My entire philosophy for taking a frugal approach to Paleo comes down to this: plan for it, shop for it, and eat everything you buy. Of course, there’s always more to it. Since this blog is about where real food meets real life, there are a few things I just have to share with you guys so you can knock out Paleo like a coupon-clipping boss (but without the coupons… you’re welcome).
1. Embrace meal planning.
It’s a labor of love, guys. Mapping out what you want to eat, and subsequently, what you’ll buy is the best way to keep a frugal approach to Paleo.
Don’t love meal planning? That’s ok! There are meal plans available everywhere. In fact, most of the recent cookbooks published seem to include them. However, if you prefer to stay in the driver’s seat of your planning, then here’s another resource I’d recommend: My friend Amy at Paleo Cupboard wrote a great post about how she uses Pinterest to plan her meals. Read more about her strategy –> here.
My biggest tip when following meal plan, especially ones that you have to buy, is to make sure you jive with the approach the plan’s author takes. If you’re feeding a family of 6, it’s not the best idea to buy plans from someone who, say, specializes in gourmet recipes for the adventurous foodie. Likewise, if you are feeding yourself, maybe have focused training goals and are using meal plans to hone in on your nutrition, it’s best to find a reputable blogger and/or author who is known for meal prep for athletes.
Shameless plug: my meal plans are for people who have their hands full and need a plan that adapts to their life and not the other way around. My plans easily allow for scaling recipes up or down depending on how many are eating, plus leave a day unscheduled for “life” to happen since scheduling every moment of every day rarely works.
Popular Paleo’s Meal Plans: Dinner in 3, 2, 1
2. Accessibility is key.
Don’t spend your time on a while goose chase for elusive ingredients.
This is something I highlight in The Frugal Paleo Cookbook. Take a look around you: what’s local? There was a time I lived where quality game meat ran the price of a hunting license. Now I live in the Pacific Northwest where we can enjoy fresh salmon often at great prices. We also have fertile soil thanks to Mt. Rainier looming nearby, so our farmer’s markets are pretty spectacular.
If you live in an urban area, chances are you’ll have easy access to fancy or obscure ingredients that sometimes find their way into Paleo recipes. However, if you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and can’t be bothered to track down saffron, don’t. Be selective about the kind of recipes you choose based on which ingredients won’t be a headache to find.
Stick to what’s local, stick to what’s easily accessible. You’ll save your sanity and a few bucks in the process.
3.Waste Not, Want Not.
Leftover lovers, unite! If you aren’t getting creative with your leftovers, then you are missing out on an easy way to save money. Straight up.
Since being frugal in my opinion goes beyond penny-pinching, using our leftovers wisely saves times and eases stress that can come with choosing what to make for dinners… every… night…
Here’s my winning strategy for using leftovers: always be thinking “next meal potential” with recipes. Pulled pork rolls forward as a tasty baked sweet potato topper. Taco meat one night on salad can be equally delicious simmered with homemade chicken or beef broth for taco soup the next. Roasted chicken with root veggies on a Sunday evening turns into a wicked good Chicken Salad with Brussels Sprouts for lunch on Monday.
Become a leftover maven: 5 Ways to Revamp Leftovers
4. Use the slow cooker.
The value of a slow cooker is that it cooks large hunks of inexpensive meat well, it’s perfect for cooking large batches of food that help stock a freezer full of delicious leftovers, and it saves a fair amount of hands-on cooking time. Most of us aren’t able to babysit braising pork shoulder or roasting a beef roast, but we can certainly place a seasoned hunk of meat in the slow cooker in the morning and press start. Win!
Inexpensive cuts bought in bulk are absolutely the best bang for your buck, this we know. A low-and-slow cooking method is ideal for turning what would be a tough cut of meat into something wonderfully juicy and tender. Oven-braising, smoking over soaked wood chips, or simmering slowly stove top are all wonderful options of which most of us have to save for special occasions or the weekend at best. A slow cooker helps us take advantage of those inexpensive cuts without the hands-on time investment of other methods.
Slow cookers are also ideal for cooking large batches of soups and stews. Fill the basin to the brim, enjoy it fresh for one meal and maybe as leftovers for another. Then store what remains in the freezer for future use. This is also a nod to another concept I have come to appreciate: be your own fast-food.
Press “start” on these recipes: Popular Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes
5. Use everything you buy.
This is how you know you’re doing frugal Paleo right: at the end of the week your refrigerator is bare of all the meat and veggies bought earlier in the week, the pantry is low on canned goods, the freezer has a visible section missing.
Thanks to a solid meal plan (point number one), everything you bought should be eaten up by the time you’ve reached the end of your menu. The Frugal Paleo Cookbook goes into detail on my strategy for planning recipes to fall into a theme (or cuisine if we’re being fancy here). This works because all of the fresh ingredients you’ve purchased “get along” with each other, making it possible to make solid meals down to the very last sweet potato, avocado, and half a lime remaining.
Bottom line: you planned it, you shopped for it, and you ate it. Allllll of it.