Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Feeding Primal People... Frugally??

I've read and read lots of posts on the Primal/Paleo diet, and other low carb and grain diets, and despite all that I've read on this diet/lifestyle, I remain thoroughly unconvinced that grains are the evil some people make them out to be, both because of scientific reasons and because the reasoning for the theory (eat like the cavemen did) doesn't fly for me for many, many reasons. That said, even if I were convinced that a Primal/Paleo diet is the ideal way to eat, I most likely would not go on that type of diet because it is the most expensive diet out there, in my opinion, the least economically sustainable, and practically impossible to do frugally...

However, a family member of mine is on a modified Primal diet (he does eat legumes- a no no in "real" Primal diets), and because of certain circumstances that have come up, this family member will be at our house rather often in the next little while, so I'm pretty much doing what I thought impossible- feeding this grain free guest without putting us into the poorhouse (too much). (This guest eats animal products, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, minimal fruit, and that's about it. He'll eat very minimal amounts of potatoes or sweet potatoes, but will avoid those as well if possible.)

Why exactly is a grain free diet not frugal? How can you make a grain free diet as frugal as possible?

First off, in order to understand what is unfrugal about a grain free diet, you first have to understand what types of food make someone feel full, as people generally eat until satiation. Starches and carbs make a person fell full. In lieu of that, or in addition to that, fats also send the signal of satiation to the brain. I mean, if you eat enough vegetables, you might actually feel full for a little bit, but not long after that, you'll likely feel hungry yet again. If you want to eat full and stay full, you'll want to have enough carbs or enough fats. (I once tried to go on a low fat, low carb diet... I lasted 12 hours because I was STARVING!!!)

If you're rich, you can fill up on healthy fats.
If you're shorter on money, you might find healthy carbohydrates necessary to bulk up a meal without being prohibitively expensive.
If you're short on money and don't care about health, you might fill up on cheap, unhealthy fats... Or you might fill up on cheap, unhealthy carbs. Or both.

Healthy fats are expensive. Carbs are cheaper. Healthy carbs are generally more expensive than unhealthy carbs, but usually they're cheaper than healthy fats.
(Just for clarity's sake, when I am talking about healthy fats, I'm not talking about canola and soy and corn oil... I'm talking about animal fats, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc...)

With the Primal diet, there's no filling up on carbs, healthy or not, as all grains are out. You can fill up on healthy fats... and that's about it.
Oh, and can I reiterate how expensive healthy fats are?

Anyhow, that's why Primal diets are expensive. Because cheap fillers are out; you can only really fill up on animal products or nuts or seeds. Expensive. Very.

So, that said, how am I planning on feeding this Primal dieting family member of ours and not break the bank? How can you follow a grain free diet as frugally as possible?
[Well... I can't promise it won't break the bank or blow the budget (because wow... its expensive to eat this way!!!), but at least this will only cause slight monetary damage instead of major...]

  • Go hunting or fishing or eat roadkill if you can, because free meat is the best way you can keep this diet from being prohibitively expensive. This isn't something I am able to do, but if you are, that's one way to keep a Primal diet cheap.
  • Buy cheap cuts of meat. No, I don't mean look at what is cheapest per pound- I'm talking about what is really, really cheapest per pound, once you factor in how much you're paying for bone. Use primarily this meat when serving meat.
  • See what animal products you can get cheapest. Often this is eggs. Use these as your main fillers.
  • Slather everything in fat. Take whatever meat you have and fry it. Save all your fat drippings and use it as bases for soups or sauces. Whatever you do, don't skin your meat, because it'll make it less fatty and filling and you'll need more to be satiated. Use fatty salad dressings, like homemade mayo, on all the vegetables you're eating. Saute as many vegetables as you can in as much butter, shmaltz, coconut oil, or other fats as possible.
  • Buy your vegetables in season, and buy lots of the cheapest ones.
  • Buy starchier vegetables so you can get in some filling starches so you aren't filling up just on animal products.
  • Forage as much of your vegetables as humanly possible, so that you can have a ton of vegetables at your meal and only need to pay for the meat.
  • If you can get fatty nuts and seeds cheaply, do so. Often though this isn't worthwhile because they cost more per pound than cheap cuts of meat.
  • If there's any way you can serve legumes, do so. I know they aren't officially "primally legal", but fortunately this relative DOES eat legumes, so you can be sure I'll take full advantage of it. Legumes have carbs and are filling, and they're not too expensive.
  • If you can buy meat in bulk cheaply, do so. Unfortunately I cannot, so this is out for me, but I wanted to throw it out there as an option.

Keeping these tips in mind, what are some Primal dishes I served or plan on serving to our Primal eating guest?

  • Chicken soup made with wings.
  • A whole chicken (cheaper) deboned, dipped in a "beer batter" (made from kombucha, egg, and tapioca starch and spices), and deep fried.
  • A quiche made with foraged greens, sunflower milk, tapioca starch, and egg.
  • A tomato and wild greens salad with olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Cabbage salad made with oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Fenugreek dip.
  • Stir fry made with cabbage, carrots, peppers, and chicken gizzards.
  • Vegetable frittata.
  • Egg crepe (possibly with tapioca starch) filled with salad, chicken chunks, and avocado.
  • Turnip and butternut squash mash.
  • Roasted carrots.
  • Roasted cauliflower.
  • Baked cabbage quarters with gravy.
  • Italian wedding soup minus the noodles. (I'll throw in gluten free noodles, he doesn't need to eat them.)
  • Egg drop soup
  • Egg curry.
  • Eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.
  • Avgolemono soup. (Greek egg lemon soup.)
  • Minestrone soup.
  • Split pea soup.
  • Bean chili.

No, eating a Primal or Paleo diet is NOT cheap. Starches are cheap fillers, cutting them out leaves you with only more expensive things to fill your belly. But hopefully, by following these tips, you won't break the bank too much...

Are you on a grain free diet? How much would you say you spend on groceries? How does this compare to how what you were spending before you went grain free?
What are your tips to keep meals frugal without being able to rely on cheaper fillers like grains? I'd love suggestions for frugal meal ideas...


  1. I realise this is over 18 months ago but I felt I had correspond. I am a frugalista who has been low carb for 3 years and following paleo for the last 6 months.
    The first point I would like to address is the concern that there are no "fillers." If you don't eat gross carbs (bread, pasta potatoes etc) and just serve your portion of meat with 2 other vegetables , your meal will be just as sustaining, because your body is not rebounding from the high carbs you consumed with the last meal.
    The second point is that you don't eat huge amounts of protein.In fact the portion of meat I eat is much the same as the non paleo next to me. for example for breakfast I will eat a 2 egg omelette with spinach or mushrooms. Lunch is chicken and coleslaw (homemade with whole egg mayonnaise). Dinner is stirfry made with turkey mince (ground turkey)and chinese cabbage with ginger and soy sauce. Nothing there that Weight Watchers would object to!
    3. Fats are very important and 'low fat' anything is a no no. fats of choice are coconut oil (very expensive) olive oil (moderately expensive) butter and lard (very cheap) I render my own lard from pork belly and save the drippings from roasts. any thing fried in lard is delicious. Seed oils such as soy etc are frowned upon because they are highly chemically processed and are rancid by the time you buy them.
    4. Beans are a grey area with Pure paleos shunning them. I will eat the beans in a chilli con carne,(if there is not too many) but will not cook or eat something based around beans, like a bean soup.
    5. ditto dairy. I eat cheese, yoghurt and kefir as these are fermented products, but don't drink milk. I do use cream for cooking.
    6. Lastly it is very easy to be paleo and frugal if you cook your own meals. Most peasant meals are easily adapted - casseroles using cheaper cuts of meat.You have already mentioned liver and ox lip. I cook spaghetti bolognese for my family, but have my helping of sauce over vegetables instead of pasta. I make cottage pie but top it with cauliflower puree instead of potato. Roast anything is easy peasy. Old favourites are dusted off and re imagined - beef stroganoff made with mince instead of fillet, coc au vin in stock instead of wine,
    I have drivelled on too long. For the best information go to Marks Daily Apple .com

  2. hello
    I'm not really paleo but I have cut out sugar, and carbs.
    I agree with the poster above. Low carb keeps me so full, I am almost never hungry, and can easily eat two meals a day instead of three.

    breakfast- natural yoghurt with about ten toasted almonds.
    lunch- leftover meat or cheese with salad. if no meat or cheese, I use olives or a bit of avocado.
    dinner- meat with two veg.

    drinks- lots of water and tea and coffee, no sugar.
    snacks- cheese, Hommous, fruit, dried fruit and nuts.
    i never drink sodas or juice.
    i never dress my salads except for a splash of oil and vinegar.

    believe me, I'm never hungry. I'm not difficult about it either. If i'm a guest in someone's house and they are having pasta or pizza, then I will have it too. I wouldnt dream of making them cook a special meal for me.

    good luck with frugal parenting - its amazing how little we really need.


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