The Whole30 is a crazy-popular, life-changing, 30-day reset for your relationship with food and your eating habits. For thirty straight days, you’ll focus on eating nutrient-dense foods like animal protein, vegetables, healthy fats, fruits, nuts and seeds, while eliminating potentially problematic foods like dairy, grains, added sugars, legumes, and alcohol. Once the thirty days have passed, you reintroduce each food group one by one, evaluating the effects on your body, mind, and brain. It’s truly life-changing.
It’s also, if you’re not careful, expensive. The “edges” of the grocery store (produce, deli, etc.) are often the highest-priced, and pre-made Whole30-approved sauces and seasonings are usually expensive. Fortunately, there are so many ways to cut costs and still have a delicious, amazing Whole30. Here are my top ten tips for doing the Whole30 on a budget.
1. Plan, plan, plan. It sounds obvious, and it is. The more prepared you are when you head to the grocery store, the less likely you are to stray from your shopping list. I like to shop every five days, with a plan in hand for those five days of meals. That way, I’m not buying vegetables that will go bad or meat I won’t use. Not to mention the time you’ll save by simply running in and out with only what you need.
2. Buy in bulk. As they say, the more you buy, the more you save! I highly recommend choosing three kinds of vegetables, two protein sources, and one to two types of fruit for every five days. Costco, Sam’s Club or similar big box stores sell cheaper in bulk — and even organic varieties can be affordable in bulk, too! I also stock up on nuts at the beginning of a Whole30 (but be sure to check your labels carefully to see if they were roasted in any oil or seasoning).
3. Shop the sales. Beyond buying your weekly protein, veggies, and fruit in bulk, consider which items are on sale to help cut your grocery bill even further. I like to pick up a weekly mailer from stores like Target or Fresh Thyme to see which items are on sale, and plan my meals around those sale items.
4. Make your own everything. While it may be tempting to purchase a $9 bottle of salad dressing that’s compliant with the Whole30, the cost adds up quick. It can save a lot of money to make your own ketchup, ranch, mayonnaise, ghee, spiralized veggies, and so on. If you’re looking to cut costs, taking the time to make things on your own will have perhaps the greatest impact on saving money.
5. Eat your leftovers. Since you’re already making the majority of your meals at home, you’ll have the luxury of leftovers. Yes, I said luxury. Making extra of each meal and saving your leftovers can help eliminate food waste as well as save time in the kitchen. Just be sure to write the date on any leftovers you have to ensure they’re eaten in time.
6. Use an online grocer. In addition to big box stores, there are amazing online grocers like Thrive Market that sell healthy products at a discount. I often find that I save as much as 40% off these products consistently on Thrive Market—no sales hunting necessary. Keep in mind that most sites like these usually have a membership fee, but, in my experience, the savings offset the membership cost within three months or so.
7. Don’t forget eggs. Eggs are the most affordable animal protein you can buy for your Whole30. I always purchase the highest-quality eggs, and still save money over meat and poultry! Take advantage of this by utilizing eggs as a protein source at any meal.
8. Don’t buy the books right away. I love and cherish every one of the six Whole30 books I own. But if it’s your first Whole30 and you’re trying to save money, you’re in luck: Everything you need to start, complete, and find support for your Whole30 is available for free on the Whole30 website. So, if you’re new to the program, hold off on purchasing a book and start with the online materials instead.
9. Check the freezer aisle. Raw, fresh vegetables are your best option for quality and taste. However, there are a few ways you can easily cut costs by buying frozen. While I prefer to buy fresh greens and vegetables for certain recipes and meals, I often buy frozen if the vegetables end up blended or steamed. As always, be sure to check labels to ensure no additives are included in the ingredient listing!
10. Pack a lunch. A few short years ago, leaving home without a Whole30 meal meant eating NO meal. But today, restaurants, stores and cafes often have on-the-go food that’s Whole30 compliant. While these foods come in handy in a pinch, it’s easy to begin relying on them and racking up a big bill by the end of the month. To avoid being stuck without a meal on a busy day away from home, pack emergency foods in your bag such as meat sticks, cut veggies, homemade nut-and-fruit bars, and hard-boiled eggs. This not only saves money, but also keeps you from getting too hungry when you’re away from home.
And there you have it: The Whole30 on a budget. Don’t forget: Eating this way for 30 days is not only an amazing way to discover a new relationship with your food and your habits, but also an opportunity to discover delicious, nutritious food.
If you’re looking for more Whole30 food inspiration, join me over on Instagram at @melissasfoodfreedom. Happy Whole30-ing!
A few more resources to support you with your Whole30:
- The Whole30 cheatsheet
- Five reasons you’re not losing weight on the Whole30
- You finished the Whole30, now what?
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