Hello my friends! I finally finished the grueling task of photographing and posting my primal grocery staples. My hope is that this will help you with the process of converting yourself or your family to eating more real food, and less processed foods. I went to Trader Joe’s for the bulk of my groceries, and I went to Hannaford supermarket for some odd and end items. I took pictures and priced many of the things I purchase when grocery shopping. I did not purchase all of the items that I took pictures of, however, these are typical items that I purchase and I wanted to include them on the list.
I understand that not everyone has access to a Trader Joe’s. I will try to include alternative places to find similar items (where I can). The Trader Joe’s I go to is 45 minutes away and literally just opened recently after years of “bring Trader Joe’s to Upstate NY” petitioning. I am glad to have been a part of that petitioning, it has paid off! I do save about about 1/3 off my grocery bill shopping there, so it is worth the trek for me. I also carpool with friends and we pick items up for each other as we need them.
Paleo Diet Meal Planning
Many people do weekly meal planning and I do that as well on occasion. However, most of the time I create meals based upon the items that I have purchased. I love to look through my cookbooks and plan meals, but sometimes I just don’t have the time for that. I do aspire to doing more of that in the future. My friend Summer at The Dirty Floor Diaries has been posting paleo meal plans and I am very excited about that! Most of the time I make simple meals and the tried and true ones get made every single week (like the taco salad, crock pot roasts and bun-less burgers).
There is no guarantee that everything I share will be 100% “primal” or not processed. I do buy some things that do not fall into this category. However, I do the best I can with my budget and resources. I included prices of each item and other places similar items can be found. I also included what I use each item for in terms of cooking and baking. Finally I explained why I buy each item and my rationale for prioritizing as some of the things I purchase are grass-fed/pastured/organic and some are not. I will also explain where I prefer to buy each item (ie: the local farmer’s market), even though it doesn’t always work out. I prioritize based on nutrient density, my time, budget, etc…and will explain more thoroughly with each item. I will not have everything that I ever buy on here because it does change from week to week.
Paleo Diet Grocery Budget
I budget between $200-$250/week in groceries. Trader Joe’s usually comes to under $200, but the extras I get from other stores adds on. I know that number may scare some of you away, but hold on and read on….I have 2 growing boys who eat all.the.time. I also prioritize. Feeding my family real food that is not processed is very important to me. I don’t buy expensive gadgets. We RARELY go out to eat. I will take my kids out to lunch on occasion. We are not one of those “order take out” every Friday kind of families. Every meal…breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks are prepared at home. I do not buy packaged or processed snacks (besides the occasional dark choc covered almonds). Finally, health-wise…our health insurance sucks. If we were sick all the time we would be screwed, seeing we have a super high deductible. However, we aren’t (knock on wood). My kids haven’t been to the Doctor in months (knock on wood again, lol). Inflammation in the body from the Standard American Diet can lead to all sorts of conditions and all sorts of medications. I do not want to go there again. EVER. I am also plan to “split” a local grass-fed cow with a friend of mine. You get the entire cow (organ meat and all) and it lasts for months and months. It is much more cost effective than buying separate cuts of meat…and grass-fed beef is a priorty to me (more on that later). So I am content with that amount of budgeted money at this time. Sometimes I spend less, sometimes more if I am out of big items.
With that said, here we go…with produce…
Paleo Diet Produce
Apples: Apples are on the “dirty dozen” list and my kids eat a ton of them, so I prefer to buy them organic. I usually stick to this list when it comes to whether or not I purchase organic produce. The Dirty Dozen are the most pesticide laden fruits and veggies, the “Clean 15” are the ones that aren’t as bad. I also clean my produce in a bath of water with a splash of vinegar. At Trader Joe’s you can get a 2 pound bag of organic apples for $2.49. I pay that much for like 2 organic apples at Hannaford. Last week I bought a bag of organic apples from Walmart. They charged $2.77/pound. So Trader Joe’s definitely has the best price! This week I bought 3 1 lb bags and they will be gone before the end of the week.
Sugar Snap Peas: These are not organic, and they cost $2.99 for the bag. I give them as a side to lunches throughout the week and the kiddos love to snack on them. The bag lasts all week and sometimes into the next week.
Baby Spinach and Greens: $2.50/bag, organic. I eat these as a base to most meats-seasoned ground beef, sausages, taco salads. They go in Joshua’s lunches under his meat. The kids like to eat greens as a side to their meals (I always put a little handful).
Cabbage: $1.69/head-not organic. I did not take a pic of it, but I purchased a big head of cabbage. I make sauerkraut with it some weeks (which makes an awesome side dish and is loaded with probiotics and live enzymes-major immune system and gut support. Sometimes I thinly slice and saute cabbage as a side with sausages.
Berries: berries are on the dirty dozen list so I try to only buy them organic, even though it gets expensive. I tiny container of organic raspberries can run as much as $5 at Hannaford. Trader Joe’s sells bigger containers of berries at a decent price however, they are not always organic. I go berry picking every summer and load the freezer. I use them to make smoothies made with coconut milk, and popsicles. My kids love to have berries as a side with lunches. I like that they are lower in sugar than most fruits and have a good nutrient profile. According to Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple (my favorite primal blog) berries are lowest on the glycemic index and packed with antioxidants and vitamins. So I do spend the extra money to get some kind of organic berry (either blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries) each week to give the kids with their lunches.
Sweet Potatoes: $1.69 for a 2 lb bag! These are NOT organic. I use sweet potatoes to make sweet potato french fries (kiddos love them), I bake them for myself on days that I run (for the energy) and I use them as a base in my frittatas-I usually make a frittata once a week.
Broccoli and Cauliflower: I didn’t buy any today but I buy these non-organic and the kids love these roasted with sea salt as a snack. I posted some recipes here.
Potatoes: A 5 lb bag of organic potatoes is $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. Many paleo/primal people avoid potatoes because of the high carb load. However, we are a very active family and I am not a carb-phobic person. I think our bodies do need some extra energy from time to time, especially if we are active. According to this from Mark’s Daily Apple, there is no cut and dry answer. It is a personal decision and we do eat them. I like to throw them in with crockpot roasts or oven roasts.
Raw, Peeled, Whole Clove Garlic: $1.99/bag: so I admit I am a bit lazy, but I hate peeling garlic. However, I LOVE garlic and use quite a bit of it. This bag comes with 4 small bags and each bag has like 10 or more cloves in it. There are no other ingredients, just garlic. I use garlic in my guacamole which I make a couple of times a week. I use it in homemade dressings and sauces, and I use it with all my cooked meat dishes as well.
Asparagus: $2.49/12 ounces. I do not buy organic. I serve asparagus at least once/week with a meal and I also like it cut up and sauteed with ground grass-fed beef and seasonings as a breakfast or lunch. I usually saute it with coconut aminos and some butter. It is one veggie that my younger son really loves.
Blood Oranges: $2.49/2 lb bag-not organic-I sometimes buy regular oranges as well. I wash them in water with a little vinegar to get as much of the chemicals off the skin as I can. I use the zest and juice for these in my coconut flour muffin and cookie recipes. The kids like to eat them and juice them on occasion. They taste great in this recipe and this recipe.
Avocados: $2.69 for a bag of 4. I get 2 bags of these. Avocados are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, folate, and fiber. They are nutrient dense powerhouses. I try to find ones that are not too ripe as I use them throughout the entire week (they ripen quickly). If you remove that little stem piece and it is brown underneath do not buy them. If it is green under, then they are still good. I make guacamole, serve avocados as a side with lunches, and eat them on my burgers and in lettuce wraps with meat.
Kimchi: Trader Joe’s sells bags of kimchi for $1.99. Kimchi is Korean fermented cabbage. It is usually spicy tasting. It makes a great side with all kinds of dishes, and is loaded with live enzymes and probiotics.
Baby Carrots: $1.69/bag. I do buy these in organic. I get them at Hannaford sometimes as well. They are NOT soaked in chlorine from either place-they are simply tumbled carrots. People like to bust me on why I don’t peel and chop the big ones. I choose to put my time and energy into other things. I spend a ton of time preparing food, and prefer to toss a few of these into lunches with minimal work.
Bananas: .19 each! I do not buy these in organic. I eat a banana before I go for a run, and the kids like to have one as a bedtime snack. I usually buy 2 bunches of them a week. If they get to brown I freeze them and use them for baking.
Some other produce that I typically purchase include kale (for making kale chips and I occasionally juice it), brussel sprouts (typically as a side dish roasted in bacon fat) onions for roasts and I caramelize them for burgers, cilantro for guacamole, basil for seasoning ground meat, cherry tomatoes (kiddos snack on them), mangoes (kids LOVE mango), and a coconut (kids love to crack them open). I do not buy a whole lot of squash as no one here likes to eat it. I occasionally roast butternut squash and eat it myself. Spaghetti squash is great to have with meatballs and sauce! I like to buy seasonal produce locally at the Farmer’s Market. Right now they mainly have things like squash and potatoes, but come summer I will get things like zucchini, greens, sprouts etc…as much as I can locally. I am also going to *try and plant a garden (I am not a gardener, but motivated to give it a try). I also typically buy and use medjool dates. They have them at both Trader Joe’s and Hannaford (most grocery stores). I use them to make snacks with in the food processor, and for energy before or after I go for a run.
Paleo Diet Meats & Eggs
Next we come to meats and eggs… When it comes to buying grass-fed/pastured/etc…here is how I go about it. We consume a ton of grass-fed ground beef. Literally like 2-3 pounds a week (sometimes even 4). It sounds like a lot of beef when you have most likely been led to believe that beef is bad. However, grass-fed beef is awesome, nutrient dense, nourishing, and versatile. It is what I use the most of, so I always make sure it is grass-fed and grass finished. However, when buying larger cuts for roasts I usually buy organic conventional fed (grain fed) cuts. The majority of the beef we eat is ground and grass-fed.
“Beef – from grass-fed cows, rich in omega 3 fatty acids and CLA – the fat-burning fat!
Did you know that red meat from animals that have grazed on grass pasture for the entirety of their lives is a rich source of bioavailable (easily digested and absorbed by your body) protein, vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)?
What’s more is that 100% grass-fed beef is actually leaner than it’s grain-fed counterpart, so while the fat it contains is healthy fat, the amount of fat in it tends to be much lower than that of grain-fed beef.
Farmers use grains, corn, and soy to fatten up the cattle in a speedy time frame so that it’s less expensive to produce them. 100% grass-fed beef delivers a powerful nutrition punch with fewer calories than grain-fed – better for the cow, and better for you!” balanced bites
I try to make it to the local Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning and buy 2 (2 lb) packages of local, grass fed, grass finished ground beef. However, there are times when I have other plans and can’t make it. This Saturday I was sitting for a State exam, so sadly I missed the Farmer’s Market. Trader Joe’s sells 100% grass fed beef . This week I bought 3 (1 lb) packages @$6.99/package
Chicken: Chicken has been a hot topic lately in the primal/paleo community. First of all chickens are not vegetarians. So when you see “organic free range vegetarian fed” don’t assume it is a healthier chicken. Chickens eat bugs, and that makes for nutritious chicken with the right fat profile. Even “free range” (a loosely used term) organic chickens are usually fed grains including GMO (genetically modified) soybeans. This makes the fatty acid profile less than desirable. You want to look for “pastured” chickens who have eaten their natural diet….and good luck with that, lol. I maybe could find a pastured chicken at my Farmer’s Market and spend a boatload on it (and most likely was fed some grains). However, we don’t consume a ton of chicken. When we do, I choose to get the family pack of free range vegetarian fed chicken at Trader Joe’s. We use a ton of eggs so I choose to spend the extra money on pasture raised eggs, and suck it up with a conventional “vegetarian fed” chicken to occasionally feed the family. This week they did not have the family pack of chicken, so I bought 2 packages of chicken legs (my older son loves to eat chicken legs, and they are inexpensive) @$3.90 for a 6 pack.
Bacon: I go through about 1-2 lbs of bacon/week. Bacon is such a tasty popular treat in the primal/paleo community!
In this blog post (please read the post, it’s great) Diane Sanfilippo from Balanced Bites wrote the following:
“According to Mat Lalonde, Ph. D. in organic chemistry and all-around nutritional biochemistry geek regarding bacon:
“Now, would I recommend limitless consumption of bacon that originates from grain-fed, factory-farmed pigs? No! Absolutely not! Would I recommend some consumption of bacon that originates from pastured pigs fed an omnivorous diet that does not contain grain. Yes! Absolutely! I don’t think that occasionally eating bacon from grain-fed, factory-farmed pigs is bad if the consumer has an otherwise good diet.
My definition of a good diet is one that is comprised of meat from grass-fed or pastured animals, vegetables, roots, tubers, and bulbs with limited fruit, nut, seed, and fermented dairy consumption and no grain, legume or milk consumption.“
With that said, sometimes I spend $11.99 on a lb of pastured bacon from the Farmer’s Market. I do so only when I have the extra money in the budget. Most of the time I buy uncured antibiotic free bacon from Trader Joe’s @$4.49/lb. I just don’t cook with the fat from this grain fed bacon.
Salmon: sometimes I purchase wild-caught salmon. They come in pretty large fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds). This size of a fillet runs $14.39 at Trader Joe’s. I usually marinade and grill the salmon. My kids love salmon, but do not like white fish…go figure. You can also remove the meat from the skin and make salmon burgers!
Applegate Farms Organic Hotdogs: $4.99/package of 8. These little devils are great for lunches…I have a love hate relationship with them. They are made from 100% grass-fed humanely treated beef-no nitrates or fillers. However, they are still hot dogs and I don’t want to lead my kids to believe that hotdogs in general are healthy…because it really still is a processed meat, know what I mean? However, when feeding 2 hungry kids and running low on ideas I am thrilled to have found them! They make my life easier for mama. I fry them with a little grass-fed butter, cut them up on a plate and serve them with veggies and fruits on the side.
Applegate Farms Deli Ham: $3.99/7 ounce package: Same idea as the hotdogs above-still a processed meat-but humane methods and no junk in it. If I don’t have leftovers to put in my son’s lunch I make a few ham rolls with these, and he dips them in mustard. I personally have never been a ham fan, lol. My younger son doesn’t care for it either. Some people bust me (putting yourself out there on a blog-you get all kinds of comments) that Applegate’s deli meats have carrageenan in them, however the ham and roast beef do not contain that preservative.
THIS is an interesting post on processed meats and cold cuts.
Canned Salmon: $2.49/can wild Alaskan salmon-great on a salad for a lunch or right out of the can-taste is great, not fishy tasting at all. I buy a few cans/week.
Sardines: $2.49/can-I was brave one day and decided to try these. The taste is good-again, not fishy at all. They are loaded with Omega 3’s and make for a great afternoon snack. I buy 2-3 cans/week. I’m the only one who eats them-I feel amazing after eating them and I swear my hair is shinier and healthier since I started eating them! According to THIS “Sardines are rich in numerous nutrients that have been found to support cardiovascular health. They are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been found to lower triglycerides; one serving (3.25 ounce can) of sardines actually contains over 50% of the daily value for these important nutrients. Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12, second only to calf’s liver as the World’s Healthiest Food most concentrated in this nutrient. Vitamin B12 promotes cardiovascular well-being since it is intricately tied to keeping levels of homocysteine in balance; homocysteine can damage artery walls, with elevated levels being a risk factor for atherosclerosis.”
Other Meats/Soup Bones/Organ Meats: I buy pasture raised breakfast sausage from the Farmer’s Market, and sometimes I get beef or pork dinner sausages as well. They make for good weekend lunches served with sauerkraut and a veggie. I stock up on soup bones and organ meats from the Farmer’s Market to make bone broth and I am slowly and bravely trying to incorporate organ meats into our diet. HERE and HERE are good links to why we should eat organ meats.
Eggs: We literally go through 3 dozen eggs a week. I bake coconut flour muffins and cookies throughout the week, and we have eggs almost every morning. I also make a frittata once a week. Because we consume so many eggs I make sure they are pasture raised eggs. My first choice is the Farmer’s Market where I can get them @ 2 dozen for $5 at one of the vendors. However, if I can’t my next choice is buying them from Hannaford as Trader Joe’s only carries “cage free vegetarian fed” eggs…the chickens that laid these eggs were fed grain and soy-making them less nutritious.
http://www.grassfedtraditions.com/ sells soy-free pasture raised chickens, eggs, grassfed beef, coconut products etc. www.facebook.com/justeatrealfood often shares when they have free shipping offers and discounts!
Cheese: Occasionally I purchase kerrygold brand grassfed cheeses from Ireland. The Dubliner is my favorite @$4.49 for 3/4 lb.
Goat Cheese: I buy the blueberry vanilla goat cheese from Trader Joe’s-we all like to snack on it. You get a decent sized block of cheese for $4.49
Butter: I purchase kerrygold grassfed butter-It costs $2.99 at Trader Joe’s and $3.99 at Hannaford. I buy and use up 2 blocks/week. Again, the fat profile is completely different than butter from grain and soy fed cows. You can also make ghee with it by heating it and separating the fat from the protein. Ghee is the butter fat left after all the proteins have been removed. It is very gentle on the gut. THIS article by Mark Sisson explains the benefits of grassfed butter!
Coconut Oil!!! (gets me just a little excited) Some local health stores charge upwards of $11 or $12/jar of coconut oil. At Trader Joe’s you can get it for $5.99. I go through a jar a week. I bake and cook with it. I also use it as a nighttime eye moisturizer!
HERE is a link to some of the amazing benefits of this super healthy saturated fat.
“Most of the fats we consume are long chain fatty acids that must be broken down before they can be absorbed. Coconut oil is high in short and medium chain fatty acids, which are easily digested and sent right to the liver for energy production. Because MCFAs are sent right to the liver for digestion no bile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion, making coconut oil a healthy food even for those with diabetes or those who have gallbladder problems. MCFAs can help increase metabolism since they are sent directly to the liver and give the body an instant source of energy. Most of the MCFAs in coconut oil are the highly beneficial Lauric Acid.”
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds: I put 1 or 2 of these in Joshua’s lunches. They are 70% dark chocolate and gluten free. This large tub costs $6.99. It lasts a couple weeks if I hide it 😉
Chocolate Chips: I bake coconut flour muffins and cookies and sometimes add enjoy-life chocolate chips. These chips are gluten, dairy, and soy free. I find them at Hannaford for $3.99.
Almond Butter: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s. You can’t beat that price-it is $7.99 at Hannaford and upwards of $12 at the local health food store. We avoid legumes in our house for a variety of reasons, (and my older son is allergic to peanut butter regardless). So we have always just used almond butter. We dip apples in it, and sometimes I eat it on a spoon with some honey for energy. I also bake with it. 1 jar lasts us a long time now that the kids aren’t eating sandwiches with it all the time.
Trader Joe’s 21 Spice Seasoning Mix: $1.99I use this to season most meats that I cook. It is inexpensive and very tasty!
Coconut Flour: I bake a few times a week with coconut flour. Coconut flour is very high in fiber, rich in minerals, and low in carbohydrates. I make pumpkin pancakes with it, muffins, and chocolate chip cookies (all sweetened with raw honey). I order it in bulk from amazon. They do not carry it at any of the local grocery stores. I get (4) 16 ounce bags for $25. They last a long time as you use way less coconut flour than you would with other flours.
Coconut Aminos: I avoid soy for many reasons but mainly because of the effect it has on my thyroid. Most soy sauces also contain wheat and gluten. Coconut aminos is an awesome alternative to soy sauce! I order it from amazon. I am actually out of it right now so I don’t have a picture to share, but here is a link to amazon where you can order it:
Raw Honey: Raw honey is loaded with live enzymes and vitamins/minerals. It is great for the immune system! I usually bake with it and make my coconut ball/truffle treats with it as well. I buy mine from a local bee-guy at the Farmer’s Market when I can. If not they carry it at most grocery stores.
I’m sure this does not include everything, and as I’ve said I am not 100% and I’m not a perfectionist. There are times when my kids eat less than desirable foods. However, they are getting the foundations for a healthy future at home, and that is very important to me. We all have different budgets and food costs are different depending on where you live. I understand that. In my opinion (based on what I have learned through my primal journey) the most important change you can make is to start eating healthy, stable saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, and grass-fed animal fats. Avoid volatile polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, and hydrogenated oils. Try to switch from eating processed foods (many contain hydrogenated oils) and replace these foods with meats and vegetables. Think outside the box! Making these small changes over time will make a big difference in how you feel inside and out.