Binge on a Budget: The Whole30

Looking to do the Whole30 on a grocery budget?


OK, we’re at Day 25 here, and I am chomping at the bit to be done. Most of my family members, in fact, seemed surprised to learn recently that I wasn’t already done. I’m still here, I’ve just been too busy to post anything lately.

And I haven’t really had the spectacular, encouraging results to post about, anyway.

There is this idea promoted by the Whole30 that, typically around 16 days into the program, followers will begin to experience this feel-great, conquer-anything sensation like “somebody turned on the awesome,” called tiger blood. (Because Eye of the Tiger was already taken.)

I have patiently awaited the tiger blood. But all I seem to have is a tiger shredding up my bloody bank account.

So far this month I have spent over $1000 on food. That’s $300 over my typical monthly food budget. I rarely bought cheap processed foods anyway; the big price difference for us this month has been all the meat and expensive nuts, like macadamias. Even the canned salmon I bought this week was $17 for three small cans, which will make a batch of salmon cakes that probably covers two meals for four people. And yes, I buy the cheaper cans with the bones, and cook with them. (Calcium! It’s good for you!)

I have only bought bacon ($1/ounce!) once, as a treat, and the 8 oz package was not enough. The kids were crying because they each only got one slice. Besides the sole bottle of Tessamae’s and a bottle of Trader Joe’s Coconut Aminos I regret because I really didn’t need it, I haven’t wasted money on compliant condiments. I can also tell you that you should use Kerrygold from Trader Joe’s to make your clarified butter. I’ve made it three times now, with Kerrygold ($3.19/half lb), Kirkland Organic (free because a friend gave it to me before she moved), and Horizon Organic ($6.99/lb from MOMS Organic Market, only because I couldn’t bring myself to pay $3.99 for the same Kerrygold there that Trader Joe’s has for $0.80 cheaper.) Of the three butters, Kerrygold produced more clarified butter oil from the same amount of solid fat. How? I don’t know, but I consider that getting my money’s worth.

Plus, we’ve gone from one dozen organic free-range eggs a week to almost three. (I can really feel the pull to switch to Costco right about now.)

This is about 4 days worth of food for us. I think my mother-in-law just fainted.

I am feeding a family of five, but it should be noted that my kids do not eat a lot, although at least one of them has expensive taste. In order to keep Pete in omega-3s and antioxidants I cave to the most likely healthy foods he will eat: pricey smoked salmon and organic berries, for example. And he eats that $5 dry pint of raspberries in about as many minutes. But how can I say no to the berries when I’ve already said no to the refined crap he also wants to eat? I buy frozen berries to save some money, but he doesn’t eat them as frequently or as willingly. My children are spoiled by the luxury of constantly-abundant food. It is work to make them eat what will nourish their bodies, and harder work to open their eyes to the sheer blessing of the fact that it’s all available to them, almost any time of the year.

Sometimes, from the way Doc and I grumble, you’d think we’d grown up in the Great Depression ourselves.

Anyway, back to this outlandish grocery budget. We have been truly spoiled this month. The Whole30 food I’m cooking has been really delicious. Who knew cooking things in fat makes them taste good? I have succeeded in getting Sally to taste turnips and Pete to call salmon cakes “divine.” Bitsy has been seen chowing down on “white carrot” and “other carrot,” also known as parsnips and sweet potatoes, which she turned her nose up at before. In fact, although we’ve had problems with the kids ransacking loaves of bread on weekend mornings, and cauliflower rice is fooling nobody, mostly I am pleased with their teeny steps towards greater vegetable acceptance. And that was a primary reason I decided to do this in the first place.

And yet I can’t wait for this to be done. Why?

Besides the mounting stress over the amount of money we’re spending on food, making sure all leftover food is eaten up in the right order so none of it gets wasted is a little exhausting. And I honestly haven’t decided yet where I want to go from here. If I felt spectacularly different, I might be inclined to remove money-saving staples like beans and rice from our diet going forward (or chili with beans– I tried to substitute cubed eggplant for red beans last time I made chili, and Sally literally pitched a fit. The irony most Texans would find in her shrill, “Chili just ISN’T CHILI WITHOUT BEANS!” was not lost on me). But as it is, I feel pretty good, but I don’t feel remarkably different.

But that, I think, is for a different post. More to come on the non-monetary effects of this Whole30 later. . . .

Have you tried the Whole30 on a budget? Did it work?





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