The folks over at Whole9, Balanced Bites, Hunter-Gatherer, and PaNu all have great posts on how to eat Paleo on a budget. And although I subscribe to numerous CSAs, buy a ton of organic produce and grass-fed/organic meats and collect pricey kitchen gadgets like some people collect stamps, deep down inside me beats the heart of a thrifty Chinese woman. I’m always looking for a good deal. Who do you think is first in line at the free sample stations at Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and the local farmer’s markets?
Here are a few rules of the road for bargain hunting (and gathering), caveperson-style:
- Keep your eyes open for sales and specials, and do your homework.
Seriously, when I go grocery shopping, I always check out the specials and buy what’s on sale. I clip (online) coupons. If you’re going to do a ton of cooking, it pays to do some research. In my neck of the woods, one of my favorite places to shop for groceries is Sigona’s, which often offers grass-fed meat for prices that are lower than what Costco charges for non-grass-fed stuff. Plus, Sigona’s frequently offers special deals (e.g., free bottle of specialty vinegar if you spend over $30!) that make it an irresistible place to shop. Also, some Whole Paychecks have Friday-only specials where a certain item is marked off a lot. For example, one Friday fancy deli meat was 50% off.
- Get the most bang for your buck by focusing on cheap but nutrient-dense foods.
Going Paleo already makes this easy, right? You’re no longer buying expensive-but-nutritionally-empty crap like Pop Tarts and bagels. I, for one, buy a crapload of eggs ‘cause they’re cheap and a super protein source. Heck, I’ve eaten a frittata just about each and every day of my Whole30 and I’m still not sick of them.
- Buy organic when it makes sense. And avoid what’s not in season.
I don’t always buy organic produce but I will always buy IN SEASON. I love berries, but I ain’t spending $6 on a basket of sour strawberries in the dead of winter.
When choosing organic or conventional produce, I refer to the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” guides to see which items I should buy pesticide-free. Otherwise, you could be throwing money away for no reason (e.g. it’s dumb to buy organic onions). Even if a stand at the farmers’ market isn’t advertised as organic, ask if they are pesticide free.
- Check out the freezer section.
I guess this is an exception to my “buy what’s in season” rule, but I love frozen veggies. I stock up whenever they go on sale so I have prepped veggies available all the effing time, just waiting to be nuked and eaten.
Fresh is best, but having a fully-stocked freezer makes life a lot easier when you’re rushing to get dinner on the table and your kids are tearing the house apart.
- Buy in bulk — from warehouse stores and online.
Who says you have to shop only at Whole Foods?
It’s no secret that bulk shopping at Costco is one of my favorite ways to save money. But I also troll the Internet for deals on shelf-stable pantry staples. Look at this big ass 54-ounce jug of coconut oil that arrived in the mail today:
It cost $25 — that’s just $0.36 per ounce!
The bottom line:
You’re already saving money by cooking your own meals, but you can cut your spending even further by planning ahead. Yes, it takes a bit of time, and time is money. But how much is your health worth to you?