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The Cost of Protein

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  • The Cost of Protein

    Lately, Iíve been thinking that now that Iím in the Primal groove, itís time to budget Ė which doesnít necessarily mean cutting back as much as it means being smart about how I spend my food dollar. My ultimate goal will be to see if one person can eat Primal-ly on $200/month without going over 75 gms of carbs per day. I arbitrarily chose $200/month because thatís how much in foodstamps the Fedíl govt gives a household of one, if they qualify by income.

    First step: learning the cost of protein based on whatís available to me without having to drive 50 miles to the nearest farm (which does have its impact on the planet). Your costs will be different based on where you live, whether or not you have the space for a large freezer, access to cow sharing, etc., so this is only a generalization. Iíve used an arbitrary need of 85 grams of protein per day.

    Notes: Anything that isnít labeled CAFO is either grass-fed, organic, pastured, or wild. The sardines are wild, caught off the CA shore, and in bpa-free cans, so you can surely find them less expensive. The salmon, on the other hand, may be artificially low because I had to buy 20 pounds to get the price I got. For CAFO products, Iíve factored in for not eating the visible fat/skin.

    I used protein because based on my experience, itís the most expensive macro. Carbs and fats are relatively inexpensive.

    So, hereís what Iíve found to be the cost of 85 grams of protein:

    CAFO lean pork/loin: $1.42
    Whey Protein Powder: $2.41
    CAFO chicken breast, skin removed: $2.66
    Eggs: $3.39
    Beef Shanks: $3.69
    Chicken livers: $5.05
    95/5 Ground Beef: $5.75
    Salmon: $7.95
    Sardines: $9.01
    Squid: $10.72
    Shrimp: $11.00
    Oysters: $23.90


    Some of these were an eye-opener (I love my oysters). Also, it floored me that CAFO pork and chicken were lower than eggs (nothing should be cheaper than eggs! Weíre all so getting screwed by subsidies.). But doing the calculations did show me that in a pinch, I could eat pretty inexpensively Ė however, I wouldnít relish the idea of eating CAFO all the time.

    Hopefully, this might give those of us living on a tight budget a jumping off place on bang-for-the-protein-buck.

    Next step: planning thirty days of meals that are healthy and seeing if I can actually do that on what the govt thinks I can.
    Last edited by JoanieL; 02-09-2013, 08:37 AM. Reason: calculation errors
    "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

    B*tch-lite

    Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.

  • #2
    I was suprised at the cost of 85g of eggs.... until I looked at how many eggs it takes to get 85g. Since an egg has 6g of protein, it would take a little over a dozen eggs to get 85g. (I probably need to raise the price on my eggs, since I sell a dozen eggs from pastured free range chickens for < $3...)

    In your experient, are you going to spend your food dollars in propotion to the source of the nutrient in the diet? (ie 60% on fats, 25% on protein etc, or what ever your macro ratios are) Interest idea you have here!

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    • #3
      First of all, I think $200/person is achievable. However if budget is your priority, then quality will have to take a back seat. Forget grassfed / pastured / organic unless you find a wicked deal or can buy in bulk.

      Next, I'm not sure where you're getting your prices, but if these are regular prices, there are always sales and this is when you fill the freezer and pantry. I never pay full price for meat. Ever. I pay *more* for grassfed beef, but when you buy it by the 1/2 or 1/4 the per pound price is always going to be lower than the per-cut retail price.

      Protein isn't always the most expensive part of a meal. Condiments and dairy can add up. So can out of season produce.

      Then, are you factoring in ALL your eating? Do you ever eat out? A restaurant or takeout meal is going to cost 4x or 5x what it would cost to make it at home. If you've recently switched to primal eating and are cooking at home more than ever, then your grocery spending is going to go up (but your eating out spending should be going down.)

      A grande Starbucks and other take out beverages cost more than a steak dinner cooked at home.

      Also, you can save alot of money if you drink filtered water and don't buy bottled water or other beverages.

      I found this meat buying guide helpful:
      Which Meat to Choose? | Paleo Diet Lifestyle
      Sandra
      *My obligatory intro

      There are no cheat days. There are days when you eat primal and days you don't. As soon as you label a day a cheat day, you're on a diet. Don't be on a diet. ~~ Fernaldo

      DAINTY CAN KISS MY PRIMAL BACKSIDE. ~~ Crabcakes

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      • #4
        ssn679doc, I started this because I wanted to see where my dollars were going. I was writing down some suppers I regularly eat and noticed that the cheapest meal (unfortunately CAFO) was around $2 and my most expensive was around $10. I wanted to see if I could eat using the proteins listed on what the govt gives a qualified single person. It's mostly a fun exercise. I think I live in a fairly expensive part of the country. I'm also in one of the states that has the unmitigated gall to charge sales tax on food, however I'm not factoring that in because when one pays with an EBT card (food stamps), the sales tax gets backed out.

        So, I'm going to start with supper, start with protein. I'm going to use $2/lb for produce in general because except for things like tomatoes and mushrooms (which I'll take into account), I try to make that a limit. Things like rice and potatoes are way lower, so I'll take that into account. I'm not sure how exactly the macros will go, but to make this useful to me anyway, I'm going to aim at general Primal guidelines.

        Your eggs - your customers are so lucky. The best I can do at the $3/doz price point is cage free (a very loose term with lots of wiggle room) organic. If I go to the Farmers Market, I pay $5/dozen for eggs from chickens that get to run around and live close to their natural life.

        Sandra in BC, I know for sure that using CAFO as a base that I could eat on $200/month. The point of this is to see if I can do it on foods from better sources. I'll probably start with one CAFO protein per week and see how much compromise one has to make from there. Figure if a person ate CAFO one day a week and made CAFO their "20," they'd actually be just a bit better than 80/20 at 86/14.

        And yes, I'm going to factor in a realistic amount of food. I'm getting my prices from my locale since this is basically a "Could I do it if I had to" type exercise. While I see CAFO sales often, which is how chicken and pork in my example beat out eggs in price per gram of protein, I've not seen sales on the better quality foods except very occasionally the salmon and the oysters.

        And since this is a "Could I do it if I had to" type exercise, I won't factor in eating out (which I do only on a real splurge to a good restaurant), but I will factor in condiments I use on a regular basis, and dairy is food, so I'll factor it in. But again, there are things I'll have to leave out that I eat now. Many of the small cheese treats I buy myself run from $15-$25/pound, but I acknowledge them as treats and so they won't be factored in. I think a person who really had to eat on $200/month probably wouldn't indulge in those kinds of cheeses.

        It will probably take awhile to put it together, but if it keeps me from noticing that my floors need vacuuming, and teaches me anything, I'll enjoy doing it.

        ETA: haven't had a Starbucks or equivalent, nor have I bought water in plastic bottles in years.
        "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

        B*tch-lite

        Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.

        Comment


        • #5
          Costco.

          Eggs are cheap for 3 dozen, forget exactly how much, but cheap.

          Oysters (pre-shucked) sold (occasionally) for about $7-8 a pound. I buy those suckers up!

          Good prices on CAFO meat, if you're going that route.

          Very inexpensive cheese.

          Comment


          • #6
            Isn't one of the tenants of the PB to avoid CAFO due to the jacked up amount of Omega-6's, hormones and antibiotics?

            M.

            Comment


            • #7
              Finnegan's Wake, no Costco for hundreds of miles. The good news? We're actually getting one that should open in Fall. I've kept my Costco membership active because it pays itself off in online purchases of organic coffee alone. Add in the occasional small appliance (yes they often even beat Amazon's prices when both carry the same item), and it's a fersure save.

              MEversbergII, sure CAFO isn't good. But I figure if people can use things like beer, ice cream, pizza, etc., as their 20, (as in 80/20), then for this exercise, I can use CAFO for mine. And the two CAFO items in my original post aren't treated with hormones
              "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

              B*tch-lite

              Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.

              Comment


              • #8
                Oysters price doesnt surprise me too much, but I am surprised at how competitive shrimp and salmon are with 95/5 ground beef.

                And as far as CAFO vs. organic/grass fed goes, CAFO meat is not ideal, but if you're on a budget sometimes you gotta just deal. It may be higher in O6 and other undesirables, but its still going to have some of the good stuff. Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good, as Mark might say... at least if you are on a budget.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MEversbergII View Post
                  Isn't one of the tenants of the PB to avoid CAFO due to the jacked up amount of Omega-6's, hormones and antibiotics?

                  M.
                  It's one of the tenets of Primal to prioritize: grass-fed, pastured meats are best, CAFO meat is better than grains, industrial oils, and sugar.

                  I think it's also important because there are a lot of other issues connected with it (not supporting Monsanto, sustainable wages for farmers, better treatment of animals, better soil health, supporting local economies... and the food tastes AMAZING).

                  But we all make our choices.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Finnegans Wake View Post
                    tenets
                    Thanks. That was killing me.

                    Originally posted by Finnegans Wake View Post
                    I think it's also important because there are a lot of other issues connected with it (not supporting Monsanto, sustainable wages for farmers, better treatment of animals, better soil health, supporting local economies... and the food tastes AMAZING).

                    But we all make our choices.
                    Nicely said once again. You're proving to be one of my favorite posters. Keep it up!
                    The Champagne of Beards

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ssn679doc View Post
                      I was suprised at the cost of 85g of eggs.... until I looked at how many eggs it takes to get 85g. Since an egg has 6g of protein, it would take a little over a dozen eggs to get 85g. (I probably need to raise the price on my eggs, since I sell a dozen eggs from pastured free range chickens for < $3...)

                      In your experient, are you going to spend your food dollars in propotion to the source of the nutrient in the diet? (ie 60% on fats, 25% on protein etc, or what ever your macro ratios are) Interest idea you have here!
                      A dozen pastured eggs were selling for $7.50 at the farmers market this morning. But I imagine everything in the San Franciso area is priced higher.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Wow good luck with it. I can see it can be done.
                        I would like to spend less on food ourselves, but I can't see where I can. I always buy grass fed hormone free ($400 f/n for 4 people, 2 are children and 2 cats and 2 dogs, incl eggs) Farm fruit and veg ($250 f/n, this includes 2 trays of eggs (30 per tray). $200 per f/n on supermarket items (toilet paper, olive oil, tuna, and the occasional fresh food, never meat). Ouch that is $1700 per month.
                        Crazy! I must be able to cut down on that for sure.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Our eggs are $7 from the butcher for 30 free range, no grain fed chickens. I only go here once every 2 weeks, so sometimes I need to buy the more expensive eggs, as we go to the little farm weekly.
                          From the little farm where we buy fruit and veg, they are $11 per tray of 30.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It is tough. The original list looked off to me, so I recalculated and added Whey Protein Powder. Squid, shrimp, and oysters are pretty much not going to be a regular item for someone living on $200 for food per month. Maybe as condiments, but they're too expensive per protein gram to be a staple.

                            The cheapest source by far for carbs that I can find is rice. At about 7c per quarter cup (dry measure before cooking) it delivers between 35 and 40 grams of carb.

                            If I want to avoid the two CAFO items, I can use the protein powder as a crutch for added protein. At 74c for 26 grams of protein, it comes in second least expensive to CAFO pork. And it's covered by EBT, so it's not a cheat.

                            As I'm playing with this, and comparing what I'm paying now for food to what I paid when I ate all CAFO (except I knew the whole wild vs farmed salmon back then), it becomes apparent that whatever the govt uses to calculate includes all CAFO animal products and traditionally grown produce.

                            I've got eight meals and/or protein combinations done with how much you'd have left over for all other food that day. I'm looking at 30-day months, so $200/month = $6.66 per day.
                            "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

                            B*tch-lite

                            Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm surprised chicken livers are so high. I can get a rather large pack of them here for 2.5... but I'm not sure how it breaks down by weight.
                              Out of context quote for the day:

                              Clearly Gorbag is so awesome he should be cloned, reproducing in the normal manner would only dilute his awesomeness. - Urban Forager

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