The other day I checked my Every Dollar account and found out that last month I went completely over budget in the grocery category. The amount we spent on groceries to feed 2 people is actually a bit nauseating. I know families of 5 who spend a quarter of that!
I have to admit, one of the hardest parts about Paleo, for me, is dealing with how expensive it is. I find these awesome Paleo recipes and all-natural products, I get excited, and I spend my money on them. I tell myself that health is more important than savings, so it’s okay to splurge.
But here’s the thing, I also realize that I can be much smarter about it. I can still eat a 100% Paleo diet (ok, more like 80% because I’m being realistic here) and NOT spend an entire paycheck on it.
Related: Why I Love the Farmer’s Market
With our student loans being completely out of control, I can’t afford to keep spending lavishly on food.
So, I decided to change gears a bit and try to plan my meals in a way that would save me more money. After trying that for a week, I was impressed to learn that it’s actually very easy to eat cheap and Paleo. There’s just 1 trick to it:
Find budget-friendly non-Paleo recipes and make them Paleo
I used to get my recipe ideas from Paleo cookbooks and Paleo Pinterest boards. But those can be quite fancy and elaborate. The costs quickly add up when you try to make 7 of those recipes in a week.
So instead, I went on Pinterest and started looking for regular, budget-friendly recipes that I can try to cook with Paleo ingredients.
What I found was that there is a much wider variety of budget-friendly meals when you’re not specifically searching for “Paleo” – there’s 3-ingredient meals, 5-ingredient meals, freezer meals, crockpot meals, and even a monthly meal plan for under $200!
Statistically speaking, there are simply more people thinking about budgeting that aren’t on the Paleo diet. So you are much more likely to find awesome frugal recipes when you step outside of the Paleo realm.
Sure, a lot of them rely heavily on non-Paleo ingredients, like pasta, beans or bread. But some don’t (like any lettuce wrap recipes). And for those that do, there are plenty of cheap Paleo substitutions.
For example, stir fry recipes are very budget-friendly, but they usually come with noodles or rice. My solution? Cauliflower rice. A head of cauliflower costs about $2.29 and you’ll only need about half of it for a stir fry for 2 people.
For any pasta dishes, I like using yellow squash or zucchini instead of pasta. A yellow squash is about $1.90 and that’s enough to feed 2.
Also, spaghetti squash is super-cheap and one of those is enough for about 4 spaghetti meals. Just throw some Paleo sauce on top and enjoy!
A great way to save on expensive meats is to use a crockpot and buy cheaper cuts of meat. Beef stew is a good example. You can spend very little on some stew beef and throw it in a crock pot with a few inexpensive veggies and good spices – voila. You have a delicious, tender meal that might even last you a few days.
Related: How to Buy Grass-Fed Beef on a Budget
No substitutions needed
Then there are some budget-friendly meals on Pinterest that are already Paleo! They just don’t have the word “Paleo” in their title. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have them. For example, lettuce wraps make an awesome and cheap dinner option.
Simple substitutions = savings
Found a frugal potato casserole recipe? Make it with sweet potatoes and skip the cheese!
Got a great burger recipe? Wrap it in a lettuce leaf – that’s probably even cheaper than buying burger buns!
Basically, if you find non-Paleo budget-friendly recipes that only need a few small substitutions, you are much more likely to save money. Sure, you might not be able to feed yourself for under $200 in a month, after all, produce is more expensive than high-carb bulk foods, but I promise you’ll be able to slim down that grocery budget.
It definitely helps to have your pantry stocked with Paleo ingredients, so you can easily substitute any time you’re making a frugal meal.
That’s it my friends! A super simple “hack” that helped me save almost 50% on my grocery bill in the last week.