9 Best Paleo Shopping Tricks

We all know that following a Paleo lifestyle is healthy.  Did you know it could save lots of money too?  These 9 best Paleo shopping tricks will prove how you can eat healthy while meeting your budget, living within your means and saving more money for the fun stuff.

Cost of Dining Out is Increasing

According to recent research, surveys, and studies, monthly spending at restaurants has increased linearly since the 1990’s.  The amount spent per month at restaurants has now surpassed the amount spent per month on groceries, which means people are dining out more often and spending more money on meals outside the home.

Dining Out is Increasing
Dining Out is Increasing

The average price for a single restaurant meal, once you factor in the food, drinks, and tip, is roughly $30 per person.  How many times do you dine out each day…each week?  It adds up quickly.

The average person eats roughly 4 meals each week out at restaurants.  With the average price at $30 per meal, the amount spent on meals outside the home adds up to about $120 per week.  Looking at a family of four, the spending on meals outside the home increases to $480 per week.  Now that’s a huge amount of money spent on only 4 meals.

Where does that money come from?  If you’re like most people, that money detracts from fun activities, like vacations, and reduces the money allocated to savings.  Hmm, retirement or unhealthy meal at a restaurant?

Cost of Groceries

Even as grocery prices increase with inflation, the value for your money still remains quite high.  Since you don’t waste extra money on someone else preparing, cooking and serving you food, you save quite a bit of money.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), feeding a family of four costs between $150 and $300 per week, depending on food prices throughout the nation.  Compare that to the $480 per week from dining out and the difference is huge – almost $4,000 per year saved by eating at home.

Want to give yourself a raise?  Cook at home.

9 Best Paleo Shopping Tricks

Now that I convinced you to shop at the grocery store and cook your meals at home, let’s talk about how you can save money at the grocery store.

These 9 best Paleo shopping tricks have worked very well for me over the years and I’m able to shop and feed my family of three for $150 per week, which is right within the range stated above by the USDA.

Develop a Budget

Developing your budget is the first, most important step to saving money.  Knowing how much you can afford directly determines how much you need to save.

Not sure how to start?  I created this monthly Budget Worksheet that can be yours for only $1!  This Budget Worksheet provides an initial analysis of where your money is going.  Most importantly, it offers a quick-start to developing your present budget so you can start saving money immediately.

Once you download this Budget Worksheet, it’s yours to keep, adjust, and modify until it becomes something you can use every month.

budget-worksheet
Sample Budget Worksheet

List all Income

Start by listing all your sources of income.  Make sure to list your after-tax income since this is the money available for your expenses.

List all Expenses

Next, create a list of all your expenses.  This includes regular, once a month expenses – like housing, food, utilities, transportation, and savings – but this also includes non-regular items like clothing, medical, recreation, and emergencies.

Combine it Together

Lastly, arrange your expenses so you pay the most important expenses first down to the least important expenses.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this.  In fact, depending on your ranking of most important expenses down to least important expenses, every budget can look quite different.

Ideally, the income should equal the expenses, but this is not an ideal world.  It takes some adjustments to make the budget work out correctly.  Unless you have money growing on trees, you will have to adjust the expense amount until the income pays for all expenses.

Food Budget

Generally, your budget for food expenses should be somewhere in the range of 12-15% of your income, which is calculated on my Budget Worksheet.  Once you settle on a food budget, you then determine the balance between cooking meals at home and dining out.

Shop the Sales

I’m sure you thumb through the weekly ads, but do you plan your meals by them?  Looking through several local grocery store ads and comparing prices and sales is an important step when planning and creating your weekly meal plan and grocery list.

Select a protein first, since that’s usually the most expensive ingredient.  Then, select the vegetables that pair well with your selected proteins, focusing on sale items first.

Finally, review the ads one more time.  Look for great sales on items you can stock up on.  Sometimes they have buy one, get one free sales.  You may only need one item this week, but you could stock up on it for later and cash in on the savings.

No matter what is advertised, always compare unit prices before purchasing your food items.  Sometimes grocery stores advertise a sale, but when you get to the store, you find a similar item for less money.  Unfortunately, some sales are only marketing techniques that focus on certain products/brands and might not, truly, be the best deal out there.

Unit Price
Unit Price

Buy Local

Developing relationships with local farms, local markets, and local businesses creates more opportunities for discounts, free offers, and better selection.  Plus, when you buy local, you don’t pay the extra cost to have the food transported long distances from the source to your local store.  The shorter travel ensures the produce stays fresh and contains more nutrients.

Produce from the Farmers Market
Produce from the Farmers Market

Farmers Markets

Check out Local Harvest for local Farmer’s Market listings near you.  Farmer’s Markets are great family outings and most of them sell homemade food/meals you can enjoy while you’re there.  Go early and get the pick of the crop.

CSA Programs

Local Harvest also shows listings for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs near you.  This program is usually offered 4 times a year – per season.  The general concept is that you pre-pay for the farm’s seasonal, fresh produce for that season.  You pick up your share of produce either weekly or bi-weekly at the farm itself or various pick-up locations.

I highly recommend joining a CSA program.  It ensures you eat nutrient-dense, local, and fresh produce every week.  It also adds variety to your typical produce selections.

Optimize Organic Selections

Truly optimizing your organic produce selection will save you a great deal of money.

Organic Salad Clamshells
Organic Salads

But, how do you decide what should be organic and what shouldn’t?

The list below shows the “Dirty” and “Clean” foods based on the amount of pesticides used while growing.  It might be handy to keep this list with you – either in your wallet or on your phone – so you can refer to it while shopping.

Dirty FifteenClean Fifteen
ApplesAsparagus
PeachesAvocados
CeleryBroccoli
PotatoesCabbage
TomatoesCantaloupe
Snap PeasCauliflower
CucumbersEggplant
SpinachGrapefruit
StrawberriesKiwi
GrapesMangoes
Sweet Bell PeppersOnions
NectarinesPapayas
Hot PeppersPineapples
KaleSweet Potatoes
Collard GreensPeas (although not Paleo)

If you don’t have this list with you, I recommend buying organic if the skin is fragile or if you plan on eating the skin.  Otherwise, don’t bother spending the extra money on the organic alternative.

Buy Frozen

Fruits and vegetables lose essential nutrients immediately after they are picked.  As the produce travels from the farm, to the grocery store, to your house, and finally ends up on your plate, the produce can lose up to 45% of its essential nutrients.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are blanched, boiled or steamed and then frozen immediately after being harvested.  This holds the essential nutrients in place until you cook them.  Frozen produce is also available year-round, and in most cases, costs less than its fresh counterparts.

Buying fresh produce from a Farmer’s Market or a CSA Program is the best option.  However, if this is not available or the produce you need is not in season, frozen produce is an excellent option.

Buy in Bulk

Become a member of a wholesale warehouse, like Costco or Sam’s.  Purchasing foods in bulk from wholesale warehouses saves on average 30-70% depending on the food items.

Storing this food after you buy it might be the limiting factor.  Having the proper storage for all the food is a must.  Buying in bulk may not work well if you don’t have the proper storage.

Buy Seasonally

By shopping the sales and attending local Farmer’s Markets, you’re probably already buying seasonally, but pay attention to your grocery store selections.  Many out-of-season fruits and vegetables are available and you will pay more for them due to the longer shipping distances.

Check out my 18 Paleo Fruits and Vegetables for Summer and my 21 Paleo Fruits and Vegetables for Fall for great ideas on seasonally shopping.

Optimize Protein Selection

Burgers on the Grill
Burgers on the Grill

Protein is often the most expensive ingredient in a meal.  By optimizing the protein, you can lower the cost per meal dramatically as well as your grocery bill.

Focus on sale items first.  If you find a great deal on a premium cut of meat, perfect!  Otherwise choose larger cuts of meat, which will save money, but may mean additional prep time at home.

Try adding organ meats into your weekly meal plan.  Organ meats are less expensive and provide the most nutritional value per serving compared to all other protein sources.

Plan Smart Meals

If you’re trying to save money, you’re not going to eat filet mignon every night, right?  Certainly, eating lettuce for dinner might be cheap, but it won’t fill you up.  Choosing the right meals for you and your family, in addition to the above money-saving tips, provides the most value for every dollar spent.

Check out my list of of 10 Affordable Paleo Meals – $10 or Less for a Family of Four.  I did the hard work for you, and you’ll be amazed at what 10 bucks can do when you shop local and cook your meals at home.

Find What Works For You

Finally, find what works for you and your family.  Everyone has different access to local foods and markets, different budgets, and different desires.  Develop a routine, find your groove, and stick with it.

That’s how this Paleo lifestyle is created, maintained, and affordable.

What other shopping tricks do you use to save money?  Do you have certain brands you like that are traditionally cheaper than others?  Do you shop online from places like Thrive Market or Amazon for certain Paleo ingredients?

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