Yes, You Can Eat Healthier On A Budget

The Paleo diet has been called a classist diet and written off as being only for more wealthy and privileged people, so have diets like the gluten free, vegan or even just eating healthier but they don’t have to be.

With the right planning and the right items, you too can eat healthier foods on a lower budget. Below, I’ll give some of my tips from my personal experience.

Every time I go grocery shopping, my goal is to buy healthier foods and slash my monthly budget. We have a family of four, with a three-year-old who is dairy intolerant and I, myself, am gluten and lactose intolerant.

When I first started down the gluten free path, before we found out my daughter had issues with dairy, I found myself spending over 200 a week trying to maintain a new diet as close to my normal diet. I felt a lot better, but I still felt sick so I started to cut back on the processed specialty foods I bought.

As I cut back on the specialty foods, my budget cut itself. We now are in the 120/every 2 weeks range. There will be variations with states, we live in a lower cost of living state (but also lower wage).

Meat will be and has always been the big part of my budget. I try to only buy manager special (Walmart). All I have to do is toss it in the freezer and it lasts almost as long as newer meat does.

I try not to have to cook more than one meal, so even the two on normal diets eat a lot of dairy substitutes and I have a few gluten substitutes I do indulge in (although I try to stick with non-modified, naturally gluten free foods)

Here are a few tips from my experience with lowering our budget to 120-200 every other week.

  1. Keep track of what foods you actually eat. Impulse buying random foods you won’t eat is a major budget killer. Just because a food is on sale or looks good in the picture doesn’t mean it won’t go to waste. Pay close attention to what foods stick around past their expiration dates and be careful not to buy more and pay attention to the few foods you always eat fast.
  2. Go through your pantry to see what you have on hand and build meals around staples like beans, rice, grains or other foods. We all have food taking up space in our pantry. When you’re trying to stick with a budget, grabbing a bag of rice or beans and tossing it in the crock pot is usually a good plan. Rice and beans are healthy but cost next to nothing- they can fill you up, compliment a meal or work on their own, so they are great staples to keep stocked up. Going shopping in your pantry can help you find foods that got pushed to the back or are close to expiration but will make good meals- and it’s one less day you need to shop for.
  3. Find stuff marked down– some produce will be marked down and set in a special area of the store.
  4. Plan meals for 2 weeks at a time, take inventory of the exact amounts of food you will need and buy exactly enough for each meal- no more and only shop for perishables in between.
  5. Plan snacks the same way as meals and buy exactly enough for 1-2 weeks of snacks
  6. Stick with the list
  7. Buy frozen berries and frozen vegetables- you’ll get a low cost, full meal worth of vegetables. They are just as healthy and they don’t go bad. The 1 meal frozen veggies usually cost between .88 and 1.00, so you can buy a bunch for a lower amount. Frozen berries will be more expensive, but they still last much longer than fresh and being frozen has no affect on how healthy they are. There are a couple brands that sell the frozen vegetable sides in steamable bags, just toss in the microwave and heat them for about 5-7 minutes.
  8. Batch cook- Pick one day you have off work and cook as much as you can for 1 week. Portion everything out and put it in the freezer. When you are too tired or don’t have time for a meal, throw a container in the microwave and heat it up like a microwave meal. It will be healthier and cheaper than buying a microwave meal.
  9. When you have the time and energy, make it instead of buying- Making a loaf of bread is cheaper than buying a few loaves every week. If you look on the right sites (like Pinterest), you can find recipes for anything from bread to yogurt, nut milk or specialty products. If it exists, someone has come up with a recipe and likely posted it online.
  10. Generic is just as good as name brand- Most grocery stores have generic brands of pretty much any food. The generic brand is almost always cheaper than coupons for the name brand options and is always cheaper than name brand full prices
  11. Be careful with coupons- You can find a lot of coupons that look good, but pay attention to prices. Look at the generic option- they are often cheaper than
  12. Apps like  Ibotta, Checkout51 and Shopkick work wonders- It all depends on what foods you buy, but my first few months with Ibotta, I made over 50 in gift cards. I also use the gift card options for credit card and loan rewards and have saved hundreds over the course of one year. When you have the right apps mixed with the right rewards points, you can get a lot.
  13. Apps like the FLIPP app help compare sale prices of different stores. You download the app and put in your general location (zip code). It will give you the ads for all the grocery stores in the area so you can compare what items are on sale and where.
  14. Start your own herb and veggie garden This is one that saves me on tomatoes and various herbs yearly. If you can grow a lot, you can save on seasonal and even sell extra or can the extras for out of season use.
  15. Pay close attention to “sell by” vs “use by” dates. If your food says “sell by” that doesn’t mean it is bad and it can still be ate. That message is only for the staff at the store and it means to take it off the shelf. It may not taste as great but it will still be good. Use by doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, but it’s a good idea to taste a tiny bit or sniff it to make sure it’s not bad. It should be thrown away shortly after.
  16. Ordering online helps curb impulse buys. If you order your food on Amazon, Walmart, Kroger or any other grocer, you can either have it delivered or pick it up in store. Walmart is now offering in store pick up, you order online and sign in at a kiosk. When you place the order, it sends it to an employee who shops for you. Seeing the items and cost in the cart can help offer you a reality check and save you on impulse buys.
  17. Go to the store right after eating a full meal It might sound like an “old wive’s tale” but it holds true. If you shop on an empty stomach, you will impulse buy what looks good. If you eat a snack or a full meal and go while satisfied, you are more likely to stick with just what you need.
  18. Stick with the outer parameter of the store- When you enter the aisles, you’re entering the processed foods. If you stick with walking around the outer parts, you’re likely to find the less processed. The meat is almost always along the back wall, dairy/dairy sub coolers are on the edge of most grocers as well as the produce section. I know from experience (former grocery store cashier) that a buggy full of meat and produce, beans, rice and other real foods is actually cheaper than a buggy filled with processed foods.
  19. Avoid pre-cut produce- When you buy the produce pre-cut (apple slices instead of full apples, etc) you are paying for the convenience of having it cut for you. It’s the same reason bottled drinks in coolers are more expensive than the room temperature bottles on shelves. You pay for the convenience instead of just the product.

There are many other ways to save, but these tips have helped me cut my budget by 50-80 (depending on the large items I have to buy) per week.

If anyone has any other tips, I’d love to hear. I’d love to get my budget to about 200 a month, I don’t have time to coupon seriously but I’m always looking for more ways to save.

So, I want to start the Paleo but have no idea where to start

In all the research and studying I have done on my road to working on getting on the full Paleo diet, I have seen so many people “debunking” the claims of the fad. That can easily be said for people just falling into the fad of the diet or the people interested in trying to lose weight, but for the group of medical issues I have, it works and I look for structure.

If you’re interested in starting down the paleo, you may have questions. Is this ok? Is that permitted? Why is it so restrictive? Can I have a cupcake?

Well, it’s not as restrictive as it seems. The majority of the foods are not needed (no one actually needs candy, Oreos or packaged foods). Grains can be an exception, but they can also cause inflammation. On the Paleo, all grains are on the “no” list, even quinoa and amaranth, rice or corn. Corn can be a very problematic grain.

Soy is another problem. It feels like it’s in every dairy or gluten free product but it’s one of the top three foods to avoid. (dairy, soy and gluten are the big 3 in a lot of diet plans), not to mention soy can harm your thyroid.

Here is a break down of what you need to do, what you and and can’t have and some end tips.

Foods You Can Eat

I’ll start with the most positive sounding first.

You can have meats- deer, pork, cow, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish- all that’s good. Wild caught and grassfed are best, but others are good for people with lower budgets.

You can have vegetables- basically all vegetables are permitted.

You can have fruits- once again, fruit is permitted on the diet.

Nuts, with the exception of peanuts are permitted. Peanuts are NOT included.

Herbs, spices- just about all are approved, just watch out for mixes. If they have preservatives and other

There is a whole line of frozen dinners that are specifically Paleo friendly, but they are pricier than normal TV dinners.

 

Foods not included

Grains- even the gluten free grains, none are included on this diet and that includes corn.

Legumes (including soy and peas, lentils, beans, etc)

Processed junk foods- this one goes without saying but the “foods” with tons of ingredients are not included in this diet. If it’s in a box but you’re able to identify every ingredient as a whole food (like TV dinners), they might be included.

 

What is the best way to start?

The best way to start is to start cooking everything at home. Not everyone has time to fully cook breakfast, lunch and dinner every day- that’s where batch cooking on your days off comes in. Slow cookers are also your best friend.

If you take all your meat for a week and cook it on your day off, portion everything out and freeze each thing in separate microwavable friendly tupperware, it saves time and the days you’re too tired or don’t have time to cook you just toss one in the microwave and cook it like a tv dinner.

The best way to get started when starting down the Paleo path, is to grab a couple Paleo cookbooks and meal plan your first 2 weeks grocery list and your next 2 weeks grocery list. Write down the recipes, go through the ingredients and for fresh produce, buy only what you will need for the 1-2 weeks (depending on if you shop weekly, bi weekly or monthly)

Don’t forget to add in deserts or snacks. There are tons of Paleo recipes for desserts.

Ending Tips

– don’t stress if you “slip up”

-remember, this diet path isn’t for everyone but it can really help your overall well being if you have medical conditions that respond to food

-you may want to talk to your doctor to see what you need to supplement before starting any strict diet

-don’t treat this as a diet, pretend it’s a lifestyle you’re choosing

-don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the “do not eat” list

-keep in mind that not all diets work for everyone- your best friend could feel amazing but you could end up on prescription supplements, we all need different foods.

-this is great as an elimination diet if you’re dealing with food intolerance

-there are tons of websites, books and cookbooks- the food doesn’t have to be boring.

 

*This is the second in a series I’m working on dealing with starting and going on the Paleo diet. I’m also in the process of putting together a “shopping” list of sorts to get started walking down this dietary path.*

If you have any suggestions for anything I missed, feel free to leave it in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Beginner Guide to Going Gluten Free

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac, allergy or are starting an elimination diet to see if gluten is a problem, you need to keep in mind- no matter if you’re sensitive or intolerant, gluten is all or nothing. You either eat a normal diet or eliminate ALL gluten. Just like dairy, there is gluten hidden in a lot of foods and in medications.

It typically takes 1-3 months eliminating to fully test out how the food specifically makes you feel.

Going off gluten means cutting ALL wheat, rye and barley. With barley comes eliminating “malt” anything as well. The concept of eliminating wheat alone tends to feel overwhelming at first, but there are many options on the market to replace what you normally love eating. There are also tons of online resources and gluten free groups on Facebook.

I first eliminated gluten from my diet in June of 2017. I stayed off until November, re-added then couldn’t deal with being sick so much and have been strict since January 2018.

What can you eat?

I’ll start easy

You can eat fruits, vegetables, meats,

most grains (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, nut flours like almond meal/almond flour, coconut flour, etc), most dairy products (and most chocolate brands have a gluten free label- but be careful. Hershey’s bars with almonds are safe but Hershey’s kisses with almonds aren’t, so it can get tricky at times- Hershey’s typically labels their candy if its gluten free)

You can also eat a lot of other stuff but I would recommend looking for the “gluten free” label. It’s typically safe to assume that you will get sick if you eat something labeled “no gluten containing ingredients but may contain traces of gluten” or any other way of saying “may contain traces.” It depends on your sensitivity (if you’re allergic or have Celiac you may want to fully avoid to be safe).

The “May contain traces” is a warning that it may or may not be cross contaminated, even if they make it without gluten ingredients. If it’s processed on the same belt or in the same space as gluten containing ingredients it could have residual gluten. If you’re not celiac but have an intolerance, it could be hit or miss.

Foods that aren’t labeled gluten free may or may not be safe. My best recommendation is to stick with the people who label until you really know what you’re doing.

There are also some very good resources (and I’m working on adding a page with different candies and other foods that are fact checked as gluten free on this site for a resource)

One of the main sites I visit is Celiac.org.They also have a forum that has been so beneficial to me personally, I’m not a member but most products have been asked about at some point.

 

 

What can I not eat?

You can’t eat anything with wheat, rye, barley (so anything with the word “malt” is also out) or spelt. The main well known parts are wheat, rye and barley but since spelt is very closely related to wheat, it reacts to people a lot like wheat does.

Just because it’s only three grains, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear to stay away from pasta, bread and other items made with grains. Gluten is kind of the glue that holds breads and baked foods together so it is used in many other things- gravy mixes, processed foods and meals, soups and soup mixes, even a lot of pasta sauces and condiments can be hidden sources. That’s why it’s usually safer to buy substitutes that are specifically made to be gluten free versions until you get the diet change down and learn what unlabeled foods are safe.

Also- stay away from oatmeal unless it’s specifically labeled “gluten free.” A lot of the rolled oats are rolled in wheat (or whole grain)

Avoid anything labeled as “whole grain” because that includes wheat

Be careful when it comes to “no gluten containing products but may contain trace amounts”

That warning is usually about cross contamination. It depends on your severity- if you’re Celiac, it’s best to avoid. If you have a serious intolerance, it’s also best to avoid. If it’s a minor sensitivity the choice is yours.

What if I’m on a Budget?

If you’re on a tight budget, going with frozen vegatables and fruits help. They last longer than normal produce and one bag is only .84 and can be a good side dish for a whole family of four.

Buying meats on clearance, some clearance produce also work. I mentioned this in the Paleo on a budget post, but I hardly ever buy meat at normal price. I always buy Manager Special then freeze it as soon as I get home.

If you’re a baker, like I am, you’ll miss baked foods more than anything. If you look hard enough, you can find gluten free all purpose baking flours cheaper than buying a bunch of white rice, brown rice, almond, coconut and other special flours.

I use Walmart’s Equate brand all purpose baking flour- it’s the closest to normal flour I have found and is only 3.00 in stores.

Stick with mostly foods naturally free of gluten at first. If you’re on a budget, the specialty replacement items are the budget killers. A buggy full of produce, meats and (if you do dairy) dairy products won’t kill your budget as fast as filling it up with empty calorie replacements.

Make your own broth, stock and bone broth

Batch cook meals

Eating gluten free on a budget is very similar to eating paleo (or any other way) on a budget- the best way is to go with sales, buy natural, shop weekly and prepare a shopping list with a full meal plan including snacks.

 

Other Tips to Starting this Journey

Join online support groups- you can find so much help in Facebook groups. There are people who have been eating that way for years, decades, months and days. All you have to do is post and you will have tons of tips for whatever you’re trying to do.

Follow Gluten free magazines and blogs on Facebook or follow the actual websites

Pinterest has pins for everything. They are a great source of gluten free substitutes and recipes

Remember- there is no such thing as “just a little gluten” this is all or nothing.

Following a traditional gluten free diet is not a good way to lose weight, in fact, there is so much sugar and other bad added to traditional subs that healthy people tend to gain. On one hand, gluten free causes wider awareness of what you’re eating BUT if you stick with highly processed, you may end up gaining (good thing if you’re Celiac or have other underweight issues, but if you’re condition is causing you to hold weight- it’s not a good thing)

I’ll be doing more posts about gluten free, dairy free, paleo and other diets along the same path.

 

 

Simple Steps to Starting Paleo On A Budget

The Paleo is a “fad” diet, short for Paleolithic. The concept, they say, is to “eat what your ancestors ate” but that could easily backfire and has been shown to be in error.

For me, I do best when I have a set of rules sat out in front of me and the Paleo diet is the best standard for all the foods I’ve been told to leave out or reduce due to medical issues.

If you’ve read many of my blogs from my other site, https://www.newagedreamchick.com you know I’ve been gluten free for a while now.

The other suggestions I’ve had:

Limit foods high on the glucose scale (basically similar to the diabetic diet but since I’m not diabetic, I don’t have to take them out completely. I have had issues with eating white potatoes- they will crash my sugar.)

The foods that means to eliminate or use extremely sparingly-

  1. white sugar
  2. white flour
  3. white potatoes
  4. everything else white/enriched
  5. pop
  6. limit some fruits
  7. fruit juice

Those were the foods I was told specifically, especially since I’ll have a sugar seizure if my sugar gets too low.

For other random issues, I’ve been advised by either others with the same issues or doctors to avoid

  1. gluten
  2. dairy
  3. soy
  4. red40 (actual allergy)

and we all know processed junk food isn’t good either- it’s high in bad and a lot has hidden dairy or gluten.

Looking at the list of restrictions, my best bet is to work towards trying to go on the Paleo diet since it eliminates everything I am told to either limit or avoid. I’ve been studying it for a while but since I am also shopping and cooking for 2 kids and shopping for my husband, I have to be realistic about price and how much I spend on everything for myself. I already eat primarily whole foods, so here is how I save money while still eating healthy.

What is permitted on the Paleo Diet

  1. vegetables of near any kind
  2. Fruit of any kind
  3. Normal, (preferably grass fed, antibiotic free) meat
  4. Nuts (except peanuts)
  5. Seeds
  6. Just about any ground spice (watch out for spice mixes but any regualr ground spices are safe)
  7. All natural, normal herbs

What is not permitted on the Paleo Diet

  1. Grains- including gluten free. Even rice isn’t allowed.
  2. Peanuts
  3. Most dairy
  4. Soy/legumes
  5. Unnatural sugar (white sugar)
  6. Pretty much all over processed foods (boxed, etc)

Good rule of thumb, if you read the ingredients and can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it. There are recipes for Paleo friendly mayo, dressings and other condiments.

Ways to save at the store

Find the foods you all eat first

Just because you’re on a somewhat restrictive diet doesn’t mean you have to have a totally different shopping list. Usually the whole family eats meat- if you go to the grocery store at the right time, you should be able to find the marked down meats. You can typically also find vegetables on mark down. Meat, you can freeze and hold out the lifespan but you will need to use the vegetables quickly.

With vegetables your kids won’t eat, buy just enough for your week

Produce doesn’t have to weigh your budget down. If you’re buying for yourself only and it’s something you know your children won’t eat, make sure to just get enough for your week. If you’re just starting the Paleo, make a menu plan and write down the exact amount you’ll need. Make sure to keep the list on you and don’t deviate from the list.

When you can, buy frozen

You’ll get a full meal worth of veggies for your kids, you and your spouse and frozen typically costs between 89 and 1.00. A huge plus is that with a lot of frozen veggies, all you have to do is toss the bag in the microwave for 5-7 minutes and serve. I always make sure I’m stocked with all the veggies my kids eat and I eat.

List, list, list

A shopping list is one of the most important things I can stress. If you stick with the list, you won’t spend near as much. If you have several grocery stores within a few miles of your home, there is an app called Flipp. It gives you the sales of the week near you. Some places price match but a lot don’t anymore. If you’re lucky enough to live near a store that still does, you can usually show the app to get the lower price. Otherwise, it’s good to note the sales so you know which stores to buy. Organize the list by item and write the cheapest store beside it.

Be careful with coupons

There are places that will send you really good coupons for products but a lot of times if you look at the amount on the coupon and what the price of the generic costs, you’ll find the generic is lower than the coupon for the name brand. In most cases, it’s just the same but cheaper so coupons are not always great deals- but make sure you use any instant savings coupons or grab coupons for name brand items you love.

Skip the specialty foods

There are foods specially labeled “paleo” (similar to the “gluten free.” MOst of those foods aren’t near as healthy and will be overpriced. It’s best to find recipes for things you like that are Paleo friendly and make those instead. It will have you spending more time in the kitchen, but if you can find a few spare minutes, a lot can be frozen.

Ways to save at home

Make your own broth

There are tons of recipes online or in books for bone broth. It’s easy to make, just put several cups of water, bones from whatever meat you just cooked, garlic, onion, celery and carrots into a slow cooker. Cook between 12 hours and 2 days- then strain the broth through cheese cloth and pour in a jar. Bone broth is a nice hot drink when you’re not feeling well or good as a soup base.

If you want just regular broth, cook meat in a slow cooker, add extra water after the meat is cooked and continue cooking for a couple hours then take the meat out and strain the broth.

Make your own salad dressing

All you really need to do is mix olive oil and lemon and put it on your salad. Vinegar and olive oil can also work.

Batch cook

It saves time and can prolong life spans. Pick a day you’re off work and spend it in the kitchen. Take all the meals and freeze them in single portion size tupperwares. All you have to do is take one out, heat it up like a microwave dinner and you won’t have the waste from produce going bad. It’s also good for days you’re too tired to cook

 

Plan meals out by the week, 2 weeks or month

Depending on how often you go shopping. Plan the meals out in advance, write down everything you need and head to the store with a list, or use the option a lot of stores are giving now for online pickup- just order through the apps and go in to pick the food up.

 

What a typical shopping list looks like for me

  1. eggs
  2. Manager special steak/beef/chicken/turkey- it goes straight into the freezer when I get home
  3. Peppers (1 of each color along with 1-2 green
  4. salad mix
  5. carrots
  6. almond milk or coconut milk
  7. apples
  8. kiwi
  9. clementines
  10. Random things for the kids that they like
  11. Whatever my husband asks me to get

My normal twice a month shopping trip is between 100 and 130, depending on some things. We buy a lot of almond milk, Silk almond vanilla yogurt and I don’t waste money on dairy products any more, except a half gallon of whole milk for my husband.

That’s a general picture. My two year old loves fruit, so I make sure to buy extra fruit. She also likes to eat raw carrots and occasional raw peppers. I keep stocked on frozen broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas and occasionally corn (corn and peas aren’t permitted on the Paleo) because my kids love them and it’s a great fast side.

We do once a week for the stuff we always eat and once a week costs between 1 and 120, for the main shopping week and around 50-60 in the off weeks. I’m currently working on bringing the number down, but we have 2 growing kids and a cat.

I’ll come back and work further on more guides similar to this one later.