“It costs too much to eat healthy.” Have you ever heard this before? I know I have, and I’m certainly guilty of saying it myself back in my pre-paleo days. My brother tells me all the time that he’d never eat the way I do because “paleo is expensive bro”. My family has been eating what I would call a budget paleo diet for a few years now, but is there such a things as budget paleo? Or, is it really too expensive to eat healthy?
The high cost of good quality food is often to blame for the obesity problem here in the U.S. as well as our increasing amount of many health issues. I remember watching the documentary Food, Inc where they were discussing this issue.
**Side note: If you’ve never seen Food, Inc. you really should. It’s one of the best documentaries you’ll ever see. It’s on Netflix too!**
Budget Paleo: 2 Hamburgers or a Head of Broccoli?
The film showed a family eating fast food as they talked about how expensive it was to buy healthy, fresh food. The mom said, “sometimes you look at a vegetable and say we can get two hamburgers over here for the same price.” Many people, like this family and like my brother, believe that you can eat off the fast food dollar menu for less than you can eat healthy. I used to think this too, but is it true?
Paleo is Too Expensive: Myth or Fact
I decided to do a little case study of my own. It’s like my very own MythBusters episode. My hypothesis: A family can eat paleo for less than it costs to eat off a fast food dollar menu. I looked at my family’s meals for one full day, and then I compared the costs of those meals to what it would cost a family of 4 to eat off the dollar menu for a full day.
Budget Paleo: A Case Study
For this mini case study, I need to define my assumptions.
It costs a family of 4 $36 to eat off the dollar menu for one day. If everyone ordered 1 sandwich, 1 side, and 1 drink, the cost is $12 per meal. 3 meals a day = $36
My challenge: Can I feed my family for less than $36 a day.
As with any study, you first need a bit of background information. First things first, my family has been eating paleo for about 3 years now, so eating healthy comes fairly easy these days.
Just as the family in Food, Inc, we are broke too. I’m a stay at home Dad. My wife is a teacher, so we are by no means swimming with access cash. I’m not writing about budget paleo and then eating steak every night. I made no special attempt at making cheaper meals in an effort to prove that I could beat that $36 target. Like I said, we are on a limited budget, so we’ve been eating fairly cheaply for years. This is an average day and the meals below are part of our regular rotation.
I did not include the recipes for our meals in this post. However, if you’d like the recipes you can find many of them in the free Ebook I give to my awesome subscribers. You can sign up at the end of this article for your free copy!
Budget Paleo Breakfast
On most days, the kids start the day with my breakfast bread or paleo pancakes. My wife and I typically start with bulletproof coffee. I didn’t price the coffee out, but let’s just say it’s $2. There’s no way it cost that much, but let’s go with that number.
The bread typically has squash, eggs, oil, coconut flour, and spices. The cost is about $5 and all 3 kids devour it.
Budget Paleo Breakfast Costs
Off to a good start: $4.95 for the bread and $2 for coffee = $6.95 for paleo breakfast vs. $12 off the dollar menu.
Budget Paleo Lunch
For lunch, we will typically eat a salad of some sort or leftovers, which are both cheap lunch options. However, for this lunch, we are having one of our go-to travel meals: hot dogs. I use Applegate’s organic, 100% grassfed beef hotdogs and add ketchup, mustard, and a pickle. We’re eating paleo, so that means no hotdog bun. I slice the hotdog down the middle and add the condiments, that way the hotdog becomes its own bun. Our newly discovered Siete chips (paleo approved) will be our side.
Budget Paleo Lunch Costs
Total cost = $11. But, the family later shared a dark chocolate bar for snack, so let’s add another $3.
Still doing well
Our Meals Dollar Menu
Breakfast $6.95 $12
Lunch $14 $12
Budget Paleo Dinner
For dinner last night, I made beef and broccoli. Before you say eeww, yes my kids ate the broccoli, and yes, they eat this meal every time I make it. To make it, I simply throw all the ingredients in my slow cooker in the morning, and it’s ready to go at dinner. My beef and broc has 2 onions, beef tallow, water, molasses, 1 pound of beef, 2 pounds of broccoli, and spices. It’s a big dish and we always have leftovers. Not because no one likes it, but because it makes a full crock-pot’s worth. Total Cost of our budget paleo dinner = $13.30
Budget Paleo Totals
Our Meals Dollar Menu
Breakfast $6.95 $12
Lunch $14 $12
Dinner $13.3 $12
total $34.35 $36
Paleo is Cheaper, Say What! I Can’t Believe It!
Would ya look at that. We actually saved almost 2 bucks by eating paleo instead of the fast food dollar menu. I did forget to mention one thing about our “dollar menu family”. I’m saying they are a family of 4. Guess what, my family is a family of 5, and we still ate for less!
But wait, there’s more!
Not only do we have one more mouth to feed than that family of 4, but we ate only high quality ingredients. Our beef came from our local farmer. The hotdogs were organic as were most of the ingredients I used.
Paleo and Organic for Less than the Dollar Menu
That’s right! Not only did we eat paleo for less than the dollar menu, we ate mostly organic AND paleo for less than the dollar menu! AND we had leftovers for lunch the next day.
Still Not Convinced:
Do you need more convincing? Perhaps you think this was a fluke and a family couldn’t possibly eat for less everyday. Okay, here is another day’s meals for our family.
Budget Paleo Breakfast#2: $5.00
Homemade Yogurt* w/fruit for the kids and bulletproof coffee for the parents
*Cultured dairy(like yogurt) is a somewhat gray area in the paleo world. Most hard core paleo dieters will tell you it’s not paleo. However, many of us consider cultured dairy to be a healthy and “primal” option.*
Budget Paleo Lunch #2: #11.50
Sloppy Joes w/sweet potato fries on the side = $11.50
Budget Paleo Dinner #2: $20.35
Dessert: Homemade pineapple ice cream = $3.3
Cost of Budget Paleo: Day 2
Total Cost of Day 2: $36.85
Oh no, I guess you got me. We spent a whole 85 cents more on this day. Don’t forget though, we have 5 people in our family instead of the 4 in the dollar menu family. We still had leftover chili for lunch the next day too. Additionally, we all enjoyed a special treat that evening: pineapple ice cream. In my book, we’re still coming out ahead. Way-way ahead. I could have used less meat in the chili and beat the $36 target. But again, I made no special attempt to try and beat that number. This was a real day of meals for our family.
I’m sure there may be some who still has objections even after reading this case study. They may be saying, yeah but I can save even more money if I eat at home and not change my eating habits, or I can buy $2 hot dogs instead of these $6 ones. This is absolutely true. Can you buy a $1 pack of pasta and a $1 can of pasta sauce from Aldi’s? I’m sure you can, but will that improve your health? Will it improve your quality of life, and will your kids be thriving on that type of diet? My goal as a parent is to help my kids become better grown ups than me, and that starts with their health.
Who’s Got the Time for All That Cooking?
Another objection some might have is; “yeah, but who has time to make all that and clean up all those dishes.” I’m here to tell you that I spent a TOTAL of 30 minutes per day cooking these meals & snacks, which is probably the same amount of time one would spend driving to and waiting in line at the fast food joints. While I readily admit; cleaning up is never fun. It is a necessary side effect of eating at home no matter how you eat. We make it a family affair, and it takes about another 30 minutes to clean up.
My reason for conducting this case study or this self-audit was to show you that it’s not as expensive as you may think to eat well. You can still eat paleo on a budget. My family is living proof of that.
However, this way of eating may still seem daunting for you and your family. Changing your lifestyle is no easy feat, and it is easy to think of justifications for not eating better or trying paleo. You have to decide that your health & happiness is important and place a higher priority on it.
There will always be a reason not to try something new. Change is hard, but once you make the commitment to your health it’s so much easier.
What’s Stopping You from Trying Paleo?
Leave a comment and share what obstacles are preventing you from making the switch
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