• Struggling to Afford Paleo? Buy Food, Not Products

    Struggling to Afford Paleo? Buy Food, Not Products

    Are you struggling to afford paleo? Today’s post is for you.

    Soon—as in less than two weeks from now—I’m launching a podcast called Harder to Kill Radio. As such, I’ve managed to corral a few of my wonderful friends to be my guests so we can shoot the breeze about how to build unbreakable humans. So far, it’s been educational, entertaining and enlightening. (I’ve already recorded with a former roller derby badass, a unique naturopathic doctor, a couple living in a recovering earthquake zone, and more.)

    Just the other day, I returned the favor and appeared on a podcast produced by one of my guests, Jamie Scott, the president of The Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand (AHSNZ). It so happens I’ll be traveling to New Zealand to speak at the first-ever AHSNZ International Symposium this October. That’s a picture of Queenstown, the venue, below. (Oh, and it’s open to guests, so if you’ve had Middle Earth on your vacation bucket list, this is a great event to tie into your trip.)

    Struggling to Afford Paleo? Buy Food, Not Products

    Change is Good

    The topic of conversation with Jamie turned to paleo, and he asked how I think the community has changed in the last five years.

    My answer: a lot. Naturally, paleo has evolved since I got involved back in 2009.

    The good?

    It’s a movement, a living, breathing, grassroots collective of individuals bringing diverse viewpoints and novel ideas to the proverbial table. Scientists, health care professionals, bloggers, and laypeople continue to come together to move the discussion forward of how to manage living in this modern world while respecting our bodies and minds. This isn’t a community led by a bureaucratic governmental body or heavily influenced by legislative lobbyists.

    Debate is good. Change is inevitable.


    So, what’s the bad news?

    As paleo becomes more mainstream, it has turned into a prime target for marketers wanting to make their bucks on a “new and popular” paradigm. I’m not talking about folks within the community offering their expertise to the public in the form of products and services. Rather, I mean the opportunists from outside the community who notice paleo is trending and can’t wait to capitalize by putting the p-word on their products.

    In a way, it reminds me of the low-fat diet craze of the 80s and 90s. Snackwells, anyone?

    Companies seeking to twist the “rules” and take advantage of technicalities, hawking “paleo” products and making claims that sound too-good-to-be-true seem to be popping up like mushrooms on a rotting forest log. Am I against capitalism and a free market? No. Is it my job to help educate my audience? Yes.

    This brings me back around to the title of this blog post.

    The Message

    If you are struggling to afford paleo and feeling the pressure from marketers who claim you need whatever they’re selling to do it better, the first step is to buy food, not products. You don’t need “products” to eat a nutrient-dense, satiating, whole foods-based array of amazing, wonderful fare.

    Eating paleo doesn’t mean you need pre-packaged energy drinks, snack bars, breads and cereals(!), meal replacements powders, crazy-expensive, single-use kitchen contraptions, and the like.

    If you have the money and the spirit moves you, certainly buy what you like (there are no paleo police), but if you’re feeling the pinch in your wallet, always come back to meat, seafood and eggs; veggies and fruit; and healthy fats. Prepare these with a simple set of kitchen tools like pots and pans, a cutting board or two (so you don’t cross-contaminate), and a couple sharp knives. Learn how to make food irresistible using a balance of flavors like salt, savory, sweet, and sour plus adding a bit of texture. These can all be achieved using no more than actual food. “Products” not required.

    If you’re searching for more resources about how to better afford paleo, click here for a blog post and here for my favorite budget paleo cookbook.

    Pin this for later!

    Struggling to Afford Paleo? Buy Food, Not Products

    What are your thoughts on paleo “products?” Leave a comment below.

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    17 thoughts on “Struggling to Afford Paleo? Buy Food, Not Products

    1. For those of us who don’t like to cook or who have physical problems doing so, these paleo products are tempting. So far, I have resisted but oh, the temptation!

      1. Certainly they offer a level of convenience / ease for many. My hope is that if folks want to save some money that they look to these items first to trim back a bit instead of abandoning this way of eating altogether 🙂

    2. I agree with Linda above. I want to buy all the products! It is so tempting!!!! Don’t wanna knock on any specific bloggers, but they promote all of these products that cost…A LOT 🙁
      I recently read two awesome articles from Whole 30. One was how to “paleo poor” grocery shop. It was one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read! It said exactly what you said- go for high quality eggs and meat first and go for the nutrient dense veggies like organic collards. The other article was about stretching your dollar on whole 30- making your own ghee from kerrygold instead of buying already made ghee for $11 (*cringe*) and instead of buying a paleo-bar, eat two hard boiled eggs and an apple. Same nutrients and way cheaper!

    3. I totally agree with you, Steph! I started paleo when I was a college student, working part time. I certainly couldn’t afford organic fruits and veggies and organic, grass-fed meat, but I stuck to those basics and was easily able to afford it. Granted, I was only shopping for me and I made my health (and therefore, my food) a priority over other things in life people take for granted (new cell phone, new clothes, etc.), but I still made it work for me on very little income.
      I also worry about the big box companies wanting to slap the “paleo” label on things that really don’t fit the bill. I’ve seen “paleo” bars made with brown rice syrup and puffed rice (that might be okay to some people, but it’s certainly not paleo).
      Even now that I have a bigger income, I’m careful about the paleo products I buy. I like to support small businesses that are started by people who truly care about food, sustainability, and health. Even then, I always ask myself if it’s something I’ll actually enjoy and use…it can sometimes be tempting to buy just because a product is the new “thing” paleo peeps seem to be raving about on social media, but usually I realize I’d rather save myself the money and buy meat instead. 😉

    4. Sweet post, Steph. I agree with you.
      Nutritious does not by default equal expensive.
      I’m sure if a shopper were to do a side by side comparison of a packaged processed food against a fresh whole food while at the market (i.e. a box cereal vs. a couple dozen eggs) they would see where they are spending the most.
      My frame of mind is if you think eating healthy is expensive, you definitely haven’t priced cancer lately!

      What is your opinion on snack options for paleo? This is where I get stuck sometimes when I don’t have the option of leftovers to snack on.

      1. Hi Jasmine,

        I try to focus on eating substantial meals that encompass the protein, carbs and fat I need with lots of veggies as the base. Snacking really isn’t optimal but if you’re an active and or an athlete then adding a fourth meal is definitely important. 🙂

    5. *Clapping* Yes. The greatest thing about Paleo is that we are encouraged to eat whole food sources. They don’t require cooking. I hardly buy paleo products for this reason. IN fact, I would argue the more it needs to be prepared, the more you should suspect it may not be 100% in the spirit of paleo eating.

    6. I absolutely loved this! I keep to a fairly strict budget, and I eat a balance of meat and veggies. I love paleo products coming from within the community but it is so important to realize that real food should always come first!

      1. Hi Vanessa,

        Thank you! It’s definitely a good reminder for us all. It’s easy to get swept up in convenience; real food is always best option.

    7. It is really important to remember that many people have a difficult time buying food of all kinds, paleo and nonpaleo. The price of food has hit an all time high and the amount of food and quality of food has changed as a result. It is important to make the best choices we can with the money we have. Being informed and making healthy choices is a dream for all people who are looking to ward off illnesses and doing the best they can for their family. Becoming Paleo can have life changing consequences for the good. Thank you for providing a wonderful forum to help people making this most significant change. The more you know the better choices you can make.

    8. I work with Jamie and I was lucky enough to listen to your chat work him today! Hope you enjoy visiting our country in a few months.

    9. I live in a rural area where anything labeled paleo is non-existent, so that makes my decision making much easier in the grocery store. However, I do wish there was a bit more for those trips to the city when you need a grab and go snack for the family.

    10. I am on my second whole30 in the last year, and my body loves eating this way. Unfortunately it is hard to be sustainable; I don’t buy paleo products, it’s the meat that adds up! We buy the organic chicken and beef from Costco, but easily eat 8-10 lbs of meat for a family of three. If I ate less, I would be hungry. I spend almost $200/week eating this way and it’s rough. And it’s not even expensive meat like salmon, bison, etc. mostly chicken thighs and ground beef, wild-caught tuna from a can, etc.

      If we didn’t live in a small apartment and had the room, I’d love a small chest freezer so I could go in on half a cow with my dad. Half a cow is only about $500 and includes all cuts of meat. Supplementing with chicken, we might be able to make that last a year!

      1. Hi Carissa,

        Believe it or not, we are on a budget too so I don’t buy all organic meats and I shop the sales 😉

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