim funds. Bottom line, we’re hunter-gatherers. We’re also amazingly adaptable organisms. I have adapted to Wal-Mart meat, Kroger produce and Whole Foods anything else. I have been completely Paleo and extremely successful. So, thank you! And, believe me – from a man that counts his pennies – you can afford a paleo diet and still have left-overs at the end. The decision I made was the bar scene vs. the “I am glad I am living and excelling in the things in life that I love to do like snowboarding or mountain biking.” I choose the latter. So, thank you for saving my life – and the father of my two boys who are going to be absolute animals when they come of age. Keep the good information coming. I’m a logical English Literature major – which makes me extremely good at arguments and proving people wrong. I can’t prove you wrong – whether it’s scientifically or logically. So, thank you for making me a believer!
I think it’s all about prioritizing. Most people can save money somewhere. The paleo diet is definitely more expensive for me than my previous diet, but it’s not TOO expensive. If I have to I just try to cut costs elsewhere. For instance how I eat is more important to me than having cable TV.
I get so darn frustrated when people ask my opinion (and/or help) and then they reply with “but Paleo is expensive, more so than my boxed/processed foods”. I want to scream (well after the full education/lead the horse to water exercise)!
its time to turn into a vegan…haha!!
Robb Wolf says
so your health can tank and your generally become a miserabel sack of shit? I don’t get it?
Perhaps most of the people who complain paleo is expensive can indeed cut something–Starbucks, cable, etc. But there are some people in miserable health who really can’t cut anything–they don’t get Starbucks, they don’t have cable, they barely have a phone and are behind on paying for that. I’ve been there–growing up, even the “but it saves on doctor bills!” didn’t apply to us, because we didn’t go to the doctor. Ever. We didn’t have insurance and we couldn’t afford it, except for big things like broken bones or pneumonia. (I mean that, I went to the doctor four times from the time I was 5 until I got married at 22. The broken bone and the antibiotics for pneumonia took us months to pay off.)
To tell *those* people that they are lazy for not eating paleo doesn’t examine the whole picture (as in the lack of transportation to grocery stores and dependence on convenience stores, “food deserts”, etc.). It really is cheaper to eat .50 cent boxes of mac & cheese and .68 cent cans of green beans because three kids can eat for $1.68. Is it healthy? No. But when it’s the mac & cheese or nothing, you eat the mac & cheese.
Thank God I have a better financial situation than my folks did and can give my own kids healthy food, but I don’t ever, ever judge someone else’s diet and assume they could be managing better, because I don’t know their life and they didn’t ask me for my opinion. Sometimes they really are doing the best they can.
What if you’re too broke to afford the Paleo on a Budget Guide? Can it be consumed after reading? Its probably glutein-free…
Terri Roiter says
Soooo glad I stumbled across this post! I’ve been trying paleo for a week now, but wondering is it really “ok” that I shop at the grocery store? Will I even see the benefits? I feel better after reading this. Too many paleo books and blogs over promote the grass fed meat and organic produce thing. I think it scares some people off from even trying it. I’ve done the math, and there’s no way I’m feeding my family of 4 grass fed meat. Other materials and comments make you think you shouldn’t even bother then. How many people just don’t bother because of it. Anyway, thanks!
Robb Wolf says
I really try to not make perfection the enemy of good enough. And conventional is indeed, good enough.
You made a very good point here Rob. It is a choice we make whether we spend more for organic food or make do with the conventional ones which are less expensive but may still prove to be healthier than a high carb diet. I can say, I am not among those who qualify as true blue “paleo” eaters sticking purely to grass-fed meat. I love veggies and include them in my diet too, I guess this is healthier than processed food. Every now and then I “cheat” and give in to my cravings, but still manage to stay healthy. This article must be a “must read” for anybody just starting on paleo. It answers the issues faced by newbies and how to deal with them.
The discouraging thing about Paleo-diet, paleo life-style, if you prefer, is the loss of spontaneity and “just being”, as it were, it necessarily imposes on its adepts. You feel kind of “foraging” all the time and being preoccupied, quite selfishly, Iď suggest, with your body to the detriment of mind. Otherwise, a welcome step in the right direction if not pursued too much zeal. Fundamentalism will never be anything more than intolerance, be it religion, politics or food. Thanks anywsay.
Tessa Ramsay says
This is my third round going Paleo and I keep returning to this post and your book when I feel like I’m going broke on organic, grass fed food that I love. I realize that my local farmers are essential if I want to keep my meat prices cheap. This is always what shoots me in the foot, especially because I live in Santa Cruz (PRICEY! $7/lb at Trader Joe’s for chicken breasts)
I love this post, may it be forever up!
After rereading this yesterday after my most recent grocery-overspending-disaster, I got pork belly and a cheap pork roast at $4/lb and $4.29/lb.
A slow cooker really seems to help, as does buying whole meats (an entire chicken, for example) and transitioning to less popular cuts (pork belly).
Liz Wolfe makes great points too about sticking to low-carb starches: squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, etc which are always cheaper than things like Brussels sprouts.
I’m a college student and this summer I split a share from a farm with a friend. It came to $220 for 5 months of veggies which was my main staple of food. If you’re wary of CSA, get a splitter to eat the things you don’t like or to help you consume the pounds of greens coming your way.
Going to my local farmer’s market today: root veggies and cheap cuts here I come! I’ll probably look into a single share for a farm too.
Any tips for getting used to organ meats? – I know it would save me hundreds, but liver just sounds gross. 😉
paleo diet recipes says
An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch simply because I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this subject here on your internet site.
“Paleo Is EXPENSIVE!!! No. No it’s not.”
Oh fuck you, it IS expensive. Try doing this on less than $15,000 a year or on foodstamps then tell me how affordable it is. It IS expensive. The expense is WORTH the sacrifice but that doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive. Shame on you.
It can be very expensive, but definitely doesn’t have to be. I’ve eaten good quality paleo for $200/month, and could have probably gotten it lower than that if I had really tried.
All the shaming of people because a) they ‘claim’ they can’t afford what you can and b) choose not to subscribe to the same lifestyle choice for monetary reasons. It’s pretty shameful.
You do not know the circumstances of your neighbour. You do not know what they can and can’t afford, or why they might prioritise their cable bill or the next x-box game over spending a fortune on groceries.
No 2 people were made equal. You do nothing for your credibility by sharing your story and marginalising someone else’s. It doesn’t make you superior.
You need to remember also that a Paleo diet is not suited for every climate. I have spent time in the Arctic and Antarctic and learnt quickly that Paleo would not translate in these environments.
People that live very rural, or on oil rigs aren’t going to have the same access to different types of food (yes there is rural that doesn’t mesh up to agriculture rich land in the world). I think what we should be promoting is the best diet for individuals (including their pay packet) and not for some reaching ideal.
Being healthy is a 4 fold process in my opinion.
1. Healthy Mind. Mental illness, stress, anxiety, guilt and self imposed prisons need to be dealt with before anyone has the chance to address the next ones.
2. Healthy Social Life and Spiritual Life (not just religion, but finding something that entertains, guides etc). Support Systems and Entertainment are of vital importance. You cannot fully achieve the above, or below, without this.
3. Healthy Body: while some of the healthy body technics may cure what ails you mentally, without initial mental balance one can’t work on becoming a healthier physical person.
4. Healthy Environment: Now you are as healthy as you can possibly be (and for some people that varies in levels of achievability) you can work on cleaning or claiming space. Expanding your world or moving on from the unhealthy places you couldn’t before to addressed the above issues.
Yes diet is important. Yes I agree with Paleo in principle, I think we have so many parts of us a diet cannot fix and often a lifestyle change like Paleo can mask over it. I’ve had friends with extreme OCD fanatically cling to this diet even when their hair is falling out. Others modified it to their own needs.
My point is, it’s a package and you cannot just work on the physical package if you don’t have the correct mental tools – or monetary. Sometimes grains, starches and fat is the majority of what people can afford, or physically capable of giving. So instead of acknowledging that many of us are extremely lucky, we make fun or insult those who aren’t as fortunate for many reasons.
Peter Johnson says
Sorry, but this article is full of shit. I follow paleo and it is relatively expensive. You have pointed out how you can bring the cost down – fine – but someone on the SAD diet can bring their costs down too by shopping smart. Imagine a study that compared diet A to diet B, except diet B also had people exercise and quit smoking. If diet B gets better results have you proven anything about diet A relative to diet B? Of course not, and you would be the first the rip such a study apart. Your article here compares shopping budget conscious on paleo versus just shopping. A meaningful comparison is, for example, shopping budget conscious on SAD vs budget conscious on paleo. And on any measure swapping government subsidized grain agriculture (bread, pasta, etc) for whole foods is going to be more expensive. There is no point pretending it’s not.
Joe Disch says
I just wrote a brief intro to food co-ops from a paleo perspective:
I’m on welfare at the minute. I want to make paleo bread. I looked at a recipe using coconut flour (almond flour is more expensive) and I worked out that the loaf came to about £8 or $16.
I can’t find any cheaper recipes. I’m going to have to go non paleo. It is too expensive.
Or perhaps just not have bread for awhile?
Now that’s just crazy talk! 😉
donate car to charity california says
Imagine a study that compared diet A to diet B, except diet B also had people exercise and quit smoking. If diet B gets better results have you proven anything about diet A relative to diet B? Of course not, and you would be the first the rip such a study apart.
And how does a poor person have $75 to spend at one time? lol Are you stupid?! And not only that, but something OPTIONAL that CANNOT be eaten but can only be used for cooking or as an ingredient. Lol $75. And yes, an organic, soy-and-flax-free bagel is quite obviously better for you ten non-organic strawberries.
“If I was really tight, I’d do my best to follow the above, and add a 50lb bag of rice”
b-b-b-but rice counts as grains, right?
Yeah it is a grain, but white rice is considered by some to be a “safe starch” and isn’t as problematic for many people. There are people who do still have problems with it though, but many people seem to be fine with some white rice. It depends on the person and what they have going on.
main thing that makes Paleo expensive for me is can’t use all the dried beans and grains so where i used to buy like 4 large canisters of oatmeal a month for $10 at walmart and had a base for breakfast for the whole month, now i have to buy more expensive stuff. Also, the stuff like barley and lentils and many diff beans that i could add to soups or stews for $1/lb or less is now gone. Then for auto-immune i have replace Irish potatoes for 27c/lb with sweet potatoes for 88c/lb and that really hurts the most.
Before Paleo if money got tight at the end of the month i could always fall back on my stash of beans and rice and oatmeal or just buy a 10-lb bag potatoes for a few bucks and maybe a few vegetables but no more 🙁
On the positive side, my health has improved and i really notice a difference in my gum health when i switched from Irish potatoes to sweet potatoes.
Due to chronic conditions and other life circumstances I am on food stamps; have been for a while. For the most part I eat autoimmune paleo based upon EBT of about $190 a month. I spend a fair amount of time scouring for deals, and work in more short trips to scan for deals, but it is doable as a single person. Additionally over half of what I eat is localish, organic, or natural.
Strategies that work for me, with a few examples;
Buy meat in as big as chunks as you can afford, use all of it, down to bone broths.
Work trade for vegi swaps with some local, organic farms, etc.
Albertons typically runs a buy one get one free deal. I stock up.
I focus on vegis on sale–focusing on onions, garlic, spinach, romain hearts, carrots, etc.
I find freezer end caps and corners, usually this is where I find discounted meats. For example at our cost-prohibitive coop I can find ground frozen lamb for $4 a lbs. Three feet away fresh ground lamb is $8 lbs!
Whole, organic chicken at Trader Joe’s is under $3 lb.
Nitrate free bacon ends around $4 a lb.
Grocery outlet can be great: organic chicken legs around $2.30 lbs, organic ground beef $5ish lb., etc. Cheap onions, bags of spinach, and my daily breakfast 2 lbs bags of frozen organic vegis is under $3!
I focus on avocados on sale, and I splurge on quality olive oil since it is one of my main fats.
I keep my spices simple, thus affordable–thyme, salt and pepper, and focus on clean flavors.
I use a crockpot a few times a week.
I don’t eat any snacks, treats, drinks, primal-fake-treat stuff.
I occasionally splurge when I can on locally roasted, fair trade coffee and sometimes a cheap bottle of red wine usually from the grocery outlet, $4.
I drink lots of tea–peppermint, ginger.
It is not always fun, but helpful. It has been over a decade but now I am finally almost functional, then on to optimal!
As an aside, I appreciate approaches that embrace accountability, but just as important to me are noting privilege, access, and brutal systemic diseases like victim blaming that to me, weaken community health. Social justice for me is not removed from personal wellness. This statement is not focused toward anyone in particular, but toward the growing Paleo community.
I have been on paleo for 3 weeks and loss 10 lbs feel AMAZING!!! Happier, stronger. It is a little more expensive but bc it’s real food you get full faster, Unlike all the fake stuff your always hungry. Your on paleo to eat real FOOD so stay away from trying to make bread out of coconut flour just saying. Thanks Robb, reading your book has been life changing for me.
Robb Wolf says
Keep us posted!
On July 30, 2014 I received blood test results that showed my Thyroid antibodies at 850 (35 is considered high). My Doc told me I had Hashimoto’s and to just deal with the fact that my body was attacking itself. I went home, got on the internet and found Robb and several other Paleo Lifestyle advocates. The next day I cleaned out the cabinets and planted the “Paleo Flag” in the middle of the kitchen!
Prior to this my husband and I ate very well but did have grains, dairy and legumes as part of our diet. Our food budget was $150/m, month in and month out, for 7 years.
I am still trying to work an optimum shopping plan but so far we are averaging $300 a month. We buy the Organic versions of the Dirty Dozen at the Farmers Market ($3/lb) Conventional produce ($2/lb), Organic eggs at Costco ($8/24), grass fed beef when it’s on sale ( $5/lb), coconut oil at Costco ( 84.4 oz/ $27). What I am finding is I just use more food to prepare our meals which means I have to buy more. Oh well.
Over the last 3 months I have already lost 12 lbs and 6% body fat even though I was not overweight at all ( 5’7-142 at the time). My body feels so much better as does my brain!
Of course my Doc is not supportive but I am looking forward to my next blood test to prove that Paleo works and Food is Medicine!
Thank you, Robb, for all you do!!!
Love your podcasts 🙂
Robb Wolf says
Keep me posted!
Should have used some other example, I was taught that rice is not Paleo. PS-we can’t afford grass fed either but that’s not stopping us from eating the right way. I have stated getting my eggs from a local source and he charges $2 per doz. ! Also, I have now gotten many staples like coconut oil and flax meal, coconut flour and I’ve learned how to make my own mayo and salad dressings. The internet has soooo many cool Paleo sites that offer recipes, tips and advice, you get so much support! Anyway, great job Robb, I’ll be forwarding this to my son to show he too can do it if he wants!
Chris Kennedy says
Great post… Definitely helps with a major argument when talking Paleo. I currently spend about $600/month on groceries for my wife and I in the DC area. I’ve just accepted it as the norm and haven’t looked at it much. But I like how you break up the shopping, finding the best places to get produce and meat. Curious to know your (or anyone else’s) thoughts on the following: We have every grocery store you can imagine in Arlington VA, but lack a presence of real farmers markets unless you drive about an hour out. We do, however, have an international foods market Called Fresh World, where they sell things like whole hind quarters of meat, a pair of whole chickens, and even more bizarre things (by our standards anyway) like duck eggs and pig feet for dirt cheap. The place is somewhat questionable, given its warehouse type setup, funny smell, and just drastically reduced prices, but it has to be a legitimate spot right? Can any grocery stores really get by today without rigorous inspections? Would really like to get my food bill cut in half. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read… Looking forward to your thoughts.
Wow, the tone of this article is so judgmental and arrogant!
FYI not everyone struggling financially is in college and all the bragging about how you never suffered because you work hard is not helpful.
Have you noticed that North America has had a recession and economic troubles in the last few years? Hard working people have been laid off and are struggling to find work and keep a roof over their heads. Not to mention that people face other crises like hurricanes, car accidents, astronomical medical bills, etc. and insurance, if available, cerainly doesn’t pay for everything …like lost wages due to unavoidable problems.
Unlike you most people who are struggling to keep the lights on, to have heat on cold freezing nights and to have transportation to work don’t have $75 floating around to spend on a Yuppie luxury like coconut oil.
For example, a little more help on cost cutting and keeping the hunger pangs away (rice just makes one more hungry as it has a low glycemic index, leaving noodles as a better option to be constantly hungry even though I know they’re not as healthy as meat).
Have a little respect. Not everyone struggling financially is lazy as the tone of this article so heeavily implies.
Or just a little less arrogant and judgmental of a tone could be helpful. This article for example says some of the things without the judgmental, arrogant soapbox tone http://paleoleap.com/paleo-on-a-budget/
I have found that I am not eating as much food overall as I used to eat and I don’t purchase all of the crap. This leaves plenty of room in my budget for the really good stuff.
Love this blog Robb, all my friends and family say the same thing,just what you wrote… Now I have some amio…I was 192 when I started with my sister and now 157 in 6 mos.!!! And I feel great ..I’m 65 and live on SS and ues the common sence on the buying like you where talking about… God Provides… And I’m trying to take care of the body He gave me ..
Thanks again, Robb… Please keep up the great work you do..
Rob, I was a junk food junkie, feeding my body crap wondering all the while why I felt so blah….Heard about Paleo and started reading anything I could find on the subject(discovered you). Took your advice and TRIED IT FOR 30 DAYS. Damn what a difference it made. It has been 2 months now and I have only cheated (slightly) a couple of times. I feel AMAZING and I have lost 15 lb. I am cooking/preparing meals each day and actually enjoy cooking again. I don’t crave all that CRAP anymore that keeps you in the “spin cycle” of binge eating. Thank you for sharing you knowledge and “putting it out there”. I love your honesty and frankness. Very motivational and WORKS FOR ME! 🙂
Joseph Arvizzigno says
I am afraid that Calories/Dollar is the reason that the USA is the Only country where the Poor Are FAT….Paleo takes some “Smart Shopping” but so does any whole food diet. Its processed food that is the cheapest and when compared to JUNK like Cake frozen entrees, Ramen Noodles and canned goods….On a relative basis…COMPARED TO JUNK….Its Pricey!
The over the Top shopping lists generally come with the effort to paleocize the Neolithic foods you were used to eating… For example A loaf of Paleo Bread made with Nut Flour costs 10+ Dollars. However…these foods inevitably lead to over consumption.
When I was a Grad Student, I witnessed a 400+ lb women tote 2 shopping carts full of food to the checkout and pay for it with food stamps….In the cart….Frozen Fried Chicken, Boxed Mac n Cheese, Cold Breakfast Cereal on SALE BOGO, Cake, Cookies, Chips, crackers and a whole lot of junk foods she had Mfg Coupons for.
So if $3.00 gets you a 3 lb box of crispy fried chicken ready to eat just pop it in the oven! why would you spend $6.00 on a chicken you have to wash, season, and cook from scratch that weighs also 3 lbs after trimming and cooking??
You are correct….If You are on a budget its no excuse to go Paleo…..STILL healthy eating costs more than junk food….But so does precription meds, doctors apptments, surgery ect.
Robb: What I appreciate is that you have put some sanity to the whole Paleo Lifestyle…Its actually alot easier than anything I have ever done nutritionally….Like you advised….Short on Time…Take Your Veggies out of a Bag Fresh Frozen….Not The Best but still al whole lot better than the alternative. You make a Roast…You got 3 days worth of protein to Nosh On….
Robb Wolf says
Paleo/clean eating isn’t all that expensive, I live on SS disability and food stamps, yes, I get subsidized housing, all due to long term illness, but I manage to eat not the BEST, but as you said, better, I don’t always buy organic or grass fed, but I buy veggies and meat. I’ve lost 100lbs on paleo, I have 100 more to go, and I will do it on paleo. No more processed or junk food for me. A bag of frozen blueberries is cheaper than a box of donuts and lasts longer. (and tastes better now). People forget what real food tastes like when they’ve been eating junk.
This year I’m purchasing a piglet and raising it with a friend to have my own pork and I’m buying a 1/4 cow to put in my freezer to have my own beef. Yes, the initial outlay will cost a lot, but the benefit will far outweigh the cost.
People can afford this if they look at the benefits of it.
Kimmi G says
GREAT post. I live in a very tiny Southern California Mountain town with one grocery store which happens to be extremely expensive. We do however have numerous local growers who gather on Friday’s to sell their goods a very inexpensive way to shop if you are willing to plan your meals based on what you can get. I bought a 1/4 side of grass fed beef and the freezer is stocked up on wild fish when it goes on sale, so I generally only buy produce, eggs, nuts and seeds. It’s totally doable financially and I feel good about buying from local growers as it helps their family as well. Thank you for all of the good information!
Christina Preston says
My comment is not so much the expense, rather the time it takes to prepare the foods. I have felt good being on this eating plan, however, I don’t have time to cook daily. I have a time block of about 2 or 3 hours per week to prepare all my meals for the week(7-8 days). I find I’m running out of prepared meals and have to eat cake( or whatever’s available and fast). I am still reading Robb’s book and hope to get better acquainted and knowledgeable about this topic. Thank you for all the information. I will continue my research.
Christine Lehmann says
You’re on the right track with blocking out time ideally on weekends to plan, shop and prepare meals ahead of time. I usually prepare at least 2 entrees that provide leftovers. One timesaver is to use a crockpot for roasts, chilis, and many other dishes. You just assemble the ingredients for Paleo crockpot recipes and put them in the crockpot and let them cook slowly on low heat for about 8 hours. I often refer to a Paleo cookbook called Make Ahead Paleo by Tami Credicott. She has a section on Low and Slow Cooking.
Ann Harris says
Thank you Robb for such an amazing article! I love being on the Paleo diet. To save money I have to look for sales and good deals. It really helps. My health is worth eating clean, pasture raised organic meat and organic veggies. I live on a strict budget and have to watch every penny. I have had people tell me that they can’t afford to eat healthy. These are the same people that spend their money on: tanning beds, get their fake nails, pedicures, have 2 or 3 brand-new cars, spoil their kids with an iPhone, etc. etc. These are All the things that I do without because the inside of my body is more important to me which is my health. Thank you Robb for all the information about this topic.
Robb Wolf says
Thank you Ann!
Christine Lehmann says
Thanks for doing the math for shopping for a Paleo diet. I always tell people that food is one of the biggest line-items in my budget because I only buy grass-fed and pastured meats, wild-caught fish, and fresh produce that is mostly organic. For me, it’s an investment in my health. But, I know that not everyone can afford to make that investment so it’s good to offer clients more affordable healthy alternatives.
Is Robb Wolf’s Paleo on a Budget Guide not available on Amazon at all or at least Kindle version? I don’t have an USD bank account, how can I buy this guide?
Update: Please ignore the above, I can see there is a Paypal option.
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Surajit Dutta says
I am from India. More specifically eastern part of India where rice is the staple food. I stumbled to your article while searching for cure to Asthma.
The issue with us here is, cooking is mostly upto the ladies (or maids). They will cook for the whole family together & no separate recipes possible. Pls suggest a paleo diet for me… We do not eat beef but mutton (grass fed) is an option so is chicken (wild), vegetables are plenty, fruits are available (bit costly), oil we use is sunflower oil (coconut oil is not readily available here). How do I cook my paleo diet. Do I boil everything and eat?
Iridin Snow says
So, I live in a small town in Canada, and am unable to get anything more than welfare checks due to a disability, and I can safely say I can’t afford any sort of meat most weeks. Prices here are higher, and the chickens you bought would likely be twice that price in our stores. What I’m saying is, it’s ignorant to assume that EVERYONE can afford to eat paleo. Some people are simply too far under the poverty line.
Lynda Paradise says
On the cost thing-and I get it…planning meals according to what is seasonal works well, perhaps find a local Co-Op… or grow your own!