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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 27 2018

Primal Starter: How To Eat Well On Less?

By Mark Sisson
25 Comments

Inline_Food_Nutrition_Live-Awesome-645x445-01I get frequent requests for ideas on working Primal eating priorities into more frugal budgets, and we’ve done a good number of posts on the topic over the years. It’s one of those issues, however, that deserves more attention because it’s really a significant intersection for Primal “theory” and day-to-day practice. In fact, we’ll be putting together a new resource page this year, however, that brings together more on the subject. For today though, let me share some ideas, and I hope you’ll offer your questions and suggestions, too.

  • Learn to cook thriftier cuts of meat to be just as tender and flavorful as more expensive cuts. (We have an upcoming post on this one.)
  • Hunt around for sales and stock up whenever something good (organic/grass-fed) reaches a price that works for you. Store in the freezer. Wrap tightly in freezer-safe ziploc bags, making sure to suck out all the air to prevent, or at least limit, freezer burn. Better yet, get a vacuum-sealer.
  • Keep your eyes out for Australian or New Zealand lamb (the former is usually pastured if not entirely grass-fed and the latter is almost always grass-fed). Uruguyan, New Zealand, and Australian beef are also widely available and usually grass-fed.
  • If you’ve got any friends or family interested, combine your funds to purchase an entire cow, or half or a quarter of one, from a local farm. This is also called cowpooling, so keep your eyes peeled for that term. You can check EatWild.com for local ranches that offer bulk purchases. I’ve also seen bulk purchasing listed on Craigslist.
  • Check out farmer’s markets in your area. Even the “non-organic” produce is often organically grown, just without the pricey certification. Don’t be afraid to ask the people manning the stands.
  • Skip cold cuts, which are expensive when you consider the actual price per pound, and slice your own whole meats for use in salads, wraps, etc.
  • Frozen produce is an excellent and often affordable way to obtain high-quality (frozen right after picking to limit degradation of nutrients) organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Join a big box store like Costco, which often has great deals on organics and grass-fed meat.
  • Quality trumps quantity. Stick to smaller amounts of high-quality meat rather than loading up on cheap, CAFO-raised meat.
  • Plan ahead. Plan your meals for the week. Plan your shopping trips so you can make an extra stop or two for really good deals. Eliminate the random spontaneous stuff you pick up because you walked into the grocery store without a plan in mind.

For more ideas, check out “99 Ways to Save Money on Food.”

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25 thoughts on “Primal Starter: How To Eat Well On Less?”

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  1. If you are lucky enough to live in a place that allows it, hunt, fish and gather! We have three freezers that are filled with moose, salmon, halibut, rock fish, grouse, ptarmigan, and berries. We only buy meat/fish if we are eating at a restaurant or on vacation. (I actually have friends who bring coolers full of Alaskan moose and salmon when they go on vacation to Hawaii!)

  2. Also joining CSA’s as mentioned in earlier posts, can be a way to eat healthy without breaking the bank. Thanks Mark.

  3. At least on the East Coast, organic frozen vegetables are MUCH more expensive than non-organic frozen vegetables. The difference is higher than the difference between organic and non-organic fresh produce. Farmer’s markets are hardly bargains either. Costco is only a deal if you save more than $60/year to make up for the membership fee. If you’re single it might not pencil out.

    1. Agree. Farmers have caught on. Food bought at a farmers market will probably be fresher, but it definitely won’t be cheaper. Additionally, stores like Costco package many things in bulk. Great for a family, but way more food than the average single person can deal with.

      1. As a single, I’ve found investing a food sealer is the way to go as a Costco member. Came in handy the other day when I bought a 3.5 lb tub of Kimchi!

    2. Go late to farmer’s markets!!! If you get to farmer’s markets at the very end of the day, many will sell things for a very reduced price, rather than throw them away…

  4. Make food a top priority. I have known plenty of people who put everything else first. Then, with whatever money is left over, they buy groceries. In short, if you have to live on beans, potatoes, and junk food in order to make the mortgage payment or the car payment(s), then you are probably living beyond your means.

    Try keeping a comparison log. All the snacks, convenience foods, and junk people fill their grocery cart with can easily cost as much as healthier fare.

    Don’t take your kids grocery shopping with you if you can help it. Unless you’re very good at ignoring their requests, you’ll end up hauling home items you don’t need.

    Sales can be a money saver, but buy only what you know you can use up in a relatively short period of time. It’s better to shop more often than to be stuck with food that’s going bad.

  5. Thrive Market saves me money on non-perishables…I load up on their brand of coconut oil and sardines. (Sardines have all the benefits of salmon…probably more since you’re eating the bones) at a fraction of the cost. Even though I live by myself I buy produce in pretty large quantities. The grocery store where I do most of my shopping (Wegmans) has much better deals on bigger bags of brussels sprouts, green beans, etc. I’ll roast a whole bunch of brussels sprouts at once and use them throughout the week.

  6. Some butchers have vacuum sealers on the premises; ask them to vacuum seal your meat.You can also try an all meat diet. it’s actually very economical, provided you don’t make premium cuts your main focus. There’s also less cooking involved and groceries to haul. And you can get all your nutrients from meat and fat, plus bone broth.

    1. lambs liver is my really cheap go-to meat choice when I haven’t got much money in the bank…

    2. I’ve been trying an all meat diet. It is actually quite cheaper (and I think more primal). But honestly, two pounds of grass fed beef with some butter for extra fat comes out to maybe $9 dollars. That would be a feasting day, I can rarely eat a full two pounds.

      I also think, looking at evolutionary patterns, it is far more likely that hunter/gatherers hunted some animal, ate that for a week, or a few weeks, with nothing else and then gathered until another successful hunt.

      I think evolutionarily, plants were probably a much smaller portion of the diet than we expect.

      1. I currently eat a meal a day that is far less than 2lb and I am satisfied. For one, you can get cheaper cuts. And while grass fed is desired (and promoted heavily), you will be fine with good quality beef that isn’t. Plus you’ll be saving by not buying all the other foods, even if you throw in some eggs and chocolate. A friend of mine just filled his fridge with nice cuts that were on special for $3.99 a pound (he got it vacuum sealed). If there’s a study that shows a clear impact on our health, I would like to see it. Than there’s is ground beef. It’s cheap, easy to cook in so many ways and can also be eaten raw. I don’t eat it but pork is even cheaper. And as far as our ancestors we can only guess and try to extrapolate. I think that way before agriculture, meat was the main stay and past and recent archaeological around the world and discoveries in Israel (as far back as 200,000 years ago) show clearly what they preferred to eat.

        1. I rephrased a line or two which left the mention of a study vague. I would like to see a study that shows a clear benefit to eating grass fed beef versus regular. All cattle starts out eating grass; some are switched later on to grains which cuts the time to market and bring the cost down. The difference in omega 3 is negligible and you can get it elsewhere

          1. Check out the information on the Weston Price Foundation page. The omega 3 ratio is one component but animals raised on green pasture have a significant difference in K2 also. I think what you most want to avoid is feedlot beef if possible. There is no possible way it is good or healthy to shove a bunch of cows in a tiny pen where they can’t move around and are standing on each other’s feces all day eating whatever garbage is cheap. If you’re buying locally raised beef that is finished for a couple weeks on grain but the cow is still living a clean healthy life that’s entirely different.

          2. Does WPF list the amount of K2 in grass fed Vs grain fed (no cow is 100% grain fed), or just say that it’s higher. If the latter, than it worthless info and I’m willing to bet that the difference is negligible. But I would love to see the numbers if you have them (if anyone knows it’s Mark).

            Beef to begin with, doesn’t have that much K2 (chuck is an exception) and better sources are butter, geese liver, sauerkraut, all thing chicken and off course natto. FYI, I don’t eat CAFO meat (not such thing here), nor do I eat veal. I eat locally raised beef that is grass fed as much as possible (hot climate makes this impossible year round) and grain finish and imported meat from Argentina and Europe.

            I did find this excellent article; https://honey-guide.com/2014/03/10/menaquinones-k2-and-phylloquinone-k1-content-of-animal-products-and-fermented-foods/

          3. Does WPF list the amount of K2 in grass fed Vs grain fed (no cow is 100% grain fed), or just say that it’s higher. If the latter, than it worthless info and I’m willing to bet that the difference is negligible. But I would love to see the numbers if you have them (if anyone knows it’s Mark).

            Beef to begin with, doesn’t have that much K2 (chuck is an exception) and better sources are butter, geese liver, sauerkraut, all thing chicken, certain type if cheese if you eat it and off course natto. And certainly if you supplement with K2 and omega 3. FYI, I don’t eat CAFO meat (not such thing here), nor do I eat veal. I eat locally raised beef that is grass fed as much as possible (hot climate makes this impossible year round) and grain finish and imported meat from Argentina and Europe.

            I did find this excellent article; https://honey-guide.com/2014/03/10/menaquinones-k2-and-phylloquinone-k1-content-of-animal-products-and-fermented-foods/

        2. Yeah totally, I get grass fed when I can, because it tastes better and is probably healthier, but I am not opposed to eating more standard meat. I’m just saying straight meat is far cheaper than veggies, fruit, nuts per calorie or per gram of protein. And if you cut out almond butter, Paleo-ish packaged food like bars and crackers or chips (Siete and Simple Mills are sooooo good but soooo expensive really) you can save a lot of money

          1. You got it! Frankly, I stopped eating bars , crackers or chips” years ago Paleo or not and I feel lighter in so many ways (-: They just don’t appeal to me. But I will admit that from time to time I’ll “indulge” in a square of 90% or so bitter sweet Chocolate and a few Mac nuts. Cheers

  7. Since I travel extensively, I spend more on healthy meal options away from home. But when I am home I make food I can freeze and manage to save time and money.

  8. For Australian readers, I also recommend Kangaroo! Wild, clean, and generally very cheap meat

  9. Aldi has a decent price on grass_fed meat…e ven better than Costco price. Give it a look. I also look at Walmart for meat markdowns( yellow tags).

  10. So, shopping at Whole Foods probably not doing my budget much good eh? 😛

  11. There are many things that you can do to eat well on the cheap! Here are a few:
    Eat more eggs! They are one of the cheapest, highest-quality protein sources out there.
    If you can, grow some of your own vegetables. Kale is amazingly easy to grow, and has a very long growing season, so it’s a good one to start with.
    Cook your own food! Stew meats with lentils or peas to stretch your proteins. Use the bones from your meats to make stock, and use the stock to make soups with leftovers and odds and ends.
    If your store has a marked-down produce shelf, see what you can use from there. Look for things that have a bruise, or cosmetic blemish, but are still fresh.