$5 a Day Paleo

It is often said that good food is expensive, while unhealthy food is cheap. Today, I’m going to show you how you can eat healthy, eat paleo, for $150 a month, about $5 a day. It’s not as cheap as KD (which would come to about $70/month with milk and butter) or ramen (of which you could eat 4 a day for <$30/month), but it’s much healthier and far more satisfying.

It is also said eating healthy takes too long too prepare. That is also incorrect, I spend about 15 minutes a day preparing food, and most of that is spent surfing the net.

This will require some small upfront investment, specifically a Costco card. It’s $55/year in Canada; it’s probably less in the US, not a big deal and it will save you a lot of money in the end. This will also require a decent kitchen knife, get one if you don’t have one. (Believe me, cutting some of this meat without a decent knife is a, literally, painful experience).

Cost: $5/month.

Drink

Drink water.

Water is free and water is good. If you don’t have a Brita filter water jug, get one; it makes water taste much better. It’s only $10, $20 if you get a bigger one, less than a pack or two of water bottles or pop. Make sure to add new water as soon as you drink to keep the container full; that way your water is always cold. It’s well worth it.

I can not stress this enough; if you only ever make one healthy change in your life, stop buying pop, juice, beer, milk, or other beverages. When at home drink nothing but water. (When out with friends, have some fun). It will have amazingly effective results for something so small.

Cost: negligible.

In fact, if you drink just one 2L of pop every two days, I just saved you about $30/month for a single $10 investment.

Dinner

Go to Costco, to the meat section.

Find the pork loin; it’ll be about $20-25 for about 10lbs. This works out to about 15-20 portions of just over a half pound each. That’s about $1.50 per meal.

Nearby should be the beef eye round. It’s about $18-20 for about 6lbs. This works out to about 10-12 portions at just over a half pound; about $2 per meal.

Go home, cut them up into either 1/4 or 1/2lb chops/steaks/cutlets (give or take) and put about a half lb of meat into sandwich bags (which you bought in bulk at Costco). Put one beef and one pork bag in the fridge, the rest in the freezer.

To prepare, simply fry in some butter or oil, put on a couple spices, and flip once.

Every time you eat one from the fridge, replace it with one from the freezer, so it defrosts for next time.

Cost: $40 for the month.

Prep Time: 30 min/month to cut meat; 15 min/day to fry meat.

Lunch

In the same meat section by some chicken breasts or thighs. The thighs are cheaper, but a pain to cut because they are more fatty. I usually get the breasts.

Buy one pack of breasts about 6 lbs each; it comes to about $20 each.

Go to the produce section. Find this:

It’s about $3-4 for a bag of sweet kale, 3 bags should last a week.

Cut the breasts up into small chunks and fry up it all up at once. It should all fit in a larger pan. Stick it into a container.

Every day take out about 1/14 of the chicken, mix it with a bit less than a half bag of kale. Add the dressing that comes with (or make your own*).

Do this once every two weeks; 6 lbs of chicken and and 6 bags of kale comes to about $40 for two weeks; about $3-4 per meal.

Cost: $80/month.

Prep Time: 45 min/bi-weekly to cut and fry meat; 3 min/day assembly.

You are now eating 2 satisfying, 1/2lb+, healthy paleo meals a day for $120 a month.

Breakfast

Skip breakfast. I rarely eat it; it is unnecessary. But if breakfast is a must, 5 dozen eggs are $10.  If you buy two, that’s 4 eggs each morning for a month for $20, buy 3 for $30 if you want 6 eggs a morning). Boil them, scramble them, or make an omelet. Throw on a bit of salt and pepper.

Cost: $0 ($20-30/month, if you must).

Prep Time: None (5-20 min/per day depending on how you prep the eggs).

Snacks

For snacks, bananas, apples, and other fruits are a few bucks for a large bushel, a large box of berries is usually only a few bucks (prices vary, so always check which are currently cheap), bags of dark chocolate squares are <$10, a 12-pack of Greek Yogurt is about $12, and large bags of almonds are $15. Mix and match as you like; the non-perishables in Costco size will usually be good for a couple of months.

Cost: Variable, $10-30.

Prep time: Negligible.

Other

Butter or coconut oil is a must for cooking. A stick of butter costs a few bucks and should last a month or two; a large container of coconut oil is about $10 at Costco and should last a few months (at least).

Buy some BBQ sauce to dip the meat in for flavour. I like to use a lot of Bullseye BBQ sauce; a large container usually lasts me a month. At Costco, it comes in packs of two large containers for about $10.

Get some spices, some salt, and some pepper. Some of my favourite spices include Montreal Steak Spice, Seasoning Salt, and Lemon and Herbs. If you buy a bunch at once, it will be a fairly big initial outlay (my first spice shopping was about $80), but spices, especially when bought in Costco sizes, last for a very long time, so they very rarely need to be replaced. After the initial investment, the cost becomes negligible. Or you can go slower and buy one new spice a shopping trip, which will be about $5-10.

Cost: $5-20/month

Prep time: Not applicable

Total Cost

There you have it, that’s two meals a day, each over a half pound of healthy food, for $125 a month. That’s about $4 a day.

If you add breakfast it’s about $145-155. About $5 a day.

When you add snacks and condiments, it’s about $140-$175. About $5-6 a day.

If you add both it is about $150-$200/month. About $5-7 a day.

That’s cheaper than a single Big Mac Meal. In fact, you can eat healthy for a whole day for the price of a Starbuck’s coffee.

Total prep time is about 2 hours a month and 20 minutes a day.

You really can eat healthy, real food for relatively low cost with little time investment.

Saving More

If $5 a day is too rich for your blood, you can save even more by:

  • Cutting out the snacks.
  • Reducing condiment and spice usage.
  • Reducing beef consumption and eating more pork.
  • Eating more eggs and reducing meat consumption.
  • Replacing chicken breasts with thighs, pork, beef, or eggs.
  • Remove the meat from the salad entirely and replacing with more greens.
  • Changing from kale mix to cheaper greens.
  • Intermittent fasting: periods of fasting are good for the mind, the soul, and the wallet. I went a week this summer eating only a salad a day for lunch, simply because that was all I needed.

You could probably eat paleo for under $100/month if you tried. That’s just over $3 per day.

I have done this once or twice when facing self-imposed financial restrictions; sometimes you just need ammo more than food.

****

Now, this is my base. I generally buy more than this. I like BBQ ribs in the summer and both yogurt and jerky as a snack. I also keep a supply of Coke and some chips for when friends come over; the occasional family BBQ can also get expensive. The berries usually tempt me, so I almost always buy more than I eat.

But all that is luxury I choose because I can afford it.

Just because you can eat cheap, does not mean you have to; you can always buy better cuts of meat or organic food or extra snacks, or whatever.

But just because you are on a limited budget does not mean you can’t eat healthy (unless it is exceedingly limited). Also, saving money for better things than food is nice.

Eat only what you can afford; but eat well with it.

****

* My salad dressing recipe: 2 parts vinegar, 1 part olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, and a splash of worchestshire sauce. Throw in a pinch of dried mustard and garlic powder, and a tiny bit of salt. Shake well. It’s cheap, easy to make, and tastes good.


18 responses to “$5 a Day Paleo

  • CS

    Great post. Switching over to Paleo really came in handy during my undergraduate years as far as finances were concerned and is now a way of life for me.

    At our local Kroger stores, they have a discount shelf in the produce area that is for lightly bruised or damaged fruit and veggies. I primarily use it to stock up on fruit throughout the week: ripe/lightly bruised bananas go for 99 cents a pound and they have bags of lightly bruised apples and oranges at 99 cents a bag.

    Eggs and sardines were cheap and healthy protein staples. Fage Greek Yogurt was a more expensive treat. Sweet potatoes were also a good and affordable carb source outside of the bananas and veggies were never too expensive for my overall budget. I tend to buy an entire chicken to cook as I’ve found that it’s usually cheaper than buying individual chicken parts. I’ll season and bake it and it’ll last about 2-3 days, depending on my calorie needs on a given day.

    Intermittent fasting puts the icing on the cake. I skip breakfast and only eat between 12 and 8PM. I’ve been doing it for a little over a year and combined with moderately intense exercise, I’ve gotten great results mentally, spiritually and physically.

    My wallet couldn’t be more thankful.

  • earl

    I also fast one day a week…no food at all. Eating 6 days a week instead of 7 also saves money. Plus it is one less thing to worry about. I still eat breakfast though because I get up at an ungodly hour.

    Drinks though I could probably save more money there…I still get some OJ, tea, coffee, and whiskey once in a while. But no more pop. If I go out to eat anymore…a Jimmy Johns sandwich is what I get.

  • earl

    With a Foreman grill…combined with preparing frozen veggies in boiling water…I can make my dinner in 5-10 min.

  • Carnivore

    Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Especially good advice for bachelors who think they don’t have the time to cook or it’s too complicated. With a minimal investment of time and money, good, healthy meals are very easy to prepare.

  • ARoss

    No Frills has bags of 5 chicken thighs for $5

  • AverageMarriedDad

    Great post Carnivore! I’d add that if you have a large chest freezer, buying large quantities of hog and beef can save money too, or at least get grass or pasture raised local meat for the same price. We’ve got a full freezer right now after our hog came in, and a roast is enough for a large dinner for a family of four, plus a lunch or two as leftovers between my wife and I. We are trying to feed our kids semi-paleo cold lunches every day, and that’s sort of hit or miss with them. My wife and I also rarely eat breakfast or if we do, it consists of eggs with hot sauce. I agree that you can eat well for cheap, as you say, but kids are often a wild-card in your scenario.

  • The Woman Margery

    Great post!

    Green smoothies (a gigantic bag of spinach is $4 at Costco in the states. Freeze portions of it for smoothies as well as bananas. Frozen berries are also much cheaper at Costco), making stock from your left over bones and veggies for a nice soup later, and learning about edible plants in your area are also good money savers. Often times buying the whole chicken and cutting it up is also cheaper, especially if you buy the ones close to expiration that have been marked down.

    @AverageMarriedDad: “I agree that you can eat well for cheap, as you say, but kids are often a wild-card in your scenario.”

    Some things that have helped us in getting our kids to eat healthier is letting them make their own meals. For example when we make them a salad they eat very little of it if anything. If we set up a “salad bar” type thing where they pick “toppings” and dressing they eat the whole thing and come back for more. They even asked for salad for breakfast this morning.

  • culdesachero

    @AverageMarriedDad
    I agree that kids make it more difficult. They still get excited when someone says the word pizza.

    We give them things like spaghetti squash with tomato and meat sauce instead of pasta. When we do have real noodles, it’s rice noodles. My wife is less stringent a paleo devotee than I am. She still has to have rice sometimes.

    Qinoa is the trendy thing and you can serve it like oatmeal instead of cereal.

    We all eat breakfast and they’re just not willing to eat eggs every morning.

    The variety my wife demands makes it hard to keep the bills down too low, but, the real cost comes from the grass-fed meat. If you can even find it, the prices are triple the supermarket meat. I haven’t gone to that level of paleo yet.

  • recluse

    Some quick oats with generic swiss miss style cocoa mix makes for a great treat for the sweet tooth.

    It tastes just like those oatmeal chocolate no-bake cookies.

    A touch of mint really sets it off.

    While it is sugar,it’s real sugar and alkali cocoa,not HFCS,and you get the benefits of oatmeal to boot.

    Made a 4 gallon batch of chili,but the ingredients did cost quite a bit,well worth it for the onion/garlic buzz.

    The ears pop open,clears out the head cold congestion quickly with a touch of Crystal sauce.
    The tomatoes had the olive oil,garlic,and hot pepper bit.
    The chili beans have a bit of hot pepper also.
    Use the hot V-8 juice,and the flavor is perfect w/o adding any other spices at all.

  • Carnivore

    @AMD: Great post Carnivore!
    Whatcha ya talkin’ about bro? FN wrote the great post! I only wrote a lousy comment. Although FN is clearly a carnivore (small c). HAHA!

  • Aaron

    opinions on bacon?

  • Eating Healthy on the Cheap

    […] Go home, cut them up into either 1/4 or 1/2lb chops/steaks/cutlets (give or take) and put about a ha… […]

  • Ton

    Store bought bacon is a no no for me. Full of all kinds of bad stuff

  • One Big Problem with Fat Shaming | Margery + The Man

    […] FreeNortherner has a post up about eating Paleo on the cheap (it’s a good post. Read it if you haven’t). I could easily pick apart all the ways this is not ideal (the meat isn’t grass fed/organic, the bacon is store bought, you didn’t grow the lettuce yourself…). Ideal is besides the point, though. It’s something. In fact, it’s something more  than the standard. Often times that’s all we have to hold onto. […]

  • Aaron

    When someone says “Eating healthy is sooooo espensive” to justify their weight, you can assume that this individual is ignorant, self-ashamed, crazy or all of the above. Great post.

  • Guide to being mediocre

    […] is a lot of work and really expensive. It’s not like there’s anyone who can eat healthy on a tiny budget.  Also health food tastes awful. Your better off eating out all the time or buying frozen dinners. […]

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