This is a quick run down of foods I buy, which are ‘paleo’ in the loosest sense (maybe primal is better? WAPF?), and also don’t cost a lot of money. I don’t eat wheat/rye, limited dairy (for calcium), limit nuts (so expensive and often rancid); avoid fresh meats (expensive);
avoid beans (don’t tolerate well). *I go back and forth on legumes and beans. Not only are they super cheap but they have been relied on for a long time in certain cultures and are nutritious. It can be difficult to say whether a reaction is due to IBS or the food itself, and ‘food sensitivity’ testing is bogus. For this reason, I go back and forth on them depending on whether I feel I can tolerate them. You can read more here & here.
To contextualize this post, I am a small person who does not have to eat a large amount of calories every day. My macros consist of: 70g carb/80g fat/100g+ protein, which is inspired by Marks Daily Apple, but also my own food journal logs. I found I slept better and drank less water* when my carbs stayed below 100g.
Here is a sample food plan which will hit ~1500+ calories a day on a tight (~$40/week) budget. Updated as of Oct.
2 eggs, boiled or fried, with 1-2tbsp avocado, and 100 calories of potato/squash (be it canned, mini, sweet, whatever is on sale)
3 eggs & homemade spelt bread or potatoes and butter
1c cottage cheese (either 0%, 2% or 4%), fruit to 100 calories at least. Cottage Cheese is $2/lb cheaper than greek yogurt but has similar macros. This makes it a budget friendly choice.; OR Homemade SCD-compliant yogurt (aka grassfed milk fermented 24hrs+. I buy 1 gallon for $5, buying only on sale and stocking up), with molasses and an apple or whichever fruit is on sale (I find that as organic fruit has slower turnover, it is often in the discount bin so I’ll get 4-5 apples for $1, or 5 oranges for $1).
1c rice, steamed and added oil to it while cooking**, ~150 calories of canned protein (sardines, tuna, chicken, again whatever is cheapest, making sure to rotate through tuna to avoid mercury), sauteed vegetables on the side (such as zucchini, bell peppers, kale, whatever is cheap) and tahini, which is amazing on canned tuna, canned chicken, etc.
Veg, and canned protein still on point. Rice has been subbed for potatoes currently (10 potatoes for $2.50). Eating rice exclusively is potentially problematic because of its ability to capture arsenic from the ground…and I don’t always trust non-organic Asian based rice farms.
Salad, so 2+ cups of arugula, spinach, or lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and 1c of quinoa, with 1tbsp of olive oil dressing.
One tip my mom gave me was she suggested not eating fresh lettuce to avoid bloating. And I think she’s right. Besides the point that fresh lettuces carry high levels of parasites (see my post here), cutting out raw vegetables has helped. I will sautee vegetables (literally whatever is on sale, and if nothing is, the frozen aisle has cheap spinach), some chicken or tempeh or fish, olive oil, or thai stir-fry sauce**.* Throw in some squash or more potato and bam.
Is it perfect? No. And to be transparent, one case of eggs doesn’t fill the whole week (only 6 days worth), but it’s rare in my life at least, that no additional food is handed out, or an event or a dinner is had, and leftovers arise. And if not, then I can practice intermittent fasting for one day. It’s important for me to remember what hungry feels like, because otherwise the risk of overeating is real.
A truism I’ve found is the more expensive the grocery store, the better the discounts…which is why prices at TJ’s are often higher than my sale items at QFC. My last tip for buying food on the cheap is always compare per unit prices. This isn’t that novel, but it’s important to look at the number of items/price you’re paying. And sometimes bulk isn’t the best value.
Staples & Ideas for you from Trader Joe’s (because their prices are very consistent across the country):
- Bananas = 19c/ ea.; price per unit 19c= 150calories for 19c
- Unsweetened coconut flakes = $1.99/8oz; price per serving size=-200 calories for 0.28c
- Arugula= $2.99/7oz; Serving size variable (assume 4)=10 calories for 0.75c
- Sardines=$1.69/4.25oz=240calories for $1.69
- White Jasmine Rice= $3.29/3lb= 150calories for 0.27c **
- Sweet Potatoes= $1.79/2lb bag=130 calories/potato for 0.35c (assuming 5 a bag).
- Quinoa= $3.99/1lb bag=120 calories/11 serving, or 0.36c
- Organic dry-roasted peanuts=$1.99/bag
*I drink an absurd amount of water otherwise, I mean like 10L a day. I almost wonder if I’m pre-diabetic with the carb:water response I have.
**Adding oil to your rice while it boils, and then cooling it immediately after cooking increases the amount of resistant starch that is formed, which reduces the glycemic index of rice (i.e. more “fiber” in the rice than before). I don’t add the precise 3% because I don’t eat that much rice, but I do add 1-2tbsp of coconut or olive oil to the whole pot and cool it right after.
***Oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, sesame oil, dash of sugar. From HotThaiKitchen. You’re welcome.