You may know that my wife, dog and I have been traveling North America and living out of state and national parks for the past two years. We watch our food budget closely, and have spent years looking for ways to get great food for less.
Wherever you are, I can tell you first-hand: Getting the highest quality food can be a challenge… especially if you don’t want to break the bank.
Has this ever happened to you?
A few weeks ago, we visited Whole Foods for the first time in a while. I’m not going to lie, we got a little carried away throwing things in the cart since we were cooking for friends and coming up with new Wild recipes.
As I whipped out my credit card, the checkout clerk cleared his throat before he announced the total.
“That’ll be $474 dollars and 41 cents…”
$22 dollars for a grass-fed steak? Strawberries for $8 bucks? Eggs for $9 bucks a dozen… Who’s got money for that these days?
(I call this phenomenon “Checkout-Shock,” and it’s sweeping the nation.)
There’s a reason the health chain Whole Foods has the nickname “Whole Paycheck” – but there’s something you can do to avoid that look of terror when you see your grocery bill in the checkout aisle.
I do make plenty of mistakes, but I do my best to learn from them. Even better, I try to help other people learn from my biggest mistakes on my podcast, blog, and occasionally in new cool products that can help save you time and money.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions like these.
“Abel, how do I feed my family without going broke?”
“I’m on a budget! Where do I find the best real food for the least amount of money?”
“How can I save time shopping for food? It seems like it takes forever!”
Here’s the good news – it’s getting easier and easier to stock up on real food for less if you know what to look for.
HOW TO AVOID “CHECKOUT-SHOCK” AT THE GROCERY STORE
It’s hard to hold up a package of conventional ground beef next to the pasture-raised beef and buy the one that’s a few bucks more. It’s tough to pick the organic red leaf lettuce when it’s $2.49 compared to the 99¢ conventional Romaine.
But remember, you have to view your grocery budget as a whole, not just its parts.
Eating high-quality meats might seem more expensive at first, but you’ll find that you’re spending less in other areas. And when you eat more nutrient-dense foods and become fat-adapted by following The Wild Diet, you’ll quickly learn that you fill up on less.
You’re going to be saving money in some places and redistributing it to the foods that are going to help you burn fat, get healthy, and feel amazing. And I’m going to give you some of my tried-and-true money-saving tips to get started.
#1 BUY IN BULK SLOW-COOK VALUE CUTS OF MEAT
It’s hard to go for the grass-fed beef or a pastured chicken when it’s nearly twice as expensive as the low-quality meats from industrial farming operations. But there are incredible health and fat-burning benefits to upgrading your meat.
Organic, pastured meat is lower in total fat and calories, higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, and much more nutrient-dense than conventionally farmed meat. PLUS, humanely raised grass-fed beef is free from the hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and the drug-resistant staph bacteria that plague factory-farmed beef.
One of the best tricks to get more meat for your money is to skip the filet mignon and go for the rump roast, and buy the whole chicken or dark meat instead of boneless breasts. And if you buy meats in bulk from a local farmer, they’ll usually cut you a deal.
The reason you don’t want fatty meat when you’re buying conventional is that the fat carries all the toxins. In pastured and grass-fed meat, the fat is full of Omega-3’s and is actually good for you. Not to mention, the fat in a slow-cooked pot roast makes the meat juicy and delicious.
Your slow-cooker is your friend. Just salt and pepper your roast, sear it on both sides, and throw it in the slow-cooker with onions. You can also add cut turnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes if you’re wanting a few healthy carbs. Pour on a little broth and let it cook low and slow all day. By the time you get home from work, dinner is on the table.
You can get a grass-fed beef chuck roast for as low as $8.99 per pound at Slanker or a grass-fed rump roast for about $8.19 per pound White Oak Pastures. One pound of roast should feed 2 – 4 people. (Remember, on The Wild Diet your plate should be at least ½ vegetables). If you’re getting a 3 pound roast for $25, you’ve got 6 – 12 servings of meat equalling about $2.08 – $4.17 per serving.
If you shop at your local farmer’s market, you might even be able to stock up on grass-fed meat for even less.
We even found a local source of grass-fed bones and off-cuts for $1-2 dollars a pound! To put that into perspective, that’s cheaper than dog food. That’s right – even our dog gets grass-fed meat!
For chicken, season it with salt, pepper, and herbs (even under the skin). Slice some onions and lay them on the bottom of the slow-cooker. Put the seasoned chicken on top and let it cook all day. You don’t need to add any extra liquid—and you’ll get the juiciest, most delicious chicken.
You can get a whole 4-pound roaster chicken for about $6.63 per pound at US Wellness Meats, or stock up at White Oak Pastures where the pasture-raised chickens run about $5.25 or less per pound. This might be a little more than you’re used to paying for chicken, but remember that you can make at least a gallon of broth from the carcass, saving you about $8 – $10 per quart on pastured bone broth.
If getting pastured or grass-fed meats is still outside of your budget, then get low-fat cuts of conventional meats (or cut the fat off) to mitigate exposure to antibiotics, artificial hormones, and other nasties which are stored in the fat.
#2 PACK YOUR LUNCH
How much money do you spend buying your lunch on a workday? Maybe you hit the taco truck or go to Panera with your co-workers. You’re looking at at least $10 for a salad or sandwich that may not even be satisfying. I encourage you to put that $10 into your grocery budget and pack your lunch instead.
This HUGE CHEF SALAD cost less than $4.00 to make at home!
And if $4.00 sounds like too much, you can use these tips to cut costs even more:
- Use leftover roasted chicken, beef, ground beef, or fish/seafood in your salad
- Pack leftover soup, stew, or casserole in a thermos
- Make a collard-green burrito wrap with leftover grilled vegetables and meats
- Blend up a green smoothie at home and pack it in a mason jar (this will keep for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator or weeks in the freezer)
If you’re practicing intermittent fasting, you’ll quickly realize that in addition to the health benefits, you’re saving money by skipping breakfast altogether in favor of a fatty coffee/tea and a green smoothie later in the day.
#3 BUY BULK GREENS FOR SALADS AND SMOOTHIES
If you’re just starting to incorporate salads and green smoothies into your diet, your shopping cart will be chock-full of leafy greens! That’s a beautiful thing. But if you’re getting those tiny plastic crates of baby kale, that expense can add up.
Save money on your greens buy shopping at a bulk store like Costco. Costco has been recognized lately as having a huge quantity and variety of organics, especially in the produce cooler. You can grab a 16 ounce crate of organic baby spinach for $4.99 (compared to 2.5 ounces at the grocery store for $3.49) and a huge bag of organic power greens (baby kale, spinach, arugula) for about that same price.
Just those two bags alone, a cost of about $10, can get you through a green smoothie a day for a week—plus a salad or two!
#4 SKIP PREPACKAGED FOODS
The average American spends about 70% of their grocery budget on processed food: Pasta, crackers, breads, chips, soda, juice and sports drinks, boxed Mac n’ Cheese, frozen Lasagna, processed lunch meat, and the list goes on.
How much money is 70% of your grocery budget?
Imagine eliminating all the packaged food and investing that money into pastured meats, organic produce, grass-fed butter, and good quality oils and seasonings. That’s a lot of “extra” money to use on real food.
I’m not saying that we don’t all want to grab a quick snack or dinner once in awhile, but for the most part, I stay away from pre-chopped, pre-prepared, and packaged foods. Why? Because buying ingredients and making it ourselves is fresher, cheaper and healthier.
Think of your grocery cart in the same fashion as The Wild Diet plate—you want it to be about half full of veggies, one quarter full of protein (meat, poultry, fish and eggs), and one quarter full of fat, starches, and fruit.
#5 BUY PANTRY STAPLES ONLINE
Your Wild pantry is going to look very different from the pantry of someone on a standard American diet. It will likely feel a little bare, because the bulk of your diet will be made of fresh ingredients. (Remember, you want to eat out of your fridge, not your pantry.)
However, we keep a few baking basics around to whip up tasty treats once in awhile, plus spices and oils for cooking.
These ingredients can get expensive if you just get everything at the grocery or health food store, especially if you live out in the boonies like we do.
That’s why we have started to utilize online ordering for a lot of our dry goods.
Thrive Market is a great place to start—they’ve got just about everything you could need to stock a Wild pantry for less money. You could also use VitaCost.com or LuckyVitamin.com, which offer international shipping.
Buy these pantry staples online to save money:
- Coconut: Coconut Flour, Coconut Oil, Coconut Milk, Coconut Butter, Shredded Coconut
- Chocolate: Cacao Powder, Cacao Nibs, Extra Dark Chocolate Bars, and Chocolate Chips
- Canned Foods: Wild Salmon and Organic Pumpkin
- Raw Nuts & Seeds, like almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. To reap all the health benefits and make them easier to digest, it’s best to purchase raw organic nuts and seeds, soak them, and then dehydrate or roast them yourself (full instructions in The Wild Diet). Here are a couple places you can order organic soaked and dehydrated nuts and seeds online: LivingNutz.com or WildernessFamilyNaturals.com
- Snacks: Kale Chips, Crackers, Flackers, Sea
weed Snacks, Nori, and Spirulina Wraps
- Nut & Seed Butters: Nuttzo, Almond Butter, Cashew Butter and Sunflower Seed Butter
- Vinegar & Condiments: Apple Cider Vinegar, Mustard, Coconut Aminos (replace soy sauce), Liquid Aminos (also good to replace soy sauce)
- Spices & Baking: Spices , Coconut palm sugar (use in recipes instead of white sugar), maple syrup, 100% pure stevia, Coconut flour, Almond Flour, and Ground Flaxseed Meal
#6 SHOP AT A FARMER’S MARKET OR CSA
When you join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), essentially you are buying a “share” in that local farm. In return, you receive a box of seasonal produce per week throughout the growing season. Each CSA has its own terms and cost associated, but this is a good choice if you really want to commit to eating seasonally (and cooking with whatever you get) while saving money.
Your local farmer’s market is also an excellent source for seasonal vegetables and fruits—and it’s always a good idea to eat seasonally because you’re going to get the freshest produce at its optimal ripeness (and nutritional value) for the cheapest price! Eating seasonally may also introduce you to foods you’ve never tried before.
#7 START A VEGETABLE OR HERB GARDEN
It’s easier than you think to grow your own food—all you need is a bit of soil, some sunlight, water, and seeds! You don’t even need a yard.
I’ve had great success growing everything from stevia plants to purple basil in pots on the windowsill. You can even grow tomatoes and lettuce indoors.
You can order heirloom and organic seeds from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds or stop at your local farmer’s market or garden store.
If you have space outside to plant, you can start your seeds indoors in the late winter (varies by plant and region) and then transfer them to the ground when they’re seedlings. You can grow a lot of vegetables in just a small backyard garden for a just a few bucks.
You can yield 100 pounds of vegetables from just 100 square feet of soil.
Kids love to get involved in the process, too. Outdoor gardening is a great physical activity that can be shared by the whole family, and it teaches you to eat seasonally and try new foods.
BONUS TIP: EAT MORE HIGH-QUALITY FAT
When you bump up your intake of high quality fats with The Wild Diet, you’ll find that fats are extremely filling.
Coconut oil, pastured butter, olive oil, and other high-quality Wild fats are calorie-rich (fat has more than twice as many calories as protein or carbs). So instead of filling up on meats, bump up the fat and you’ll find that a stick of butter goes a long way!
WANT MORE MONEY-SAVING TIPS FOR EATING WILD ON A BUDGET?
Since we’ve been getting so many questions from you about how to save a few bucks while stocking up on Wild Diet-friendly foods, we created a handy little guide to help you do just that.
It takes just a few minutes to read, but can save you more than 30%, 50%, or even 70% on your next food bill.
If you really want to trim up your food budget, come check out our Wild Diet Shopping Guide.
In the complete shopping guide, you’ll learn:
- Which baking and dry good staples you can save a ton buying online, and which you should ONLY buy at your local market.
- The inside scoop on buying, roasting or simply enjoying coffee on a whole new level.
- Which “healthy” food labels are bought and paid for by huge marketing budgets and only confuse consumers.
- The surprising reason you can actually SAVE money by choosing pastured, grass fed and organic meats.
- Where to find local pre-screened farms offering beef, poultry, eggs, dairy, lamb, and pork.
- The RIGHT way to buy and eat seafood to make sure it’s safe, healthy and affordable while avoiding harmful toxins.
- How to get organic, farm fresh produce delivered to your door without breaking the bank.
- And much, much more!
Get the Wild Diet Shopping Guide today and get a special bonus—the Shopping Cheat Sheet is free to you!
Get the shopping guide now, and start saving hundreds of dollars on real food.
Do you have any tips for eating Wild on a budget? Share them in the comments below!