Is Clean Eating Worth the Cost?


I recently had a friend and reader ask me how to balance and justify the cost of eating paleo.  I have wrestled with it a lot.

I am at a place where excess cost on my grocery receipts are an investment in my health.  Eating toxic, processed, pseudo-foods costs me far more physically.  After doing my original 30-day, no cheating, paleo “bender,” I realized how amazing I felt, performed, and slept.  My moods stabilized and my energy leveled out.  For me, it was worth the cost, and Eric and I decided that buying healthful, nourishing food is a responsible way to spend our money.  We make sacrifices elsewhere.  (Like, I don’t remember the last time I have had a pedicure.  And we don’t drink alcohol, which saves us quite a bit.)  🙂

Real food is inherently expensive.  That is why they don’t sell it for huge profit margins on every street corner.

I am not a coupon-cutting penny-saver.  (I hope I haven’t lost anyone yet.)  There are plenty of bloggers who can give you inspiration to do paleo on a budget.  Nevertheless, you will not hear a lot from me about how to trim a few cents or dollars here and there.  Since my basic food groups are lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats…there are many many aisles I do not go down any longer, and ultimately I am far more selective about what I am buying, than when I ate everything.  That has saved me money in some ways, for instance, I no longer need to feed the Diet Coke beast every 3 hours. It adds up!

Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:

1.  Buy meat that the grocer has frozen/gone on sale because it’s about to expire.  Take it home, wrap it in Press-n-Seal, then in foil, and freeze it.

2.  Don’t eat so many nuts.  In nature, nuts take a long time to collect and shell.  They really are not meant to be “enjoyed” handful over fistful.  Treat them as valuable sources of tasty fat, savor them, make them last a long time.

3.  Eat your meat bone-in, with the skin.  Boneless, skinless cuts are more expensive.  Learn to cook whole pieces of meat and you will save money.  Besides, bone-in cuts are usually tastier, and eating the delicious skin will satiate you for a long time.  Especially since you are trying to limit the nuts!

4.  Research how to cook some of the “throw away” kinds of protein like liver and other organs.  Not only will you expand your cooking repetoire and palate, but you will be consuming rich nutrients in larger quantities than run-of-the-mill cuts.  Iron, folate, B12 to name a few.  I recently saw a brilliant recipe for Sweet Potato Chicken Liver meatballs.  Yum.

While I am at it, think about this.  There was a time in the not-so-distant-past that it would have been unthinkable to throw away or disregard a food because it seemed icky.  Hopefully we will not see a time like this again.  But, consider it a blessing to enjoy and experience food in all its forms.  Seriously.

5.  Reduce your intake of fresh berries.  Buy frozen.  There’s a lot you can do with them.

6.  Keep your freezer well stocked.  When you come across a meat/veggie sale, take advantage of it.  It takes just a little extra time to prepare meals that are freezable, and besides, it is SO convenient to have frozen meals at the ready.

7.  Affording a clean diet now may save you in the long run.  Think about all the potential medical costs, treatments, therapies and other supplements that you will not have to pay for, because you haven’t willingly harmed your health by your bad diet.  Remember the dangers of the sine curve? 

I am so excited that this question came up, because I think it encourages responsible cost/benefit analysis.  But, it can also be used as an excuse for not cleaning up your diet.   However, if you are in a financial situation where a strict paleo/primal diet is prohibitive, let me encourage you to do the best you can for yourself and your family.  Choose the cleanest possible foods to help fill everyone’s bellies, and don’t worry about the rest.

6 comments on “Is Clean Eating Worth the Cost?”

  1. Great thoughts, Leigh. I’ve found that my grocery bill did not budge much. Because you are basically shopping the perimeter of the grocery store (with the exception of a few canned items) you are not wasting money on everything in the center like breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, convenience foods, etc.
    I see my most money spent when I buy gluten free products for my kids (certain cereals, waffles, etc) instead of making my own with almond and coconut flour.
    I read somewhere the other day that “your health is your wealth” and that just sums it up for me!


  2. also, I didn’t think about the fact that nuts take a long time to collect and shell….I am going to try to remember this when I go for a fistfull…


  3. Thank you for this! I wish more people agreed. I myself don’t eat red meat anymore, and I’ve been trying to steer my family in the right direction. I am actually going to major in health and wellness, and your blog is an excellent source for inspiration. Not to mention– I like the recipes and will be trying them soon. 🙂


  4. Btw: I don’t see this on facebook….? Are you planning on adding a page or group soon or perhaps you don’t use facebook? Just wondering. 🙂


  5. Really enjoyed the article, been doing a lot of research lately but I’m sorry for the critism, but when you say “I recently saw a brilliant recipe for Sweet Potato Chicken Liver meatballs. Yum.”, I thought I read somewhere during my research that you won’t be having potatoes of any sort due to it being part of a ‘farmer’s boom’, now bare with me if that’s an inaccurate statement. I’m more curious to the correct facts then being a critic.
    -Thank you!


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