Grains are relatively cheap, and removing them from your diet can really hurt your wallet. When my family started the GAPS Diet nearly a year ago, our grocery costs skyrocketed! Over time, I've learned some ways to save money while still following a grain-free diet, and now our grocery bill is back to where it was pre-GAPS.
Buy meat in bulk
Buying meat in bulk can help enormously in reducing food costs. Last winter, we bought 40% of a grassfed steer and the price per pound (across all cuts) was less than $2.50! This price is absolutely amazing considering that ground beef from grassfed cows will run $8/pound at our natural foods co-op, and steak prices are downright exorbitant.
If you do purchase meat in bulk, make sure to ask for more than just the typical cuts. We requested bones, fat, cheek meat, tongue, and all of the organs (including the typical liver and the not so typical kidneys, oxtail, and sweetbreads). We got large bags of bones for making broth and large bags of fat for making tallow, all for free!
Shop less frequently
One of the most effective ways to save money on groceries is to shop less frequently. I'm not sure why it works so well, but by shopping once every two weeks instead of once every week, you can really cut your grocery bill. Shopping this way does take plenty of advance planning to make sure you buy enough and don't forget anything (I use a spreadsheet to keep track of the items I buy most frequently so I won't forget any of the essentials).
If you do try shopping less frequently, make sure you buy plenty of produce that keeps well for use during the second week. Lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes will only stay fresh for about a week; root vegetables will easily keep for several weeks. In our house, we eat lots of green salads the first week, and then rely more on avocados, onions, carrots, and beets the following week.
Shop at the farmer's market
Consumption of fruits and especially vegetables increased dramatically in our household once we stopped eating grains. Buying directly from farmers really makes a difference in price. We can buy produce at our local farmers' market for considerably less than at the grocery store. An added bonus is that the produce is wonderfully fresh and locally produced.
Buy produce in season
Even if you skip the farmers' market, you can save money on produce by preferentially buying what is in season throughout the year. For instance, when organic lemons are in season they cost less than $1/pound at our natural foods co-op. When out of season, they can easily run over $3/pound. Check produce prices carefully each time you shop to see which items are the best deal. My general rule of thumb is to only buy produce that costs under $2/pound.
Don't eat many nuts
Because they are great for snacking and as a base for grain-free baked goods, it is easy to rely very heavily on nuts while eating a grain-free diet. However, nuts are quite expensive and can also be a stumbling block to healing when they are consumed in excess. It may seem overwhelming, but keeping nut consumption to a minimum can really save you money in the long run. During our time on the GAPS Diet, my family has slowly reduced our nut consumption and it has made a big difference on our grocery costs.
Take advantage of the cheap foods allowed on your diet
Depending on which grain-free diet you are following, there are some inexpensive foods that can help reduce your food costs. Lentils and white navy beans are allowed on the GAPS Diet; potatoes and sweet potatoes are allowed in moderation on the Primal Blueprint Diet. Using these foods as the base for one meal each week can save you money, and they can also help add variety to your diet.
Taking the time to make your own drinks at home can also help your grocery spending. Water kefir soda, kombucha, and milk kefir are probiotic-filled drinks that can be made at home for a fraction of their storebought cost. If you know anyone who is making these drinks at home, check to see if they have any extra kefir grains or kombucha SCOBYs before buying your own. The Healthy Home Economist has great tutorials for making all of these drinks.
Do you have any tips for saving money on groceries?
This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!