Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive So Stop Whining About It

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While in bed last night, I thought back to a discussion I had earlier in the day with a co-worker who complained to me about the cost of eating well.  They had noticed that every day for the past 12 months or so my lunch has consisted of a large salad (spinach, kale, tomatoes, avocado, red and green peppers, broccoli, garlic, carrots, radishes, beets) and a medium to small sized portion of meat (chicken, fish, or beef), and wanted to know how I was able to “afford” to eat that well all the time.

I didn’t want to get into a debate at work, especially considering I don’t know the person’s spending habits or other potential financial hardships they may be facing, so I just sort of stayed at the 30,000 foot level of “oh, it’s really not too bad especially if you’re willing to cut elsewhere” argument.

But, while lying (or is it laying, I never seem to get that one right) in bed, my mind started racing about where I could take the debate in the future and, most importantly, what facts I could use to back up my argument that spending money on food that nourishes your body doesn’t have to force you to spend more money each month.

Health Care Spending

Before I head down the path of priorities, I think it’s important to take a look at health care spending at large.  For those of you who’ve read my The Answer to the Health Care Crisis? post, much of this won’t be new, but, ultimately, it’s worth repeating.

In the United States, health care spending accounted for 15.2% of the GDP in 2008, and stands to grow to 19.5% of the GDP by 2017.  In terms of dollars, that’s somewhere between $2.1 and $2.5 trillion dollars per year.  For an overwhelming point of reference, what we spend on health care is more than the total GDP of every country in the world except China, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

Logic stands to reason that since we spend the most on health care we must be the healthiest and, since we keep spending more and more each year, we must be getting healthier.

Not so fast.

eating healthy, food priorities, healthy food, monthly expenses, monthly food budget
We’re fat… and getting fatter!

In 2008, roughly one-third (1/3) of the population was obese (and addition third were considered overweight but not obese) and, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, over 40% of the population will be obese by 2030.  Along with the weight problems comes a host of other medical issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, increased risk of stroke and cancer.  So, not only are we not healthy, it looks like the problem is going to get worse… and more expensive.

For an interesting look at this problem, check out the Spending More Doesn’t Make Us Healthierarticle by Ezekiel Emanuel in The New York Times.  It simply reinforces the fact that we’re not going to solve our health crisis simply by spending more on health care.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we’re already spending a ton of money on health care and, since what we’re currently doing isn’t working, we probably need to make some changes.

Spending Money on Eating Well

Ok, back to what was keeping me up last night.  The more I thought about the “expense” of eating well the more I kept coming back to the fact that spending on nutritious, healthy food is a matter of priorities.  It’s my point of view that if you make nutrition one of your top priorities you won’t notice any increased expense related to “eating well.”

In my simple mind, I broke down how our food-related priorities into two groups:

  1. What groceries am I currently buying?
  2. What other food-related purchases am I making?

What’s in Your Shopping Cart

This morning, I went out to Google and started looking up some statistics on what the average American spends on groceries.  I came across an interesting blog post from NPR entitled, quite simply, “What America Spends on Groceries,” that quoted the following breakdown of grocery spending in 2012 as researched by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Processed Foods & Sweets – 22.9%
  • Meats – 21.5%
  • Fruits and Vegetables – 14.6%
  • Grains & Baked Goods – 14.4%
  • Beverages – 11.1%
  • Dairy Products – 10.6%
  • Other Foods – 5.1%

In doing some basic addition, I calculated that the average American spends more than half of their grocery dollars on junk.  That’s an incredible amount; no wonder we’re so unhealthy and spending so much money on drugs and medical appointments.

eating healthy, food priorities, healthy food, monthly expenses, monthly food budget
This doesn’t have to be expensive!

Being a numbers nerd, I wanted to quantify how much we’re spending – in terms of dollars — on junk.  In order to get there, I used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels” for June 2012 to back into the total monthly grocery budget for the average American.  The assumption I made is that the Moderate-Cost Plan for a family of two made the most sense because I figured families with multiple people would sort of average out with singles.  If you disagree with my assumption, please feel free to use the USDA’s data to do your own analysis.

Based on what I assumed, the average monthly grocery expense for a family of two is $584, or $292 per person.

In going back to the grocery breakdown data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics referenced above, here’s where our grocery dollars are going per person:

  • Processed Foods & Sweets – $66.87
  • Meats – $62.78
  • Fruits and Vegetables – $42.63
  • Grains & Baked Goods – $42.05
  • Beverages – $32.41
  • Dairy Products – $30.95
  • Other Foods – $14.31

Again, in doing some basic addition that comes to $155.64 for junk and $136.36 for meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.  For two people that’s $311.28 and $272.72, respectively, per month.

It seems to me, if you slashed your spending on junk and instead put all of that money towards good, nutritious foods, the “good stuff” wouldn’t seem so expensive.  In fact, if the average two-person family just doubled their meat, vegetable, fruit, and dairy and cut out all junk, they’d actually save $40 per month.  This is a simple argument, but the point is valid: if you cut out the crap, the good stuff really shouldn’t have much of an effect on your budget.

I think the root of the problem is, in an attempt to eat better, people spend more on good stuff without cutting out the junk, thus the appearance that healthy food causes them to blow through their budget.

Other Money Spent on Other Food Related Purchases

Here’s where the discussion on priorities really gets heated.  I understand I am in no place to tell you what your priorities should be, and that’s not the goal of this article.  I’m just trying to prove a point that eating well doesn’t have to cause you to spend more than you already are, especially if you’re willing to make eating better a higher priority than, say, you’re morning trip to the local coffee shop.

According to an article on the Huffington Post, the average worker spends $1,000 per year on coffee.  That’s roughly $85 per month.  This may not be a ton of money, but it’s nothing to shake a stick at either, so, for the purposes of comparison, here’s what I got this morning from Whole Foods (not the cheapest place in the world) for $81.85 before tax:

  • Organic Baby spinach ($5.99)
  • Bunch of organic carrots ($2.49)
  • Bunch of organic radishes ($1.99)
  • Bunch of organic kale ($2.49)
  • Two crowns of organic broccoli ($2.99)
  • Container of organic cherry tomatoes ($3.99)
  • Organic red pepper ($1.99)
  • Organic green pepper ($1.99)
  • Two avocados ($4.00)
  • 1-pound Organic zucchini ($4.99)
  • Bunch of asperagus ($3.49)
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts ($12.99)
  • 1 pound grass-fed New York strip steak ($19.99)
  • Container organic blueberries ($3.99)
  • Container organic raspberries ($4.99)
  • 1-dozen Omega-3 enriched organic eggs ($3.49)

All of the above will get my wife and me through a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches, and through at least two dinners.  To get us through a week’s worth of dinners it’s probably safe to tack on another $75 for various vegetables and meats.

So, for the two of us, we spend roughly $150 per week on groceries, which works out to $600 per month.  Hmm… go back up a couple of sections… what does the average two person family spend on food including junk?  $584?  So, for just $16 more per month, or $0.50 per day (I sound like an infomercial) you can cut out all the junk and eat extremely healthy foods?  Sounds like a deal to me!

Ok, so let’s say you can’t live without your morning coffee.  Where else could you cut?

What about dining out?  According to Ally Bank, the average American spends $232 per month on dining out.  Even if that was just cut in half to $116 and the other $116 was applied toward buying better grocieries, you’d be eating a lot better without impacting your monthly budget at all.

What if you can’t live without your coffee and you look at eating out as not only a means of getting food, but as a form of family entertainment.  Check out this list on the Top 10 Things Americans Waste The Most Money On and I’m sure you’ll come up with a few ways to come up with some money you could stop spending elsewhere and apply to better grocery shopping.

What in the hell am I getting at?

To sum this up in one run-on sentence: when you get past all of the data and a little bit of editorializing, the point of this article is that eating well doesn’t have to add to your monthly expenses if you’re willing to make it a priority.

Make it a priority.

What are your thoughts?  Am I crazy?  Do I need to get off my soapbox?  Am I spot on?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

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  1. Jodi says

    You are right on! I have been trying to convince my husband of this, as well as my soon and daughter-in-law. Your post will really help! Thank you!

    • Brian says

      Thanks, Jodi. We think this is our best work yet, so please share! Hopefully we can help you convince your husband, son, and daughter-in-law!

      • AJ says

        You said your list was going to get you and your wife through seven days worth of breakfasts, lunches and two dinners. Please explain in what alternate universe this is possible. Do you both eat less than one egg for breakfast every day? Because that is all that was on your list. A salad at lunch after your ¾ of an egg breakfast won’t be very filling. You have a total of three pounds of meat on the list. For two people for seven days. So– less than a quarter of a pound of meat per person per day. Less than one whole egg, and less than a quarter of a pound of meat, with some veggies for an entire day. That’s going to end up being about 500 calories (probably less). You eat only 500 calories a day?? Just gonna eat that salad with no dressing? Even if you do add another 75 bucks for your five remaining dinners—you’re going to have to come up with at least double (realistically triple) the amount of calories with that 75 bucks that you got here for 80 bucks. AT LEAST—and that would only give you 1500 calories a day! Anorexia, here we come!
        The whole discussion about cutting processed foods out is just a lazy way to fill space. If a person is reading about how to eat Paleo more cheaply, they don’t spend money on processed foods. Those numbers about the average American diet don’t apply and are pretty much useless. A very lazy article, suited up in class privilege with no regard for the reality that eating Paleo is expensive, and out of some people’s reach.
        I read this article hoping that I would get some useful information that would help me figure out how to continue eating a healthy, paleo diet on my very limited salary. It did not. Not even close. What it did do was preach at me about imaginary disposable income I am supposedly spending on coffees and concerts and other crap—and how I should just make my diet a “priority.” Really. If you think that all that it takes is some ratcheting down of frivolous spending, then you must actually have disposable income. Some people do not, and still want to eat Paleo. Seriously. Socio-economic class privilege showing its ugly face.
        After rent and utilities, internet and phone,(full-time student, full time job) I have about 600 bucks left for the entire month. I ride my bicycle everywhere. I don’t have a car. I don’t have memberships to anything, I don’t get coffee drinks, I can’t afford to go out to dinner or the movies or concerts. I don’t run my air-conditioner because I can’t afford it. Which means it’s really hot in here sometimes. Six hundred bucks to feed two Paleo people is barely enough—and if I want a new pair of shoes, I have to save up for a few months, cut back on my almond intake. Your article is ignorant.

        • Cate says

          Buy 2nd hand shoes on ebay. My husband walks through new Merrells ($200+) every three to six months. I bought him two new pairs for less than half the price of one, worn once or twice, now he swears he’ll never be a retail sucker again.
          However, eating primal, organic and grass-fed, I do think $600 per person per month is still really low. We’re two healthy, not huge adults and one toddler and we’re at about $2,000 for all three of us. As my husband just said, ‘That’s a ridiculous amount’.
          We don’t eat out and he buys his lunch from the city. I don’t do coffee either.
          Oh well. I won’t compromise the quality of our food, but sourcing and preparing it is my full time job. On the up-side, we’re never sick (touchwood) and I don’t spend any money at all on new clothes/shoes/crap- for any of us. I used to think this was gross once upon a time, but man, my health- mental and physical and no doubt spiritual
          : ) is exceptional and I couldn’t care less about the rest of it.

        • Gerry Ketchum says

          I agree there is little information or help for those on a very tight budget. There has to be a way of going paleo without going broke. I have to question the knee-jerk rejection of everything processed. Many canned and most frozen fruit and vegetables are perfectly fine – it’s the added salt and sugar we have to watch for. (Recently I read my salt box and found it contained sugar! Out it went, and I emptied the salt shaker, too.)
          People rail against ‘industrialized’ food, but food poisoning was common in the past, before refrigeration or sterile canned goods were available. We seem to think that the ‘good old days’ when everything came out of the ground means that everything was better then. Not so. There was no way to transport food safely, so diets were very restricted, to only what was in season in the area you lived in. There was no way to be sure the water was clean or that the milk did not come from a tuberculin cow.
          I hope the problem of food costs will be covered less cavalierly in future posts.

          • Brian says

            Gerry – I am working on an article that talks about going Paleo without going broke. In the meantime, I believe Robb Wolf has some useful information on his site.

          • says

            Have you checked into FERMENTATION…things like sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, kombucha, kimchi…are all great ways to preserve food. Every culture throughout the world has some form of fermented foods that taste great and are CHEAP!

        • Deb says

          Quit whining, suck it up. And you don’t have to go all organic or high end.
          Phew! You took this a might personally, eh? It’s not like he titled the damn article “AJ, you waster, pend less eat better”. You want to eat Paleo? Well, do what you can until your circumstances improve. BTW, attitude helps in that department; if I were more speculative I might ask if you were part of the Occupy movement, but then you do claim to have a job. There are always trade-offs in life. Maybe yours aren’t going to relate to the advice given. Maybe you have to make other concessions. I do think there is an obsessive quality to some Paleo suggestions–organic grass-fed beef sounds primo Paleo, but if you can’t afford it right now, you CAN be sufficiently Paleo on regular (or perhaps you could take up hunting and fishing???) Choices, dude–man up.

          • Brian says

            Deb, while I appreciate your defense, I don’t think AJ was over the top in his response. I think he was pointing out holes in my argument, which do exist, but largely because I didn’t do a good job articulating them or presenting additional data in defense of my argument. I will work to tighten this up and present it in a supplemental article.

        • mayya says

          AJ, you are dead on, first about the shopping list, and particularly about the imaginary disposable income. I don’t spend money at Starbucks. My spending on processed foods, grains, sweets, and beverages is less than 1% of my grocery bill. I buy fresh meats, vegetables, eggs, and fruit. I eat paleo to the extent that I CAN. I’m OK with that; it’s like anything else in life – I can’t afford everything I want. But the main lesson I can glean from this article is that I should make more money and stop wasting imaginary money that I don’t already have. Thanks, I been knowing that.

          I’m sure a lot of people new to paleo don’t realize the relative costs of various foods, and that some are not as expensive as it first appears. Sure, let’s provide some information and encouragement to them. Lecturing people with a rather patronizing and insulting tone isn’t useful.

          • Elizabeth says

            Mayya, I agree with this so much! I get really tired of hearing the Starbucks argument any time somebody wants to insist that other people truly do have the funds to do Thing X. I understand that some people do spend a lot of money on Starbucks or similar daily indulgences but a lot of us don’t live that way, and it’s really frustrating to hear people with a lot more money than me throw it around. “Oh, of course you can come up with the money for this–just stop going to Starbucks, hahaha.” No.

            And then there’s the person a few comments up who thinks $600/month/person is LOW. My god. I have to cut some corners on doing things in a precisely by-the-book Paleo way, but I’m spending more like $250 and I certainly don’t starve.

        • Brian says


          There is no “alternate universe” in which this is possible; we do it every day. In going through your critiques:

          1) We don’t necessarily eat eggs every day, and, in fact, quite often have very filling vegetable smoothies instead.
          2) The lunch salad is very filling.
          3) You’re making very broad assumptions regarding meat that we eat it with every meal. We don’t. Vegetables are filling and take you far.
          4) The list isn’t all inclusive – we do use olive oil, etc. for salad dressings. Forgive my oversight for including that in the extra $75 per week we spend on stuff that I labeled as dinner. That is my mistake and I apologize if that was misleading. That was not my intent.

          We are certainly not anorexic.

          All things considered, we eat well. We also eat organic, which drives up the cost of food. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. A lot of what I have listed can be purchased for half the price by going non-organic. At the end of the day, non-organic meats and vegetables are still better for you than junk food.

          I’m actually working on an article on how to cut your grocery budget while still eating organic. Hopefully that will be more in line with what you’re looking for.

          • says

            Back in the 1970′s Earl Butz, secretary of agriculture, decided he could help Richard Nixon get elected by ensuring the population had cheap food…kind of along the lines of BREAD and CIRCUSES that the Romans used. By doing it with subsidies and introducing lots of Corn and Grain based foods, they managed to make food CHEAP but basically without nutrients. When they did that, they obscured the TRUE cost of NUTRITION, so that consumers do not realize what it really costs to eat, but then again…they don’t earn enough to get the food they should be eating, because their tax dollars are subsidizing the BIG AGRICULTURE business.

            A similar thing has happened with OIL and energy costs…so that SOLAR POWER seems more expensive than petroleum. How can people be expected to make good choices when the government has already made bad ones for us?

            I consider myself very progressive as far as believing that since our economy has destroyed all the jobs that used to enable people to afford food and shelter, it is not unreasonable that subsistence levels of food/shelter be provided to all citizens…I just wish we could reverse the subsidies…or at least SHOW THE TRUE NUMBERS like including DIABESITY costs in the junk food prices.

            The cynic in me understands that businesses whose only motive is PROFIT will be very unwilling to relinquish control of our food supply, our energy or our health care to us, but INFORMATION will help! Keep on working to show how you CAN eat healthy, then find a MUTUAL GROUP that can provide health insurance to healthy individuals at greatly reduced costs if OBAMACARE is repealed by ROMENYCARE’s author.

          • says

            I still don’t think that one bag of spinach and a bunch of kale is enough for an entire week for TWO. I go through a bag of spinach a week by myself. The 2.5 pound bag is labeled as 8 servings, and that is not a lot. I think you are likely using up things you already had in the fridge, and supplementing that list. I think what you have there is enough for ONE person, I only counted about six pounds of veggies and not nearly enough fruit for two.

            Please break it down by meals and see if you still think it is enough.

        • Laura says

          I see where you’re coming from, AJ, but I don’t think this article was really geared towards helping people who already practice paleo eating do it less expensively. Whole Foods is not the way to go for that one, sure enough. I think it was to provide some ammunition for those “Oh, you’re so good, I could never eat that way” conversations which colleagues seem to constantly start. I personally think that they’re in the same category as the “Oh, look how thin you are” comments where really they just want someone to reassure them that they’re doing ok. All the suggestions made in here are not new, but they’re nicely supported with realistic numbers which I think is great. I enjoyed this article! However, since I generally don’t buy processed crap, I own a coffee pot (with a timer! It’s ready when I get up! Awesome!), I rarely eat out, don’t have cable, etc, it’s true that this will not help my bottom line personally. I am not offended by that. In fact, I have not yet graduated to strictly organic and free-range products yet – I’m going in baby steps, and I know it will just get more expensive, even at the farmers market, or buying a half a cow, or whatever. But I am a lot healthier than I used to be, so I do what I do. No judgement!

          • says

            Laura, I am retired on a very fixed income…I have eliminated CABLE, RESTAURANTS, PROCESSED FOODS and make my own coffee…I buy produce, but not too much organic, but I am working on more home garden and almost have my chicken coop ready for tenants…I figure it costs about $8.00 per day for the following: 2 eggs, veggies, fruit and coffee for breakfast; a couple snacks of fruit/veggies/cheese/nuts; large salad with protein and maybe half a pbj sandwich for lunch; and whole grain pasta spaghetti, homemade chili, baked sweet potato and veggies, homemade soup or stew for dinner with an occasional chicken/sardine/salmon/pork chip for dinner…I do have cheap beef ground to make hamburger to add to spaghetti and sometimes have spicy chicken sausage in it too. If I am careful, that $8.00 per day covers food and condiments…I have made my own ketchup with organic tomato paste, vinegar, spices and water that I put in an old 57 variety bottle, and I am considering homemade mayonnaise pretty soon.

        • says

          I came to the same conclusions as you about the foodbasket not being enough…not enough fruits, and not enough QUANTITY to make it through a while week for two people, but then I looked at the prices. I thought of my own local Sprouts market, and realized that by being more careful shopping that the TOTAL was pretty accurate…I buy a huge bag of spinach at Costco for $3 something and buy whole chickens and make chicken broth for soups instead of $6.50 per pound for deboned chicken…buy fruits and vegetables in season (when they taste the best anyway) and not $5.00 for a couple sprinkles of berries.

        • Mary Browning says

          My husband and I are very careful with food buying and mostly cook at home and eat carefully refrigerated leftovers as well.

          We don’t buy convenience foods and we keep a supply of basic spices, grains, frozen chicken, seafood and when we have steak we have bought from Costco a whole beek loin and cut it up and frozen the steaks.

          Big thing now is that we have noticed that the food of basic food–fruit, vegetables is jumping up, while packaged, unhealthy food is still available for less money.

          Mary B.

    • Patti says

      After reading this I can see that you are an ego-maniacal *****…. what you posted for your one week of food is 100$…….. So either you have a great paying job, your on foodstamps, or you don’t do or have anything else. people who are upset that is is so much cheaper to buy crapfood than healthy food are people who are not on foodstamps, don’t make very good money at all and like to enjoy life a little with the few crappy things they do have. To say “stop whining” is very self-righteous of you. But then, people like you have no clue what it like to decide whether to pay the power bill or feed the kids, day to day.

      • Brian says

        I also make sacrifices elsewhere with regards to spending, i.e. I live frugally so that I can spend “more” on food. Am I lucky? Absolutely. But I’m also not detached from the real world.

  2. KristenK says

    Awesome summary!! I am always excited to share my thoughts when people make the comment “it’s too expensive to eat healthy” as they run and spend $7/day on JUST LUNCH that is all sugar and wheat. Or, “I’m trying to diet” but their fridge is full of sugar drinks and dairy and the freezer stocked full of lean cuisines and ice cream!!! Oh man! Love sharing what I’m learning about clean eating and now Paleo – or as I like to call it XTREME Clean Eating. And for me with our grocery bill, I love not having to worry about buying all the extra ingredients like “oh out of flour” or “no milk to make this meal…” and when the garden is really kicking out some produce it saves even more money and time in a store. Love your soapbox you were on!

    • KristenK says

      Also, we found a source for quality beef, split it with some of the family and I have not had to purchase beef out at a grocery store for almost an entire year and it was only about $400 ish for our portion. Granted we’re fortunate enough to have a chest freezer, but even that was a fairly minor investment considering the savings of cost and time over the long run.

      • Brian says

        Thanks for the comments, Kristen! My wife and I have actually talked about getting a deep freezer and buying half a cow. Seems like it would be pretty economical.

  3. says

    Great article! However very frustrating… My wife and I are working hard to educate those around us and teach our community how to get and stay fit, eat well, and feel amazing, all while making it fun! Looking forward to more of your posts.

  4. Ruth says

    Great article. Unfortunately, I think the reason why so many people prefer junk food is because it’s so addictive and most people don’t know how to cook, so eating vegetables isn’t yummy enough for them. So, why cook something that they don’t like to eat to begin with and just eat something that is good & you really don’t have to cook it. It’s definitely a major shift in their thinking to eat healthier.

    • Brian says

      That’s definitely a good point, Ruth. It is easier to just eat ready-made junk. We need to get beyond instant satisfaction and look at delayed gratification (live healthier and longer lives) when it comes to our food choices.

  5. Steph says

    Great article and good for you for pointing it out. You are not crazy, you have common sense which most people in our society don’t seem to have. I think one of the main problems is that we have this generation that grew up after the industrial revolution, when canned and packaged food was all the rage. Families cooked less real food, to the point that they didn’t even know how to anymore, or have to. Everything came ready made, pre packaged with all the flavor you need. Now the kids of these families are adults, and don’t know how to cook, as they were never shown, so they just continue to buy packaged foods, because it’s easier and all they know. Some people have to work crazy long hours just to get by, so settle for crappy quick food, or eating out. It comes down to what you said about being priority, and it seems people just don’t know how to make it so. The thing is, the packaged food and restaurants are there, and it’s easy, so people buy it, and get addicted to its salty and sugary “goodness”. If it wasn’t there, what would they do? Hmm well eat healthier of course. But I don’t think these foods are going to magically disappear anytime soon, so it’s up to parents to take the time to teach their kids about eating healthy and show them how to make it an important priority.

    • Brian says

      Great point about parenting. If we start early and keep our kids off of soda, McDonalds, etc., they’ll be way ahead of the curve and actually want to eat their fruits and veggies!

  6. says

    Great post, Brian! This is something Eat Play Live talks to families about all the time! We simplified it even further: Most people cringe when Jen and I tell them we spend $300/week at the grocery store. This buys a week’s worth of fresh, organic, wild, free-range, pastured food to feed our respective families of five. That breaks down to $60 per person/week! You can’t even take a family of five out to ONE dinner for that amount! It comes down to choices. It takes time to bring this load of food home, clean and prep it, and actually spend time cooking the real food breakfasts, lunches for school and work and nightly dinners.

    • Brian says

      Thanks, Karina! I’m super excited for you to drop your nutritional knowledge in the upcoming issues of Paleo Lifestyle Magazine :)

    • Amanda says

      So much for living in the “real” world. Of course they cringe. That works out to $1200 a month for groceries. That would be nearly half, or more, of their entire net income (Ours, for example, is $2300 a month and around here that’s actually a little *more* than average.).

      Your supposedly “reasonable” grocery budgets just help prove the argument of your opponents. I’ll bet there isn’t one of you on here trying to support a family on less than $50K a year……..

  7. says

    You are absolutely right.. I ran in this situation in the grocery store the other day. My wife and I decided that it was time to lose some weight and the best way I could think of was to cut out the “junk” food and eat more fruits and vegetables for meals and snacks. I sat down and made a list, went to the store, and got what I needed. When I went to pay I thought there must be a mistake because it was not only a lot less than I thought it would be, but a whole lot more than I usually pay. Great article.. Keep up the great work.

    • Brian says

      Brian – great first name, BTW – I absolutely agree… fruits and veggies especially can reduce your grocery bill. Too bad legumes and grains are not good for us because they’re super cheap, too!

  8. Michaela says

    Amazing article! I just shared it on facebook! My husband and I get a lot of crap from our friends and family for eating so healthy because we are low income but we actually spend less of food now than we did before!

  9. says

    Great post, Brian. I think another fascinating aspect is what percentage of our income we are willing to spend (or what some say “we can afford”) on food. This report is pretty enlightening. In the early 1900s, the average household expended over 40% of their annual household income on food. According to this report, we are now allocating about 13% annually. We spend far more (on average) annually for transportation than we do food. What if we bought less expensive cars, less expensive houses, and made food more of a priority? Of course, what’s really interesting is the chart demonstrating the expenditure share for non-necessities. Disney World, cable TV, iPhones and the like are all nice things to have, but if our food and what we “can afford” suffers because of it, is it really worth it? Just some food for thought…

    • Brian says

      YES!!! This was actually something I had in the original article but cut out. I plan on writing a post about this topic very, very soon :)

  10. Marie says

    Great article! My husband and I spend about $75/week on groceries, as well as get a half-share from a local CSA from May – November (we live in a condo, otherwise we would garden for our own veggies). That being said, tack on another $12 or so per week for the CSA (including eggs) I’m glad to see we’re right in line with the “average”. And honestly, we eat darn well ON A BUDGET. Thank you for presenting this research and point of view to those who may not believe it to be possible!

    • Brian says

      My wife and I have been thinking about joining a local CSA. I’m guessing you’ve had a good experience with it?

  11. says

    I totally agree! We hit up the Farmer’s Market every Sunday and come home with 2 full grocery bags full of organic produce for just $20! And it’s fun talking to the people who grow our food and shopping out doors.

  12. Susyn says

    $600/month for two for groceries?!!? My last job didn’t even pay $400 a month and that’s what we had for groceries and gas. Not everyone makes as much as you apparently do. Maybe if we didn’t have rent, water and electricity we could spend more on food. Until the job market gets better or we win Publisher’s Clearing House, our budget is about $100 a week for two.

    • Jill says

      I’m with you. I couldn’t possibly afford to spend that much on groceries, no matter what I was buying. Or, I guess I could if I didn’t pay any of my bills (rent, tuition, car insurance… you know, pesky stuff like that).

      Trying to be healthy when you are poor really IS hard. That’s why people “whine” about it. Our economy is set up to make it hard. Guess what? I can’t even remember the last time I drank anything but water. I’m certainly not wasting what money I have on coffee and eating out. So, what money that I’m currently “wasting on junk” should I put towards shopping at Whole Foods?

      If you think that someone living near or below the poverty level can afford organic/grass-fed food, you are seriously mistaken. I still want to be as healthy as possible, which for me means lots of fruit, veg, and meat. Guess where my non-organic, grain-fed food comes from? Aldi. How much do I spend? About $50 a week.

      • Val says

        If you can’t buy grassfed and organic then don’t stress. You are right, for some it is just not in the budget. You do what you can with what you have and believe that it will get better. We live in a world that supports unhealthy habits. It is up to us to make the changes we can where we are.

      • Brian says

        I never say non-organic is junk food. The point was not “thou shall eat organic.” I apologize if that’s how this came across.

    • Ben says

      Susyn, you earn only $400 per month (which is only $20 per day, assuming you work full time 5 days per week)? You’re either really selling yourself short and should fix your work situation, or you’re underemployed and should consider working more so you can afford healthy food. I realize that finding work is tough today and some people are not able to work due to a disability or old age, but it doesn’t sound like you’re being honest about your situation.

  13. Rebecca says

    I try to tell people this all the time. They seem to think I am asking them to deprive them of something to just take one month to eat a Paleo type diet. I understand this though because I thought that at first myself but I figured anyone can last 30 days trying something new. It won’t take 30 days to feel a difference though, both on grocery bill and health. It only took me 2 weeks.
    Great article. Thanks. I will share with otheres.

  14. Danielle says

    I think this is a great article, and I agree with many points; however, most who need this information ignore it for a number of reasons. I believe your estimate of $584/month for two people could actually be for 4 people in many families. Also, the food desert situation in our nation makes living on fresh food a struggle for some. I volunteered at a camp this summer in a low income area. The only grocery store within 10 miles was a run down Piggly Wiggly. So, if you try to convince someone with limited means, limited budget, and limited time that they would be better off taking out the processed food, they will brush you off. Their hierarchy of needs places the now higher than the future. It’s an unfortunate situation because little is done to combat this problem. The government puts out information that only increases the obesity epidemic and food companies constantly make false claims that there fake chemical products are healthy. Do I think it’s possible to eat healthy on a limited budget? Absolutely. My parents were both raised in lean households, yet they ate nutritious food. However, the focus today is on convenience instead of health. This is one of the reasons I’m going into public health. The public needs to be saturated with the knowledge of bad food = disease instead of the easy/cheap message that is killing so many people.

  15. says

    I couldn’t agree more. The only thing I would say is the exception for eating cheaply, though, if you were to buy super cheap items such as rice, lentils and ramen noodles. Ramen is processed, but you can buy a lot of those things and last a month if you are living on a shoestring.

  16. Leah says

    I agree with making food a very important priority! I feel that I spend waaaaaaay more money on food though for me and my husband then your outlined $150 per week. Gosh I feel that we must be eating alot more food then you do. 1 dozen eggs, 2 pounds of chicken and 1 pound of beef would get us through 2 breakfasts and 3-4 meals! I really like to cook too so buying for recipes can get tricky even when you make enough for left overs. Also I would love to see some real life monthly breakdowns of what people in the paleo/primal community are buying. A good bottle of olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and butter add up even when eaten moderately. I also do indulge in baking with almond flour sometimes which is not cheap either. We drink mate instead of coffee and make that at home every morning. I probably need to find a source to buy grass fed meat in bulk since buying it at the whole foods meat counter is not cheap. So I do think that you can eat this way on a budget but the way I like to eat requires spending a bit more money on food. Just wanted to throw that out since I think many people transitioning to this way of eating may have a hard time eating as streamlined as you show in your grocery list.

  17. Lisa says

    Hm. Having a large family hurts us, we spend about $400 a week for our family of 6. Now before you have a cow (ha!) keep in mind that for us, “groceries” are grassfed or pastured meats and eggs from local producers who I know personally. If there is no bacon available, we don’t buy grocery store bacon instead, we just go without. It includes about two pounds of organic only fruits and vegetables per person per day. Again, if it’s not organic, I don’t buy it. My children are grain-free but not paleo, so it also includes a gallon a day of raw milk from A2 pastured cows from a trusted source. With leftover milk, I make butter and cheese for the kids’ consumption. That, combined with a gallon of organic extra-virgin coconut oil every couple months, sugar for kombucha-making and the “cleaning supplies” I buy of vinegar, baking soda and borax are about all the groceries I buy.

    Sure it’s expensive. We have one TV, one computer, one cell phone, and no “memberships.” There are ways to cut back, but for us, the best possible food is non-negotiable.

  18. Deb says

    Does anyone else see any irony that (at least per my rudimentary google search) as food spending decreased health care spending increased? Might be interesting to explore any correlations there…

  19. Wenchypoo says

    ~Make it a priority.~

    The best 4 words in the English language when it comes to this issue. I wrote a 3-part article over at Health Freak Revolution about how to make Paleo eating affordable. I’m convinced that what we need is an army of in-store LC nutritionists/dieticians who will literally TAKE PEOPLE BY THE HAND AROUND THE STORE and show them how to shop–this is currently happening, but alas, not at a LC level, but at a CW level.

    Once more people realize the damage carbs are responsible for in the body, they will come to realize they need less of them in their daily lives, and one day make the shift–just as soon as someone is planted in the stores to show them that cheap processed carb replacement with fats, proteins, and veggies comes out to just about the same outlay (or even less) with no hunger, no weight gain, and no resulting health problems.

    Hubby and I have found that for us, the fewer carbs we eat, the better we do, and have gone all the way down to Atkins Induction phase for continued weight loss maintenance. Tests show we’re just fine. Grocery bills show we’re in the black with surplus.

    • Brian says

      I agree. It’s not to say there still aren’t hard choices to be made, especially for those with lesser means, but the choices can be made. Start a garden, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good (i.e. non-organic is still ok!), etc.

  20. says

    One of the most shocking stats is that we now accept to spend more on health care per year than on food itself – (over 15% for health care, less than 13% for food) and i am in disbelief of all the people here that are writing to complain/argue.

    quality, clean, non-industrial REAL FOOD COSTS MONEY TO PRODUCE! Wanna put non-food and toxins in your body? then you can eat dirt cheap – but you better pay good health insurance premiums – you will need them!

    • LeslieH says

      I totally agree. One top problem besides people not knowing how to cook is people don’t know how to take care of themselves. Education is the problem. So many people complain about not having the means but do nothing about it. Also, grow your own food. Hello, everyone did it before the industrial revolution of food, now people are just too lazy. They say they don’t have time but spend 4 hrs a night sitting on their butts watching tv. Grow your own food, it takes less than 2 hrs a week to grow and weed your own garden. That could be 2 meals a day for free with smoothies and salads. You want fast food, try an apple. No prep, no cooking just eat the thing. My house is on a basic lot, we have peaches, apples, grapes, blackberries, cantelopes, watermelon etc. and less lawn. We grow most of our veggies save the seeds and plant again next year. If you live in an apartment grow stuff on the roof or in pots. People can do a lot more for themselves but would rather whine about it. Or, they’re just too proud or self indulgent to make the cuts where they need too. Sacrifice is unheard of these days. People just want cheap and easy for the most part and wouldn’t think of doing it themselves.

      • Jennifer says

        Much like the author you are making assumptions. Your assumption being that everyone has a place to have a garden. Many of us do not.

  21. says

    Amen! Great article! I wrote a similar one for Zone 4 Magazine and reached the same conclusion: eating well actually saves money, and not just in the short-term.

    I think people buy processed food not just because it’s convenient, but because it’s meeting some emotional need for them. It’s true that people are busy and are losing knowledge about how to cook real food, but I think it goes deeper than that. There’s comfort in the idea that someone made food for them (even if the food is processed). In our stressed-out society, I think people are looking for that sort of basic sense of comfort.

    • Brian says

      Thanks for the comment, Cherilyn. Glad you agree! Interesting point about why people purchased processed foods.

  22. Ally Bishop says

    When I was single, I ate a Paleo-style diet on $40/week, sometimes $50/week. I have Celiac disease, so it’s not like I get options. Was my meat clean and grass-fed? Nope. It was the bonus buys at different grocery stores. Sometimes hotdogs had to be a meal. Other times, lunch meat. Fruit? Um, not so much. Not unless it was on sale. Frozen vegetables, cheap meats, going in halvsies with friends? Yep. Find a cheap grocery — every big town has one — and buy your fruits and veggies there. Stop making excuses as to why you can’t do it. You simply don’t buy processed crap, buy less than ideal versions of paleo foods, and you do it.

  23. Michelle says

    Wow! I have always been interested in eating well, but not too much food, or being wasteful. I brought up 4 kids on less dollars per week than friends with 2 kids (yes…they were putting on weight pretty fast!). We did not buy sweets, chips, lollies, cordial or soft drinks, little processed snacks and i cooked treats for the kids. I did not have money for snack foods or choice meat cuts but you can make a wide variety of things with just mince! I still believe that you eat when hungry, but if fed properly that should not be more than 3 or 4 times a day. My kids never got processed snacks, never at between meals, got to eat what was served or go hungry, and as a result they never had sweet cravings and as adults all are in the normal height/weight range and rarely eat sweets.

    We (modern folk!) invariably eat too much, buy crap and don’t like to change habits. We all also like whats easy! I hate salads, so I choose veggies I can cook instead but i love eating steak at the pub on steak night (cause i still cant get it right myself!) and steak night is cheap! I cook in bulk & freeze it for work (shift worker) and we only recently acquired chooks & ducks. I try to garden but am not very good (yet? I live in hope!). I can grow spinach and greens to feed the chooks so that’s not too bad!

    It IS all in habits, portion size, planning ahead and making a decision not to buy junk and wanting to put health as a priority. I can’t afford organic but have found a local farmer I can get grass fed organic beef for not much more than normal so I was pretty happy.
    Good luck all….just keep looking for ways to make good fresh food eating a way of life. Organic or not, so long as it is fresh it is generally cheaper!

    Oh yes…..I saw a breakdown of the cost of a bag of chips (and other junk foods) per kilo compared to a kilo of veggie or fresh meat/chicken….chips etc were WAY more expensive and far less filling!

  24. says

    It’s nice to see other people talking about how for some of us, paleo is NOT affordable. I’m disabled and have been on the dole for a long time (close to 15 years total). I first went total paleo about ten years ago, using up my savings, then tried to find a way of managing it on my monthly budget. I couldn’t do it, even buying meat wholesale (which did save a ton of money), and I rebounded after about six months and have had fluctuating weight (and self esteem) ever since.

    As a Canadian I don’t have to worry about paying health care costs, but neither do the poorest people in the US either, I think. As a person with food intolerances, I do have to worry about my appetite picking up when I eat healthier. I have huge problems with starch and fiber. Basically, the only healthy food I can eat without pain is meat, and the more I clean out my diet, the more my appetite picks up, and then I get scared my money will run out again (as it did in the past). So I keep switching back to the high fat high sugar junk foods that do the least amount of harm to my gut, and I live in very cheap housing that is making me sick (new for me). Not fun. But survival before thriving. I do try to eat red meat every day, and get very weak if I skip a few days, so I guess I’m 50/50 paleo/junk.

    Back when I was pure paleo, I was eating about a kilo (2.2 lbs) of meat a day, and loving every minute of it. Someday, when I figure out how to support myself (or inherit, whichever comes first), it will be fun again.

  25. Kristyan says

    I feed a paleo family of 6 on $650-700 a month. Is our meat always clean, pastured, organic? Nope. Our eggs are local and pastured for the most part (check craigslist) and we eat a lot of them. The majority of our veg and fruit is at least organic (thank you Costco). The cost will rise as the kids get older, but we’ll be gardening more in the years to come. Like it’s been said: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It wouldn’t cost us any less to eat non-paleo. Junk is expensive and quickly burned through!
    We are cutting back on our HSA because we haven’t been using it. 8 months Paleo and we’ve not been to the doc once. Our dental checkups have been perfect as well. It’s worth it!!

  26. says

    Seems a lot of people are taking the article personally. The title is probably the reason; however, it seems the article is more directed to the SAD eaters and/or the average person who DOES waste a lot money on morning coffees on the way to work, buys lunch daily at restaurants, etc. I think the article would’ve been stronger if, as other people have mentioned, it was addressed that there’s different tiers to eating paleo and offered other solutions to save money (especially for the people like me who have already trimmed their budget to the bare necessities). Switching the processed and sugar laden foods and drinks for the vegetables and meats you can get at Costco is a HUGE step up in health. If/when you can afford it then make another step up to organic and then to grass-fed, but if you can’t afford the other steps it it’s important to know that it’s totally worth it to at least take the first step. Buy in bulk. I can’t afford a chest freezer, but our freezer is packed full of bulk meats (we even use some of my Dad’s freezer since he refuses to go paleo and mostly eats out). Your meals don’t need to be elaborate like you’re writing for a paleo food blog. Some meat plus a vegetable cooked in fat. Try intermittent fasting/skipping a meal. I can’t, but my husband frequently skips lunch. Search for farmer’s markets and/or CSA’s. Our CSA is run by a non-profit and I am able to do a work-trade for my share. Our grocery bill definitely increased when switching to paleo; however, it’s been reducing as we find more ways to save as I mentioned above. Good luck guys, everyone’s situation is different so it’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

  27. Steph G says

    We’re a family of 2 1/2 (a picky toddler), we don’t eat grass-fed nor specifically pick out organic anything (although we use a local Farmer’s Market for nearly all of our produce), and have been Paleo for about 6 months now. I calculated it all up, and we spend on average, $170 per week on groceries. It is a big jump from eating very little meat or just whatever comes in the package, to the Paleo way, but you just do what works for your budget. I will say though, now that we have been on this way of life for 6 months, it would be very difficult to go back to the way we were eating if our expenses would call for it.

  28. Kara says

    Another comment took the word right out of my mouth. The list of groceries purchased at Whole Foods is supposed to be breakfast and lunch for two for an entire week – oh, plus a dinner? I had to read it twice because I was certain I was missing a few pounds of meat in there, but…. ok??

    No, eating pastured/wild animals and organic produce is NOT cheap, no matter how you try to starve yourself to make it cheap. You’re going to wind up needing to eat more, or checking yourself into an eating disorder clinic. It IS cheaper to eat garbage. This is fact and you really can’t dispute that. When you can get a loaf of bread for 69 cents and a bag of rice for $2 – you can’t beat that price. And trying to go down the healthcare cost avenue doesn’t work with people who don’t see doctors ever or have health conditions despite eating garbage. Newsflash – not everyone who eats bad gets sick, and not everyone who eats paleo beats cancer. Sorry, I just hate that argument.

    This post had an opportunity to make a valid point about how eating healthy can be affordable (not cheap), but trying to make that point by shopping at Whole Foods? Come on, you’re out of touch with reality here. How about setting a budget that looks like what someone shopping at Aldi’s would spend, and turning that around to buy nothing but whole foods. That’s an actual experiment to show healthy eating can be afforded. You wouldn’t be buying organic produce and you’d be rationing out pastured to basically be a few pounds of ground meats here or there. The rest would be lean, conventional meat. That’s how my family of 3 survive off of $400-$450 a month. I only ever go to Whole Foods because we desperately have to hit a bathroom. The rest of my food comes from the farmer’s market, a butcher of conventional meats, and some Amish farmers who pasture raise their animals and have eggs. And, we eat more for breakfast and lunch than you guys apparently do.

    • Gingerz says

      Kara, I love the Aldi idea, and wish I had read your comment before I made mine, so I could second the idea. I think there really is a fabulous opportunity here to do some real-life experimenting and reporting.

  29. david says

    hey, i really appreciate the post, however, i must warn you that omega-3 enriched eggs are rather unhealthy. a chicken isn’t meant to survive on a high flax diet, also the flax source that they feed it is often low-quality and oxidized. I implore you to look for local eggs over at

  30. Gingerz says

    Brian, I think you made a lot of good points in your article, but some of the criticisms are valid. The thing is, including “stop whining about it” in the post title is going to offend and alienate a lot of people. Many people struggle with their budgets – for food, medical care, basic necessities. You may have noticed the shape the economy is in. Some of these same people are putting a lot of effort into eating a healthy diet, doing the best they can – they are not ignorant or uninformed, they are poor. When someone is searching for help, for advice, for support, it’s a terrible reaction to tell them they’re “whining.” You’re discouraging and silencing people who could add a great deal to the discussion if they weren’t being insulted, instead of preaching to the choir. You know what would be a fantastic project? Remember that Morgan Spurlock show 30 Days? The very first show was him and his wife living on minimum wage, and showing the realities of that. Maybe you could do a 30-day experiment of your own, trying to eat paleo on a low income or in an area with little access to fresh food. I’ll bet you would find that it’s not so easy, but also I’m sure you would discover some really useful tips and resources that would be very helpful to others.

  31. Laura says

    I agree with the author – Stop whining. The point is if you don’t buy the processed crap, you will have more money to spend on food that is good for you. Stop getting caught up in the details. Figure out what you can afford and work with it. Stop making excuses.
    But here’s my 2 cents on how to save money.
    1. Don’t shop at whole foods. Those prices are ridiculous.
    2. Buy in season. Then freeze or can. It’s not that hard.
    3. If you can’t afford organic vegetables, buy Conventional. Conventional is still better than processed crap.
    4. Buy meat on sale and freeze.
    5. If you can’t afford organic/pasture – buy conventional chicken and pork. Hormones are not allowed in the US.
    6. Don’t eat out.

  32. says

    I just wanted to point out that although the USDA link brings up come very interesting numbers, those numbers should be a moot point when speaking about eating Paleo. If you follow the USDA food pyramid you will surely, SURELY, not be eating at all Paleo-ish.

    For a cost breakdown just spend a week eating the way you want, keeping records of what cost what where and extrapolate that for your intended period. Following the mathematical endeavour you can begin examining where it is possible to cut costs. Just remember not to extrapolate to far into advance because of the seasonal price differences of produce.

    Above all-USE YOUR FARMER’S MARKET!- it is an amazing resource, fun for kids, and a way to meet new people. While there you should chat up the farmers about their methods, pesticides, (do they know where you can get raw milk?), and ask after their livelihood and family. Meet with the other people shopping there and make some new friends who are, more than likely, trying to eat healthier just like you! New friends will always be worth it in the long run.

    Just my 25 cents

  33. Paleo-Uni-Gal says

    If anyone wants Paleo and Lacto-Paleo meals for under £1 a serving, I do that at my blog:
    It isn’t as healthy as the organic, grass-fed, enriched route, but it’s far healthier than the SAD WITHOUT damaging my feeble student income! So, for those on lower incomes who can’t afford the organic route, my recipes are better than grains, refined sugar and ready-meals.
    Happy hunting! :)

  34. happy girlfriend says

    I’m sorry to say I did not find this article helpful for my situation. I will be going to a university next year and will need to cut way back on expenses, even for the biggest priorities. I don’t expect to have disposable income. What I really sought was an article that breaks down Paleo grocery shopping for minimum wage budget. FYI, I also don’t eat out as I have Celiac Disease and food allergies.

  35. says

    I haven’t read all of the comments, but I read some negative ones, and I just wanted to say that it is possible, based on my own experience. I live paycheck to paycheck, work full-time and go to school part time. On top of that, I have health issues and have the expense of monthly prescriptions, supplements, and frequent doctor visits. My husband is a large man and we have been eating Paleo for just over a year. We shop at Whole Foods every week, and buy organic foods. I just went into my bank account, totaled our Whole Foods bills for the past year and divided it by the number of weeks. On average, we spent $167 per week at Whole Foods. This includes expensive raw local honey, expensive grass fed beef, as well as many non-food items such as all natural cleaners, cat food, flowers, plants, and many other things that are not typical grocery purchases. The only things I don’t buy there are paper towels, toilet paper, and plastic sandwich bags because I don’t like the ones they carry in store. It can be done, and yes, some weeks I can’t afford to get everything I would like, but we make it work. We cook most of our meals, but can still go out to eat once in a while. For us this is possible because we make it a priority. If I didn’t think it was a healthy choice for us, I could decrease the costs by not buying grass fed beef, or organic vegetables, but still not buying pasta, processed foods, and other non-paleo foods. So, my point is that if you don’t want to shop at Whole Foods, maybe it would cost less, and maybe that means you can do it too. I have shopped at other stores and bought non-organic and found that I only saved a couple of dollars, so I weighed my options and found this is working for us at the moment.

  36. says

    Great article. The problem (among many others, sadly) is that the media feeds us with the proposition that eating out is less expensive than purchasing and making your own meals. We are bombarded with “value menu” this and “dollar menu” that.. when in reality these claims just aren’t true..

    As a little experiment, I compared the cost/healthfulness of shopping for 7-10 days worth of food at a local Trader Joes and compared it with what you would expect to spend eating out for those same 7-10 days – and the math didn’t lie! I ended up spending pennies on the dollar vs dining in or taking out for each meal – and was able to shop many times healthier.

    Please look at the article I wrote on the topic at:

  37. Shannon says

    Yeah, I’m kind of with AJ. This articles misrepresents the real cost of paleo. Our total FOOD bill each month is $1200-1400 and we are desperately trying to find ways to make it cheaper since we’re mostly living off one income while my husband is in school. I don’t think you can compare grocery bills like this article does. Because what about the other 3 week night dinners and food on the weekends? If you’re actually eating paleo (with quality meat) for those meals… this is not a reasonable estimate. You’re limited to Chipolte, Chop’t, Argentianian steak houses, and fancysauce organic/locavore places. Not cheap.

    For my husband and me, each of us burns at least 2000 – 3000 calories a day getting around NYC. That’s 35,000 calories a week.

    Since we’re no longer trying to lose weight–I’ve switched to a banana + 2 hard boiled eggs breakfast in the morning since that’s cheaper. We already buy grass fed meat in bulk (we’re hoping to purchase half a cow once we get the money for a freezer). We eat cheaper cuts like chuck, stew beef and organ meat. We buy Wild Planet tuna and other paleo staples in bulk with an Amazon subscription. We use the dirty dozen list to choose our organic products and even then, we won’t buy organic red peppers unless they’re on-sale. The only dessert we really have is dark chocolate (on-sale) and red wine ($9 a bottle).

    Maybe we need to eat more bulk sweet potatoes. I have no idea. Also, save and use more rendered animal fat. Anyway, I feel like the only way to truly do paleo cheaply is to have a deep freeze and then a big back yard with a garden.

    Like, I look at the list above–and I’m like, okay–add in $10 for 4 cans of coconut milk for the smoothies. Throw in 2 additional cartons of pastured (not cage free) eggs at $10.00 ($8.00 at most wholefoods). We’d also need an extra 3 pounds of grass fed chuck for dinners – that puts us up to $20.00. We eat two vegetables at every meal — but let’s stretch the carrots $5 for a big organic bag. Plus, we need at least 3 more avocados for fat, $6.00. Also we go through a lot of lemons and olive oil for our salad dressings–that puts us at $8.00 for a jar and $2.00 for the lemons. We also drink coffee with local cream in the morning (but I won’t add in that $30 cost). So….. That’s an extra $61.00 a week–and I haven’t even gotten to lunch and dinners on the weekend. Plus, let’s be honest, salads get boring. You’re going to want to mix up the ingredients and throw in some local tomatoes when they come in season.

    I’m not writing this to be a jerk. I just seriously don’t get how people think paleo is so cheap. If anyone has better suggestions please let me know.

  38. Jennifer says

    I don’t want to be rude but using your own phrase you do need to “get off of your soap box”, because your entire article is made on the assumption that a family of two is capable of spending $584.00 a month on food. I am a single mother with a family of 3. My food budget is a strict $400.00 per month. I do not have luxuries. I do not spend $85.00 a month on coffee (nor could I afford too). I do not receive state assistance or “food stamps”. I often have to eat crap like ramen noodles just to stretch my food budget so that the kids can have fresh fruits and vegetables a few days a month. And, I want to emphasize a FEW. Fresh fruits and vegetables (although I love them) are expensive. Unfortunately, and you can look up the percentage, there are a large amount of Americans who’s food budgets do not suffice with little or no room to cut spending elsewhere. Before you assume that people are just overspending in other areas and wasting money on junk I suggest you do more research. The numbers you have show only what is purchased as a whole and not by individual purchase or item. It is important to realize that where healthy food is concerned, it is more expensive and there are many people, like myself, who do not have the luxury of spending more money in that area regardless of how much we would like to. Frankly, your assumptions and title offends me. I don’t mean this as an insult, only to inform you of a side of this problem you seem to have completely ignored.

  39. Angello says

    Hi Brian,
    Thank God there’s someone with the same point of view about eating healthy that much of my family has. Much people complain about organic and healthy food pretty much because it’s sometimes more expensive than processed and packaged food, so only wealthy people would afford to buy it. However, I think the main issue in this country is (for a lack of a better word) the laziness of people for having to cook their food after buying it from the store. Much of the population would rather just buy pre-cooked, processed, microwave-ready food ’cause it’s much easier and faster to eat. They don’t care about their health, they just care about getting something to eat and get it fast. It’s ridiculous all of the excuses they use to keep eating pizza, hamburgers, and fried chicken… and blame it on the organic and healthy food market for their own weight struggle.

    PS. check this documentary “The Weight of the Nation,” it’s a HBO documentary that talks about all of this weight issue in the country.

  40. Jamie says

    Being new to the Paleo life, I have to say your article was an eye opener! I am glad I read the article that way I am prepared for my next trip to the grocery store and swap bad for good. Thank you.

  41. Emma says

    Seeing that you consider $20 for a pound of beef is acceptable really makes me question what constitutes a “bunch” of the seemingly reasonable carrots/radishes/kale/etc.

  42. Beverly says

    I have completely eliminated junk food from my diet, including all dairy and grains. I never buy chips, candy, soda, ice cream, etc. Yet I still spend over $200 a week on groceries, whether it is at Vitamin Cottage (close to $300, actually), Safeway (a little cheaper, but still expensive) or King Soopers. I live in a small family of three very active people. Where I live, you can’t get half a cow from local ranchers, or some farm fresh produce from a farmer in your area. Why? Because there aren’t any farmers or ranchers nearby. All of my grass fed beef comes from Australia. All of my produce comes from Mexico (well, most of it. But it’s organic though). But I don’t eat junk food. And I don’t get any help from the government. I just don’t make enough money to call $275 cheap.

  43. Lex says

    I found the article interesting. However, the title indicated there were going to be some great tips on how to eat more healthy less expensively, as I am already eating the Paleo diet and it’s not cheap. But I didn’t not find it informative in that sense. I feel the title is miss leading and perhaps should be changed to something else.


  1. [...] By choosing nutrient dense foods, creating healthy habits, SLEEPING and getting some movement in you are filling up your health tank. Think of it as a savings account, you put all this “money” which is you taking care of yourself consistently and then when you need to take some “money” out, say when you’re sick or super stressed, you have a reserve fund to take from. Make sense? If you have money in the bank it’s a crises you can likely avoid, however, if you have to put it on your credit card…you end up paying for it for longer. [...]

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