Dear Mark: Can’t Afford Good Meat, Allergy or Preference, Cold Pasta, and Protein in Pregnancy

Bunless burgerFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a four-parter. First up, how does a person hope to maintain a Primal lifestyle if they can’t afford pastured meats and eggs and are unwilling to eat factory-farmed meat? Is it possible? Yes; read on. Next, what’s the deal with waiters asking if we’re avoiding bread because of “preference” or “allergy”? What’s it to ’em? Third, should Primal people care about the recent study showing a reduced blood glucose response after eating leftover pasta? We should, and I’ll explain why. Finally, how should a husband counsel a pregnant wife who wants nothing to do with mammal meat? I give a few tips.

Let’s go:

I got into the paleo/primal way of eating while I was living with my boyfriend. I lived with him for a few months but he paid for all the groceries. He only buys organic produce and organic grass fed/pasture raised meats. I always knew eating organic was expensive but I didn’t realize just how unaffordable it is until I went back to living alone! Unfortunately I cannot afford to buy all organic and grass fed but I don’t want to eat conventional. I refuse to eat meat that comes from abused, factory farmed animals that are pumped up with hormones and are fed GMO grains. Not only is it a health concern, but also a moral concern. Since living alone I’ve started eating conventional veggies (except for the dirty dozen; I try my best to buy those organic) but I have drastically lowered my meat intake. Unfortunately I can only afford to buy grass fed ground beef at Ralph’s when its on sale (but when it is, I buy it in bulk!). However, I’m not eating nearly enough as I should be. My portions are all very small and sometimes I go a few days without eating meat. I try to eat eggs to fill in the protein gaps but pasture raised eggs are fairly expensive too. I’ve lost too much weight and need to find a way to eat more without breaking the bank. I simply cannot afford this lifestyle on my salary. What do you suggest?



My wife was a vegetarian for decades. Yep, Mrs. Grok herself was an avowed vegetarian and then pescetarian up until about a year ago, when she began eating land animals. She was completely healthy. She feels like she’s gotten even healthier since introducing meat, of course, but you can absolutely do it well without meat. My son is also a vegetarian (for similar reasons as you) who obtains most of his protein from ample amounts of dairy and eggs. He’s lean, fit, happy, healthy, and a natural athlete. No worse for wear in either case.

I place huge importance on personal ethics. You could force yourself to eat cheaper CAFO meat and eggs, and your body might benefit from the added protein and fat and micronutrients, but your mind and spirit would suffer. And eventually, your body would suffer, too, because you can’t neglect that other side of your being. You must be true to yourself or you’ll wither away into a husk.

Exhaust your options before giving up. Check out local farmer’s markets for deals, search Craigslist for people selling meat or eggs, look for farms near you on Eat Wild who might sell meat in bulk, try to get in on a cowpool. What you can find nearby might surprise you.

Don’t neglect organ meats, either. Organic chicken and grass-fed beef livers are usually under $4 or $5 per pound, and a little bit goes a long way. You can’t eat liver every day (too much vitamin A!), but once or twice a week is a great way to get highly nutritious and ethical animal food into your diet without going broke.

Same with dairy. If you tolerate it, grass-fed or pasture-raised dairy can be a very healthy and less expensive addition to your diet – calorie for calorie.

Of course, the Primal lifestyle doesn’t have to be a meat fest. Nor should it. Eat more safe starches. Go for sweet potatoes, white potatoes, starchy squash, fruits, beets, anything you can get your hands on. A five pound bag of white potatoes, even organic ones, isn’t more than $5 and provides a ton of calories and nutrients (more than you’d think; white potatoes are actually quite nutrient-dense, contrary to popular belief).

Should everyone go out and do Primal this way? No, especially not an overweight person hoping to lose weight. But you’re losing “too much weight.” You need the calories and the carbs won’t be a problem.

Always remember, too, that this is a lifestyle (as you mentioned) and it’s not just about the food. Being Primal is about being outside in nature, exercising sanely, going barefoot when the opportunity presents itself, getting sun and sleep and social contact with people who care about you, laughing, stimulating your mind and body. And yeah, it’s about eating good food. “Humanely-raised grass-fed meat and poultry” are important. They’re not everything, though.

Hi Mark!

Recently when I request a burger without a bun at fast food restaurants I’m asked whether this is an allergy or preference – but the cashier never knows why or what the difference is. Can you give any insight into this new phenomenon?



If it’s an allergy, the kitchen staff needs to be extremely fastidious about avoiding cross-contamination. They’ll use separate knives, pans, cutting boards, and anything else that might come into contact with the allergenic food.

If it’s a preference, they won’t bother with all that stuff. They won’t go out of their way to keep the kitchen tools separate.

I recommend going with “preference,” if you don’t have a medical issue with microscopic bread particulates. If I’m ever in that situation, I say “preference.” I’d rather not inconvenience the staff, and I want the best meal possible. After all, you’re at the mercy of the people who prepare your food. Making them unnecessarily clean a brand new cutting board and knife can really grind things to a halt, affect the kitchen flow, and convince the chef that you deserve the smallest, stringiest lamb shank in the pot or the oldest steak in the fridge.

If you’re truly sensitive to any level of contamination, go with “allergy.”

Did you see this?:


Yeah, I saw that a couple weeks back. Pretty cool. Works with bread, too. Freezing your bread increases the resistant starch content and lowers the blood glucose when you eat it. Even toasting bread lowers the glucose spike.

And even though you guys probably aren’t eating pasta, cold or not, and might be thinking, “So what if leftover pasta isn’t as bad as fresh hot pasta? I don’t eat the stuff to begin with!” – this development is still relevant. Many of you have asked about the impact reheating has on the resistant starch content of cooked and cooled potatoes. Well, if this is any indication, reheating your potatoes won’t just leave the RS untouched; it’ll actually increase it and further depress the blood glucose response.

All the more reason to keep precooked spuds in your fridge for easy peeling, slicing, and light sautéing. Nothing better than french fries that feed your gut bacteria and don’t spike your blood glucose (as much).

Hi Mark,

My wife is just a few weeks pregnant, and I want to make sure she’s getting the best nutrition possible within our/her means. The biggest issue for me is that she’s just not much of a meat eater, usually limited to [organic] poultry, eggs and the occasional bit of shrimp or crab. But she’s definitely not adverse to grass-fed butter, coconut and olive oil, which we use liberally.

Do you think it’s OK to drop the protein push if she’s getting enough good-quality fat (along with plenty of organic produce)? Or should she make sure to get a specific amount of protein? She does eat quite a bit of carbs, but overall she’s not really an over-eater by any means.



Drop the protein push. In my experience, the last thing you want to do as a husband married to a very pregnant wife is bug her about not eating this or that. And despite the incessant push for pregnant women to eat more and more protein, more isn’t always better. Studies of hunter gatherers and non-human primates have found a ceiling for protein intake during pregnancy: 25% of calories.

Studies of various protein intakes during pregnancy show that both “isocaloric protein supplementation” (where either fat or carbs are swapped out for protein) and “high protein supplementation” (where protein is increased to 25% or more of total calories) are associated with reduced birthweight and a higher risk of having a small for gestational age baby (SGA). As you undoubtedly know, underweight babies are at a greater risk for health issues, even later in life. One study even found that the offspring of mothers on a high-protein pregnancy diet were more susceptible to stress and released more cortisol when exposed to psychological stressors than offspring of mothers on a lower (but not “low”) protein diet.

“Balanced protein energy supplementation” (where you eat sufficient protein and overall calories while keeping protein under 25% of calories) is the way to go. Particularly in undernourished pregnant women, it decreases the risk of SGA.

That’s not to say that protein is bad. 10-20% of calories is probably close to ideal. A recent study even found that maternal protein intake in the first trimester was associated with bone mass of the kid by age six; higher protein intakes predicted better bone development. Of course, the population examined were ethnic Dutch, who have the 3rd highest per capita consumption of dairy in the world. For this study, high protein intake probably means high dairy intake, and dairy is extremely good for bone development, containing the pro-bone nutrients calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin K2. It’s unclear if high maternal protein intake from other sources would have similar effects on child bone development.

There are plenty of ways to get adequate protein during pregnancy that don’t involve meat. How about dairy, like the Dutch?

If your wife’s cool with dairy (the liberal use of butter tells me she is), do that. Yogurt, kefir, good cheese, milk (a glass of grass-fed whole milk with a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses provides whopping doses of critical pregnancy nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, plus the protein). Another benefit is that dairy during pregnancy seems to reduce the incidence of asthma and eczema in the offspring.

How about a sample day?

3 eggs for breakfast – 18 grams

Cup of yogurt for a snack – 12 grams

3 ounces shrimp with lunch – 24 grams

2 ounces of gouda (high in vitamin K2) with lunch – 14 grams

4 ounces chicken thigh for dinner – 28 grams

Glass of milk before bed – 8 grams

For a total of 104 grams of protein, which is more than plenty. That’s doable, wouldn’t you say? Good luck with everything and let your wife’s appetite guide her protein intake. The body knows what it’s doing and what it needs. Whatever happens, I’m sure you’ll have a healthy baby.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Be sure to include any comments, questions, or advice below!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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81 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Can’t Afford Good Meat, Allergy or Preference, Cold Pasta, and Protein in Pregnancy”

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  1. Regarding allergy vs preference: don’t ever claim you have an allergy if you’re not allergic. In addition to what Mark said about slowing down the kitchen, it makes restaurants distrust people who are genuinely allergic. They get people who claim “oh, I’m allergic to such and such” and then find out it’s just that they choose not to eat it in one dish but are ok with it in another, and then waitstaff don’t take real allergies seriously as a result.

    My son has a severe allergy to sesame seeds, and so when we order him a bunless burger we have to emphasize repeatedly that he is allergic to seeds, and ask if they are grilling the buns alongside the burgers. In our case, this is a genuine “do not cook his food alongside the sesame food” request, which is different than “I don’t eat bread”.

  2. Great example of the sample day eating. That was even without any nuts or seeds included.

  3. My suggestion for meat purchasing is looking at and finding a local ranch near you. I get all cuts of grass fed beef for about $3.50 right outside San Francisco. If you don’t have enough room in your freezer you can ask friends and family if they want to split!

    1. Wish there was a way I could upvote this. Claiming that meat is too expensive is pretty foolish. Even the cheapest supermarket CAFO meat is often MORE expensive than finding a farmer and buying in bulk.

      Also if you’re buying from a farmer you don’t NEED to buy grassfed. Depending on the state, you can easily find a farmer that has the cow on pastuer for 90%+ of its life, with hay in the winter. They toss in some corn and grains for the final 2-3 months for fattening but that is negligible. (once upon a time this was how all meat was produced). The meat is still significantly healthier than CAFO and typically cheaper too.

      1. Foolish? Really? You have no idea what circumstances other people are living in. I rent my small townhouse, work in retail and live in the desert. Grass-fed meat in my area is very, very expensive (for me and my salary) and if I bought a quarter cow I would have no place to store it and it would take me too long to eat it if I did have somewhere to put it.

        1. Thank you, Karen B. Even if locally farmed beef is available “cheaper than the supermarket,” it almost invariably requires a huge investment upfront. I would love to buy grass-fed beef regularly, and I even know of a couple of local ranches where I could get it. The problem is that in order pay that $3.50/lb I would have to buy 200-300 lbs at one time. Not only do we not have anywhere to put it, but that’s our whole grocery budget for 3 months! When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you just can’t stock up on 3 months worth of groceries in advance.

      2. Grain finish, even for a short time reduces vitamin content pretty drastically.

  4. I’m sorry but it doesn’t have to be expensive.

    There are creative solutions for everything, we just have to find them. I did. I believe everyone can.

    Not just organ meat is cheaper — don’t forget about the other “odd bits” of the animals! Trotters, oxtail, necks, shanks, soup bones to make nourishing broth etc. etc. I can buy two trotters from pastured, organic pork for $8. Stuff them with a root veggie mash and you have an incredible couple meals! And these are the expensive downtown prices. Getting out into the country and visiting the farms to stock up the freezer can save you SO much money. Carpool with like minded people if you don’t have a vehicle (I don’t). Go to your local farmers markets. Get fat trimmings from your butcher and render them.

    FORAGE — our parks, woods, and back yards are FULL of free edible greens, fruits, roots, and mushrooms. Many cities have cheap courses that take you out foraging. And there are numerous books on the subject that are location specific, as well as informative websites.

    FISH — get your fishing license and go get em. It’s super easy, cheap, and fun. I live in downtown Toronto, there are hundreds of fishing spots I can get to via public transit.

    HUNT — this involves a bit more time and money upfront and it’s not for everyone. But it is a solution that saves money in the long run. Just got my license, can’t wait to get out there.

    1. And if YOU don’t hunt or fish, team up with someone who does! Offer to buy bait, or tackle, or bullets, or whatever the hunter/fisher needs to get the job done.

      Beer? A warm flannel shirt? Wool socks?

      1. Exactly. People love to share their hobbies and passions and meet like-minded individuals. I always extend an invite to anyone I meet to join me, especially since I’m a girl and I don’t meet a lot of girls in Toronto who want to go hunting and fishing! Well, guys either really. The city can suck sometimes 🙂

    2. This is assuming that EVERYBODY who eats primal wants to do those things. What about college students? Single parents? People holding down two jobs?

      The beautiful thing about living in the “modern world” is that we don’t have to spend hours hunting, fishing, and foraging if we don’t want to. I took a foraging guide once, and while I love hiking, I walked away from that thinking there were a bazillion other ways I’d rather spend hours of my life… Like hiking.

      I’m lucky enough to live in Hawai’i, and do you have any idea how expensive your regular ultra-pasteurized milk is? Don’t even think about getting it raw, because where are you going to get it from?

      I went in a cow share, and it still cost me an average of $7.50 a pound for mostly ground meat.

      So please, offer some real advice. I was cheering when I read Mark’s response because that’s one that applies to the real world. “Advice” like this reads like entitled elitism.

      1. My primary advice was to source cheaper cuts of an animal instead of relying on the prime ones that often carry an exorbitant cost with them. Mark brought up organ meat in his response while leaving out the feet, necks, fat trimmings etc. that many butchers also offload for much less.

        My secondary advice was to go directly to the farmers themselves and buy from them at reduced prices.

        Calling me an “entitled elitist” and presuming that I don’t live in the “real world” because I consider fishing to be a viable option for obtaining cheap food is somewhat confusing. I live on Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto. An enormous food source right at my feet.

        I don’t know what your situation in Hawaii is, I can only speak from personal experience. I’m lucky to get raw milk from a small former at $4/litre but if I couldn’t, I would probably just stop drinking milk. I’m also not sure why you brought up milk actually.

        I’m holding down two jobs myself — one of them being my own business. I live in a very expensive city in a tiny condo. I’m on a tight budget, but to cry about the cost of things and want them somehow magically mitigated for you is solving nothing. If anything, it smacks of first-world whining to me.

        I have problems, but I’d rather look for solutions. Foraging, hunting and fishing may not work for you – or for everybody — and you’re right, we don’t have to do these things in today’s world, but they are legitimate alternatives to spending $40 on a grass-fed steak. Otherwise, people can just suck it up if they refuse to take any responsibility.

        1. Ha!! I live in Toronto as well, and i’ve been looking for a place to find raw milk for a while now… Any way you could tell me where to go?? 😀

        2. Rebecca, google Ilgert’s Organic Acres. Mike’s been having some health issues lately and he was dealing with the death of a cow as well, but regular deliveries should be up running soon! You have to become a part-lease holder which is an upfront cost — which also makes him selling it you legal — and then you can purchase raw milk from him on a biweekly basis. He also has eggs and chickens and will let you sample the milk before committing. If that doesn’t work out, contact the Weston Price Foundation Toronto chapter and they can set you up. Good luck!

      2. Amen, Deanna! It’s clear that most of the folks here truly do not understand the finances of being poor. (Or being single & living in an apartment with an apartment-sized freezer.)

        When you are living month to month, that extra $7 a week it takes to buy farmers market eggs just isn’t there. You don’t have the upfront dough to buy 1/4 a cow.

        People here just really don’t get it — I think Mark does, but his audience is affluent urbanites, so he doesn’t address this issue as much as he could. The LW should look elsewhere for budget paleo ideas.

  5. I really need to stick to a grocery budget and have found that ground meat and lots of potatoes (white and sweet) and plantains help keep the bills down while still getting enough reasonably good quality food in my family of 5. Grass fed ground beef is very affordable and versatile. Also fattier parts of organic chicken are cheaper than breasts. I definitely agree with leaning on good starches as staples because they really keep the bill down.

  6. Good meat and eggs are rather expensive, that´s true. But I found out, that keeping off all the useless stuff (bread, beer, pizza, tropical fruits, dairy, sweets, snacks, sodas …) and focusing on seasonal and locally grown vegetables and on the ridiculous cheap organ meats (“ridiculous”, because they are the best and most nutritional dense parts of the animal) can help you save a lot of money and let you easily cover the difference in the price of the meat. When you take into account the additional savings resulting by a paleo-lifestyle, it is even more easy to cover the difference. For example: eating less food in total because of the better satiation effect of real food; less power consumption by dimming the lights in the evening and turning off the television or by eating more of your veggies raw (not cooking them). Using your car less. And so on and so on. No, I won´t mention the savings potential concerning your footwear by going barefoot, haha 🙂 . But there are some more than only funny considerations one can make. And what about reduced expenditures for health care? The list gets rather long once you start considering.

    High quality meat is expensive, yes, but you have to see the whole picture. I finally saw it and it was an eye opener for me. And by the way, it is not necessary to always have the best grass-fed beef. As long as you eat your plants and animals at all, you are far better off than someone who relies on a junk-food-based nutrition. And if you worry about too little calories, then try to increase your intake of healthy fats. Ever tried lard? It´s so delicious and so cheap per calorie – even in the “grass-fed” category. I have it always in my fridge.

  7. In my area, sometimes grass-fed beef liver is only $3 a pound. This is cheaper than the conventional stuff, but they sell out of it really quickly. Chicken liver can be pretty cheap, too, but they seem to have an issue with not removing gallbladders at the store I go to. Gallbladders taste terrible.

  8. I was just thinking about the cost thing because I am going to be doing public talks and this will certainly come up.

    I was thinking at most we spend $50 a week ‘more’ on good quality food for our family of 3 (daughter is 4). What would this buy? We easily share a 12 ounce grass fed ribeye a week. More than enough meat to share. Say extra $6. Organic veggies on the dirty dozen? Maybe $10-$15 more a week?. Try to do 1 or 2 slow cook meals a week, and grass fed roasts pretty cheap. Say $7 more a week. Pastured eggs $5 more a week for 2/doze. Maybe $33 more a week?

    To add to that we buy grass fed ground beef and grass fed hotdogs for meals and daughter’s school lunches also. Say $5-$10 more a week. So $43 more a week.

    BUT we eat out less, I take leftovers more often to work, my wife and I eat 20 to 30% fewer calories. Net costs are lower probably just for food. Improvement in quality of life? Priceless. Savings on medicine, very real.

    Slow cooking, cheaper cuts of grass fed meat, ground beef, not eating out as much, eating fewer calories. It would surprise me if JUST taking cost of eating (and I include eating out for any meal, work lunch, dinner, breakfast) doesn’t go down for most people.

    But then quality of life? Un-calculable.

    1. Quality of life! Exactly! Another eye opener for me was when a friend asked me how much I would spend on supplements within a year. He meant it would be too much. “One can afford oneself a week of holidays for that amount in return”, he threw in. I did not know what to answer then. But today I would say: “when living in a healthy, strong, robust body, you can have 52 weeks of holiday-feeling per year”.

      That was the time when I first calculated how much I would spend on the several parts of my existence. And I found out that I spent much more money on my flat than on the nurishment and health conservation of my body. I also spent (much) more money on my car. Admittedly, it was a very beautiful car (German high quality vehicle), but it would have been rosted away under my butt within a decade, whereas I´ll need my body until the end of my days. I also spent more money on holidays than on the building blocks of my body. More money on absolutely useless and piddling topics, compared with the most important thing to have – my life, my body. So, I shifted or deleted some expenditures and have never ever again complained about the price of real and healthy food. Im worth it.

      1. Gunther,

        Well said. It is the best ‘return’ around. Just watched Carb Loaded, they mentioned $6,000 a year in costs for diabetes.

        Pay the farmer now, or pay the doctor and in feeling lousy later.

        1. Sorry, this is more elitist “advice.” You can’t pay the grocer with “quality of life” or “big picture” or other touchy-feely claptrap. You can’t trade in a high-end German car if you never had one to begin with. You can’t eat out less if you don’t eat out to begin with. You can’t buy things with the money that you would use to “pay the doctor later.” I assume next you’re going to tell them to cut down on the Starbucks that low income people don’t buy anyway. Oh, and get rid of the flat screen TV and cell phone etc.

          My advice is to just do the best you can. Avoid corn, wheat, processed sugar “food,” and the seed oils. “Fresh produce” is nice but not worth the expense’ buy frozen. Incorporate some bean meals. Then see what money is left over. If you still can, upgrade to better eggs and more humane chicken. Then think about the beef.

        2. No reason to appologize, Oxide! Of course everyone starts from a different point. And everyone has different preferences or a different view what to consider an “elitist advice” 🙂 . And I´m not going to tell anyone what to do. Because, I don´t know them or their life circumstances. I just wanted to comment what fits for me and how I think about this topic. And I did not assume that this would convince a single person 🙂 . Because, as I found out during several years, you cannot change a persons attitude on this subject as long he/she does not find it out by himself/herself.

          I have several friends and relatives who also claim, this Paleo-lifestyle would be too expensive and that they could not afford it. But by taking a closer look, one can find out – for example – that they smoke (a fat cigar each evening, or even worse); that they keep two very large dogs which they spend more money on than I expend for my whole nutrition; that they are dining out five times a week because they are unable or not willing to cook or just love to go out; that they always use the newest and up-to-date multimedia devices (at least compared with my equipment), because that´s most important for them, and so on.

          I agree, those might be important things and everybody has to decide what´s important for him. So, of course, you can smoke if you like to! Of course you can hold some pets, go to restaurants frequently and have a new smartphone every single year and/or the mentioned flat screen TV 😉 . Of course! It´s up to you! But if you do so, please, don´t argue healthy food would not be affordable!

          Yes, there are a lot who even don´t have all the mentioned “luxury” things in their lives and, nevertheless, have to look how they can manage the least survival needs and stay by good health, nonetheless. And for all of THEM there was a lot of very good advice given by the other commenters. Your advice, Oxide, was good too, except on the beans-topic 😉 .

        3. I take umbrage at the use of ‘elitist’ which gets thrown around so much. It is frankly sloppy writing and sloppy thinking. My wife is an elementary school teacher, I work for the state. We are not ‘elitist’ by any means. On the other hand I well aware of food islands and many have less means by me.

          But let’s dispense with the word elitist shall we? Most of the people able to access these posts can make most of these changes. They have room in their lives being middle class or lower middle class to priortize food. It might take some tradeoffs and as many people mention here being creative, flexible, and working at it.

          GOOD. Grok would approve of people prioritizing and being creative and so do I. This does not excuse the current food system, the subsidies for corn, soy, and wheat. I want to work hard every day changing that. I also want to work on the absolute society destroying income inequality we have now in the U.S. which is not the result of hard work or anything like that but who has power and who is making the rules.

          But as I said most people with the MEANS in the U.S. eat like junk. Why? They won’t give up the latest phone or this or that or the other thing. Yes some people truly cannot eat healthy and my heart goes out to them. I in fact grew up on government assistance, TV dinners, I probably didn’t have healthy food into my 40s. So I feel for them on many levels.

          But for very few is this an elitist thing. They haven’t prioritized. And if they got creative they could probably eat significantly better quality food AND save money. It isn’t elitism holding them back but their own priorities.

  9. Chris: Don’t bug your wife, let her go with her cravings (as long as they’re not for crap food.) When I got pregnant, I wanted nothing but hamburgers and orange juice for about 3 months. At the same time, I developed an aversion to chocolate (!!!) which is actually how I discovered I was pregnant; I knew something was up if I didn’t want chocolate. Who knows what my deficiencies were; all I know is that I would have punched my husband if he had nagged me about my diet.

    1. I have to agree here! We raised our own pastured pork, and I could NOT eat it while I was in my first trimester because it was too flavourful. Go figure. The bland pork tenderloin and prepackaged hamburger patties from the store are what got me through. And gluten-free bread! That kept the food down.

    2. Agreed! There was so little I could hold down when pregnant, at least for the first 4 months, I was desperate for any calorie that would stick.

      Interesting about the orange juice… oranges were my only true craving when pregnant. Not until around the 6th month, but oh did I put away some oranges!!

      I have long been a java junkie, but coffee revolted me for 9 months. Literally the day after birth though, I wanted it again! Hormones are crazy.

      1. I’m 6 months along now and I too am revolted by coffee and have craved OJ for the first time in 10 years!

        My first trimester was pretty carb-rich with a full-on meat aversion. Even now I eat way under 25% of my calories from protein, but I don’t slouch on the dairy and fats. I ate white rice with butter and kimchi for a week straight supplemented by raw goat milk collagen smoothies.

        On my last ultrasound at 22wks, my little guy was exactly 50 percentile on weight, which I think is great, since if your baby is too big or too small it can bring issues. I also have gained just 14lbs which is right on target.

        As long as your wife manages to keep some nutrient dense foods in her diet, you have nothing to worry about! Enjoy the wild ride!

      2. lol about the orange cravings when pregnant. I craved Orange Crush soda pop. That was a long time ago. My daughter is 42 yo now. Do they still make that? I was pregnant during a very hot summer in Iowa and the icy cold pop was all I could think about. I did eat liver and cooked real food then, however.

    3. Agreed! I’m pregnant now (3rd trimester), and eating in the first trimester was especially trying. I didn’t want vegetables at all, even though I LOVE vegetables. I was like a kid scowling at every spear of broccoli whenever we had dinner.
      She will do her best to make good choices to feed herself and the fetus; increasing her stress level over things like protein intake (esp. in the first trimester, when many women develop meat-aversion) will just make it worse.

      (Incidentally, another good source of oft-overlooked protein is low-mercury fish. I have eaten a lot of pickled herring (I love sour things) in the last few months.)

    4. Yeah, dude, unless you want to get vomit in the face, do not try to make your pregnant wife eat something she has an aversion to….LAWD

  10. As a teacher and father of two trying to eat in a “primal” manner, I’ve become creative with where and how I get my meat. One farm I purchase from that exclusively sells pastured animals has organ grab bags and big sale items that almost always include the less desirable cuts. I get beef heart and liver for 2 bucks a pound when I buy ten pound bags. They also sell stripped beef bones, beef kidney fat, pork fat and have sales on items that are filling up their freezers. I recently purchased 50 pounds of pork fat for five bucks.

    We also fish on the weekends with both rod and reel and cast nets (a great workout when you use the big ones). I also try to grow as much container raised veggies as is possible with the little spare time we have.

    Think great depression and war time effort living… Victory gardens and meat rations. When you’re broke, its a good idea to look back a few generations to see how your elders lived in lean times.

  11. I make humungous batch meals with tougher cuts of meat that I buy cheap, such as shin beef. That helps keep costs down :).

    1. I grow my own sprouts to go with my meat. One bag of sprouting seeds makes about a dozen 3/4 gallon-sized loads of sprouts–good for sandwiches/wraps, salads, or just eating out of hand as a lettuce replacement.

      One benefit to sprouts is they grow all year round, in the house (away from bugs and weather), no matter the amount of light. Greens as crops grow best during the cold winter months, and the colder, the better. Chard is especially good when snow hits it.

  12. “I don’t want the bun because grains of wheat sing to me…they all have their own little personalities, their own quirks, and they scream when we grind them up into tiny little specks.”

  13. I’m surprised no one has mentioned chicken feet broth! Here in Los Angeles, organic chicken feet are about $4 a pound, and conventional is about $1.50. It takes a while to get used to handling those ugly feet, but the broth is so nourishing and tastes wonderful. You can reduce it down and freeze it for later use, either to drink straight or as an addition to sauces. I like to add a little coconut milk for some creaminess, some salt & pepper, and some curry powder. It is the best of all worlds: gourmet, cheap, easy (all you do is simmer in a stock pot) and super-healthy.

    1. Or pig’s feet, or fish bone broth…

      My favorite “odd bit” is the tongue–beef, bison, pig, you name it. Just the right blend of meat and fat on it, and just right for two with few to no leftovers.

      1. I love tongue meat and have eaten most of them! The only one I didn’t much care for was lamb tongue.

        Not sure what it was, it just tasted ba-a-a-a-ad to me…

    2. tkm, can you break it down? Like in one pot, how many chicken feet, and how much water, and how long, etc (or point me to a link with a good recipe)…I’d like to try it!

      1. I fill a pot up with as many chicken feet as I can get, usually a couple pounds. Barely cover it with water and simmer for 20 hours. Toss in quartered onion, a dozen garlic cloves and some seaweed for the last couple hours (or whatever other flavors you like – ginger-chilli-turmeric) then strain into freezable containers. This is a strong stock so you can dilute it by three parts and it still tastes glorious.

        I’m salivating just thinking of a pot of gnarly chicken feet…

        1. Ok it sounds disgusting –but one of the cool things about primal is we try stuff and get surprised! Like that first Grok that was so hungry he ate a lobster–man, you’ve got to be hungry to try that! So I’m going for it and I’m sure it will be great. Thank you!

  14. Grass fed beef, pastured pork, pastured eggs etc. may cost more in absolute dollars but when you consider the amount of nutrition in them relative to their conventionally raised counterparts, they are a bargain. In fact, there is nothing MORE than expensive than junk food……lots of calories and additives but very little, if any, nutrition. Now that is expensive!

  15. Organic, grass fed beef is currently expensive.
    We’re down to chop meat.
    Steak itself, is too expensive as everyday or other day food.
    I can’t make dinner for us and spend $30 a meal….to eat at home.
    Today at Whole Foods hamburger was $7 a lb.
    We make 6 oz burgers 2-3 times a week.
    As an aside….it’s Stone Crab season now in FL.
    They were $50 a lb….for the claw.
    I looked at it and shook my head.

  16. Timely…

    Just mentioned this in my post today:
    bought this weekend local pastured chicken thighs with skin and bone $4.29 a pound. (guess where??? Whole Paycheck 🙂 )
    Look for the “unpopular” cuts.
    If you like beef tongue… you can get grass fed at 3 bucks a pound.
    Beef every day is not necessary for a primal life style…
    Don’t get stuck with the “I Cant’s”… do something about it.

  17. I’m pleased to hear the news about freezing bread, and toasting it. My wife and I keep all our bread in the freezer because we use it slowly. When we take a couple slices out we always toast it. So if we continue to throw in a couple of sugar-blocking tactics I think we’re just fine to continue the occasional indulgence.

  18. I can definitely relate to Kara’s’ dilemma and then some. Not only there’s no grass fed beef at the country I live at – 2 or 3 months grazing don’t count (at least there’s no use of hormones and antibiotics when needed), all cuts are expensive. Even ox tail is sold at $7 a pound and up and short ribs at around $9; and how much Calf liver can one eat, even if some butchers sale it at for $5 and up. Organic vegetables are very expensive as well and so is fresh fish and pretty much everything; and add to that 18% VAT tax. For someone who is active and like to stay healthy, it’s quite an obstacle; especially when a shortage in $$$ becomes an issue !

  19. Think less about what people will think about you when it comes to things that are matters of opinion. Think more about how your choices will shape the world you live in.

  20. I wait for grass-fed meat to go on sale and gorge myself, moderately. The modern day sale is the equivalent of a paleolithic lucky hunt. I feasted on a 6 dollar whole chicken all last week.

    The rest of the time I rely mostly on canned sardines. Often I find them at a dollar a pop, wild caught. Delicious and durable.

  21. Thank you so, so much for your answer to the allergy/preference question. I have Celiac Disease, & while the “gluten-free diet” craze has helped raise awareness of what gluten is, it has also made waiters & chefs more dismissive of the serious issues of cross-contamination. They see people asking for GF dishes (which, let’s face it, are often a major pain for the kitchen when done properly), then ordering beer or tasting their friends’ gluteny desserts & so on. It really irks me when people suggest lying & saying you have CD unless you truly avoid gluten 100% of the time.

  22. Regarding eating well on a budget – I concur with most of the ideas already posted. But, I haven’t seen anything about canned wild fish such as tuna, sardines or even salmon. Although the salmon can (pun intended, haha) be a little bit pricier, good quality canned wild sardines in olive oil are crazy cheap and a great source of protein and fats (as well as omega-3, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium etc). Canned tuna (as long as you’re watching for line caught) is an old budget friendly staple.

    I would also really try to find a local CSA or community co-op to buy meat/dairy/eggs and produce for reduced cost. It may also be worth it to travel to a farm (if you can’t get anything near-by) and buy in bulk every 2-3 months (or even every 6 months).

  23. I’ve also been going through some income flux (leading to a career change) and really need to be thrifty for a while. I sometimes resort to supermarket meats, they do have a brand of natural/additive-free; I go with chicken, turkey, or lamb (if I can find within my price range), avoid beef. Sometimes you just need to get the shopping done in one place and stick with the budget. But — supermarket meat can be very expensive! At least here I never see the discounted meat about to expire etc. And the taste of conventional chicken is so bland, actually I don’t even think it has a taste.

    This might sound too simplistic for some, but what I started doing is buying small amounts of grass-fed/local hormone-free meat (either from farmer or at local market) and as soon as I get home bagging each piece individually and freezing it. So one chicken leg for dinner (cooked as a soup with dried mushrooms, ginger, etc.), one small lamb chop with greens, etc. In colder weather I do fine with local potatoes, squash, beets, and sweet potatoes to round things out, though I always need to watch the carbs.

    Psychologically it helps a lot, I feel I still have some good meat in the freeze instead of running out quickly. Sometimes I’m still pretty hungry but it seems my body can adjust until I get more in.

    I like the tips and ideas about staying on budget, some of us go through crunch periods that may not ease up quickly. And it can be stressful, so even more important to do what’s good for your budget and also energy levels.

  24. Great to have some reading about the Dutch habits! Living in the Netherlands myself, I can confirm the huge amounts of dairy a day people work their way through here… real Gouda is hard to come by in the US, if you find imported stuff you should go for it, no matter what the price tag reads – it’s miles ahead of anything you’ll taste otherwise!

  25. Wild canned fish is my bargain staple, Herring and sardines are packed with minerals and omega3 and cheaper than canned tuna. Also the ethnic markets in value neiborhoods are a great bargain for decent quality meats. I found pork shoulder roast and thick cut bacon for $1.99lb and chicken thigh/leg cuts on sale for $0.89lb. In a SoCal beach town not far from the Whole Paycheck. The cheapest quality meal is a big batch of soup or chili canned in mason jars. 12 16oz servings for less than $20 made with organic whole chicken and organic root veggies.

  26. Great advice here! I was so thrilled to read Mark’s advice for handling the high cost of organic meat and vegetables. I could eat plenty of organic stuff when I lived in New England because it was easy to find farms that sold it at a reasonable price, but once I got stationed in Hawai’i, that all changed. I’ve been eating less meat and a lot more vegetables, and honestly it works really well, probably in part because of the temperature difference and the need for extra hydration.

    Still, I would call the cost of meat out here prohibitively expensive, and the grocery store beef is not palatable unless I spend my whole paycheck at that favorite store of the same nickname.

    In my case, I would much rather just eat less meat than eat canned salmon, packaged tuna, and tins of sardines. I went through that, and for my body, I would much rather eat lots of veggies and the much-easier-to-find fresh local fruit than blow my budget on expensive meats when I question the sustainability on islands anyway, and when I could also then use that money for a million other more fun things than just hunting and gathering my food.

    I will drop some coin for the occasional delicious pate or fois gras, though!

  27. Wow! I’ve always admire vegetarians. The woes of a pregnant woman. I remember when we had our first baby, I used to crave for meat and sweet. I know they are a major no-no’s when you’re pregnant. But everything’s changed when I decided and took control when I cut on the protein and meat and sugary food. This paid off when I didn’t have trouble during the delivery.

  28. I buy pastured animals alive directly from the farmer. I then butcher the animals myself.. You can join local groups on facebook that buy, and sell livestock as small as rabbits, and poultry, and as large as cattle.

  29. Not sure if anyone has mentioned this but one can easily grow microgreens year round in a sunny window or outdoor space in the warmer months. Plenty of info on the internet as to how to do this. They are very nutritious.

    I now have a vegetable garden that is bringing me great joy and good food but I realize not everyone has space or time for vegetable gardens.

    I also have a Sous Vide Supreme which is an appliance that we use to cook inexpensive meat. Many of the cheaper cuts have excellent flavor but can be tough. The appliance solves this problem and they come out like a good steak. If you go to their website, all the info you need is there. The appliance is not cheap but they do make a small one and sometimes they go on sale or have contests with the appliance as a prize. Or maybe it could be a request as a gift? I’m sure it has paid for itself by now because of allowing us to buy less expensive meat.

    One can also rig up their own sous vide cooker which you can also find directions for on the internet. Looks doable but personally it looks like too much trouble to me.

  30. I would absolutely love more primal blogs to write about “The ACTUAL Costs of Eating and Living Primal/Paleo”. Here’s how it ACTUALLY can work:

    This is Oct. 2014; in June 2013 I began eating ONLY organic/grass-fed mostly cooking nearly all my meals & eating out at only organic restaurants, using or usually making all organic cosmetics & personal products & house-cleaning products etc, and seeing a functional medicine doc. I added up what I spent in all those categories COMBINED for each of the last five years. This past year I spent 1/3 of what I spent in each of the preceding four years: yes, that is 2/3 less than in any of the preceding four years. Of course the food is out-of-this-world delicious, I now no longer suffer from allergies or any of the other physical problems I had that caused me to go primal in the first place, I have energy to do anything I want to do, and I’m saving a ton of money!

    Even if this had cost me more I would have gladly spent it and found a way to afford it, but the grand news is that it has been actually much, much cheaper to live this way, I feel like I have sacrificed nothing and have gained in ways I could not have imagined when I began this way of life, and I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life.

    This is what I tell people when they tell me they cannot afford organic/grass-fed food.

    1. Yep–subtract all those medical costs, travel expenses to and from the doctor/hospital, travel expenses to and from the store(s) you used to go to, all the impulse buying you get bombarded with at grocery stores and in the mailbox, not to mention the saved space and time you get to put to use making money FOR you (a newly-empty bedroom, attic, or basement that can now be rented out, time for a second/new/sideline job or business, etc.).

      It’s about more than just the food costs.

  31. The more I read the comments, the more I feel a little put out. I thought I was not the only one with no access to grass-fed meat or pastured poultry or eggs. Now it seems that everybody has access to it but some can’t afford it.

    If I eat regular beef, regular eggs, organic porc and 20% organic chicken / 80% regular chicken, does that mean I’m not eating primal???

    1. No, don´t worry! As long as you “eat plants and animals” as suggested by Mark in his first rule (could be a comandment as well 🙂 ), you´re fine. I also often have to be satisfied with the conventional raised animal products since the healthy ones are not available behind every “next corner”. Here, too, it sometimes is difficult to get them. But if so, then I try to have some Omega-3 capsules together with my conventional meat. And tons of raw veggies, of course. This is more than enough of “primal eating”. But if I can find some reliable sources of organic (grass-fed) meat,…

    2. My recent problem is also losing access to grass-fed/pastured meats: the guy I used to buy it all from suddenly went out of business. There was no other source for honest, clean meats for about 200 miles, and now I get to join the ranks of mail-order buyers if I want to maintain clean meat-eating.

      The closest source for semi-clean meats is a farm about an hour away–they pasture, but they also feed grain. They say the feed is non-GMO, but it’s still grain.

      My health food store can get me “grass-fed” stuff, but it sets off my allergies (to grain), so I know it isn’t truly grass-fed. At this point, my allergies are acting as a BS detector.

      I’m about ready to give up and go vegetarian too, unless I can find some bargains in mail-order land. Hubby hates liver (in any quantity), otherwise I’d order a truckload of it for the winter–the only organ he’ll willingly eat is heart, but it sets off his gout.

  32. I don’t know where they get the figure of $6000 an year to manage diabetes. It costs me about $500 a year. I have a strongly hereditary form of diabetes that has a lot less to do with lifestyle. It is also well controlled and mild and I’ve had it for ten years since my mid-thirties. As for cost of organic meats and vegies, I have a family of five and not that large of income. I do have a vegetable garden and sprout and micro-green but honestly I can’t do more than occasionally supplement the groceries in the space I have to work with. I try to get the best quality non-organic I can find and I watch the sales like a hawk for when organics do go on sale. I figure even if they are non-organic, a well balanced diet still helps even if I can’t do everything I would like. I was already cooking most foods from scratch to begin with due to allergies, so becoming primal wasn’t too big a step. Being diabetic and eating low carb already I was mostly there. Finding quality produce in the winter is a lot harder and I do tend to rely on frozen a lot more and I miss the variety during the cold months.

  33. I get fruits and veggies from Bountiful Basket dot org. Because it’s a volunteer run group, the costs are pretty low for what we get. There’s always a challenge to cook everything because they do give us things I haven’t tried (fennel was in last week’s basket). For meat, I do have my own egg-laying chickens and I buy direct from farmers. it takes some planning, but it can be done. I set aside $50 a month in order to purchase the beef/pork. Yes, it can be hard to figure out how to save that when you’re getting started, but once you do, the trade off is awesome! Look HARD at your grocery budget and see what you can take out to find the extra – $12.50 a week should be doable for most. And before anyone says anything, I’m far from rich. I believe I’d be considered upper-lower class, certainly not even middle class. but, I truly believe in feeding my family GOOD quality food and I’ll sacrifice to make that happen. It’s all in your priorities. Food before cable, cell phones, splurges etc. Pre-primal days, I spent far more than that on soda and junk food.

    1. “It´s all in your priorities” – so well put! Your family is lucky to be able to rely on you 😉 ! Grok on, Melissa, even though it´s not so easy, sometimes!

  34. Mark, I find your article on reduced starch interesting. It might have been covered already but I’m wondering if this partains to rice as well.

    A good fried rice recipe will stipulate that you should cook the rice, then refrigerate it overnight before doing whatever else is necessary. Now I haven’t made fried rice (well, to that recipe, anyway) and have always wondered why the need to refrigerate it. Your article may reveal the reason.



  35. Regarding the budget, I would say do the best you can & don’t stress any further. I too find it expensive to buy meat because the one organic item that is a must for me is meat. I don’t want the antibiotics & hormones. So I use meat sparingly and look for sales on ground meat or stew meat.

    I go ahead & eat some rice, beans, and taters, because they’re filling and cheap. I try to load up on veggies, and have found a CSA box to be a good value. I very rarely buy organic fruit because it just doesn’t fit the budget.

    Could I do better? Certainly. Could I not have a cell phone or cable, or never ever go out with friends, or never travel so that I could spend all my money on food and supplements? Sure. Does that life sound worth living? Hell, no. So, until a bag of money falls out of the sky, I’ll do the best I can within my very modest means & quit fretting about it.

  36. I’ve also had restaurant staff ask me if it’s an allergy thing. I didn’t get it at first, but a waiter explained it to me. I just tell them that it’s preference so that they don’t sweat it too much.

  37. All the people commenting and observing MDA have one thing in common, their(and often their loved ones) health to the extent of actually researching and acting on their health. I realize this forum is an international affair but here in the US health seems to be an afterthought that we are currently paying for in numbers we often complain about (Obamacare?). In the mean time we are happy to pay taxes to subsidize farmers to grow grain so we can afford all those eye catching products in the center isles of our supermarkets then get health problems and proceed to complain about the high cost of REAL FOOD..

  38. If you have a Trader Joes nearby, they have affordable free range organic chicken, either sold as whole chickens or drumsticks. If you have an Aldi’s nearby, you can often find affordable grass fed ground beef, and some other cuts as well on occasion. Unfortunately, unless you live near an Ocean, affordable, non-farmed fist is expensive almost without exception.

    My personal belief is that if you do eat meat and poultry, and have tight budget, you should spend the extra money on clean meats, and perhaps do without the organic vegetables, if ethics are your major concern – a non-organic vegetable is not as tasty or nutritious as an organic vegetable, but it did not live a life of torture prior to being harvested.

  39. My suggestion for budget Paleo is finding a source for grass fed marrow bones. I have found that the price per pound i very reasonable. A little goes a long way in making batches of nutrient rich broth that can be enjoyed daily with breakfast or filled with veggies for dinner. As someone chronically sick with sinus infections every winter for most of my life as a vegetarian, last winter I went almost completely illness free (except for a 24 hour stomach bug contracted from a friend’s toddler). I really believe this was due to my frequent consumption of organic bone broth and eliminating most grains/legumes. I wouldn’t call myself a very strict Paleo and one of the reasons is cost, but I have found a happy medium and I hope others can too!

  40. It’s all well and good for people to continually banter the economics of this diet, but for some, it is, simply, impossible. I’m a college kid with 21 credit hours. I spend, on average, 6 hours a day, Monday through Friday, in class. An additional 4 hours is spent studying, and another hour amd a half just commuting. Living closer to my campus is improbable. I pay $695 for a 300 some odd sqaure foot studio. Getting closer? The price would be upwards of $800. On top of that, I work Saturdays and Sundays, 4-5 hour days, because studrbts are expendable, and there’s a surplus of workers so you take what you get and be glad you have it.
    I can’t afford a car, coffees, a tv or any luxuries, really. I spend most nights reading by candlelight just to keep the electricity down. I have 1 bulb in my entire place. I keep the place relatively warm, but it’s only because I have health issues that keep me from tolerating much of any temperature below 70.
    At the end of the week, all said and done, I have $10 to spend on food.
    At that rate, you’re lucky to afford top ramen and stirfry veggies, much less ANY kind of meat. There IS no time to hunt, fish, or forage, though some nights I have resorted to dumpster diving. Food stamps aren’t an option, because you have to be employed 20 hours a week. I’ve adopted a 2 day a week fast, simply to afford lightly healthier options than top ramen. Still, there are days on days where dinner is fried potatoes, onion, beans and salt.
    Not just anyone can afford this diet. Meat IS expensive. I can’t eat red meat at all, as it causes a decline in my health. Chicken is $2.79/lb, seafood is more expensive. I occasionally get a chicken breast, or go to market and get a fish, but it’s rare, because usually I’m trying to save up enough to buy bulk beans, rice, and potatoes, because when each is roughly $1/lb and sold in 5-10 lb bags, you run out of money quickly. Add on to that the need for fat, which I find even worse price wise…

  41. I too have to be careful on the amount I spend on groceries, but a few things I do really help: eggs are inexpensive, a whole cooked chicken from Whole Foods is about $7.00 and can last 4-5 meals for one person, and not spending money on a lot of ‘extra’ things, like a bunch of sauces, or extras like treats. Keep your grocery list simple. It can stay amazingly under budget this way. Also, cheese is quite expensive for how much one can consume, I try to avoid buying cheese unless it’s a rare treat. I also have some friends with great gardens that are more than happy to get rid of their tomatoes, zucchini, etc., in the summer 🙂 Hope this helps 🙂

  42. When someone has a budget question, please mention beans. If you sprout them for 24-48 hours first (which takes about 5 minutes of hands-on time) then they are entirely digestible, essentially phytic acid and lectin free, and are lower GI and higher in vitamins and minerals than most of the technically-paleo tubers that you mention to fill out caloric needs. For someone who is forced by economic (or other) circumstances to eat a low-meat diet, beans are more or less crucial to cover the resulting nutritional gaps. A pound of beans, a couple cans of fish, and some organ meat, and you’ve got your bases covered.