The following post comes from Stella K. Osborn at partner site Mintlife.
So you’ve made the switch to the Paleo diet or are seriously thinking about it. Great! You’ve heard followers of the Paleo diet say they feel more energetic, sleep better, and feel less bloated after eating.
The reality of eating as many fresh foods as this plan requires hits home on your first trip to the grocery store. Don’t let this discourage you, though, because there are great resources and tips available to help you plan out your meals and save money.
What is the Paleo diet?
First, let’s review the Paleo diet rules (also known as the Caveman diet): Eat mostly vegetables (non-starchy), lean meats (such as grass-fed beef, fish, and chicken), some fruit, some nuts, and some good fat (such as coconut oil and avocado).
The core concept of the Paleo diet is to eat foods that a caveman would have been able to hunt or gather, and eat raw or simply cook over a flame.
Eating in season
Fruits and vegetables that are in season will have the most flavor and be more affordable. After all, if something doesn’t taste good (usually when it’s out of season and artificially grown), you’re less likely to eat leftovers or reuse the ingredients.
Here is a handy list of the best spring produce for a frugal budget to get you started, as well as some tips on starting your own spring garden. If you must have items that are not in season, consider purchasing frozen vegetables, as opposed to their canned counterparts, because frozen vegetables retain more nutrients.
Cooking at home
If you want to avoid eating the same thing for days on end, but also don’t want to spend every night cooking, preparing base meats and veggies a couple of days a week and then portioning out separate meals will save you time in the kitchen. You can add variety by using different spices and flavorings to the base meals.
For example, you can sautee 3 pounds of ground meat on Sunday night with a little salt and pepper. Then, separate each pound and use three different flavorings – Asian spices, Mediterranean (make a ragu!), and jerk seasoning, to name a few.
You can serve the Asian-spiced ground meat with grilled or lightly sauteed bok choy and broccoli, the Mediterranean meat pairs well with spaghetti squash or zuchinni “noodles” and kale, and the jerk-seasoned meat can be served with sauteed green beans and coconut plantain mash.
Before you go grocery shopping
Before you go shopping, spend a few minutes online to see what sales are running at your local grocery stores – a little time online will go a long way. For example, some high-end organic chains can have sales on items such as eggs and milk for less than your standard grocery store offers.
These specialty grocery stores may also have great prices on in-season produce, as well as meat and Paleo staples such as almond meal, almond flour, and coconut oil.
Considering we are past the hunter/gatherer days and we don’t always have time to prepare and cook every meal we eat, purchasing pre-made meals is great when you are in a pinch. Pre-made salads and fresh prepared meals can be modified (remove cheese topping, for example) to meet the Paleo diet standards. Sometimes pre-made meals such as grilled veggies with chicken or curried chicken salad go for around $4 or $5, which isn’t bad for a lunch portion, not bad at all!
Where to shop: buying in bulk
Despite the fact I have never been a fan of bulk shopping, I recently purchased a warehouse club membership – and I have to admit, it’s tough to resist the savings! They have great deals on meats and produce by the case, which can be prepared and frozen for future use.
Your local farmers markets may also be a good option, as they usually have more fresh options than most grocery stores – and because the produce is in season, it may also be less expensive.
I am also a huge advocate for shopping at ethnic markets. I love them for several reasons: They have great prices on meats and produce, and I enjoy browsing the aisles for ingredients I don’t usually see at mainstream stores, which inspires me to use new and interesting flavors in my Paleo cooking.
If you’ve been eating Paleo for some time, you have probably discovered some online resources that include recipes and meal planning ideas. Robb Wolfe, one of the pioneers of the Paleo diet, has recently come out with a book to help you plan your meals as well as save time and money. There are also several websites, such as easypaleo.com and nomnompaleo.com, that are dedicated to Paleo diet recipes.
The early bird gets the worm
Here is a little-known grocery shopping tip: Try to shop for groceries early in the morning. As in, before you go to work.
I know, I know, going to the grocery store at 7 a.m. sounds ridiculous, but once you do it a couple of times and see the benefits of shopping while the store is practically empty, you will bask in the joy of this time-saving practice. Time is money, after all!