I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Fred Frugal. Fred is a pretty basic guy. He has been married for 14 years. He’s a high school teacher in an average sized-city with an average-sized family (2.5 children, 1 dog). His wife, Frieda, works part-time in a luggage store at the local mall. The Frugals aren’t made of money but are comfortable with their steady income and modest home. Recently, Fred came in to our office with the desire to lose some weight, lower his blood sugars, and feel less tired. When we told Fred to give up pasta and cereal in favor of grass-fed meats, organic vegetables, nuts and seeds, and pasture-raised eggs, however, he became concerned. How was he to remain a frugal Frugal on this diet? Worse yet, he was told that this diet would really benefit his whole family. Gulp! How would the family afford this big change?
So the Frugals put their thinking caps on and came up with ways to make a Paleo-type diet less expensive than what they’d heard it could be (grass-fed steaks every night? Wild-caught fish fillets at lunch? Coconut flour pancakes at breakfast?? No way, Jose!) After some careful planning and plotting, they headed out to do some shopping.
The first stop was a usual haunt of the Frugals: COSTCO! Ah, yes, a bargain hunter’s dream. They’d read that quality fats were important on this Paleo plan, so a vat of coconut oil, a large bottle of olive oil, and a big box of butter (glorious butter) were placed in the cart. Oils and fats keep for ages and these three basics can be used for all of the cooking or to make tasty salad dressings. The family headed to the meat department and found some great deals on less expensive cuts of meat, such as grass-fed ground beef, chicken thighs/legs, and skirt steaks. Granted, the chicken and steaks weren’t organic, but the family agreed they’d eat the highest quality meats they could afford, and buying all meats as organic or grass-fed was not a viable option. Next stop: the frozen foods section! Here they found a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, some of which were even organic. Turns out, frozen produce is inexpensive, healthy, and easy to cook, especially by quickly steaming or even microwaving: what a big score for this working class family! They based which produce they bought organic vs. non-organic on the Dirty Dozen vs. Clean Fifteen list that Frieda found online. If the pesticide risk was low for certain foods, organic was definitely not a high priority! Finally, they picked up a bag of frozen wild-caught cod (much less pricey than salmon or halibut!) and some cans of tuna and sardines in water. All excellent, nutrient-rich foods to get this family’s journey to health off to a great start!
Next they were off to somewhere a bit less familiar: the local farmer’s market. Fred’s friend Hank had told him all about the rockin’ pot roast his wife Hilda made last week, purchased by a local rancher at the farmer’s market, so the Frugals thought they’d check it out. They realized that by buying cheaper cuts of grass-fed beef in bulk, such as chuck roasts and round roasts, they’d save money and could feed the family for several days with one roast! They also found some beef and lamb livers and kidneys for $3 a package!
Rooster, the rancher, shocked that they bought the usually untouched organ meats, exclaimed, “Nobody buys the awful offal! How about I discount it to $2 a package? And next time I’ll make sure I have extra liver for ya’ll!” The Frugals were beside themselves about their new connection with the local cowboy with the seriously good meat. They also found some local pasture-raised eggs for $4 a dozen, so they picked up two cartons. Eggs are an inexpensive and healthy form of fat and protein, and though they won’t buy pasture-raised every time, this was too good of a deal to pass up!
Onward they went on this quest for affordable nutrition! The last stop was a local health food store. This particular store was a favorite because they sold several foods in bulk bins for discounted prices. The family purchased a small bag of walnuts, one of almonds, and a veeeeeery small bag of macadamias as a treat (Frugals aren’t royalty, after all). They also grabbed a jar of pure almond butter. The family won’t eat nuts and seeds every day due to the cost, but shopping in bulk helps them be able to afford nuts occasionally. A perfect after school snack for the kids! They discussed picking up a package of coconut flour to bake with but after seeing the price, decided against it. They agreed that the Paleo specialty foods were unnecessary, and probably not as healthy as less processed fare, anyway.
Once the family unloaded their goodies, they sat down to determine ways to save for a large freezer, a ¼ cow and ½ pig. This way, they’d be able to buy large amounts of quality meats at a discount and freeze them to last throughout the year. In order to save for the freezer and these new foods, the Frugals brainstormed on what they could eliminate in their lives. This turned out to be easier than they thought! The family realized that they were spending money on many things they no longer cared about. The cable channels that Fred initially fought for were hardly watched. The Netflix Blu-rays that were delivered weekly were watched monthly. Little Frankie realized that he wasn’t reading his Sports Illustrated magazines anymore because he was outside playing more sports. Frieda agreed to stop her coffee runs and eating lunches in the food court: eating out is expensive and the food wasn’t good for her anyway. Even Fido realized that he no longer needed those pricey soy and gluten-based dog treats (Ruh-roh…) when Mom and Dad now give him raw, grass-fed bones from the rancher (Roo-Ray!!). There are so many things that families spend money on that can be deprioritized in the name of good health.
After a few months, the Frugals realized how good they felt. The kids hadn’t been sick, the adults were less stressed, and Fred lost 25 pounds. Their medical bills were less and less all the time-no need to see the doctor when in such good health! Frieda was able to stop taking several expensive supplements because she got her vitamins from all that nutrient-rich food. The family really enjoyed cooking their meals together, and on busier days, enjoyed coming home to a slow cooker grass-fed roast that was placed in the Crockpot that morning. In true Paleo fashion, they spent more time outside, talking and playing- activities that were not only free, but more enjoyable than yet another movie. The family even enjoyed Sunday meal prep together: they’d chop veggies instead of buying the pre-cut kind, cook several meals, and pop them in the freezer for the week’s lunches. And you might’ve guessed it- this saved even more money! And, so, as the Paleo story goes, this average sized family in their average sized city lived exceedingly above average, fit, healthy, fantastic lives. Fru-gal-rific!