The Depression Diet? We’ve discussed the “Recession Diet” and we’re always on the lookout for food budget hacks and tricks for our readers, and the economy isn’t getting any better. And so, although commentators, pundits, and politicians are loathe to utter the “D” word, we just couldn’t resist the chance to alliterate and provide some helpful money-saving tips for our readers looking to maintain their Primal ways.
1. The Rule of 3
To keep things simple and inexpensive, limit meals to three basic components: a fat, a protein, and a vegetable. That covers your dietary fat and protein intakes (the most important parts of a Primal meal) while giving you enough leeway to make things interesting. Start with the three building blocks and dress them up with easy additions (garlic, salt, pepper, spices). Think:
Coconut oil, beef, broccoli
Butter, eggs, bell peppers
Olive oil, chicken breast (skin on), brussel sprouts
2. Make Meals Pop with Simple, Inexpensive Ingredients
Assuming you’ve gone the logical route and stocked up on the basics (meat, whole chickens, frozen veggies, frozen fish, etc) to cut costs, now it’s time to invest a little in some simple, inexpensive ingredients that can really make your meals “pop.” Buying in bulk means you’ll invariably be eating some of the same stuff on a regular basis, but keeping these ingredients on hand can make every meal a little different:
- Fresh garlic (not much needs to be said – featuring prominently in nearly every cuisine, fresh garlic is essential)
- Indian spices (garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon – all the flavor, none of the naan!)
- Wasabi (most know it by the green clumps in sushi places, but powdered wasabi is incredibly versatile – add it to nut mixes, to mayo, or to salad dressings)
- Fresh ginger (there’s nothing quite like ginger, and if you don’t use it all at once, wrap it up tightly in foil and freeze it for later)
- Chili peppers (whether you keep fresh, dried, or canned on hand, chili peppers will quite literally spice up your dishes)
- Salsa (either make your own or buy stuff made with fresh, whole ingredients)
- Vinegar (the foundation of most salad dressings – try to have red wine, balsamic, and white on hand)
- Citrus (citrus is another basic building block, this time for marinades and sauces – keep stocked with lemons and limes)
- Butter (maybe Grok didn’t have butter, but it’s full of healthy milk fat and it adds richness to dishes)
3. Use the Power of Google
Out of ideas? Not to worry – you’ve got a powerful recipe resource at your beck and call. Rummage through your freezer and pantry for all those forgotten food items that never seem to get made and Google them, adding a “recipe” at the end of the list. A search like “canned tomatoes olives green beans chicken recipe” will turn up dozens of results, if not more. You’ll never have to think again!
4. Be Adventurous
As the increasingly apt saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers. Necessity breeds change, so embrace it! Try new things! Approach the grocery store not necessarily with a rigid list, but with an open mind. Explore the perimeter of the store and consider items you’ve never considered before. If the beef heart is on sale, try it. If you’ve never had collard greens, pick up a bunch. Variety will keep you satisfied, especially with impacted finances. The cheaper cuts of meat are often the more “unusual” (and nutritious), so be flexible.
5. Be Prepared
Primalize your pantry and keep it well-stocked, and you’ll likely never go hungry or succumb to takeout. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating out, of course, but it’s definitely not the best way to save money on food (plus, the ingredients used are often decidedly unPrimal). Having plenty of good food on hand will “force” you to cook at home.
6. Plan Ahead
This is similar in spirit to “Be Prepared,” and utilizing Google can be a big part of it. Buy a dry erase board, a chalkboard, or put together a spreadsheet on the computer to plan your meals. Spontaneity is good, and you can always switch things up at the last moment on a whim, but having the week’s meals in writing will let you buy everything at once and avoid those last-minute trips to the grocery store for one or two ingredients that always seem to add up on the credit card statement.
How about you, readers? Anyone got any good money saving tips for Primalists on a budget?