It’s Cheaper to Eat Healthy. No Really.

Food-Flavored Calories For Cheap

Have you seen that “Hungry Planet” photoessay that’s making its way around Facebook again?  It is a series of photographs of families around the world posing with a week’s worth of food.  With all due respect to this family, who is surely lovely, America’s picture is embarrassing:


McDonald’s, Burger King, pizza delivery, KFC, Diet Coke, potato chips, ramen…it really hits home how nutrient-poor the standard American diet (SAD) is. A common explanation for the prevalence of junk food, especially among the less well-off, is that it is cheaper.  I challenge that assumption.  Unless you’re eating ribeye and king crab every night, eating paleo can be every bit as inexpensive as the SAD in the short term.  And it completely crushes the SAD in the long term because paleo is protective against diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related illnesses that entail expensive medical treatment down the line.

Case Study

This family spends $341.98 a week on food, or $85.50 per person.  Here’s, more or less, what I ate last week (I shared some of it):

Breakfast: $3.89

  • 21 eggs @ $1.49/doz (Costco)
  • 2 oz. Kerrygold butter @ $0.29/oz (Costco)
  • Archer Farms coffee @ $5/lb after coupons (Target), using 1.5 tbs per day (there are 75 tbs in a lb.)

Produce: $27.74

  • 3 lbs broccoli @ $5.38 (Costco)
  • 2.25 lbs asparagus @ $6.17 (Costco)
  • 2 lbs brussels sprouts @ $4.48 (Costco)
  • Tack on another 4 oz or so of Kerrygold butter
  • 10 lbs oranges @ $8.98 (Costco)
  • 3 lbs bananas @ $1.56 (Costco)

Meat: $32.06

  • 2 lb grass-fed beef bone @$3.89/lb (Farmer’s market)
  • 1 leg of lamb, about 4 lbs @ $4.49/lb (Costco)
  • 1 turkey breast, about 8 lbs @ $0.79/lb (Target)–much more than I needed for the week

Snacks: $8.90

  • 10 oz unsalted cashews @ $0.44/oz (Costco)
  • 2 dark chocolate bars @ $2.25 each (Target)

Grand Total: $72.59, or a savings of almost $52/month for the featured family of four–more than enough to buy Chipotle for the whole family!  (That’s what I’d do.)

Make It Happen

I know not everyone is a Costco shopper.  I myself am only a recent member.  But it is completely possible to spend this amount of money, or even less, shopping at traditional grocery stores.

  • Frugal Cavemom Tip #1: Buy What’s Cheap

Buy in-season produce, and consider frozen vegetables if nothing fresh is cheap.  Buy the meat that’s on sale in bulk and freeze what you don’t need immediately.  Buy the under-appreciated cuts of meat if nothing is on sale.

  • Frugal Cavemom Tip #2: Use Coupons

Most coupons in the marketplace are for non-paleo CPG foods, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck!  Target is always running coupons off fruits, vegetables, and meat.  Text “coupons” to TARGET to subscribe to their mobile coupons, and download the Cartwheel app.  Target and Cub (or whatever your local SuperValu is) also frequently have storewide coupons (e.g., $10 off $50 purchase)–and you can take those opportunities to stock up.

  • Frugal Cavemom Tip #3: Make It Yourself

Buy ingredients, not MREs.  If you find yourself buying anything pre-made, ask yourself if it’s something you can make yourself.  This goes for things like condiments (salad dressing, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, hot sauce, etc.), takeout (fried chicken, orange chicken, beef & broccoli, etc.), and snacks (potato chips, beef jerky, granola bars, etc.).  There are paleo recipes for everything.  Besides being much healthier and cheaper, homemade food tastes better anyway.   


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2 Responses to It’s Cheaper to Eat Healthy. No Really.

  1. I feel like that’s usually everyone’s excuse to either attack healthy eating or keep themselves from eating healthy. I probably spend about $20 a day eating paleo/juicing. Plus! Once you’re eating whole foods your body doesn’t need as much food to search through for nutrients 😃

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