Paleo Update, and Insane Foraging and Extreme Frugal Food Shopping

I feel like those reading my blog for a while think I'm so inconsistent, and terrible with follow through, because I can't count how many times I said I'd do something... and then fell off the bandwagon. But I think that's life, and especially when there are a lot of things going on, its hard to keep doing what you'd intended on doing, even more so when those things are challenging.

Why am I bringing that up? Because Paleo. It wasn't that long ago that I wrote about having been off Paleo and how it made me exhausted, and that's why I was going back on...  Guess what? I did go back on Paleo and I did have much more energy, but then in the last two months I've been so insanely busy with everything related to my book, and life in general, that I went back to shortcuts in food preparation, and despite it being a relatively healthy diet (not counting the junk I was eating... though that wasn't too frequent), it was heavy on non Paleo foods like rice and lentils. This past week I've been crazy exhausted beyond belief, falling asleep every night at 8 or 9 pm, crashing. That is not me, and the last time I felt that perpetually exhausted was when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with Anneliese and eating gluten since that was all I could keep down, so I knew something was not right. (No, not pregnant.) People were trying to tell me that it was just that I ran myself down, that I've been working so hard with everything book related that I have to give my body time to recover, but I knew it wasn't just that.
I knew it was diet.

And so, I decided that I would go back to Paleo. I have to. Not half-heartedly this time. It isn't worth it. I may think I'm saving time and energy and money by making only one meal for the entire family, a non Paleo but frugal meal, and eat that together with the family, but if that means that I end up being more exhausted and having much less energy and sleeping 4 more hours every night, that's not much of a time saver- I may be spending less time on food prep but I have fewer hours in my day available period, because I'm wasting my time sleeping. (And yes, sleeping is a waste in this situation, because its not that my body actually needs those hours of sleep, but rather that I'm hurting my body and making it need to recover.) I end up wasting more time because then I have fewer hours available in my day...  
Even from a frugality perspective it isn't worthwhile, also because I know I can make Paleo meals extremely frugally (I have a post on that coming up very soon, I hope), And with less energy, I can just do the bare basics to take care of my home and my family and can't find any energy to work to make money, so even financially these "money saving" things set me back.

Since Friday I've been strictly Paleo once more. Its a night and day difference in terms of energy. Instead of feeling like a sluggish sloth who wants to catch as many winks as possible, I feel bursting with energy even after doing supposedly physically taxing things, and even at times like now when I am running on only 4 hours of sleep. When I'm sharing my Paleo meals, people are asking me how I find the time and energy to make such meals, but what they don't get is... I really can't afford not to. Its an investment into my health and well being that is really, really worthwhile. 

A few things happen, though, that make me slip and not end up sticking to Paleo. One of those is when everyone has a treat or special food to eat, and I just have plain and boring foods. I decided that I wasn't going to set myself up for failure, and I'd make sure to be prepared. When I made my family sushi (a super easy cheater sushi-post on that up soon-since I made this on Friday, when I still was running low on energy since my new regime's effect hadn't had a chance to kick in yet) I made sure to make myself a Paleo approved sushi plate, so I wouldn't be tempted to cheat. I made my daughter a birthday cake, and was able to hold myself back from eating that because I made myself a Paleo crumble and a Paleo cheesecake, so I wouldn't feel like I was missing out. In short, I can't just make nice things for everyone else and then do nothing nice for myself, and then expect myself to hold strong and not cheat. Whole 30 diets talk against this type of thing exactly, but if anything, this, more than anything, makes the case why incorporating SWYPO foods is a good technique to make Paleo a lifestyle that is sustainable in the long run.

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Another thing that makes me fall back to non Paleo eating is when my fridge is mostly empty, or at least without a lot of variety, and I have no back up Paleo approved foods in the pantry and I'm hungry. I have energy to cook two sets of meals when I can let my creativity run free and know I'll come up with some terrific foods, but when I don't have many options with which to prepare food. I get uninspired and then non Paleo food, even plain white rice, seems so good and tempting. 

I knew, therefore, that the first order of business if I wanted to do this properly and stick with it is to make sure my house is filled with plenty of varied produce (and animal protein, but that's for another trip). So yesterday I decided to fill my fridge frugally, and take the time to nourish my soul as well. 

I went to the city to stock up on produce, with the goal being to eventually head over to the open air market. Before that, though, I went to a nature reserve in the city, walking distance from my bus into town, with the goal of foraging some unique and special veggies. In my town. I can forage, but I'm a little bored of what we have here right now, and I can't find as much variety or things close together, and I knew this nature reserve was special. There's a stream in it, which meant there was a chance to get some watercress (not any other natural body of water remotely near my house that I can get to easily), but even if not, I knew there would be plenty of great things there that I could use to fill my fridge.

I didn't leave disappointed. While I struck out on the watercress (I found a tiny amount, which I left to grow), for the first time in my life (despite looking so many times, and sporadically finding a few stalks), I managed to find a large amount of wild asparagus. I adore asparagus, but it costs so much money locally (a bunch this size costs around $10) that I can't bring myself to buy it. Finding that asparagus just made my day!

While at the park I also foraged umbilicus, a wild succulent with thick leaves that taste delicious in salads, especially since they have some substance to them. I brought home whitetop, a type of wild mustard, wood sorrel flowers, milk thistle, wild fennel, and dandelion greens.

On my way out of the park, I saw a field of wild mustard that tempted me. We have wild mustard near my house, but the variety locally is relatively fuzzy, so not as pleasant to eat raw, and as with most mustards, it becomes more bitter when cooked, so it isn't my favorite. The type of mustard I saw growing there, though, was a type that has a nice sharp kick to it, and very little fuzz, so it is enjoyable to eat in salads as well as cooked. I decided to fill my giant backpack with wild mustard, and already yesterday I turned some of it into two different ferments

I then headed over to the open air market, but before I walked in, decided to wander the nearby neighborhood, since I've seen wall rocket, also known as wild arugula, grow there and only there, and really wanted some of those salad greens to have with my Paleo meals. I wasn't sure if I'd get lucky, since I hadn't seen any yet this year, but I ended up getting an entire shopping bag full of it. 

I managed to find a large amount of nettles as well while I was looking for the wall rocket. Locally we do have some nettles, but they currently have woody stems and not the largest leaves, making them a pain to use. The nettles I found had gigantic leaves, which was terrific, but it also meant that their stingers were extra powerful and stung me through gloves. And I accidentally, when trying to eat some chickweed I found growing nearby, put a tiny piece of nettle in my mouth together with the chickweed, and experienced, for the first time in my life, a nettle sting on my lip and tongue. That was not a pleasant sensation, and my lip ended up being swollen for the next few hours. Note to self- don't do that again!

By the time I even got to the open air market to buy produce, I had a giant backpack filled to the brim with foraged wild edible vegetables, plus a few shopping bags in my shopping cart.

Before going to the market, I told my friend Michelle that I was challenging myself to see how little I could spend on groceries there- I only brought $30 with me total, and needed some of that to get home afterwards, but I wanted to see how little of that I could use.

I literally hit the jackpot at the market. 

Though many of the stalls that I like to shop at for the best deals, since they have past prime produce, were closed, I found a trash wagon filled with boxes of perfectly good food. When I say perfectly good food, I mean that some of it looked about the same as the past prime stuff I buy, some looked a little better, and some looked absolutely perfect, nothing past prime about it at all! 

I got potatoes and kohlrabi and clementines in pristine condition. 
I got tomatoes and fennel in pretty good condition, as well as some sweet potatoes that were perfect (though they had bits cut off, I assuming the parts that weren't good). 
I got a pepper that looked ok, and some cucumbers that were pretty good, just needed a tiny bit cut off, and crisp carrots with a little bit of discoloration on the peel. From experience, these types of carrots, so long as they are still dry when they look like this, are perfect on the inside- once peeled they can't be told apart from regular carrots.

All that for free!

When I laid it all out on my counter at home, and you see just how much produce I got absolutely free.... it astounds even me!

That said, it still wasn't quite enough variety for what I needed, so I hunted around for good deals on the rest of the produce I wanted, and got:
11.4 lbs of carrots (yes, more carrots- they are a staple in this house, especially at that price) at 19 cents a pound for a total of $2.28
8.8 lbs cucumbers for 26 cents a pound for a total of $2.28.
4.4 lbs tomatoes at 33 cents a pound for a total of $1.42.
6.6 lbs zucchini for 33 cents a pound for a total of $2.18.
And a large bag each of purple onions, sweet potatoes, and bananas (I don't know their weight) for a total of $7.

Total spent on this shop? $15.14 for the produce shown below...

I couldn't even put all the produce I brought home on the counter at once, so I took a picture of all the non foraged produce together, with the total spent there being $15.14 on this "normal food" that most people are familiar with.

I am extremely proud of myself and how well I did on this shop, managing to fill my fridge with so much varied, healthy, delicious produce, and having spent so little. I am so tempted to do something like this on a weekly basis, first doing a great foraging trip, and then seeing what bargains I can get at the market. Because if I can spend this little and still eat this well and varied, then I'm set.

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Since I came home from my foraging and shopping trip, I've been eating very well and Paleo (such as this salad that I had for breakfast this morning, and cost me nothing other than part of the ingredients in the dressing), because with such produce, how can you not?

Got any amazing deals for groceries lately? Forage anything wonderful recently? What was it?
If you'd buy the amount and types of produce that I got (other than the foraged items that don't have store bought alternatives), how much would such a shop cost you?
Those of you who stick to Paleo, what are your tips to be able to stick with it long term, even when hard?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Penny, I'm so happy for you :-)

  2. Wow, that is a crazy deal you got on produce!! And I thought my $0.49/lb. onions were cheap. LOL. It really inspires me to go out and do some foraging and work on finding better deals. :)

  3. Can I please pretty please join you on your next trip to the market?

  4. Awesome! Super jealous of the wild arugula.
    What do you do with those green bananas?

  5. Always so jealous of the cheap deals you can find at your market and the foraged goodies you find! I see a ton of wild mustard and nettle in areas near me...but they are also near busy streets. So hard to know they are edible but having to walk past them!

  6. It is life. For some reason for the last few months I've been off my healthy 1st bandwagon and eating tons of candy & carbs. But that's about to change since I decided to start shopping for produce at Aldi's. I found blueberries there for 99 cents, the week before I spent $3.49 for the same amount at Kroger. While I don't forage, still need to get educated, I did find a little greenhouse $20 at Aldi, in hopes of using it to grow some spinach. Love me some spinach. Keep up the great work and when you see your about to veer off the path of Paleo, remind yourself of how good you felt this day. What you accomplished and how that makes you an amazing human who's blog I love to read.

  7. Unless I want to grow it myself, or drive over an hour to a local market that does produce auctions and sit up until the wee hours of the morning and then have to go to work the next day.. I have found that shopping the sale item at Aldi's saves me a ton on produce. 3lb bag of onions for 69-79 cents, 5-10 lb bags of potatoes $1.49-$1.79. The other week, cabbage was on sale at another store for 17 cents a pound. I stocked up as it keeps well in the fridge for while, and also froze some stuffed cabbage rolls. I also shop at a local grocery outlet where I often get some awesome deals on K-cups (one of my bad habits) and also cheese and yogurt... I recently bought frozen mixed berry pies and pecan pies there for 97 cents each as well. Between Aldi's and the Grocery Outlet, I rarely shop anywhere else... except local produce markets when I get to them.

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