How To Eat Easy Paleo Meals Without Going Broke

I get asked a LOT about how we can afford to eat Paleo. Because, truthfully, it CAN be expensive when you’re trying to eat as nutrient dense meals as possible, made with the best ingredients you can afford. Not to mention that there is a lot of Paleo dogma out there that implies that if you’re not eating absolutely everything grass fed / pastured / organic / local / seasonal then you’re “doing it WRONG!”.

That is totally not how I approach Paleo: for the sake of our sanity, it really shouldn’t be the way that anyone approaches Paleo. We all have different situations and budgets and need to adapt Paleo to fit OUR lives. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to eat everything “perfectly” Paleo. I don’t let that stop me improving my health as best as I can! Here’s how I make easy Paleo meals AND make it work for me budget-wise.

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Top 5 Ways to Eat Paleo Without Going Broke

  • Prioritize your dollars: I simply cannot afford to buy everything organic. But I DO make sure that all of the meat we eat, as far as possible, is grass fed or pastured. I also make sure that our eggs are at least organic. I personally feel that top quality animal products are worth spending extra on because of the way that the toxins in unhealthy conventionally / intensively farmed animals are stored in the fat and organs. I also spend money on our occasional grass fed dairy in the form of cheese and butter. But I do cut corners on things like nuts (which we don’t eat often) or canned goods as long as they are BPA free.
  • Pick your produce: There is a limited selection of produce local to me that is organic. Additionally, I live an hour’s drive from the nearest towns and that means I can’t necessarily grocery shop even every week. This means that I tend to buy in bulk and eat things in order of how-quickly-they-go-bad. Again, I prioritize: things like berries, salad leaves and soft fruits I buy organic where possible. Other produce is often conventional because that is either what I can find or what I can afford. Loosely, I adhere to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists. Often, if you are buying local / from farmer’s markets, you are buying organic: many farms use ethical and organic practices but may not have spent the money on official Organic certification from the USDA – ask around! Another tip is to check out the frozen section: I can buy a 3lb bag of organic frozen fruit for about $9 and you can’t tell that it was frozen if you use it for things like smoothies, sauces or baking.
  • Save (and savor) your treats: this will be an unpopular one, I know. But Paleo sweets, treats and grain free goodies have a way of sneaking into people’s diets even though they are nutritionally sub-optimal AND expensive. Things like almond flour, coconut products and fancy starches really do pack a hefty financial punch, plus these kinds of recipes are often heavy on eggs which also add $ quickly. I’m absolutely not against treats as a whole – we all need to enjoy our food and treats are part of that! – but I’m simply saying to keep them occasional and as something to truly enjoy. Daily grain free goodies will empty your bank account and probably not satisfy your hunger or sugar cravings anyway.
  • Choose cheaper cuts: since switching to Paleo, I’ve had to teach myself to cook things I never thought I would ever, ever eat. You know, if I’d known some of those cuts or animal parts had really existed. Simply put, steaks and bacon are expensive: things like oxtails, pork shanks and lamb chump are not. I also generally find that wild caught seafood can be even cheaper, especially if you can buy it in bulk or frozen, and make for quick, easy paleo meals. Plus, for the less squeamish, organ meats are a fantastic source of nutrition and tend to be cheap since so few people purchase them. You may even have to ask for them as a result. And let’s not forget animal bones or things like chicken feet, for marrow and as a base for fantastic gelatin-filled broths and stocks!
  • Learn to love slow cooking: if you are buying grass fed meat, it tends to be dryer than conventional meat because it is leaner. And if you are buying cheaper cuts as I recommend, then you will need to cook them in a way that retains flavor and creates tenderness in cuts of meat that are inherently tougher. That’s where slow cooking of any kind is fantastic: soups, stews and braises are your friends! You can make fork tender meat out of the cheapest roasts if you master these easy techniques!

How I make cheap, easy Paleo meals

For a long time, I relied on my oven to do all this slow cooking. Me and my ridiculously large dutch oven were BFFs. I didn’t mind the heat of the stove or the multiple steps of some of my favorite recipes. Aaaaaand then I moved to Arizona. You know, land of the blazing sun? I mean, that’s not the traditional State motto, but it sure feels like it could be. Suddenly I was a lot less excited about this whole long-cooking-time thing. But I couldn’t really afford to give it up: even grass fed ground been costs me between $5 – $7 / lb: I had to, um, woman up if I wanted to eat easy Paleo meals on the cheap!

Up until this point in my life, my oft-abandoned slow cooker got some action a couple of times a year. Mainly to cook up big batches of chili. I treated the thing almost suspiciously: it almost felt like it wasn’t “real” cooking. I felt like a grown up with an Easy Bake Oven. Except I didn’t understand how to use it. The fact that I had a slow cooker that was so bad it has a ONE AND A HALF STAR rating on Amazon may or may not have played into that, but the thing is that I didn’t even bother to replace it. I used it so infrequently I felt like it wasn’t really worth the expense. Until I realized just how versatile the slow cooker could be in making easy Paleo meals, with a little help (ok, a LOT of help) from Arsy at Rubies and Radishes.

Guess what? The slow cooker isn’t just for pot roast!

No Pot Roast

Did you know you that you can make all of these easy Paleo meals in the slow cooker?

  • braised lamb shanks
  • chicken cacciatore
  • chicken wings
  • curries
  • holiday ham
  • meatballs
  • pork chops
  • ratatouille
  • ribs
  • roast duck
  • stuffed peppers
  • …and even dessert?

I didn’t either!

Here’s how: with The Paleo Slow Cooker cookbook!

In my head, the slow cooker was good for pot roast – which I’ve never really cared for – and the chili I’ve already mentioned. That was it. But then I got my hands on a beautiful hard cover copy of The Paleo Slow Cooker and I was hooked! It opened up a whole world of inspiration, both in terms of how many things I’d never considered could work in the slow cooker and in terms of the huge range of international flavors Arsy covers in the book. Did you know that you can make Korean Bulgogi, Persian Fesengan, Latin American Ropa Vieja or French Boef Bourguignon in the slow cooker? You totally can! And The Paleo Slow Cooker shows you just how easily it can be done! Who said the slow cooker was for dry, uninspired meals? Not me any longer: the slow cooker is the perfect tool to simplify your life and create easy Paleo meals.

The Paleo Slow Cooker isn’t all exotic fare (and don’t be intimidated by those dishes, either: all of the herbs and spices used are easily available). Arsy shows you how to make simple family friendly dishes, too. How about Curried Chicken Wings, Prime Rib Chili or Apple Cider Pork with Rosemary? Yes, you can make all those in your slow cooker! Isn’t that exciting? My favorite recipe so far HAS to be the fantastic Jambalaya, packed with chicken, sausage, shrimp and amazing Cajun flavor.

How To Eat Paleo Without Going Broke from

There is also a selection of simple, fruit based desserts at the end of the book. I enjoyed these for two reasons: it’s nice to see some desserts that are simple additions to an already easy Paleo meal, plus they feed back into my original point about eating cheaply, without falling into the (expensive) trap of grain-free versions of cakes, muffins or brownies. I would never have thought to make dessert in a slow cooker, either. Our absolute favorite so far is the Berry Maple Crisp – warm, spiced sweet-sour fruit topped with a beautiful crumbled topping.

How To Eat Paleo Without Going Broke from

 What else is there to love in The Paleo Slow Cooker?

  •  The foreword by Chris Kresser discusses how Paleo can be adapted to suit anyone from “low-carbers to endurance athletes”
  • There are nice sections throughout which cover things like Paleo basics, slow cooker tips, a guide to fats and oils and tips on eating out, contributed to by the registered dietitican Amy Kubal
  • The book is divided up into color coded sections according to protein, such as Beef, Lamb & Seafood, plus extras like Appetizers, Sides & Desserts
  • I really enjoyed how there were sections for meats you don’t see eaten as often in the US, like Lamb and Duck

If, like me, you have never been a slow cooker fan, this is the book that you need to change your mind and broaden your horizons when it comes to cheap, easy Paleo meals. I am really looking forward to working my way through the rest of the book, so much so that I think I’ll be splurging on a brand new slow cooker to do so! Because I really don’t think the slow cooker will be abandoned in my kitchen ever again, courtesy of The Paleo Slow Cooker. And with Fall closing in on us all, now couldn’t be a better time! Grab yourself a NEW, REVISED copy from Amazon either in hard cover or Kindle version today!

 The Paleo Slow Cooker

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  1. I don’t know where you shop, but I have found that oxtails can be as expensive as some of the more fancy cuts of meat… I suspect it is because you only get 1 tail per cow, and they want to capitalize on this, especially as now several top chefs have made recipes with oxtail….
    Noticed that you didn’t include organ meats though – they are often very cheap to buy because most consumers are squeamish about eating them. But they taste fantastic and are some of the most nutritionally dense protein you can eat.
    Other than that FANTASTIC post…. We manage to feed a family of 6 (and the 4 kids eat as much if not more than hubby and I!) paleo in a fairly affordable way by doing a lot of what you mentioned above.
    I am quite happy to buy locally grown produce over organic and that cuts down the costs a lot, as does eating seasonally… although in Alberta it does mean that we eat an AWFUL lot of kale over the winter months!

    1. Ooh, that’s a good point about oxtails. I find the same with some other cuts that used to be cheap and are now fashionable, like short ribs. I tend to get oxtails and similar in a bulk beef box that I buy from my butcher, so I suspect that would be cheaper than if I specifically asked for or ordered it? As in, they fill the box with whatever they have around at the time.

      DUH, ORGAN MEATS! I knew I was forgetting something! Thank you! I really should add those! AND homemade broth.

      I wish I could buy more locally: there is a CSA, but it’s an hour away in the opposite direction of everywhere else we need to shop, plus our Farmer’s Markets are only open spring-summer. But, baby steps, right? Some change is better than none! 🙂

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I’ve already thought of more things I should add! I might do a post that walks people through our weekly / quarterly shopping trips that would help. Short ribs here are inching up in price because they’re getting so popular! And you’re right, tongue in particular is cheap and awesome 🙂

  2. Since you live in Arizona, you might want to look into a solar cooker. Anything you can cook in a slow cooker does very well in a solar cooker…plus, no energy costs! You can buy one or make your own.
    Solar Cookers International is a good place to start. I live on the coast and have fog days but am able to use my solar cookers at least 200 days of the year. Just like a slow cooker you can put everything in it point it to high noon, and forget it. Food cooked by the sun is the best!

    1. BLAME BITTMAN! Amen! No one seems to have caught on to pork shanks yet, thank goodness! There’s actually a waiting list at my butcher for pork belly.

  3. Love this! Your enthusiasm and wonderful tips are so refreshing and enlightening to someone, like myself, that is still quite new to eating Paleo. Great article, thanks!

    1. Wow, thank you! I think it’s so important that people realize that they don’t have to eat “perfectly” the way that some of the paleo sites present things – we all have to do the best with what we have, you know? Small changes are still changes 🙂

      1. I don’t know where in Arizona you are. You indicated you are an hour from a town. I live in the Phoenix area, and I find that wild fish – which you stated you find to be less expensive than steaks – is really expensive.

        I would love to see an article on your shopping trips. I just found your sight today and need to explore!

        1. Ooh, that’s a great idea, I’ll have to think about a post like that – thank you!

          I’m about three hours north of Phoenix – we take trips down a few times a year to stock up on bulk meat (and hit Ikea and the Le Creuset outlet stores, ha!). My best tip on wild caught fish is don’t be afraid to buy frozen! Most of the stuff that you see in stores behind counters was frozen, anyway. I wait for sales in some stores like Safeway or Fry’s. I also have a Sam’s Club membership (worth it for the $ saved on gas alone) and I can, for example, buy 2.5 lbs of wild caught frozen cod there for under $13. You do have to read a lot of labels – as always – but I find that frozen is practical and usually pretty cheap: $5.20 / lb for the wild caught cod vs $7.99 / lb for grass fed ground beef locally. Hope that helps a little! 🙂

  4. A way for me to cut the cost on eggs is to have hens in my backyard. Not only I know exactly what they eat, but the cost of their feed is way less than buying eggs.

  5. Thank you for this post–I am so glad to hear that I am not committing a “Paleo Sin” if I cannot spend a lot on my food budget and just do the best I can!! This is my third week of Paleo eating and I feel so much better, and I have already lost twelve pounds!!

    1. That’s awesome! There’s a lot of Paleo perfectionism out there, but I always follow the idea of doing the best we can.. with what we have 🙂

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