It’s common knowledge that food is expensive. And getting moreso by the day! Eating organic, whole foods is even more expensive. When I started my AIP journey back in September, Scott had already been unemployed for four months and still didn’t have any prospects. I really struggled with how we could manage and justify an increase in our food spending when we were still dealing with a significant decrease in our income. I really, truly believed that going AIP would help me heal, but I just didn’t know how we were going to afford it. Thankfully, Scott has been totally committed to seeing me get better. He insisted that if this was going help me heal, then we were going to do it, even if we had to make more cuts elsewhere. So we did it, and are still doing it, on a very tight budget. I have the added complication of not being able to eat beef and only very limited amounts of pork, two of the most available and affordable meats. Since expense is a common concern I hear among people looking into going AIP, I thought I’d share some tips on how we keep it as affordable as possible.
Buy in Bulk
If you have the cash on hand and the space to process/store bulk purchases, buy in bulk when you can. You can often find great deals on bulk meat and produce. When you buy a 1/4 of beef, bison or lamb, you can save yourself quite a bit on a per pound basis, plus you get a greater variety of cuts than you might otherwise normally buy, allowing for more experimentation in the kitchen. Some places will even throw in the offal at no charge! Just make sure you have the freezer space for it all.
When it comes to produce, you can often get it for even cheaper if you buy in bulk and in season. Grocery stores will usually have an automatic discount (usually 10%) if you buy a whole case of something, you just have to ask. If the produce happens to be on sale when it’s in season, some places will still give you the bulk discout off of the sale price. Again, this varies by store and sometimes by manager. Just make sure you are able to make use of it all before it goes bad. Canning, freezing, and dehydrating are all great ways to preserve that bulk produce.
I know that we pay more in Canada for groceries than our American counterparts, but Vitacost helps with that. They carry a great selection of good quality products at competative prices, and I have had nothing but positive experiences when dealing with their customer service team. Kelp noodles at the local health food store are $6 per package on sale. On Vitacost, you can often find them for $3 (USD) on sale. Coconut aminos are less than half the price! Even with exchange factored in, that is still a savings. If you sign up for email, they usually have site-wide sales every two months or so, sometimes saving you 15% or more off your order. If you sign up for scheduled order/delivery, you get an additional discount.
Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, Vitacost ships to anywhere in Canada for a flat rate of $9.99 (USD), no matter the size or number of parcels. Of course, you would want to make larger orders less frequently to help reduce the cost per item of the shipping. We usually make a big order once every two or three months. I’m hoping to get to the point of only making really big orders twice a year. If you are ordering/shipping within the United States, you can often qualify for free shipping. Under the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, your can order up to $2,500 worth of products without having to worry about paying duty, either.
Organs, Organs, Organs
If you’re following the AIP, you should know how important offal is for you and your healing. If you don’t, you ought to check out this article by Dr. Sarah Ballentyne, which hightlights all the great benefits of adding these cuts into your diet, and in high quantities. As if all the great nutrients found in offal were not enough to make it worth buying, it is significantly cheaper than your standard cuts of meat. I can buy bison liver (grassfed, free range, etc.) for $5-$6 per pound, whereas the ground bison will cost me $11 per pound, or more! Our supplier also offers a 60/40 combo of ground bison/ground organs for $8 per pound. Still more expensive than the straight liver, but significantly cheaper than the ground bison without the organ meat. Plus, this is pretty much the only way Scott will agree to eat organ meat…
Know a Hunter?
You cannot get much more natural, hormone/antibiotic free, and free range than wild game meat! While it is illegal to buy or sell, or even offer to buy or sell, hunted game meat in Alberta, it is perfectly legal for a hunter to give away meat hunted under a valid license. If you have a friend or family member who is an avid hunter, they may have excess meat taking up room in their freezers that they will need to dispose of before the next hunting season. If you talk to them before hunting season, they may be happy to save the organs or some nice soup bones just for you. I’m sure they would like to see it go to good use! Just be sure to check the laws in your jurisdiction when it comes to what’s legal and what’s not. Conversely, you may wish to take up hunting yourself if it’s something you think you might be interested in.
Shop the Flyers
Scott always jokes that he has never seen anyone read the grocery store flyers as diligently as I do. What can I say, old habits die hard. In all seriousness, though, it has saved us money when we can make a point of buying produce that is on sale in a given week. By checking the flyers before you go grocery shopping, you know what is on sale, and where, so you can make the best use of your time and money. I know I can always get good quality organic cauliflower at Superstore for around $4-5 per head, but when I see it on sale for $2.50-3 per head, I know it’s time to grab a few. Calgary Co-op carries wonderful organic avocados that regularly run $2 each. For that price we will do without. When we see them advertised for $0.99 each, you bet we stock up! Last week we found bulk carrots on sale for $18/25lbs, as opposed to the regular $15/10lbs. We are now the proud owners of a giant bag of carrots!
Get to Know Your Local Farmers’ Market
Familiarizing yourself with your local farmers’ market and the producers from which you most regularly shop can help out your bottom line. We often hit the farmers’ market on Sunday afternoons. This is usually when producers are trying to get rid of the products they don’t want to take home with them. I once received about 20 pounds of ripe bananas for free because they wouldn’t be any good by the time the market opened again the following week and the producer did not want to transport a whole bunch of bananas home just to throw them out. It pays to know your farmers/producers!
Mr. Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Saving money and sticking to a firm budget takes planning. There’s no way around it. One of the most helpful planning measures we find is doing a weekly meal plan. It saves us not only money, but time as well. Every Sunday evening, we sit down after dinner and figure out what we’re going to have for breakfasts, lunches, and suppers for the coming week. In doing this, it cuts out the ever-annoying “What do you want for dinner?” conversation, plus it lets us know exactly how much we need of certain ingredients for that week. That way we don’t buy more of something than we need (unless it’s on sale and we’re stocking up), which reduces our total grocery bill and food spoilage.
This one is not much fun, but it does help us save. Every time I make a new dish, I sit down and calculate exactly how much the ingredients cost to make it. Of course this will vary depending on if you happened to find ingredients on sale or a certain ingredient happens to cost more when out of season, but it gives me a baseline. I take the total amount and divide it by the number of servings I got out of the dish, which gives me the total cost per serving. This process is useful for us because then we can compare dishes that we like against the cost per serving to see which are the most economical to make on a regular basis. We aim to keep our cost/serving below $2.50. The lower we can keep that number, the less we have to spend on groceries.
Following the AIP is certainly not the cheapest way to eat, but you and your body are worth the investment. One thing I like to keep in mind is this: the more nutrient-dense my food is, the less (volume) I will have to eat to get what I need. It is possible to provide your body the healing nourishment it needs without going bankrupt. It just takes some creative thinking, planning, and perseverance.
Have your own tips and tricks for saving money while following the AIP? I’d love to hear about them!