Thursday, February 10, 2011

Making Paleo Affordable

You've finally decided to make an investment in your health that doesn't involve a pill or gym membership. Congratulations!  Chances are previous investments have given you disappointing results. Proper nutrition will get you 80-90% of the way to good health and there is no way around that. I have read time and time again how people have pounded their head against the wall putting miles on the treadmill and eating the typically prescribed diet.  It just doesn't work.

Now that you've made the decision to make a radical change you may be wondering where to shop or how to acquire your food.  First I have to let you know why I said you are making an "investment in your health".  All food costs money but replacing government subsidized groceries with whole food, paleo groceries will cost more money at the check out counter.  As Ben Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".  The extra money you spend on food today is an investment in your health and your retirement.  What fun will those retirement years be if a) you don't live to retirement age, or b) you spend your retirement years fighting chronic diseases while spending thousands on healthcare costs.

So the major diet change and the increased food cost hasn't scared you away, great.  You are obviously dedicated to your well being and also your family's.  What I hope to help you with is minimizing the cost of buying nourishing food.  The good news is because these food options are more nutrient dense, you will find yourself consuming less volume of food.  So don't avoid good sources of fat because they are filling, a great source of fuel for the body, and fat soluble vitamins.  Proteins are also nutrient dense and are often in the same foods as fat.

The first and foremost way to save in this whole process is to cook meals yourself.  If you buy from restaurants or purchase pre-made meals, you are paying for much more than just the food and that will hit you in the pocketbook.  Cook large meals that can be eaten for days.  In the end, cooking will end up saving the most money while eating this way.  Now let's get to the actual purchasing of the food.  

Option #1 -  If you are very budget constrained but still want to do this, don't fret about buying organic, grass fed, all natural, or pasture raised.  Those are all worthy options but they come at a premium and aren't always as convenient.  So just buy paleo foods from a conventional grocery store.   You will still have great results by eating conventionally produced foods from a low cost grocer such as Walmart or Aldi.  Buying in bulk at Sam's Club or Costco is also another great option to save even more.  Always look for the cheaper meat cuts and produce on sale. 

Option #2 - OK, so you may be willing to spend a few more dollars to get a naturally raised food product for you and your family.  The most inexpensive way to get the highest quality of food is to buy direct from the farmer.  All around this great country of ours there is an underground renaissance of traditional farmers.  They take pride in how they grow the food they sell to you.  To them, it isn't about quantity, it's all about quality.  Here are 3 resources you need to check out to find farmers in your area.

     Local Harvest - This is a great website that will help you find excellent sources of produce.    
     Two  options you should look at are the farmer's markets and the CSAs in your area.  
     The farmer's markets are getting very popular and that is good for driving down cost.    
     You will typically find in season produce from local farmers that is super fresh and  
     reasonably priced.  It's also a pretty fun experience as it is very different than shopping  
     at a conventional store.  CSA stands for community shared agriculture.  This is
     basically a membership based food service.  You pay a one time fee in early spring and get   
     fresh seasonal produce throughout the harvest season.  Typically, you go to the farm for a
     weekly or every other week pick up depending on what you want or can afford.     

     Eat Wild - The #1 resource for finding grass fed, pasture raised, all natural livestock, dairy,  
     and eggs.  Here you will find farmers who will sell chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, bison, goat,     
     pork, duck, eggs of all kind, and milk of all kind.  I personally have used this site to find 
     eggs, pork, and beef and have been extremely happy every time.  The farmers are very  
     willing to answer questions via email or phone.

     Pick Your Own - They say the most satisfying way to spend your money is on experiences
     rather than things and I agree wholeheartedly.  My wife, kids, and myself have, in the 
     past, gone to farms and picked blackberries, blueberries, apples, strawberries,  
     pumpkins, and Christmas trees (does that count as food?).   I can tell you, it was always less  
     expensive and WAY more enjoyable than buying anywhere else.  This site will steer you 
     to farms that specialize in the "pick your own" experience.

Option #3 - Hunt, gather, and grow food on your own.  This is by far the most natural and satisfying way to feed yourself and your family.  No food ever tastes better than something you've grown, caught, or hunted and then cooked yourself.  So start a small garden, it's inexpensive and easy.  I've been a life long fisherman so I've always had fresh fish stocked in the freezer.  I recently took up hunting and have gone through almost 15 pounds of venison (deer meat) with some still left for future meals.  You don't have to go crazy buying a bunch of equipment right off the bat.  Start off by borrowing from friends or family.  You can buy perfectly fine used equipment as you get more experienced.  An added benefit to acquiring food in this way is it is often a great source of some added exercise.

The paleolithic life was a tribal lifestyle where the members shared in the responsibility of hunting and gathering food for the whole tribe to enjoy.  This can also be done today amongst your friends and family. All these options can be made more affordable if the costs are shared with family and/or friends.  The half cow I bought last fall would have not been affordable at the time but I shared the cost with DJ and my brother in law.  The trek to pick up our beef became an experience in itself that you can not get by just going to Walmart.  I have hooked my neighbors on going to an egg farm to get several dozen eggs to save a trip for others.  I also have neighbors who we are splitting our CSA share with to lower our cost of produce but still get high quality food from a local farmer. 

Hopefully I've outlined some options to help out the veterans, the newbies, and the onlookers teetering on making the plunge.  At my house, we are cost conscious as well as health conscious.  We tend to blend Options 1, 2, and 3 while cooking our meals at home.  Here are some other great resources on this topic (I apologize if they rehash but I posted based on my experiences which may happen to be similar to others):

15 Tips for Eating Paleo on the Cheap

I feel that although Paleo eating can be a bit more expensive, it is definitely more affordable than the alternative.  I would love to see some comments on how you save on good food options.



Marty said...

1. With High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) aka Consumer Directed Health Plans (CDHP) on the rise more of the cost of healthcare is falling on the consumer. In employer-sponsored health plans this is being done to shift cost to employees to lower cost for the payers (i.e. the corporation). This is good since anyone with a 401k, mutual fund or direct stock ownership pays the bills for employee health care through lower corporate profits eaten up be rising healthcare costs. In addition to cost-shifting, HDHPs and CDHPs should lower costs through greater ownership of healthcare put on the individual. In this world of greater personal responsibility to pay your own healthcare costs there is certainly a solid cost/benefit to paying a premium to maintain a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. That is why I eat Cool Ranch and drink Mountain Dew in moderation - just kidding. I think hitting people in the pocketbook will be one of the best ways to alter behavior and people will seek out ways to lower their household expenses. Hopefully they take the long-trm perspective and make investments in their health. Since going on to an HDHP my family has switched to SnackWell cookies since they sound healthy and it says they are "multi-grain". Kidding again - but i did get dark chocolate with bacon for v-day and bought grape-based wine.

Chuck said...

Our family has been on a health savings account plan for almost 4 years. This is an HDHP. I also feel this type of plan would have a drastic effect on the health practices of consumers. Personally I think it is the way to go to help wrangle ballooning healthcare costs. I can count on one had the prescriptions we have had filled in the last 4 years with our family of 4. None of us are suffering without prescription drugs or visits to various doctors every couple of months. I have a post drafted on this subject that may get done sooner than later.

Marty said...

CP - I owe you either (1) a congrats on the low # of scripts or (2) a warning to get the large number of fingers on your hand examined....

Interesting/sad/scary article:

Too bad to see Ohio ranked #8