Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Budget Friendly AIP



One of the most common concerns I see on my blog or on AIP support groups is something along the lines of..."I'm on a budget and I can't afford to eat like this." So, I thought it was time to tackle that concern.

Thankfully I'm at a place in my life right now where budget isn't too big of a concern, but I'm no stranger to eating on a budget, and I still try to be careful and make wise choices with the money I do have. Back in my student days, I remember walking through a grocery store and having a meltdown
when I saw the price of fresh fruits and vegetables compared to packaged things (like pasta). Those turned into the days of eating ramen noodles and canned tuna and making my own 'tuna casseroles' in the dorm microwave. A few years late, while still a student I was able to get free food from a student foodbank and my roommates were kind enough to play canned food roulette with me night after night as we'd open unmarked cans and then use their groceries to supplement whatever we found inside.

Obviously I'm not recommending ramen noodle casseroles or canned food roulette, but that doesn't mean that there aren't ways we can all tighten the purse strings and make wise food choices on a limited budget. Here are my top 5 tips for doing just that....

(1) Evaluate other purchases. Before going AIP did you have a Dorito or Oreo habit? Did you regularly frequent starbucks or order a large popcorn at the movies? Once you cut those items out of your life you might be surprised at how much you actually have to spend on real foods. There may be other areas you can cut back on...walk more instead of driving short distances, buy used clothes or trade with a friend instead of hitting the sales, trade off with a friend for babysitting instead of hiring a sitter, have family game nights at home instead of going out, etc.

(2) Meal Plan. Sit down at the beginning of the week (or the month) and see what you have on hand and start from there. The caveat to meal planning is that you need to be ready to throw out the plan if there is a good sale on something else once you get to the store. I often go to the store thinking I'm buying beef stew meat and instead I'll walk out with ground lamb, and then I have the drive home to rethink my meal plan.

If you need some help with meal planning, considering investing in a meal planning program (at least until you get the hang of it). I know it sounds counterintuitive to spend money on a meal plan, but in the end you'll waste less food, which will save you LOTS more money. One of my favorite meal planning programs is 'Real Plans' which has tons of great recipes for all diets, including lots of Paleo and AIP favorites from 'The Paleo Mom' and 'Autoimmune Paleo' among others.




(3) Don't be afraid of discount stores. I don't live in the land of discount food stores, but I'm always amazed when I visit my parents in the summer what you can pick up at these stores and really save some money. One of the things I stocked up on was Inka plantain chips at Big Lots. If you have an ALDI near you, check out this post on shopping AIP at ALDI. I went to Aldi this past summer and loved the choices I found there. And, here is an AIP shopping list for COSTCO. The trick in these big discount stores is to know prices at other stores and not be sucked in by all the random stuff you don't need..just because it's on sale.

(3) Keep things simple. Don't beat yourself up if most of your meals start with ground beef, cabbage and onions. Here is a whole round up of ways to use ground meat. My normal grocery list starts with 2 pounds of ground beef or lamb, 2 onions, cabbage, 2 sweet potatoes and whatever veggies look good and are affordable. Use extra cash to add variety by trying 1-2 new things a week. Another thing to remember here is that just because all the bloggers are writing cassava flour recipes doesn't mean you have to go out and get some. Specialty AIP ingredients are nice but aren't necessary. What's necessary is real food that's nutrient dense.

(4) Focus on nutrient density. Organ meat is one of the cheapest cuts of meat and bones are cheap (if not free). Make a big pot of broth for almost free goodness and learn to enjoy offal. Check out this post on organ meats.  Another inexpensive source of nutrient density is canned seafood. Frozen fruit and vegetables are also often more affordable than fresh and are just as good for you. Plus, they're convenient. I love tossing a bag of frozen broccoli into some broth and making a quick and healthy soup.

(5) Batch Cook. Batch cooking saves both time and money. If you keep your freezer stocked with meat patties and soups/ stews you'll always have something you can eat quickly and it just might save you the money of stopping at Elevation burger for a lettuce wrapped burger. Plus, batch cook what's in season and cheap. If butternut squash is on sale, buy 4 of them and make a massive pot of soup. freeze it in serving size containers and you'll be able to save money on future weeks, because you already have food prepared. Here is a post full of recipes that are great for batch cooking.

**BONUS TIP - Do the best you can! Don't stress out if you can't afford organic or grass few meat. Buy the best you can and relax. :)


Some of my Favorite Budget Meals:

  1. French Onion Apple Soup - what's cheaper than apples & onions?? Add some shredded chicken for a complete meal
  2. Herb Roasted Carrots - Carrots are almost always cheap and roasting them transforms the flavor. 
  3. All kinds of skillet meals - one pot meals that can be customized with whatever is on sale that week.
  4. Spiced Carrot Soup - Again with the carrots... add some broth and make soup. Add in some precooked ground beef or shredded chicken before serving for a meal in one. Honestly, most soups are a great idea when you're trying to save money.
  5. Tuna Bites - you get the goodness of seafood with budget friendly canned tuna, plus frozen broccoli makes this an affordable meal that will gets lots of nutrients into you without breaking the bank.
  6. Stewed Beef in Mango Rosemary Sauce - it just sounds fancy... when using the crock pot or instant pot, you can use cheaper cuts of meat and they'll still get tender. If mango is too expensive, try peaches or nectarines or apricots. 
  7. Strawberry Cucumber Salad- while it's true that strawberries aren't cheap most of the time, when they are, add a few to some very inexpensive cucumbers and you'll have a salad that even your non AIP friends will be happy to enjoy with you. 
  8. Gingered Carrots and Cabbage - again with the carrots...but carrots and cabbage are both cheap and you can make a ton of food for very little cash