AIP On A Budget
It’s common knowledge that food is expensive. And getting moreso by the day! Eating organic, whole foods is even more expensive. When I started my AIP journey back in September, Scott had already been unemployed for four months and didn’t have any prospects. I really struggled with how we would manage an increase in our food budget when we were still dealing with a significant decrease in our income. I really, truly believed that going AIP would help me heal, but I just didn’t know how we were going to afford it.
Thankfully, Scott has been totally committed to seeing me get better. He insisted that if this was going help me heal, then we were going to do it, even if we had to make more cuts elsewhere. So we did it, and are still doing it, on a very tight budget. I have the added complication of not being able to eat beef and only limited amounts of pork, two of the most available and affordable meats. Since expense is a common concern I hear among people looking into going AIP, I thought I’d share some tips on how we keep it as affordable as possible.
Buy in Bulk
If you have the cash on hand and the space to process/store bulk purchases, buy in bulk when you can. You can often find great deals on bulk meat and produce. When you buy a 1/4 of beef, bison or lamb, you can save yourself quite a bit on a per pound basis, plus you get a greater variety of cuts than you might otherwise normally buy, allowing for more experimentation in the kitchen. Some places will even throw in the offal at no charge! Just make sure you have the freezer space for it all.
When it comes to produce, you can often get it for even cheaper if you buy in bulk and in season. Grocery stores will usually have an automatic discount (usually 10%) if you buy a whole case of something, you just have to ask. If the produce happens to be on sale when it’s in season, some places will still give you the bulk discout off of the sale price. Again, this varies by store and sometimes by manager. Just make sure you are able to make use of it all before it goes bad. Canning, freezing, and dehydrating are all great ways to preserve that bulk produce.
I know that we pay more in Canada for groceries than our American counterparts, but shopping online helps with that. You can find a great selection of good quality products at competitive prices at places like Amazon, iHerb, Well, and Thrive Market (in the US only at this time). Kelp noodles at the local health food store are $6 per package on sale. Online, you can often find them for $3 (USD) on sale. Coconut aminos are less than half the price! Even with exchange factored in (if ordering from the south side of the border), that is still a savings. Many places have site-wide sales periodically, often saving you 15% or more off your order. iHerb even has a fantastic cash-back program! If you sign up for scheduled order/deliveries, you may get an additional discount.
Note: Since publishing this article, I have encountered major issues with Vitacost that have cost me hundreds of dollars and they have been absolutely unwilling to find a solution. As a result, I can no longer recommend them in good conscience.
Organs, Organs, Organs
If you’re following the AIP, you should know how important offal is for you and your healing. If you don’t, you ought to check out this article by Dr. Sarah Ballentyne, which hightlights all the great benefits of adding these cuts into your diet, and in high quantities. As if all the great nutrients found in offal were not enough to make it worth buying, it is significantly cheaper than your standard cuts of meat. I can buy bison liver (grassfed, free range, etc.) for $5-$6 per pound, whereas the ground bison will cost me $11 per pound, or more! Our supplier also offers a 60/40 combo of ground bison/ground organs for $8 per pound. Still more expensive than the straight liver, but significantly cheaper than the ground bison without the organ meat. Plus, this is pretty much the only way Scott will agree to eat organ meat…
Know a Hunter (or are you one)?
You cannot get much more natural and free range than wild game meat! While it is illegal to buy or sell hunted game meat in Alberta, it is perfectly legal for a hunter to give away meat hunted under a valid license. If you have a friend or family member who is an avid hunter, they may have excess meat taking up room in their freezers that will need to be disposed of before next season. If you talk to them before hunting season, they may be happy to save the organs or some nice soup bones just for you. I’m sure they would like to see it go to good use! Just be sure to check the laws in your jurisdiction when it comes to what’s legal and what’s not. Conversely, you may wish to take up hunting yourself if it’s something you think you might be interested in.
Shop the Flyers
Scott always jokes that he has never seen anyone read the grocery store flyers as diligently as I do. What can I say, old habits die hard. In all seriousness, though, it has saved us money when we can make a point of buying produce that is on sale in a given week. By checking the flyers before you go grocery shopping, you know what is on sale, and where, so you can make the best use of your time and money. I know I can always get good quality organic cauliflower at Superstore for around $4-5 per head, but when I see it on sale for $2.50-3 per head, I know it’s time to grab a few. Last week we found bulk carrots on sale for $18/25lbs, as opposed to the regular $15/10lbs. We are now the proud owners of a giant bag of carrots!
Get to Know Your Local Farmers’ Market
Familiarizing yourself with your local farmers’ market and the producers from which you most regularly shop can help out your bottom line. We often hit the farmers’ market on Sunday afternoons. This is usually when producers are trying to get rid of the products they don’t want to take home with them. I once received about 20 pounds of ripe bananas for free because they wouldn’t be any good by the time the market opened again the following week and the producer did not want to transport a whole bunch of bananas home just to throw them out. It pays to know your farmers/producers!
Mr. Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Saving money and sticking to a firm budget takes planning. There’s no way around it. One of the most helpful planning measures we find is doing a weekly meal plan. It saves us not only money, but time as well. Every weekend, we sit down and sort out what’s going on the menu for each meal for the coming week. In doing this, it cuts out the ever-annoying “What do you want for dinner?” conversation, plus it lets us know exactly how much we need of certain ingredients for that week. That way we don’t buy more of something than we need, which reduces our total grocery bill and food spoilage.
This one is not much fun, but it does help us save. Every time I make a new dish, I sit down and calculate exactly how much the ingredients cost. Of course, this will vary depending on sales or increased ingredient costs when out of season. Take the total cost of the dish and divide it by the number of servings. This gives me the total cost per serving. The process is useful for us because then we can compare dishes that we like against the cost per serving. From there we can make a financially-educated decision while meal planning. We aim to keep our cost/serving below $2.50. The lower we can keep that number, the less we have to spend on groceries.
Grow Your Own
One of the most basic and straightforward ways to trim your food cost is to produce your own. Whether it’s an apartment balcony or a sprawling acreage, growing your own food is economical, easy, and (personally) rather therapeutic. There is something special about the satisfaction of eating something you have grown from start to finish yourself. There are many easy and fast-growing herbs that do very well in containers on a window sill. Even things like carrots, beets, and zucchini can adapt well to small spaces.
With the increasing popularity of container gardening, an ever-growing library of resources is available to inspire you. Also be sure to check in with your local horticultural or gardening group/club. They will have fantastic tips and resources for raising veggies in your particular climate. They will also be in the know about your local community garden scene. Despite living in a two bedroom apartment, we have been able to stake a claim on 1200 sqft of garden space through our local community garden initiative. This will provide a good portion of our family’s veggies for the winter. We even have enough room to try growing some of our own sweet potatoes!
Following the AIP is certainly not the cheapest way to eat, but you and your body are worth the investment. One thing I like to keep in mind is this: the more nutrient-dense my food is, the less (volume) I will have to eat to get what I need. It is possible to provide your body the healing nourishment it needs without going bankrupt. It just takes some creative thinking, planning, and perseverance to stay on budget.
Have your own tips and tricks for saving money while following the AIP? I’d love to hear about them!