Sunday, December 28, 2014

Paleo on a Budget: A Look Back at What Could Have Been

     A friend of mine asked me to do some stuff on budget Paleo, and since I'd already planned on doing just that, I told her that it wouldn't be a problem and that I would probably begin in the new year. Then this morning I woke up with the thought, "If Ray and I had known about Paleo when we first got married, would we have been able to do it?"

     You may be asking what this has to do with anything, and I'll tell you that it has everything to do with everything. It has to do with the fact that we had a food budget of $30 a week for the two of us when we first got married back in 2000.

     But I wish we had known about Paleo. For one thing, look at that picture. While I did look pretty good, I was still about 15 pounds over my ideal weight. I had to wear a corset because I had so much back pain, and the dress was 25 pounds. I had to wear boots because my ankles were weak. (And I wanted to wear boots because I have a thing for boots!) But look at that picture. Let me point it out:

     I was eating a mostly vegetarian diet, and Ray was a dairy addict who lived off of convenience food. So how did we spend that $30 a week? We spent it on canned tomatoes, whole wheat bread, frozen ravioli (for a weekly treat), sugar (I was a sweet tea addict), a bag of frozen cheap chicken breasts that would last us two weeks, ranch dressing, honey mustard dressing, peanut butter, jelly, cucumbers, frozen veggies, cheap frozen meals, black tea, milk, and blocks of cheese. We'd also occasionally buy a $1.00 bag of cookies and eat the entire thing in one sitting. Not to mention the liters of soda that we'd get for gaming nights and the occasional pint of ice cream. The rest of our money was budgeted for bills, and essentials. Some of those essentials included ibuprofen, sinus medication, cough medicine, muscle rub, antacids, anti-diarrheal medicine, and anti-gas medication. And any extra money at the end of a paycheck, instead of going into a savings account like a smart thing to do, went towards eating out. So in less than two years, we went from this:
To this:
In my defense, I was four months pregnant, but still, it was not a healthy pregnancy.

     So I calculated what we could have gotten, using 2014 prices, which are much higher than 2000 prices to see if we could have lived off of $30 a week (so not even factoring in what we would have saved on "essentials"). Here's what I got. We could have bought a bag of antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken thighs, a dozen cage-free eggs, a bag of apples alternated with a bag of onions, a bunch of bananas or a can of coconut milk, frozen broccoli or frozen vegetable medley, frozen spinach or frozen turnip greens, a bag of carrots, a few bell peppers, and a bag of avocadoes for about $32. Our occasional splurges could have gone toward special vinegars, local honey, and light olive oil to make our own mayonnaise and dressings. Plus, we got fresh eggs pretty frequently from my aunt, so that extra $3 could have gone toward salad greens. And the chicken could do double duty by becoming delicious bone broth after the chicken was eaten.

     So you might ask yourself if it's possible to eat Paleo on a budget, and the answer is a definite yes. You can eat and eat well. And the health benefits, the lessened lack of medical costs, and the increased quality of life are more than worth it. Plus, you feel fuller longer, so you find you're not eating or snacking as much or as often.

     I am looking forward to going more in depth into this topic. We've calculated it, and we spend an average of $30 per person per week now, so there's a bit more variety. Occasionally, we spend more, like when we have birthdays or holidays, and we do some tasty baking or special meals. Occasionally, we make a trip out of town to get something a little more special that can't be found around here, like coconut aminos. But we eat a variety and rarely get tired with flavors inspired by Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Southern, etc. And best of all, we feel great.