Quality vs. Cost


Nalddox

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Hi all. Just finished my second Whole30 shipping trip and I think I need help. I'm feeding two people, myself and girlfriend, and am consistently spending over $200 each week. I don't really think I can afford to keep this up. I knew it was to be expected that I would end up paying more to eat better but I have more than doubled my weekly grocery spend. I've read through the Whole9 article on the grocery store prioritization and seem to be doing well, but I'm spending over $100 on grass fed, pastured meat alone. Any tips?

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I'm assuming you mean this one? If not, give it a read. http://whole9life.com/2011/01/paleo-poor-your-guide-to-the-grocery-store/

 

I think it helps to remember that americans actually pay very little for food compared to many other countries. It is worth it to me to spend a larger percentage of my budget on good quality sustainably raised food. Also keep in mind the money you may be saving by not eating out as much or not buying cocktails and deserts when you do go out. 

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If you have the space for a deep freeze, you could look into buying a half or quarter cow from a local farmer. I did the math, and if my half cow lasts me a year (which it totally should) it will come out to less than $30 a week for grass fed/finished beef.

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You can also minimize your organic fruit/vegetable buying to just the dirty dozen.  Anything beyond that is welfare spent to keep organic farmers in business.

 

Try to find a market that doesn't penalize you for your preferences.  I was a daily shopper at Publix, but when I compared their prices on organic items to The Fresh Market, I learned that Publix felt they could charge anything they want for organic items.  Publix also offered Indonesian farmed seafood versus TFM's wild caught at nearly the same prices.  Whole Foods is just absurdly overpriced compared to TFM.

 

Personally, and this doesn't work for everybody, I solve the grass fed cost problem by serving beef and pork once every two weeks.  I grew up in New England and have lived in a coastal state all my life, so for me it's seafood 3-4 times a week and the other nights are nights we're not having seafood.  I buy wild caught, that's my grass-fed-like expense.  Since it's my primary alternate, I buy organic pastured chicken at a third of the cost of grass fed beef or wild caught seafood.  That lets me splurge on grass fed steaks and chops, because they're not an every other day rotation.

 

With the amazing taste of grass fed meat, I prepare it as simply as possible, not even a coffee/cocoa rub and never cut up and sauteed with anything.  No fajitas, por favor.  That means it could get boring in high rotation because a grilled steak is a grilled steak where seafood is a category, a 20 foot long case at my market with differences greater than ribeye versus sirloin. 

 

Everyone's mileage varies, so spend the most on the things you like the most and cut corners on the rest.

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You could also buy the cheaper cuts of grass fed beef and save the more expensive cuts for special occasions. Cheaper cuts tend to be higher in fat as well so you don't have to add as much to your meal. Personally I try to do beef or lamb once a day because it is so nutrient dense in comparison to chicken and then I alternate chicken, pork, and seafood for my other meal with eggs for my first. I also try to shop the value packs when I can and look for good deals on bulk buying.

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If you can afford it, but you're having trouble rationalizing the high grocery bill, think of your future healthcare savings.  Living a healthy lifestyle can be more expensive in the short-term, but the health consequences related to morbid obesity +/- eating unbalanced diets are very expensive.

 

I read a great article a while ago about the ingredients that are important to purchase organic.  I can't find it right now, but items like berries or broccoli soak up a lot more of the pesticides than onions or potatoes.  In my opinion, it only makes sense to pay a price premium for organic food when it actually matters!

 

The point about learning to work with cheaper cuts of meat is a good one.  I'd love to gnaw on a ribeye every night of the week, but instead I tend towards an 85% lean burger.  A whole chicken tends to be pretty inexpensive & easily feeds a crowd, especially if you toss some squash in the oven at the same time.

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I have a very hard time with these discussions. I live in a very isolated part of the world. 90% of our food and other goods are shipped in. I live a life that involves providing for my family by earning a paycheck, so I don't do subsistence farming. If I wanted to have organic, pastured, grass-fed, etc. I would have to change my lifestyle significantly in order to grow/process/butcher/etc. my food. This is not to say that organic/etc. food is not available, it's just that food here is already frighteningly expensive (when I see food prices on the mainland U.S. I get a little weepy) and organic/etc. food would mean I could not pay my mortgage.  Becoming homeless would have a worse impact on my health than eating conventional produce and meat.

 

This is a bit of a dramatic way to express my current situation, of course - I'm mostly pretty happy with where I live and how I eat. But I don't think "pay the farmer now or the doctor later" is a one-size-fits-all saying. I whimper at the prices I pay for conventional ground beef where I live. I cower at the prices for grass fed. And pastured chicken and pork require a 2000 mile flight over the Pacific.

 

It's really really important to emphasize that you can do a completely compliant Whole30 with conventional foods. If we couldn't, I'd be lost. As it is, my health and happiness have improved significantly over the past couple of years. Some day I may live in a place where I can afford the kinds of foods many folks here talk about. But here I have an excellent quality of life year-round, and conventional meat and produce help make that happen.

 

Some day I hope that our local economies can turn around and bite the long food chains into submission. But for now, I can say that I breathed SUCH a sigh of relief when I could finally eat white potatoes at 40 cents per pound (cheapest vegetable available) instead of sweet potatoes for $2.50 per pound. My mortgage is always going to be a tight squeeze, but that savings helps my peace of mind.

 

Ok that was long. I never talk about this stuff here. But I want people to feel reassured that Whole30 with conventional foods is still Whole30, and many of us have pretty compelling reasons why we eat conventional foods most/all of the time.

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Thanks for the insight everyone. I can afford the cost difference and feel the benefits are worth the investment. I just honestly thought I was doing something incorrectly when I saw the food costs increase so dramatically. Thanks for the tips, I will probably implement a lot of the ideas especially around the produce and keeping the costs of proteins down a bit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think for some the important thing to remember is even conventional meats and vegetables will be a huge positive change compared to a standard U.S. diet filled with fast food, added sugars and processed garbage.

 

This is a process and a journey, some of us (finger pointed straight at myself) will get better at budgeting and buying quality foods with practice.  I know for myself the quick and easy route has been a huge part of why I am overweight and unhealthy.

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If you're making faces at your grocery receipts, it might be worth checking how much some meals are actually costing.

 

I had a few that I thought were cheap, but actually were quite expensive (one particular bolognese recipe I had - lots of ingredients I had to buy) and others I thought were expensive actually weren't (salmon steaks). If you swap out a few pricey ones for some cheaper ones, you can get a big drop in your weekly bill.

 

Sometimes frozen and canned are also things to look at, since they're low-waste, they're often cheaper.

 

Eggs and tinned fish can also be good and cheap protein options :)

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Thank you for this post and for being open and vulnerable to share.  I am in the same boat, working part-time, and still want to do the best I can to eat healthy and be on a budget.  I will definitely apply the tips I learned here on this post today.  

 

Where I am currently living, we have a grocery store, called Winco (they have locations in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho I hope they are all over the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii...(HI is expensive with their groceries).  

 

The bulk bins at Winco, and I love their varieties of seasoning aisles and nuts, and teas, surely help me save a lot of money and with some other seasonings.  I also found that Winco sells Coconut Oil for a lower price and they are beginning to carry many organic produce for a lower price.  As for the meat, I saw Organic Ground Beef, a pound for $5. and some cents, which I will get today.  For the rest of the meat, I'll have to get them conventional and trim out the fats or skin.

 

I learned yesterday to watch out for ingredient contents which I didn't know till after I ate it, a rude awakening.  I can see now why the Whole30 Program emphasize we read labels with critical eye.

 

Thank you for sharing, these are great information.

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 I am so glad to hear that standard meat poultry, ect is acceptable  on this diet.   I've spent  $150 on food in the last 2 days and traveled many miles to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to buy organic and gas fed food!!    I am doing this because I have chronic pain and chronic fatique issues and the stress and  fatigue was

 seeming not to be worth it.  These  comments will make this a lot more doable.  I

         

          I am finding that the increase time and energy for shopping, cooking, meal  prep has increased my pain and fatigue bet I'm hoping that the change in diet will   in the long term be worth it.

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