A few months ago my girlfriend and I did a Paleo Whole 30.
PW30 is a month-long challenge designed around the Paleo diet, which is based on the idea that humans are best suited eating foods as close to those their ancestors ate. Paleo-eaters believe that a large portion of today’s health problems come from the modern American diet, which is heavily reliant on grains and consists of foods that
- have been genetically modified
- contain chemicals and antibiotics
- have more harmful properties which are enhanced by a lack of nutrients
Eating Paleo means staying away from all refined grains and foods, processed foods, refined oils, and meats that are grain fed. Basically you’re left with fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats and dairy, spices, and a select few oils.
Our Whole 30 meant we stopped buying bread, rice, and pasta (all extremely cheap) and upgraded our meat, dairy, and produce to organic/grass fed (raising the price on those).
At the end of our challenge, both of us felt better, had more energy, and had reduced our body fat. Needless to say we’ve incorporated a lot of the Paleo mindset into our current diets.
Also, our grocery bill that month doubled.
We spent nothing on eating out, but those profits were wiped away by our enormous grocery bill. How did it happen (especially when we track and monitor our grocery spending)?
- We went all in – which meant buying a lot of new things, trying new recipes, and learning a lot in a short period of time.
- We had the double whammy of eliminating the cheapest foods from our diet and spending more (on both quantity and quality) on foods we previously ate less of, like fruits, vegetables, oils, eggs, and meat.
Over the last few months our grocery bill has come down and pretty much settled. Some of this is because we’ve gotten better at eating this way – we’re better at watching new foods for sales and better at cooking and storing. We’ve also relaxed a little bit after the challenge – occasionally we’ll have whole grains or buy meat that’s grain fed but doesn’t have antibiotics.
Which leads me to my point with this whole story. We embraced the idea of the challenge and went all out – both in effort and money. And I ended up thinking about food in new ways.
We realized early on in the challenge that there are a lot of big, easy wins, for both your wallet and your health:
- Excessive sugar and high cost foods typically go hand in hand:
- Fast food and take out – including Starbucks 😉
- Soda, junk food, cookies, candy, and sweets
- Low-fat alternatives – low fat versions are usually loaded with more sugar and can be more expensive or harder to find (the Paleo diet is designed to make your body transition from burning sugar for energy to burning fat, so healthy fats are considered good).
- Eating healthy 80% of the time is better than eating healthy 0% of the time. Like I said, I still have rice on occasion and do buy whole-grain versions of things. While I stick to primarily meats, greens, and diary, I don’t believe having some grains (which are cheap) is going to kill me.
The moral of this story?
Eat the best food you can afford!
I could write an entire post about aligning your spending with your values, but that’s for another time.
You can’t buy all organic free range all natural everything all the time – I mean, you can if you want to, but I think the costs outweigh the benefits at this point. Plus, there’s a lot of food that’s labeled organic that’s still bad for you (high in sugar, nutrient deficient, etc.).
The benefits of eating more fruits, vegetables, better grains, and healthier cuts of meat over eating pre-processed food, junk food, excessive sugar, and of course take out are huge. In a diet based on healthy, whole foods, it’s up to you – is the extra cost worth more to you?