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How to Pack an Allergy-Friendly Lunch

Welcome to Flawed yet Functional! Earlier in the year, I listed one of my goals of this blog was to create a place of encouragement for my readers. I’ve been contacted in the last few weeks by people at various stages in their life that need some encouragement and help changing their diet. I am thrilled to try to offer what I know. One area that pops up is packing a lunch that is AIP or Paleo approved but can be eaten on the go. Today I’d like to show you my formula for packing an AIP or Paleo sack lunch.

One of the people I’ve been chatting with is about to head off to her freshman year at college this fall. About a month ago, she was just diagnosed with some severe allergies: wheat, dairy, egg, soy, to name the majors. Yikes! What a blow to take when so much is already changing in your life! This post is aimed at her, but works for anyone who needs to pack a sack lunch on an AIP or Paleo diet.

I make sure my sack lunches cover 5 food categories: protein, vegetable, fruit, crunchy side, and snack. My goal is a filling, nutritious lunch with a little sweet treat. A sack lunch is just so much more palatable if you know there’s a goody in there rather than trying to make yourself eat a bag of vegetables. Pack what you know nourishes your body but pack to your preferences too!

Paleo sack lunch

A Good Lunch Bag

First, a good, insulated lunch box is key to keeping your lunch fresh and safe to eat once lunch time rolls around. I use this lunch box to pack my husband’s lunch everyday. He doesn’t use the refrigerators at his office, and everything in the box stays very cold until lunch time.

The key to this bag is the separate zippered pouches that hold the ice packs on both the top and bottom of the bag. The ice packs are thin so they don’t take up too much space in the bag, allowing maximum space for food. There is also an expandable section that you can open or close as your lunch requires. This is so handy as not all my lunch containers are the same size.

If you don’t have a Costco membership, just find an insulated lunch bag and the thinnest reusable ice packs to go inside it.

AIP or Paleo sack lunch

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5 Parts to a Great Sack a Lunch

Protein

Protein and fat are the cornerstones of any meal. They keep you full for a long time, so don’t neglect these just because they are a bit harder to pack. If your protein is on the lean side, try to get more fat in the lunch with a fatty vegetable like avocado or olives. My go-to proteins are:

  • Salami
  • Black Forest Ham
  • Chicken Salad
  • Smoked Salmon

Vegetable

Vegetables contain a lot of fiber which will aid digestion and help fill you up. I usually stick to raw vegetables at lunch time. They take longer to chew which helps me to slow down to give my brain time to catch up to my food! The other perk is quick prep: wash, cut and toss in a container!

  • Carrot sticks
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Cauliflower florets
  • Celery sticks
  • Sugar snap peas

Fruit

For my blood sugar levels, it is best for me to have my fruit at lunch. I have no problem burning off the carbs in the afternoon, so I pack about a 1/2 cup serving of fresh fruit in my lunches. Opt for whole, fresh fruit over a processed fruit like a smoothie or fruit bar. Whole fruits have more fiber in them which allow the blood sugar to rise less. And it’s just better to eat whole food versus processed!

  • Whole apple
  • Banana
  • Fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
  • Clementines

Salty/Crunchy Option

There’s just something about a salty snack that is so satisfying, isn’t there? My salty option might just be for munching or might be a holder for my protein. Like almond crackers with almond cream cheese and smoked salmon or pork rinds for scooping up chicken salad. If you know you like a salty snack, pack one that fits in your diet so you aren’t tempted to cheat!

Snack (optional)

Depending on how your day is structured, you may or may not need a snack. If you will be out of your house/dorm for most of the day, pack a snack just in case. I think it’s better to be prepared just in case you get hungry. It’s more cost effective to purchase a box of Larabars from the grocery store than buying them individually from a convenience store!

My go-to snacks are:

  • Trail Mix – homemade or storebought
  • Larabars – homemade or storebought
  • Almond butter packet
  • Something dipped in almond butter (apples, celery, etc.)

Those five pieces makes for a nutritious, satisfying lunch. Would you like some suggestions for what to pack together? I’m so glad you asked! Below are five Paleo sack lunch combos that go together and require very little prep, most of the items can be purchased already made in the store, perfect for college students or anyone packing their lunch!

AIP or Paleo sack lunchIf you are shopping for one person, I would not aim for a different lunch every day. Variety is not cost effective when only shopping for one. If that is your case, I would pick one or two of these options to eat for a week. For example, a box of Larabars come with 5 bars, so I would plan my snack for Monday through Friday’s lunches to be that flavor of Larabar. If you don’t like eating the same thing every day for lunch then pick two options an alternate back and forth for the week.

Try to buy only what you will eat and avoid waste. That way your body and your budget will both be healthier through your efforts to pack a healthy Paleo sack lunch!


What are your go-to sack lunches that don’t include a sandwich? Does the idea of lunch without bread shock you? Do you have a favorite raw veggie? I could always use more suggestions for vegetables!

 

Garlic & Onion Sweet Potato Fries
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Garlic & Onion Sweet Potato Fries | Paleo, AIP Recipe

Welcome to Flawed yet Functional! I am an insulin-free Type 1 Diabetic currently working through the reintroduction phase of the Autoimmune Protocol. Sweet potatoes are a mainstay in my AIP Paleo diet, and I’ve made them many different ways. Today I’d like to share a favorite recipe of my family’s: Garlic & Onion Sweet Potato Fries.


So I eat a lot of sweet potatoes. A lot. My last grocery shopping trip (to feed a family of four for two weeks) included purchasing 21 pounds of sweet potatoes. Ha, 21 pounds! It’s funny to me that I used to think sweet potatoes only appeared at Thanksgiving and now they make a daily appearance on my plate!

sweet potato fries sliced

Roasting is the most flavorful way to eat just about any vegetable. The intense heat of the oven really brings out the best in veggies. Toss on some seasoning if you want to amp up the flavor. I’ve experimented with a variety of seasoning combinations, and truly, most anything is delicious on a sweet potato. Garlic and onion together are a winning combination in my book. They go together like peanut butter and jelly!

Besides roasting and the spices, another key to this killer recipe is bacon grease. Instead of using olive oil or coconut oil (very acceptable if you don’t have bacon grease on hand though!), use a couple tablespoons of bacon grease to coat the fries and help the seasoning stick to the sweet potatoes. I pour any bacon grease into a mason jar after I cook bacon so I usually have it on hand.

sweet potato fries spices

The bacon grease should be soft, so just toss the spices and grease on the potatoes then stir with a wooden spoon. Keep mixing until the fries are evenly coated.

sweet potato fries seasoned

One final note for success: spread the fries out in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. A single layer is key for quick, even cooking. I usually have two pans of these when I make them, and I find them cook just fine using both the top and bottom rack of them oven.

sweet potato fries on pan

Hands down, my favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is roasted. Slicing them in these uniform 1/2″ sticks allows for quick, even cooking with a lot of surface area for crisping. I roast them for about 15 minutes at 425° then put them under the broiler to add more color and crisp. Don’t be afraid of a little black! That’s delicious char right there!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I usually make enough of these fries to eat as leftover for breakfast or lunch the next day. To reheat, place the sweet potato fries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place under broiler and cook for a few minutes, watching carefully so they don’t burn! Flip the fries over and broil for another 1-3 minutes. The fries will be good as new! A much better texture than if they were reheated in the microwave.

Garlic & Onion fries are delicious plain or serve them with Avocado Mayo (AIP friendly) or Chipotle Mayo (Paleo friendly). Enjoy!

sweet potato fries plated

Garlic & Onion Sweet Potato Fries

Paleo, AIP sweet potato fries, a savory side dish that will please the whole family

Course Side Dish
Cuisine AIP, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Paleo
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 164 kcal
Author Emily Stauch

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes peeled, sliced into 1/2" sticks
  • 2 Tbsp bacon grease
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

  2. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1/2" fries, about 3 inches long.

  3. Place sweet potatoes in a large bowl and add remaining ingredients: bacon grease, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt, and pepper. 

  4. Stir the sweet potatoes until all the fries are evenly covered in bacon grease and spices.

  5. Spread sweet potatoes on lined baking sheet, leaving space between the fries. Use a second baking sheet if necessary.

  6. With rack in top 1/3 of the oven, bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and broil for 3-6 minutes or until desired crisp and color.

Recipe Notes

This recipe has 25g of carbohydrates per serving.

 

Garlic & Onion Sweet Potato Fries

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Almond Date Bars | AKA Homemade Larabars

Hello and welcome to Flawed yet Functional!

I am a Type 1 Diabetic who has found healing of my gut and thereby insulin-free management of my diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is also called insulin-dependent diabetes (The pancreas is dead or dying.) but not for me! How have I managed to not be on insulin? I follow a gluten-free, high vegetable, and dairy-free diet, a.k.a. Paleo! You will find inspiration to be your healthiest self here at Flawed yet Functional, diabetic or not. So glad you stopped by!


Let’s talk about snacks today. Snacks are so important when you have kids. All you parents out there can attest to this, I’m sure. I don’t leave the house without a snack packed, if we are going to be gone more than an hour. Grocery shopping, hardware store, or even just a long drive to a friend’s house, snacks are always on hand.

One of our favorite is Almond Date Bars or more commonly, homemade Larabars (or “laraballs” according to an ever-so-precise 2 or 4 year old). These tasty treats are full of raw nuts and dates. In fact, if you disregard the pinch of salt and splash of vanilla, they are only raw nuts and dates! A snack with a very short list of easily known ingredients? This is a snack I can get behind!

Other perks???

  • Quick to make
  • Kids can help make it
  • No hidden ingredients
  • Raw/whole ingredients
  • Hand held
  • Just sticky enough to hold together while little ones eat it
  • Perfect.

When I make Almond Date Bars, I blend them up in my Vitamix. Be careful if you are using a blender! These ingredients put a lot of stress on the motor. I start on low, letting the dates and almonds bounce around and get roughly chopped. When it all looks uniform but still large pieces, I turn up the power 1 or 2 notches until pieces are smaller but still bouncing. Lastly, I turn the power up 1 or 2 more notches and use the damper to push the mixture down to the blade. When a paste starts to form, I quickly stop. It should look blended, sticky, and with chunks the size of the almond pieces in the pictures above.

If you smell the motor start to smoke, STOP. You can, in fact, burn out a motor on a Vitamix. Ask me how I know…not with this recipe in particular, but we’ve put our Vitamix through the ringer these last 8 or 9 years. We love it, but we are on our 3rd motor…good thing the warranty is for 10 years!

If you don’t have a Vitamix, you can also pulse these in a food processor. I haven’t made them using this appliance, so I can’t explain how it works, but follow the same guidelines, pulse carefully until mixture turns sticky and almonds are chopped small. Be careful not to overwork the motor.

There may be some or quite a bit of loose almond bits. Don’t worry about those! Pour the mixture, loose nuts and all onto a clean surface. Kneed the “dough” to incorporate all the loose nuts and make a uniform, sticky ball.

Roll out and cut into bars or grab a small piece and roll into a ball. This step is perfect for little helpers. My kids love rolling these into balls (and snacking on one or two while they are at it!).

There are recipes a plenty for Date Bars, aka mock Larabars, but this almond combination is our favorite. Check out this post for more flavor combinations!

Enjoy!

Almond Date Bars

Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, kid-friendly homemade Larabars. Simple to blend up. No cooking involved!

Course Snack
Cuisine Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Kid-friendly, Paleo
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 12 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 160 kcal
Author Emily Stauch

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup whole, pitted dates
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 pinches sea salt

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients into a blender. Turn on low until almonds are roughly chopped. Turn up blender slowly, damping the dates and almonds down. Work quickly, this will be heavy on the motor. Turn off as soon as almonds are chopped small and forms sticky lumps.

  2. **Can be made in a food processor too. Pulse to chop and combine ingredients until it forms sticky lumps.**

  3. Pour out onto a mat and kneed together, incorporating any loose almonds.

  4. Roll into individual balls or roll out in rectangle and cut into bars. 

homemade almond larabar

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Almond Butter & Jelly Roll-ups

Welcome to Flawed yet Function! I am a Type 1, insulin-free, Diabetic managing my blood sugar through a Paleo diet and a healthy lifestyle. I love to cook, which is a good since Paleo requires a lot of cooking! I share my own Paleo and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) recipes on the blog, but you can find so many more ideas on my Pinterest boards. Follow me there to see what I might be cooking next! 


As a kid, I hated peanut butter. Absolutely hated it. So much so, my mom actually allowed me to forgo it whenever we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This is saying something, my mom was an eat-what’s-put-in-front-of-you kind of mom (as I am…weird…). I did not like the texture:  so sticky! The feeling of my tongue getting stuck to the roof of my mouth, not being able to get it off my teeth. Ugh! I did not like the flavor either: nuts were not my thing.

And then, I grew up. Ha. I learned to love peanut butter after I graduated from college. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch was like dessert for the main course. Yum!

Funny story: my husband lived on PB&J while he saved for my engagement ring, so needless to say he wasn’t fond of this sandwich when we got married. I fell in love with this kid-friendly favorite right when he couldn’t stand it. I learned quickly as a new wife to not send PB&J in his lunch. Ha!

Pre-diabetes diagnosis, my kids and I would eat peanut butter and jelly on the regular for lunch. I thought I was giving my kids a healthy meal of whole grains from our homemade bread and protein from the peanut butter. I knew the jelly wasn’t healthy, but I figured that it was a small enough amount to not be TOO harmful. Right?

Fast-forward through the type 1 diabetes diagnosis, elimination of gluten, introduction of many veggies, and our lunches turn out to be primarily leftovers from dinner. Really, this isn’t a problem. My kids eat leftovers just fine. But every now and then, I want to give them a treat. I want them to know the sticky, sweet goodness of peanut butter and jelly.

In order to indulge in this treat, I had to make several adjustments:

  1. Almond butter instead of peanut butter (peanuts are inflammatory)
  2. Homemade jelly instead of store bought (cut down on unknown ingredients)
  3. A Paleo, grain-free, dairy-free wrap to hold the goodness together.

Almond butter is now a staple in our home. I buy ours from Costco. I make strawberry freezer jam every June from strawberries we pick down the road. The wraps were the only tricky part. I found this recipe for soft tortilla shells, and after we ate them with chicken tacos, I thought they could be so much more versatile than just a tortilla. The flavor is mostly egg and quite mild egg flavor at that. I adjusted the ratios to make the wrap a little thicker to hold up to the almond butter and jelly, see my version below.

With a few leftover wraps from chicken tacos the night before, I decided to give them a whirl as a holder for almond butter and jelly. It looked like it might be a sticky mess so I rolled it up.

kid-friendly lunch paleo pb&j

As with all new foods, presentation is everything. I enthusiastically presented them to my kids as Almond Butter & Jelly Roll-ups, and they were a hit! They loved picking up the roll and taking bits from the end or cutting it up into bite-size rolls.

paleo kid lunch

I serve our lunches with fresh fruit and veggies to add nutrition to an otherwise fairly nutrition-less main course. Again, this is not a staple in our house anymore, just a treat which the kids and I love (Hubby is still on the fence!).

Note: When starting from a fresh batch of wraps, I let them sit on a plate or cutting board to cool a bit until just warm before topping with almond butter and jelly. If the wrap is too warm, the almond butter and jelly melts. The wrap is still pliable when cold, but a touch warm is much easier to roll.


Any one else used to hate peanut butter (or any nut butter!) as a kid? Am I alone in this aversion? So funny that now I can’t get enough of it. I love any type of nut butter. Yum!

Paleo Wrap

Grain-free, dairy-free, and kid-friendly wrap good for many uses: tortilla shell, wrap for sandwiches, or low-carb pancakes!

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Grain-free, Paleo
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 104 kcal
Author Emily Stauch

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Whisk eggs in large mixing bowl.

  2. Add coconut flour, almond milk, and salt. Whisk to completely mix. Batter will be thin.

  3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. 

  4. When pan is hot, pour ~1/4 cup amounts of batter to middle of the skillet. Use the back of the measuring cup to spread batter out into thin circle.

  5. Cook until light brown on one side, flip and cook on other side. Total cook time is short, less than 1 minute.

Recipe Notes

*Cook one at a time to avoid wraps running into each other.

*Store in airtight container in fridge.

kid friendly pb&j

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Paleo Hot Chocolate

Here’s a Paleo and kid-friendly treat for you and your family! My kids love to play out in the snow in the wintertime, and they equally love to get a cup of hot cocoa when they come back in! Dairy-free hot chocolate is hard to find in a pre-made mix, but it is super easy to whip up on the stove. Paleo hot chocolate is gluten-free, dairy-free, and grain-free!

For more Paleo recipe ideas, follow me on Pinterest!


This is one area I have a little bit of guilt over in regards to this Paleo lifestyle: my kids missing out.

I know the health facts. I know I am setting them up for the healthiest, longest, disease-free life with this diet and lifestyle. And yet, it is still hard to tell them no.

No, you can’t have animal crackers at Bible study.

No, you can’t have half of your Halloween candy.

No, you can’t have those florescent cupcakes and pizza at the birthday party.

Sigh.

It is just hard to say no even when I know it’s the right thing to do. I KNOW those things aren’t good for them (even the gluten, grain, and dairy-free Halloween candy isn’t good for them!), but it tastes good. I know it does. They know it does.

They are really so good and understanding of why we eat the way we eat, but it is still hard for this momma at times.

So…today…I want to share with you my version of hot chocolate. I make this Paleo-friendly version so my kids can experience that sweet chocolate-y warm goodness when they come in from playing in the snow.

Almond Milk Hot Chocolate

It’s still has sugar in it, so this isn’t a healthy recipe by any means, but it’s a treat that I like to indulge my kids with so they have part of a normal childhood.

It is still rich and chocolate-y, just like regular hot chocolate.

easy paleo hot chocolate

Depending on your choice of sugar and milk, the flavor will be slightly different, but this recipe is very flexible. Use the milk and sugar of your choice, just keep the ratios the same. I use almond milk which give a nice nutty depth of flavor. I haven’t tried with coconut milk, but I’m sure that would be great too!

Stove top hot chocolate

Paleo Hot Chocolate

Kid-friendly, dairy-free hot chocolate for the whole family to enjoy!

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes
Servings 1
Author Emily Stauch

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a small sauce pan. Pour in 1/4 cup of almond milk and whisk until mostly smooth and dissolved.

  2. Turn heat on medium-low and whisk continuously until sugar is completely dissolved, about 30 seconds.

  3. Pour in the remaining almond milk and whisk until combined. Heat until desired temperature.

  4. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • Use any milk or milk-alternative
  • Use any sugar

Paleo mommas, what do think your kids “need” to indulge in? Where do you make allowances in their diet? Sugar? Dairy? How often do you allow treats? For reference, I think I make this once a week in the winter.

Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate

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Making a Paleo Diet Affordable

Welcome to Flawed yet Functional! I am a Type 1 Diabetic managing my diabetes through a Paleo diet and healthy lifestyle. I am insulin-free, gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free. While I believe a paleo diet is the optimal diet for good health, it comes with a price tag doesn’t it? It’s not a secret that fresh, healthy food costs more than processed, packaged food. So how do I make a Paleo diet affordable?

I’m always curious how people live the life they live, so I’m here to share mine. My purpose is not for you to compare and feel better or worse about yourself, but just to give a point of reference. I know we all have limited funds to feed, clothe, and house ourselves, and we all put different emphasis on those aspects. In our house, we put a big emphasis on food, healthy food. The natural outcome of that is we spend good chunk of our monthly budget on food.

To level set, I shop for two weeks at a time, and I am buying food for 4 people: 2 adults and 2 kids (2 and 4). Truth be told, my kids eat as much as adults so I buy/make a lot of food! My grocery budget is for food only. Toiletries, dog food, paper products, eating out, etc. come out of other parts of the budget. The grocery budget is for groceries only.

We budget $260 for food for two weeks. I plan out my trips before I go so I know if I’m going to hit my budget or not. If I need a little extra money, I will likely borrow for our “Parties” or “Miscellaneous” category. I can usually do it for $260 though, give or take $10.

I have no idea if this is high or low, and I don’t actually care to know. This is the amount that fits into our budget and puts fresh, healthy, life-giving food on the table.

I’ve been brainstorming how to make a Paleo diet affordable, because it is, quite frankly, expensive. Here is what I came up with, but I’m sure there are more ways to stretch your dollar! If you have other ideas, please share in the comments below!

How to Afford Paleo

Menu Plan

You need a plan. You will overspend and impulse buy if you don’t have a list already made out before you go into the store. I just read in The Power of Habit that people tend to buy the same things when they grocery shop whether or not they need it and whether or not it is on their list. What? That’s crazy-town people! Make your list, and buy what is on your list! Be stronger than the urge to add to your cart “just in case.” You will have plenty to eat by only buying the things on your list.

Use the Food in the Freezer/Pantry

Let’s be real with each other: we all have food sitting in our pantry or frozen in the freezer that’s been there for a very long time. I menu plan precisely, and I have it too! To save money next time you shop, look at what you already have on hand. Make a plan to use it in a meal, or just get rid of it. Why let it keep cluttering up your precious space in your pantry or freezer?

Embracing the Garden/Hunting or Other’s Garden/Hunting

If you have a garden, learn how to eat all that your garden produces and preserve the overflow of what you can’t eat. Don’t let it rot! Search for recipes on Pinterest that use whatever your garden is producing currently or seek out good cookbooks for seasonal vegetables and fruits.

The hunting item has been huge for us this year. Dan got a deer this fall, and I’ve always been a little leery of hunted meat. I don’t know why. I’m just used to my meat coming neatly packaged from the grocery store. If you have access to wild game, it can save you so much money! We replaced our beef with venison for almost 2 months this winter. Two months of not buying red meat! Huge savings! We ate it all ways: hamburgers, meatloaf, steaks, roast, casseroles, tacos, etc. If a recipe called for beef, I substituted venison, and we rarely noticed a flavor difference.

One more tidbit, take advantage of other people’s gardens or hunting. If your neighbor has an abundance of zucchini, take it! You can do so much more than bake a quick bread with it. If your friend offers you wild game, accept it readily! Plop it into any well-seasoned soup, and I doubt you’ll notice a difference. Don’t feel like a mooch. You are preventing good food from going to waste. Take advantage of it!

Have a Budget

I’m not just talking about the grocery budget. If you want $260 free to spend on groceries without the electricity getting turned off, you need to budget all of your money. I highly recommend You Need a Budget. It’s a easy and relatively in-expensive tool to get all of your money in line. Learning discipline in all spending is a worthwhile endeavor, but if you focus on your food budget first, the rest will fall in line much easier. There’s something about budgeting for groceries that teaches important habits and discipline that will leak into your other areas of spending.

Dining Out

Budget for it so you can enjoy it and not break the bank when you do. While this won’t actually save you money, you need a break from the kitchen. Make it a priority by setting aside a little money from each paycheck to make this possible. Research a restaurant before you go that will accommodate your dietary needs then sit back and enjoy not cooking!

Plan, Plan, Plan, then Plan Some More

Even after you’ve made your menu plan, keep checking ahead a few days as you go through your week to make sure the meals will work with the scheduled activities for each day. For example, we decided to make a last minute trip up north to go skiing as a family. I needed a meal that could sit warming in the crock pot for hours in the lodge while we ski. I looked ahead, swapped a couple meals, and we were good to go on a day ski trip without spending money eating out and without sacrificing our dietary needs.

Stretch

Every so often, about once every couple months, I challenge myself to go an extra week before grocery shopping. You don’t have to go that long, but pick a certain amount of time and challenge yourself to clean out of the pantry, eat all the leftovers, and use things that have been sitting in the freezer for a long time. It will seem hard the first day or two, but you will quickly get into creating meals from odds and ends. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how easily you make it to your goal day.

Cook at Home from Scratch

By now, you know I’m an advocate for eating at home. It’s healthier and cheaper than eating out. It’s also much easier to manage dietary restrictions in your own kitchen! What I want to touch on is “healthy”  convenience packaging. I’ve talked about packaged salad mixes before, but my latest discovery is frozen cauliflower “rice.” Yes, you can buy it already chopped small, ready to be cooked.

If you have to buy it for convenience sake, then do so, by all means. It’s better to eat it from frozen then not at all. Just know you are paying WAY more.

My last cauliflower purchase from Aldi was $5.20 for 2 heads of cauliflower. I weighed my bowl after I chopped it in my blender: 4 pounds. This week, Meijer has frozen riced cauliflower on sale for $2.29 for 12 ounces. That would cost over $12 to get 4 pounds of cauliflower rice. I just have to mention that cauliflower was on sale my most recent shopping trip at Horrocks. I paid $.79 per head of cauliflower: $1.58 for roughly 4 pounds of cauliflower rice! If you can spare the time, cook from scratch. It’s vastly cheaper. Don’t get me started on salad dressing, cake mixes, and really any convenience food….

Build up a Supply of Spices (Slowly)

Spices can be expensive, especially less common ones (I finally found annatto seed! It took me about a month!). When planning your menu for the week, keep new spices to one dish or maybe two. If you are buying more than that each time you grocery shop, you are likely forking over more than $10 just on spices. I’m not saying it’s not worth it. It totally is! Just spread out buying them so they don’t break the budget.

Another tip is buying seasonal spices at the end of the season. My last shopping trip, I was able to get nutmeg, cream of tartar, sage, and rosemary for $.79 each because they had Christmas labels on them. If you have wiggle room in your budget, pick up a couple when you see deals like this.

My last tip on spices is organize them. You’ve got to know what you have so you don’t waste money buying a spice you already have one or two jars of. I did this early on in my marriage with cinnamon. I kept thinking I didn’t have any, so I’d pick up another as I walked down they aisle (the habit mentioned above!). At one point, I had four jars of cinnamon. Four! I like cinnamon, but that was a lot. It took us a while to consume that much!

Organized Spice Rack

Don’t let the Fresh Produce Rot

Like this post on green onions, learn how to properly store your more fragile produce so it will last your entire menu planning period. Do a quick Google search for whatever you bought. You will find several ideas for any type of produce.

When in doubt, take the original wrapping off, rinse it, wrap in paper towel, then loosely set in plastic bag in the fridge. This works with everything from kale to lettuce to parsnips to cilantro.

Those are my top 10 ways to make a Paleo diet affordable. It’s more about planning and learning skills in the kitchen then chasing coupons and sales. The more you practice planning, chopping, looking ahead, etc., the easier and more second nature it will become. Before you know it, eating Paleo will not take any more effort than how you are eating now and you will be able to do it within your budget.


That’s my top 10! How do you maximize your grocery dollars? Shop less often? Shop at more stores? Shop at fewer stores?

Paleo Diet Affordable