It is often said that good food is expensive, while unhealthy food is cheap. Today, I’m going to show you how you can eat healthy, eat paleo, for $150 a month, about $5 a day. It’s not as cheap as KD (which would come to about $70/month with milk and butter) or ramen (of which you could eat 4 a day for <$30/month), but it’s much healthier and far more satisfying.
It is also said eating healthy takes too long too prepare. That is also incorrect, I spend about 15 minutes a day preparing food, and most of that is spent surfing the net.
This will require some small upfront investment, specifically a Costco card. It’s $55/year in Canada; it’s probably less in the US, not a big deal and it will save you a lot of money in the end. This will also require a decent kitchen knife, get one if you don’t have one. (Believe me, cutting some of this meat without a decent knife is a, literally, painful experience).
Water is free and water is good. If you don’t have a Brita filter water jug, get one; it makes water taste much better. It’s only $10, $20 if you get a bigger one, less than a pack or two of water bottles or pop. Make sure to add new water as soon as you drink to keep the container full; that way your water is always cold. It’s well worth it.
I can not stress this enough; if you only ever make one healthy change in your life, stop buying pop, juice, beer, milk, or other beverages. When at home drink nothing but water. (When out with friends, have some fun). It will have amazingly effective results for something so small.
In fact, if you drink just one 2L of pop every two days, I just saved you about $30/month for a single $10 investment.
Go to Costco, to the meat section.
Find the pork loin; it’ll be about $20-25 for about 10lbs. This works out to about 15-20 portions of just over a half pound each. That’s about $1.50 per meal.
Nearby should be the beef eye round. It’s about $18-20 for about 6lbs. This works out to about 10-12 portions at just over a half pound; about $2 per meal.
Go home, cut them up into either 1/4 or 1/2lb chops/steaks/cutlets (give or take) and put about a half lb of meat into sandwich bags (which you bought in bulk at Costco). Put one beef and one pork bag in the fridge, the rest in the freezer.
To prepare, simply fry in some butter or oil, put on a couple spices, and flip once.
Every time you eat one from the fridge, replace it with one from the freezer, so it defrosts for next time.
Cost: $40 for the month.
Prep Time: 30 min/month to cut meat; 15 min/day to fry meat.
In the same meat section by some chicken breasts or thighs. The thighs are cheaper, but a pain to cut because they are more fatty. I usually get the breasts.
Buy one pack of breasts about 6 lbs each; it comes to about $20 each.
Go to the produce section. Find this:
It’s about $3-4 for a bag of sweet kale, 3 bags should last a week.
Cut the breasts up into small chunks and fry up it all up at once. It should all fit in a larger pan. Stick it into a container.
Every day take out about 1/14 of the chicken, mix it with a bit less than a half bag of kale. Add the dressing that comes with (or make your own*).
Do this once every two weeks; 6 lbs of chicken and and 6 bags of kale comes to about $40 for two weeks; about $3-4 per meal.
Prep Time: 45 min/bi-weekly to cut and fry meat; 3 min/day assembly.
You are now eating 2 satisfying, 1/2lb+, healthy paleo meals a day for $120 a month.
Skip breakfast. I rarely eat it; it is unnecessary. But if breakfast is a must, 5 dozen eggs are $10. If you buy two, that’s 4 eggs each morning for a month for $20, buy 3 for $30 if you want 6 eggs a morning). Boil them, scramble them, or make an omelet. Throw on a bit of salt and pepper.
Cost: $0 ($20-30/month, if you must).
Prep Time: None (5-20 min/per day depending on how you prep the eggs).
For snacks, bananas, apples, and other fruits are a few bucks for a large bushel, a large box of berries is usually only a few bucks (prices vary, so always check which are currently cheap), bags of dark chocolate squares are <$10, a 12-pack of Greek Yogurt is about $12, and large bags of almonds are $15. Mix and match as you like; the non-perishables in Costco size will usually be good for a couple of months.
Cost: Variable, $10-30.
Prep time: Negligible.
Butter or coconut oil is a must for cooking. A stick of butter costs a few bucks and should last a month or two; a large container of coconut oil is about $10 at Costco and should last a few months (at least).
Buy some BBQ sauce to dip the meat in for flavour. I like to use a lot of Bullseye BBQ sauce; a large container usually lasts me a month. At Costco, it comes in packs of two large containers for about $10.
Get some spices, some salt, and some pepper. Some of my favourite spices include Montreal Steak Spice, Seasoning Salt, and Lemon and Herbs. If you buy a bunch at once, it will be a fairly big initial outlay (my first spice shopping was about $80), but spices, especially when bought in Costco sizes, last for a very long time, so they very rarely need to be replaced. After the initial investment, the cost becomes negligible. Or you can go slower and buy one new spice a shopping trip, which will be about $5-10.
Prep time: Not applicable
There you have it, that’s two meals a day, each over a half pound of healthy food, for $125 a month. That’s about $4 a day.
If you add breakfast it’s about $145-155. About $5 a day.
When you add snacks and condiments, it’s about $140-$175. About $5-6 a day.
If you add both it is about $150-$200/month. About $5-7 a day.
That’s cheaper than a single Big Mac Meal. In fact, you can eat healthy for a whole day for the price of a Starbuck’s coffee.
Total prep time is about 2 hours a month and 20 minutes a day.
You really can eat healthy, real food for relatively low cost with little time investment.
If $5 a day is too rich for your blood, you can save even more by:
- Cutting out the snacks.
- Reducing condiment and spice usage.
- Reducing beef consumption and eating more pork.
- Eating more eggs and reducing meat consumption.
- Replacing chicken breasts with thighs, pork, beef, or eggs.
- Remove the meat from the salad entirely and replacing with more greens.
- Changing from kale mix to cheaper greens.
- Intermittent fasting: periods of fasting are good for the mind, the soul, and the wallet. I went a week this summer eating only a salad a day for lunch, simply because that was all I needed.
You could probably eat paleo for under $100/month if you tried. That’s just over $3 per day.
I have done this once or twice when facing self-imposed financial restrictions; sometimes you just need ammo more than food.
Now, this is my base. I generally buy more than this. I like BBQ ribs in the summer and both yogurt and jerky as a snack. I also keep a supply of Coke and some chips for when friends come over; the occasional family BBQ can also get expensive. The berries usually tempt me, so I almost always buy more than I eat.
But all that is luxury I choose because I can afford it.
Just because you can eat cheap, does not mean you have to; you can always buy better cuts of meat or organic food or extra snacks, or whatever.
But just because you are on a limited budget does not mean you can’t eat healthy (unless it is exceedingly limited). Also, saving money for better things than food is nice.
Eat only what you can afford; but eat well with it.
* My salad dressing recipe: 2 parts vinegar, 1 part olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, and a splash of worchestshire sauce. Throw in a pinch of dried mustard and garlic powder, and a tiny bit of salt. Shake well. It’s cheap, easy to make, and tastes good.