Richard Nikoley recently discussed the need for paleo to be cheap in order for it to become mainstream. He courageously says what we’re all thinking, blasting “the apologetically motivated faux emphasis on f–king vegetables in the Paleo community” and forcefully insisting that “a proper diet is a meat based diet.” Richard is right: eating lots of fancy organic vegetables is going to make your diet ridiculously expensive, and it’s not going to make you healthier. Vegetables have practically zero calories in them, so they don’t fill you up—they just run up your grocery bill. They’re not even that healthy when compared to animal foods. Following the Faileo Diet is not only difficult but expensive.
A real paleo regimen is heavy on fat, and plant foods play a minor role. Now, good paleo-quality meat is indeed expensive, but good paleo-quality fats are very cheap: I get pastured, organic pig fat for $2/lb and render it into lard, my staple source of calories. You can find cheap paleo meats as well: I often get bison hearts and livers for $1.50/lb. I get them ground so I can conveniently cook up a portion, and because ground meats can soak up more lard.
To get an idea of real food costs, you have to look at the cost per calorie, not the cost per weight that stores put on the price tags. Consider the real costs of a few foods. (Note that this only accounts for calories, it doesn’t take into account the value of micronutrients or the quality of the food. I intentionally excluded meat because you eat meat for structural protein, not for the calories):
- vegetables: 250-350 kcal/$
- fruits: 300-400 kcal/$
- potatoes, yams: 700-1000 kcal/$
- coconut milk: 800 kcal/$
- conventional butter or cream: 1000 kcal/$
- paleo-quality lard: 1600 kcal/$
- sugar: 4000 kcal/$
- flour: 6000 kcal/$
- canola oil: 7000 kcal/$
As you can see, trying to fill up on fruits and veggies is a waste of money. Eating nutrient dense foods is the way to keep paleo costs reasonable: fill up on cheap fats and use starchy vegetables as fat vehicles. Potatoes and yams can soak up wonderful amounts of fat. The fact is, budget paleo is high fat paleo.
Note also how cheap the 3 primary agents of disease are (sugar, grains, seed oil)… damn the government subsidies for those poisonous foods, and its regulations on healthy foods!
I eat a simple paleo diet pretty affordably: cheaper cuts of grass-fed beef and bison, cheap pork (organic, but grain-fed) from a local farmer, lots of lard, carrots/potatoes/yams/canned salmon as fat vehicles, some vegetables to cook up with ground beef, salsa for flavor, fruits eaten with coconut milk. I don’t like to spend time cooking so my meals are pretty plain (but paleo foods are tasty anyways). My focus is utilitarian: I like easy meals that efficiently nourish me. I never follow recipes—I just improvise with what’s on hand, probably just as paleo people did.