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is Eating Well Expensive?

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  • is Eating Well Expensive?

    I'm sure this has been discussed before, so please forgive me for repeating. I mentioned in my intro we are a family of 9. There is hubby and me and kids ages 16, 14, 12, 9, 7, 4, and 1. We are not wealthy folks, LOL, and my food budget is only $100 per person per month. That still makes food our NUMBER ONE expense, even more than our mortgage. That is not counting soaps, household stuff, etc. Just food.

    Has anybody here tracked their food expenses? I'd be particularly interested in how the primal way of eating compares in cost to a more typical diet.

    I know you cannot put a price on healthy eating, that it pays off with better health. For better or worse, I'm just talking dollars and cents here.

  • #2
    yes, it is expensive.

    we spent -- for a family of 3 -- $320 per week, and that does not include household items. so, just over $100 per person. It should be noted that my husband and son have very fast metabolisms, so they eat a fair bit more than "normal" people of their age, weight, etc.

    that being said, we live in NZ, where food prices are higher. in the US, some of our friends spend less than $50 per week on themselves, utilizing processed bulk foods at costco with coupons. but, we haven't eaten that crap in years, and were 100% organic and free range while we were in the US, and our average weekly amount (for two, with DH eating like two people) was $200-250 per week, not including household items. So even there, we managed to get it down to $100-112.50 per person.

    Here is how I saved money:

    1. join a CSA (community supported agriculture) -- they often have "scholarships" for families who quality. Lots of fresh produce, enough to "put things by" for the winter months. you have a bit of a "luck of the draw" with what they produce, and what's growing that week, which is why learning to put things by is essential. you also have to introduce a lot of new veggies, but it's a good option for local and organic foods. over summer months, you might get TONS of produce for about $300 for the month (depends upon the cost of the share).

    now, to be sure, I did not do this. We could never trust the box. We do this currently (local, organic produce -- $80 per week and it usually lasts us about 10 days PLUS we supplement with some grocery store picks that come from australia and other parts of NZ. So, we felt ready to take on the "christmas-surprise" aspect of these boxes. But, friends of mine in the US were local members of CSAs and got fruit, veggies, herbs, nuts, and fresh flowers from their CSAs every week, and it worked well for them. It also gets you eating seasonally!

    2. organic may not be that important to you, nor might local, at which point you might consider finding a veggie whole-saler. In our early days, we utilized one (before going organic), and I would get A LOT of fresh produce for about $30. Something like "bag of 8 apples, $1" so, i would get salad greens, veggies of all kinds, all kinds of fruit. It was usually the stuff that wasn't purchased by grocers or restaurants because it was bruised or very ripe. we might loose a couple of pieces of fruit or one or two veg by the end of the week due to mold, but the rest of it was ripe and flavorful.

    i think that for large families in particular, this is idea. you can also call a local, commercial supplier of produce (like a restaurant would use), and ask if there is such a place in your area. if so, then go there.

    Seriously, it's a good deal. Summer before we moved here, I was eating cherries and berries like a fiend -- 2 lbs of cherries for $1! You can't go wrong. And, a friend of mine helped me freeze some and make jams and so on. Good stuff. I ate it all!

    3. grow a garden -- indoors or out -- for expensive things like micro greens and herbs. we are just starting our herb garden now, and it makes a HUGE difference. herbs -- dried or fresh -- here are very expensive. we tend to buy in bulk (when buying dry herbs and spices), but it is still expensive. i like flavorsome foods. So, we are growing our own herbs. We really don't have a lot of garden space, so we are using pots and doing our best with the space (and sunlight) that we have.

    also, learn to put some of this stuff buy (drying, keeping in oil, making pestos, etc). this is something that i'm learning as well. martha stewart has great recipes for keeping herbs.

    4. bone broth, offal, and cheap cuts of meat -- or buy half a cow -- all of these are ways to increase nutrition and decrease cost. you can also buy a fair bit on sale, and while grass fed and finished, pasture raised is "optimal," the fact is that it's better to eat what you can afford that is within the primal WOL/WOE and not worry about this so much.

    we currently find ourselves eating more beef, venison, fish and lamb because it's a LOT less expensive than chicken here. We get 1-2 chickens (whole) per week, and make bone broth from the bones once we've picked off all the meat -- but otherwise it's just too expensive to have as frequently. the rest is a lot less expensive. and, we get 'off cuts' to make things like osso de buco - which uses the shin bone -- and you get marrow, meat, and bone, and then can render the bones AGAIN for stock. which is fab.

    we use the stock to make soups (which extends any meat -- we eat a lot of soup), to steam veggies, to make egg drop soup for breakfast (extends eggs that way, we use fewer), and sometimes just as a nice, warm drink. And, it's very nutrient rich.

    Doing these things can greatly decrease your food costs, and you have to really experiment to see if you can get it down to $100 per person -- and possibly less. I think it can be done and buying less processed foods really does save money. There are never coupons, but shopping around, looking for the best prices, etc -- makes a big difference.


    • #3
      With that many people and that budget I would be bulk ordering meat, stocking up on sales and probably working out of 2 deep freezers. (9 folks, maybe 3!) I would also want a garden going in the warmer months. And eggs, lots of eggs.
      Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.


      • #4
        I cannot afford the expensive grass fed meats and range chickens. I have a big garden for vegetables. But when I need to buy them I get just regular ones. Not organic. It is okay. As long as I cut out sodas, processed food, grain products, etc, I feel I am doing better for my body. Just do the best you can do and it will all be fine.


        • #5
          If you consider your food as part of health care, while you will spend more on food, in the long run you will spend less on health care. With food, the saying you get what you pay for is not a cliche.
          Grass Fed Beef Restaurants


          • #6
            honestly, this way has been cheaper for me ...

            i mix in grass fed beef when i can get part of a whole cow, pig, or find a good deal on ground beef or chickens from whole foods ($3.99 grass fed ground beef is hard to beat, i will buy 10-20#s when its this cheap) ... i grow some veggies myself, but ill be growing much more next year

            but truthfully, i find myself eating far less this way ... my wife as well .. about $300 in food for us both for a month right now

            ps - good for you for 7 children, im scared to be able to afford 1!
            started at 310 July 23rd 2011 ... workin and workin!

            my journal -


            • #7
              We (family of 3) spend a lot of money on food. Easily more than our mortgage or any other bill. We have a decent-sized vegetable garden that helps and we're always on the lookout for coupons and other deals. My motto has been for years now "Better to pay the grocer than the doctor" and it's definitely working. We have no medical expenses other than routine checkups. None of us takes a prescription drug, and over-the-counter drugs are very rare.
              “You may have thought you heard me say I wanted a lot of bacon and eggs, but what I said was: Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.” - Ron Swanson


              • #8
                Yes, we probably spend close to $200/person but we live in a high cost area for food, especially fresh food. I could cut this in half by eating conventional meals for sure, but I think my kids and my health are worth more. We could also move to an area with better access to fresh foods and cheaper options, but it's the price I pay to live in a state that I love.
                Start of PB weight Aug/2011: 217
                Start of Leptin Reset end of Aug/2011: 202.4
                current weight: 199.6

                Follow me and see what my kids are eating for lunch.


                • #9
                  Lots of people on a budget (or just plain frugal) make this work. Like Todd, I'm actually spending less now (but still more than $100 per month).

                  Offal is cheap. And if you have your own hens, you can't get any cheaper than that for eggs. Soups, stews. Buy your meat directly from the farm and skip the middleman's markup. Grow your own vegetables, as IvyBlue has said. And I know this is sacrilege around these parts, but you don't HAVE to have meat with every single meal. (Trust me, you'll manage to live another day. )

                  My favorite offal recipe:
                  Jen's Gone Paleo: Stir-Fried Chicken Livers w/Curry and Caramelized Onions

                  A site you'd be interested in (a woman after my own heart!):
                  Paleo on a Budget

                  $5 Dinners. NOT a Paleo/Primal site, but this is fantastic for anybody on a budget. Many of these recipes are Paleo/Primal as is, or can be modified to be:

                  "The" crockpot recipe blog. Her family is GF, so that is half the battle. Again, can modify to Primalize.
                  A Year of Slow Cooking
                  "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates


                  • #10
                    Money Saving Mom® :: Helping You Be a Better Home Economist

                    She is not Paleo/Primal, but this is a very inspirational, popular site with incredible ideas for saving money. Christian family of 5, scrimped and saved and paid cash for a (nice) house before her 30th birthday. Maybe you could get some money-saving ideas in other areas of your budget, which would then free up more money for food.
                    "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates


                    • #11
                      Another thing:
                      Factor in, too, that your doctor/prescription meds bills will be significantly decreasing. Many a mother reports that her Paleo/Primal children are rarely, if ever, sick.
                      "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates


                      • #12
                        It doesn't have to won't be eating fancy, but lots of eggs, cheap cuts of meat made into stews, with teenagers DON'T be afraid of white potatoes; they are dirt cheap sources of calories.
                        I blog :
                        Like me on Facebook:!/...17134571662261
                        "We have all the food groups- meat and chocolate".


                        • #13
                          If by 'well' you mean for everyone - your body, communities, animals, the land - then yes, it's pretty expensive, no thanks to our government and big agra. If you want to eat lots fruit and prime cuts and have treats like chocolate, food could cost upwards of $60 per week. Right now I'm spending about $50, but I really need to cut back on the Perfect Foods bars and coffee outings and buy more meat, especially organ meat. I'm going to eat more potatoes too.


                          • #14
                            and it's true. we don't eat meat at every meal, either. yesterday, we had pumpkin soup (i roasted a pumpkin, then scooped it out and pureed it, and sweated some garlic and onion in butter, added the puree and some home made chicken broth) garnished with a bit of raw yogurt, and then a big salad. it was very filling and delicious. we do this sort of thing -- veggie soup made with bone broth -- fairly frequently. Perhaps it's about 2-5 lunches or dinners per week? it's good, though.


                            • #15
                              My wife has found some paleo recipes on which have turned out well
                              Grass Fed Beef Restaurants