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Switching from a diet that is founded on cheap, subsidized ingredients such as grains and other processed goods to a Paleolithic diet of whole, clean, organic foods may increase your food budget significantly and could be a deterrent for sticking with it. However, if you plan accordingly and take advantage of local resources in your area, changing to a healthy Paleolithic diet may actually prove more cost effective than your previous diet.
Buying foods that are in season is the first step to transitioning to a healthy paleo diet while maintaining control over your budget. Foods that are in season are being harvested in abundance, which drives prices down significantly. Also, most grocers will have sales on in-season produce, so make sure to check out all the sales being offered before going shopping. Plan your meals around the in-season foods and learn to get creative so your produce does not start to feel boring as the seasons wear on.
Focus your resources on cheaper produce that is the most nutrient dense. Avocados and coconuts, for example, are excellent examples of foods that are lower in price but high in nutrition. Coconuts are packed with medium chain fatty acids and can be added to plenty of foods for a boost of protein and healthy fat. Avocados are similar, though lower in protein. Avocados offer all essential amino acids for your body and lower bad cholesterol. Add a tablespoon or more to salads, smoothies, dips, and soups for added nutrition. Foods such as these can give you the biggest bang for your buck, making them extremely budget-friendly.
If you’re feeling even more adventurous, plant your own vegetable and herb garden. The cost of growing produce is significantly cheaper than buying it. Plus, you will know every detail about the food you eat, from the type of soil you plant it in to the day when it was harvested. A CSA (community supported agriculture) is another option if you want to minimize the cost of eating fresh, whole foods. With a CSA, you choose a farm and farmer from whom to receive a certain amount of produce weekly or monthly. Some CSAs even offer meat, eggs, and the raw dairy sometimes allowed on the paleo diet at significantly cheaper prices than store-bought animal products.
Some farmers may sell you entire animals for bulk prices and buying grass-fed, organic meats farm direct is sometimes even cheaper than buying grain-fed, conventional meat at the store. It is possible to buy an entire grass-fed, organically, and humanely raised cow or half a cow for around $3.00 to $6.00 per pound, depending on your farmer. Begin by talking with farmers at your local farmers’ market to learn what types of farming practices they use and whether or not they sell whole animals. Some will do their own butchering and processing while others will send the cow off for processing, and the price of the meat will reflect this. Make sure you have talked with the farmer and understand what you will receive.
While healthier foods are often more expensive to buy, you do not need to empty your wallet to enter into a Paleolithic lifestyle. Grow your own vegetables, talk with local farmers, and stick to in-season produce to stretch your financial resources. And, if you are feeling particularly Paleolithic, why not hunt your own meat and gather produce in the wild?