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
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):