Sunday, February 19, 2012

Paleo on the Cheap

I have been fascinated by the food experiments of the frugalistas.  You know, where they try to eat for 1 or 2 dollars a day.  Check out these inspiring posts here and here

Yes, people do eat for under a dollar a day, but can it only be done by eating ramen noodles and tons of brown rice?  Can it be done with a paleo diet?

This week, I wrote a list, "the things that bug me about paleo" and I plan to do a couple of blogposts about them.  Mostly statistical and research topics, but one has been really gnawing at me for awhile.

It seems like the paleosphere is populated with mostly young, hip, tech-savvy city folks who know how to buy grass-fed beef at Whole Foods or know how to pick up pastured eggs at the local farmer's market, but they couldn't grow or find a radish from the ground if their life depended on it, and would probably use their GPS to try. Not that I am against technology and all that, but c'mon!  There is this tendency to throw money at things: giant pickling crocks, fitbits, deep freezers for that side of beef, kettleballs in every size, additional gym memberships, supplements for every condition or ailment.  There is also this tendency to look down on those who do not have the means to get a thousand dollars worth of hormone testing every quarter or a brushed stainless steel beef tongue slicer.

I am not against being young either, just against people being clueless.  Is paleo just for the elite?  Do we really expect that people wondering if they can pay their basic bills in our restructured economy will pay 8 dollars a pound for hamburger flown in from New Zealand?  Can we do this another way?  A more inclusive way?  A more eco way?

I have decided that given what I now know about nutrition and my own situation, it would be foolhardy to attempt to eat paleo for under a dollar a day, so I am going to shoot for one hundred dollars for the month.  I'll be keeping track of the food I eat somewhere else, just to make sure I am getting the stuff my body needs.


  1. I don't consider buying meat flown in from New Zealand to be particularly eco-friendly. I have rules for consumption that if it isn't produced on the continent (I live in Switzerland), I can't consume it. So, shrimp from the North Atlantic, great; tiger shrimp from Vietnam, nope. Raspberries from Spain or Italy, fine; from Morocco or Chile, not so much. I have enough of a carbon footprint with the amount of meat that I eat that I don't feel right about increasing it further because I want an Israeli avocado in February.

    I do think that any low-carb diet is somewhat elitist in that it takes more planning and, at least where I live, more money. Eggs are cheap, but I can't eat eggs multiple times a day for days in a row. Chicken breasts are about $16.- a pound, don't get me started on the price of beef. I use my crockpot a lot; I have a freezer, so I buy stuff on sale, but routinely, my groceries cost about a hundred bucks a week. I would love to cut that down, but it would require planning and then sticking to the plan.

    I know that for me, I'm in the good-tasting food level of Satter's food needs hierarchy:

    Deciding to go paleo or low carb requires resources, whether its the information to do it, or the time to put the information into practice. I would say that when your household is in an economic crunch, it is easy to slip down the hierarchy. In order to succeed at low-carb of whatever variety, a person has to have the resources to plan ahead and have food on-hand that meets the requirements.

    At home, I'm fine, I just don't have carby stuff in the house, but at work, in the break room, there's almost always pastries, cookies, cakes. If I don't plan and pack snacks or lunches, I either don't eat, or I eat the wrong stuff.

    My biggest problem at the moment is eating enough. I know that I'm not, but making the time to prepare food to eat is not a priority for me at the moment, so instead oftentimes I don't eat.

    In other words, the short version: I would answer your questions with yes, it can be elitist and surely there must be a budget friendly way to do this. So, I'm very interested in what you will do to cut your grocery bill. I will see what I can do with mine, if I can cut it down at all.

  2. This is going to be interesting. Best wishes.

  3. MissKate, it sounds like you have thought lots about this, too. I realize that everyone has a different situation. I am unable to get much local grass-fed meat, since it sort of requires some local grass!! I don't know anyone who is raising naturally-raised chicken or eggs for sale, it's all based on trucked-in corn/soy feeds. So, it can be very challenging being a paleo locavore. But I don't agree that low carb is more expensive for folks who eat out or use quite a bit of packaged and prepared foods. I would imagine that the price to eat out for you is also astounding, right?

  4. I'm looking forward to your next post on this subject.

  5. You're not wrong. I eat out less than once a month (like dinners out, occasional coffees and drinks maybe 3-4 times a month). Just a pizza and soda in a sitdown restaurant will run you close to $25.-. A decent dinner with an appetizer, dessert, wine and coffee will run me well over $50.- I choose restaurants very carefully and it's a real treat to go out to eat. I live and die by my freezer and crockpot. I have realized that perhaps I could do with a bit less dairy in my life, but cheese and cream and milk and yogurt just make so happy.
    So, yes, it's true that if I ate a lot of packaged or processed foods or bought lunch every day, my food budget would be (more) astronomical. Wow, I actually feel a lot better about spending 100 francs a week on food because that truly encompasses everything I eat. :) Yay!

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