Ever since I went Primal I started doing all the grocery shopping. Prior to eating Primal we never really set a budget or cared about grocery shopping, or more or less it wasn’t a thing. We just went shopping for whatever and spent whatever. Heck, when I first started Primal we had a dual income and no kids. Now my family and I are single income and two kids! How in the heck are we still affording to eat Primal?!
I have done a lot of refining over the past few years on what our weekly meals look like and more importantly what our budget looks like. To really get Primal right and your budget right, I think we really need to understand what the main focus of Primal eating really is. Paleo and Primal both emphasize eating:
- Meat, Fish, Fowl & Eggs
- Healthy Fats
- High Fat Dairy (if you tolerate it)
Now when you look at that list for what to eat when you go Primal, you see that all the cheap foods are cut out, beans, rice, breads, pastas, etc… But what makes the above list even more expensive is when you really dial down the quality of these things. We should be eating all grass fed and free range meats because of the proper Omega 3 and Omega 6 balance. We should be only eating all Organic vegetables to limit our intake of pesticides and insecticides. We should be only eating grass fed animal fats. We should be only eating raw high fat dairy.
But you see all these shoulds are at the top end of the spectrum of what is the most healthiest of the above listed points because it corrects Omega 3 and Omega 6 balance. So what are we to do? I believe each family and person needs to decide what battles they are going to fight. What end of the healthiest Primal food spectrum you want to live on. Not all of us can afford pastured meats and Organic vegetables all the time. I saw this post talking about what are the most important grass fed items to consume if you had to choose and the most helpful piece in that article was at the very bottom where he said:
Grass-fed animal foods aren’t a deal breaker for successfully going Primal. You can be incredibly healthy without ever sniffing a piece of grass-fed lamb.
Then I read this post that’s in the similar vain of what I’m writing about here and the very last sentence really gets to the core of the issue:
It’s better to start with a less optimal version of the Paleo diet than never start at all.
All that is to say, if you can’t afford top quality meats, veggies and fats – still go Primal and eat the highest quality of what you can afford. That’s the guiding principal I take every time I plan meals for my family.
I’m going to be completely honest here, listed below are the ways in which I govern my grocery shopping. Our weekly budget for the regular grocery store every week is around $70-$100. My budget for Costco every month is $300. So what I do before I even decide what meals I want to make for the week is check what meats are on sale. Once I see what meats are on sale, I build my meals for the week in my notes app on my phone. From there I then list out all the items I need for said meals in the notes app and only buy those things once I get to the grocery store. I happen to work right across the street from a Costco, so I pop in there for occasional items that I need when I run out of them or if my regular grocery store doesn’t carry them and/or has a better price on them. Listed below are the guiding principals for my food purchases for my family.
- Meat, Fish, Fowl & Eggs: I can’t afford grass fed beef unless its on sale and ground. Otherwise, I get whatever meat is on sale at the regular grocery store (Stater Brothers). If it’s ground beef, I buy the lean ground beef and add in either Kerrygold butter or coconut oil while cooking. I always just buy whole chickens now and roast them in my skillet in the oven. I buy the rotisserie chicken when I go to the store because it saves me time when I get home from work and grocery shopping and there isn’t anything weird listed on the ingredients. I rarely buy any other meats at Costco because the regular grocery store is cheaper. The only meats I buy at Costco are bacon because it’s dirt cheap. I also did some digging on yelp and cragslist and found a really cool egg farm near us and on my way home from work that we now get our eggs from. They’re higher quality than anything at Costco and Stater Bros and cheaper. It’s a win win.
- Vegetables: The only produce I buy that’s Organic is the mixed salad greens. It’s not too expensive and we eat a lot of it. Other than that I don’t really focus too much on buying conventional unless the Organic counterpart isn’t that much more expensive. But once again, I really only buy whatever vegetables are on sale too. That includes the frozen veggies also. Whatever bags are on sale I just grab a bunch at either the regular grocery store or the really big bags at Costco.
- Healthy Fats: This is where I’m really strict about what fats we use to cook with and to eat. We’ve cut out all industrial seed oils and never use them at all. The only fats we use are Kerrygold butter, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, the occasional regular salted butter from Costco if we run out of Kerrygold, and bacon drippings. All of which I purchase from Costco.
- High Fat Dairy: I can’t afford raw dairy. The health food store near us sells one brand and it’s just too expensive to even consider it. Yet I still need cheese… We get Kerrygold cheese from Costco but we just use pre shredded cheddar or mozzarella for eggs. I know there is potato starch and weird stuff in them, but I just don’t have time to shred cheese every time we eat breakfast because I normally have a 2yr old yelling at me. I have yet to find a whole milk Kefir at my grocery store. We also get Daisy brand sour cream. We never buy milk, we tried to give our toddler some Organic milk, but she just spit it out so we don’t even bother.
Overall the grocery store trip is cheap and easy if you go in with a little planning and pair it with very precise Costco trips to get things like bacon and healthy fats.
This is the key takeaway here that I hope I’m not sounding like I’m just repeating the same thing. The alternative to super premium quality meats, veggies and fats shouldn’t be an unhealthy conventional non-Primal diet. If you and your family is still eating a crazy amount of veggies, some meats and good fats – regardless of quality, you’ll still be healthier than the alternative. Currently, this is where me and my family are. Maybe one day I can afford a grass fed cow share, and shop the non sale Organic items, but for now I’m trying to keep my family healthy by cutting out industrial seed oils, grains, legumes and focusing on eating meats, veggies and healthy fats. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment on how you and your family afford eating Primal.