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Thread: primal on a budget? (or, frustrated grad student in danger of relapsing...)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    primal on a budget? (or, frustrated grad student in danger of relapsing...)

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    Hey all, thanks in advance for the help!

    In the last two months I've become more aware of the primal lifestyle, and have begun to give it a try. However, I'm close to quitting out of sheer frustration. I'm a graduate student, and on my very small living stipend I spend $20/week on groceries (this is non-negotiable- there is no room in other parts of my budget for shifting things around- I don't have a smart phone or other pretty electronics, I don't have a car, I absolutely never eat out, etc). This worked fine before I made the switch to primal, since I cooked all my meals from scratch. I ate mostly oatmeal, potatoes, rice, beans, whole-grain pasta, with eggs/chicken for protein and lots of whatever fruits/veggies were on sale (mostly cabbage, broccoli, apples and bananas). After seeing a nutritionist at my school and realizing I didn't have enough protein in my diet, I also added a fair amount of tofu, cottage cheese, and even more eggs.

    However, on a primal diet, most of the cheap (yet still healthy, or so I used to think) fillers like oatmeal and potatoes are off limits, and I'm really struggling to figure out how to fill the gap without going over budget. At most, I could probably stretch to $25/wk. I can't afford red meat or fish, and I really miss bread/baking but can't afford the ingredients (almond meal, coconut flour, etc) for primal alternatives.

    So my question (sorry for such a long set up) is this: is there any possible way for me to make this work, or do I just give up until I finish my degree/get a real job with a real paycheck? It probably will only be another year or so. My health is generally good, I weigh the same I did when I was 16, and because I walk/bike to school and everywhere else, I get in a good 50-100 minutes of low intensity exercise every day. So maybe it's not the end of the world to revert to a non primal diet until graduation. But if there is some sort of super budgeting solution anyone has found, I would be thrilled to hear it.

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Well, if you are not trying to lose weight, there is really no major reason why you can't still eat the rice and potatoes. For most people they are pretty benign other than the starch load.
    Cabbage is also cheap for a veg option. Whole chickens are cheaper than precut pieces.
    You don't have to be all or nothing.

    Make friends with a hunter?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    New Westminster BC
    Check out the clearance meat bin for cheaper tough cuts like stew bones and chuck. Invest in a slow cooker. Slow cook cheap meat for hours with some veggies
    I'm a paleo foodie, come check out my recipes:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    My husband and I spend $25 per person per week for food, and we're eating primal.

    Shop around and find the least expensive place for meat, it may not be where you expect. Around here Wal-Mart is medium expensive for meat but there's a small grocer that keeps butchers on staff and their meats are very inexpensive. I buy as much as I can when it's on sale.

    For me, one week's groceries for one person would look like this:

    4 pounds ground meat = $9-10
    1 whole chicken = $3-4
    2 dozen eggs = $2-3
    1 box bacon ends & pieces = $5
    I fill the rest with frozen vegetables, bagged fresh onions, and canned tomatoes which usually run <$1 apiece

    The ground meat will get combined with vegetables in stews and curries. On the weekend I'll take a day and slow roast the chicken for 5 hours, eat on that for a couple of days, and boil the carcass for 24 hours to make stock and soup can last for a week easy.

    You can absolutely do this. Make sure to save the fat from everything you cook (especially the bacon) and add it to things, it will help fill you up more. With what I've listed up above I would probably end up with some extra food come payday. I'll take the savings then and use it to buy some fish oil to help offset the omega 6s from the conventionally raised meats.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    sweet, that's super helpful, thanks!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    London, Ontario, Canada
    I can't get groceries as cheap as Tigerfeet! Here a pound of ground beef is 3.25 if I can't find it on sale. Some thriftier purchases for me would be:

    2 doz. eggs - $4 (a dozen, or a flat of 18 might be enough for 1 person for a week)
    1 pound bacon - $3.50 - sometimes ground pork is cheaper and it fries up nicely
    Big container of mixed greens $4
    Bag of coleslaw mix $1.50
    Bottle of olive oil $3 (cheap and probably not the best, if you can afford more, get a better one)
    Cheap bottle of balsamic vinegar $1.75
    5 avocados - $4
    Canned tuna - $1 each, canned salmon is nicer, but double the price
    Canned coconut milk - $1 each
    Biggest bag of frozen fruit I can find - $9

    If you put 'budget' into the forum search box, you'll find lots of posts with great ideas!
    Newcomers: If you haven't read the book, at least read this thread ... and all the links!

    Jan. 1, 2011: 186.6 lbs PBSW Mar. 1, 2011: 175.8 lbs
    CW: 146.8 lbs
    GW 140 lbs
    A proud member of PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    im at about 21-26 dollars per week. your nut butters, nuts and special items should be monthly items. im single so i only buy for me but i consider that pretty cheap!

    i went primal in feb 2010
    37% body fat
    38-40 waist

    1 year to the day
    7.8% body fat
    29 waist

    7% body fat
    29 waist

  8. #8

    It can be done!

    First off, you've got to shop around. Gather the fliers for your area stores, and scope out the sales, and plan your menu around that instead of the other way around. If the price isn't good don't buy it!

    For meat, the less processed it is, the cheaper it tends to be. For example, boneless skinless chicken breasts can be as much as $3-4 a pound, but I can get a whole chicken for .88 a pound! You can buy one of those bad boys, roast it, and eat all week! You can also get good prices on chicken thighs, drumsticks, and chicken legs if you watch for sales. You can also get good prices on ground meat--think lettuce wrapped burgers, stir fries, meat loaf, etc.

    Canned and frozen veggies and fruit are affordable options. Frozen fruit is almost always a great buy in comparison to fresh, and it won't go bad! You can get bags of frozen berries, peaches, and even mangoes for a steal, and they're great in smoothies--just make sure you get it unsweetened. Be on the lookout for sales and coupons, and stock up.

    If you're going for fresh, try to opt for stuff that's in season where you are. It'll probably be fresher and cheaper as it wasn't flown from half way around the world to get to you.

    Eggs. Eggs. Eggs.

    I don't know if it's an option for you, but you can save a ton of money if you're able to grow some of your fave things. I don't have a lot of space, but I have an awesome herb garden, and I'm growing salad greens and berries since that's what I eat the most of and spend the most money on.
    Last edited by NKatz; 06-02-2011 at 04:23 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    san Francisco
    Second on going for the cheaper cuts of meat. Flank steak is good, though not much fat so youll pay for that in other ways i.e. adding coconut oil, avocados etc. Get a crock pot, Eggs. I also buy those pre prepared bags of coleslaw mix (no dressing) and make a big batch with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maybe a little apple, Olive oil mayo. That can last me a week easy.
    Basically the cheaper you go the more you will have to cook and prepare your own food. Roasting a whole chicken, making stock etc.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Shop Now
    I've had to cut a lot of things from my grocery bill lately. You can definitely eat potatoes and rice if it helps bulk up your meals for cheap. I've found ground beef for about $2.50/lb, and I'll eat 6-8 oz a day, and maybe 4 eggs in a day on top of that (2 dozen for about $5). I round it out with some vegetables that I saute in either butter or leftover fat (usually bacon fat!). Lately those veggies have been green beans, broccoli, spinach and collards. They are on the cheap right now at the grocery store. Try to go for bulk conventional veggies, as opposed to bags of pre-cut carrots, or salad mixes in bags. There is a lot less weight for more price for many of those.

    The only real issue is getting bored with limited food for me. But it's no worse than getting bored with pasta and beans and rice etc. ever was... I'll try to spruce it up a bit on the weekends by having good bacon or sausage, but not always. If I could grow vegetables like someone else before me mentioned, I think I'd have pretty cheap grocery bills indeed.
    Type 1 Diabetic. Controlling blood sugar through primal life.

    2012 Goals:
    Maintain A1c of 6.0 or lower
    More dietary fat, less carbs, moderate protein
    LHT and sprint as per PB fitness
    Play more!

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