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Do you ever feel frustrated by how expensive it is to eat a healthy diet? Are you waging a constant battle between your desires to eat well and also be frugal? My wife and I can sympathize. We have tried a number of different diets, and though each one was different, one thing seemed to remain consistent: eating healthy food and eliminating or reducing junk food was incredibly expensive! When we started the Whole30 program for the first time, I braced myself for a big hit to our budget. To my surprise, we were able to eat Whole30 and save money instead of spending more.
Whole30 is a powerful program capable of changing not only your relationship with food but also the relationship between food and money.Whether you’ve tried Whole30 many times or don’t even know what it is yet, I hope that the tips and tricks below will help you and your family try Whole30 without spending your whole paycheck on food.
What is Whole30?
If you are familiar with Whole30, please skip this section – otherwise, read on.
The Whole30 Program has been used by millions of people since 2009. Over the course of 30 days, participants eat only real food and follow only a few fairly common sense restrictions. The payoff? At the end of 30 days you’ll feel much better, and as you slowly reintegrate foods back into your diet, you can find your trigger foods. The Whole30 website describes the program well:
Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.
Participants may NOT eat any of the following items:
- Added sugar of any kind, real or artificial (honey, agave, Stevia, etc.)
- Alcohol of any kind, even if used for cooking
- Grains of any kind
- Legumes (includes peanut butter)
- Dairy products of any kind
- Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
- Imitation baked goods, sweets, or junk foods, even if they are made with 100% approved Whole30 ingredients (i.e. you can’t make pancakes or pizza with approved ingredients)
There are notable exceptions:
- Natural fruit juice is allowed
- The following legumes are allowed – Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas
- Salt (technically, most salt contains sugar, but this is allowed)
If you’ve never experienced Whole30, I get it – it sounds like the worst idea of all time. But if you’re willing to push yourself and make big changes, you can completely change your relationship with food and make major improvements to your health. I’m by no means a doctor or an expert on Whole30 – so take what I have to say at face value and with a grain of salt – but I have seen the program have a great impact on dozens of friends. It worked well for me and my wife, and we still follow many of the guiding principles of the program.
Put simply: Whole30 works.
Frugal Whole30 Tips and Tricks
If you’re ready to eat Whole30 and commit to 30 days of change – great! I’m confident the experience will teach you a lot. My hope is that the following tips and tricks will help you to eat Whole30 while still maintaining frugal habits. They helped us avoid raising our food budget, so I’m confident they can work for you, too.
1. Stay Out of Restaurants
Confession time: I love eating out, so staying out of restaurants was impossible for me. I was able to find Whole30 approved options at a few places, namely Chipotle, but staying out of restaurants and cooking at home is your best bet. You’ll save money and enjoy better meals.
2. Plan Meals At Least One Week in Advance
This principle applies to anyone trying to save money on groceries, so it definitely applies to Whole30 participants – if you don’t have a plan, plan to fail.
Plan all of your meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – one week at a time. Make a chart similar to this one and list everything you will need on your shopping list.
3. Buy Diverse Ingredients
This is also a universal meal planning principle. Maintaining stock of diverse, Whole30-approved ingredients will help you in a pinch if, for example, a meal is ruined or you don’t make it out for your next shopping trip. You’ll avoid an unexpected run to Chipotle.
4. Buy Meat in Bulk
Likewise, buying meat in bulk is a majorly frugal way to eat Whole30 without destroying your budget. This is a great time to put your Costco membership to good use.
You can also shop locally when buying meat in bulk and save a ton of money through a free program called Zaycon Fresh.
Zaycon Fresh provides high-quality, farm fresh meat directly from local farmers to your table – and their prices typically beat even Aldi and Wal-Mart!
When you sign-up for FREE, Zaycon will leverage the buying power of several local families on your behalf and help you save money on food by purchasing items in bulk. They send you daily e-mail alerts on local sales events, and when you place your order, they take care of the rest. When your order is ready, you bring your receipt to a designated pick-up location near your home and collect your fresh, inexpensive meat without even leaving your car.
Zaycon Fresh is currently available in 1,200 communities nationwide, and you can sign-up for FREE to save money on food today.
5. Buy Frozen Vegetables
Frozen vegetables are a life saver on Whole30. You can often find buy one, get one free sales on many frozen vegetables at your local grocer. Keep a healthy stock of green beans (technically a legume, but Whole30 approved), carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables that can be used in a variety of meals or eaten as a snack.
6. Freeze Nuts
Credit goes to my friend Mrs. Picky Pincher for this tip. If you freeze your Whole30-approved nuts, they will stay fresh for much longer. Nuts are expensive, so don’t waste them!
7. Shop at Aldi
I know it isn’t as cool or trendy as Whole Foods, but if you haven’t visited Aldi recently, you might be pleasantly surprised if you give it another chance. The growing grocer has expanded its offerings, including organic and Whole30-approved options, to help shoppers save money on food and live a healthier life.
Aldi is currently investing $1.6 billion to remodel 1,300 of its 1,600 stores by 2020. Low prices won’t be affected by these changes, the company insists.
8. Plate Portions For Your Family
Have you ever prepared enough food to last for two meals only to have hungry family members take seconds or thirds, leaving you with you no meal for the next day? Apparently I do this to my wife all the time.
You can stretch Whole30 meals further by plating meals yourself rather than allowing family members to serve themselves family style. Controlled portions will ensure that your kids don’t waste half of their dinner, and as a bonus, everyone will avoid overeating.
9. Eat Salads for Lunch
I’m about as close to a carnivore as a person can get, but I started to look forward to my salad at lunch while on Whole30. If you add in a few pieces of grilled chicken, approved nuts, fruits, and even a few dates, you’ll have a satisfying and frugal lunch.
10. Carry a Water Bottle With You Everywhere
Did you know that people often confuse signs of thirst with signs of hunger? Especially while you are trying to eat Whole30, carry a water bottle everywhere. Staying hydrated will help you limit snacks between meals.
11. Eat Lots of Eggs
If you’re like me and don’t care for eggs, this won’t work for you. But my wife ate eggs nearly every day on Whole30. Per serving, eggs are one of the most economical breakfast foods, especially if you buy them in bulk.
12. Buy Whole Chickens
Buying a whole chicken is not as convenient as buying packaged chicken breasts or thighs, but it can save you a lot of money while you eat Whole30.
13. Cook with Olive Oil
Especially when you start to eat Whole30, your body will crave the fats you used to feed it. Olive oil is a healthy fat that also happens to be very budget friendly, so don’t be afraid to use it!
14. Use Spices to Achieve Bold Flavors
If you eat baked chicken, potatoes, and broccoli every day, you’re going to lose your mind. Experiment with new spices to add new twists to every day meals. A few changes here and there can help you create totally different meals to satisfy your food urges and keep you from running out to Chipotle.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Spice Bazaar Moroccan Blend
- Brazilian Spice Blend
- The Gourmet Collection Pineapple Mango & Lime Chipotle Spice Blend
15. Bake Your Own Plantain Chips
If you’re a fan of plantain chips, you probably know that they are often expensive at your local grocery store. We used plantain chips to add crunch to Mexican dishes like tacos and pork carnitas, but we didn’t make our own. Next time around we will follow this simple recipe (and omit the sugar).
16. Eat Larabars for Breakfast or Lunch
Not all Larabars are Whole30 approved – so be careful – but I grew to love having a Lemon Bar Larabar for breakfast or lunch most days. Amazon has great prices on Larabars, so set-up a price alert and wait for good deals.
17. Don’t Buy Organic Everything
The Whole30 website suggests that organic is the best way to go while on the program, but I don’t believe it is worth blowing up your budget to buy everything organic. If the non-organic alternatives are significantly cheaper, take advantage of the opportunity as long as it doesn’t bother you.
18. Use a Crockpot
If you don’t have a Crockpot, getting one and using it is crucial to Whole30 survival. A Crockpot can make even inexpensive cuts of meat melt in your mouth like butter.
If you already have one, I recommend buying a second. We often used both of ours to cook multiple meals for the week on Sundays. I also highly recommend purchasing a model with a timer function – the few extra dollars are definitely worth it!
19. Use Clarified Ghee
If you’re missing dairy while you eat Whole30, ghee can help cure your urges. We used ghee available at Trader Joe’s a few times each week to help limit our cravings.
20. Chipotle is Your Last Resort
As I’ve hinted at above, Chipotle can be your life-saving line of defense if you’re in a pinch during Whole30. A salad bowl with pork carnitas is 100% Whole30-approved, delicious, and comes in under $10 – which is much less expensive than many other Whole30 options! Just be careful to avoid other meats, as they are cooked in oils which are not Whole30 compliant.
You CAN Eat Whole30 AND Stay on Budget!
Making a decision to take on the Whole30 Program doesn’t have to be a commitment to spend your whole paycheck on food. If you do it the right way, you can improve your health and save money on Whole30.
Whole30 is a powerful program capable of changing not only your relationship with food but also the relationship between food and money. Whether you’re about to try Whole30 for the first or fiftieth time, I hope that the tips and tricks above will help you stay frugal at the same time.