Well, I’m through my first week on the Whole30, and I thought it’d be a great time to talk about budget Whole30 tips. Since I am all about saving money and making dollars stretch, plus I feel as though there might be a stigma around eating Paleo so far as grocery bills go — mainly that it’s super expensive and possibly a bit snobbish — and I’d love to make it more approachable for people who are like me. As in, people who literally cannot afford to buy organic food like… ever.
I think I may have picked the worst thirty days ever to do a Whole30. Not only are there two weddings that we are photographing/attending (friends, and family), but also my husband’s birthday is in the 30 days, as is July 4th and also, you know, today, which is a family day to get together and eat all the desserts on both sides of my family. But in a sense, it might also be the best 30 days because just in the first week I’ve had two events to prove my dedication. You guys, I had to say no to Krispy Kreme Donuts. (In retrospect, I don’t actually care for them, but… y’know. It was a small sacrifice.)
Day One: woke up groggy, stuffy nose, hip hurting, parched. Had mild heartburn after lunch lasting until dinner, tired after 2pm until bedtime.
The first day of my Whole30 was a little bit scattered; I wasn’t able to do a real grocery trip until the second day. I did, however, get the chance to grab a diary wherein I am writing down how I feel when I wake up and how I feel throughout the day, plus everything I eat and what times I’m eating. That has been a tremendous help in seeing whether things are improving or whether my body is purging (often the first week or two can make you feel worse as your body gets used to eating differently), and also tracking my eating habits better. I also felt like I broke a rule of the Whole30, because I had no protien sources in my fridge (meats) to eat, and I can’t do eggs, so I had a banana and some almond butter. Surprisingly, that kept me well satisfied until lunch which was a much more “proper” homemade meat spaghetti atop spaghetti squash.
And judging by Asa’s face as he ate, I can say that lunch was a definite success. Spaghetti is one of my current favorite things to whip up for the Whole30. While the squash in no way replaces noodles (different texture, taste, look, everything), it’s still delicious as a substitute!For dinner I went with salad, which I have been loving lately thanks to the awesome dressing recipes in Primal Cravings, which I would highly suggest to anyone looking for a Paleo cookbook! (or, they have a blog where you can find a great list of recipes available.) Not all the recipes in the book are Whole30 approved (being subs for desserts, or including grass fed butter or cheese which is out for 30 days), but I adore every single recipe I’ve tried and their dressings literally cannot be beat.
Day Two: woke up groggy and “sniffy”, my hip still hurt, tired by 5pm but had more energy after dinner, and totally ready for bedtime at 9:30pm.
The second day I was able to cook up some pork for breakfast that I’d grabbed Monday night on my “just the necessary things” store run, and I attempted to make an apple-pork type breakfast sausage dish that didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. Because I wasn’t following recipes and had no idea as to what went into normal sausage, I decided to do an apple, 1.5 pounds of pork, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. And let me tell you… that cinnamon, man. I added way too much. The first day, it wasn’t too great. The second day, it started to taste better (although the smell was weird), and further on in the week I started to really like it.
And then we got some watermelon, and… pretty much watermelon was my staple all week. I know. Stereotypical pregnant woman. (For lunch, leftover spaghetti squash; for dinner, salad, hamburgers (no buns, obviously) and baked homemade fries with homemade ranch dressing (also from Primal Cravings).
Day Three: still waking up stuffy, and I was so tired ALL day. My back might have been worse this day, plus I wasn’t very hungry for actual meals and ate way too much fruit. Pretty sure my body was trying to get sugar energy instead of burning fat like it should.
I had a banana and nut butter (cashew this time) for breakfast again, which kept me satisfied until lunch. And then, we enter my favorite lunch of the week: 5oz of tilapia baked under lemon and olive oil, topped with a bit of leftover homemade ranch, sided with baked butternut squash chunks (SO FREAKING GOOD — cut squash into chunks, toss with olive oil and salt, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes), and some strawberries.
Oh man. I love this food. Horribly, though, that was the most nutritious meal of my day, as we somehow got super busy and I ended up eating another banana and cashew butter for dinner. And then raspberries for a snack.
Day Four: still waking up stuffy, but not as exhausted as usual and my back is getting better!
Day four, I feel like I started to get into it a bit more. I ate leftover pork/apple sausage for breakfast, had a delicious chicken salad that Asa also LOVED (recipe below) for lunch, and made salmon and salad for dinner. But, I did have two cups of regular coffee and one cup of decaf throughout the day, which isn’t optimal.
Recipe for the best mayo you will ever taste, here.
Day Five: woke up stuffy and felt like I would throw up until I ate. Felt more habitual and motivated this day!
Day five was probably the worst wake up experience, because I literally thought I was going to hurl. Thank goodness kombucha exists — it has helped every time I’ve woken up feeling this way when anything else I tried putting in my stomach just went bleh (and yes, I have researched the safety of drinking kombucha during pregnancy IT IS SAFE thanks) and it’s saved me from so many morning vomit sessions. By day five I was looking forward to that apple-pork sausage I thought was a total failure, but terribly, on day five I completely and totally forgot to eat lunch. I fed Asa a PB&H sandwich out of laziness, ate some cucumber dipped in homemade ranch, and blanked once I got him down for a nap. So between 7am and 5:30pm, all I had was coffee and cucumbers. Oops!
But this is the day I started to notice that I was not hungry at all between mealtimes, and not feeling the need to snack out of hunger as I have been for the last… who knows how long.
Day Six: woke up tired and stuffy and slightly queasy again. But I felt so good ALL DAY despite shooting a wedding that had us away from home and me on my feet for nearly ten hours straight.
Day six was the first real test of whether I truly wanted to commit to thirty days. We shot the wedding of one of my dear friends, and I had the forethought to pack a lunch beforehand as well as a good bunch of snacks and some herbal iced tea. For breakfast I had the usual pork/apple sausage, coffee, and some kombucha, and that held me so well! While all of the bridal party moaned about hunger around 11:15am, I was only barely starting to feel the earliest grumbles of hunger. And it’s a good thing I brought my own food, because what they had provided was bagels, cheese, donuts, muffins, and maybe a fruit platter.
It was during the lunch break session that I realized how much I was starting to appreciate Whole30 food. I knew that unlike the grains-and-sugar based foods provided, the food I brought (lettuce+tomato+avocado salad with chicken and homemade Paleo Caesar dressing) would not make me feel tired, fuzzy, or groggy; I would not get heartburn; I would not have a sugar crash; I would not lose energy in any way whatsoever, and I would probably stay full and feel satisfied much longer than anyone else. It was a revelation for me to realize that, because I thought for sure I’d be feeling sorry for myself to have to pass up the treats offered! Instead, I was extra thankful for what I was eating and the knowledge that it was purely fueling and supporting my body, and not taking anything away that I needed to get through the day.
And after the ceremony, around 2:30pm during the reception several people asked if I had eaten yet, but I was honestly not even hungry. I grabbed some salami, prosciutto, and fruit+veggies from the trays anyway since I knew I’d need good fuel for another few hours, but… yes. Day six was a good day.
Day Seven: woke up tired, sore, but not feeling sick and had good energy as soon as I got out of bed.
And now we’re caught up! Yesterday was another tester day, since it was father’s day. I made my husband and Asa waffles and bacon for breakfast (can’t have either!), and my husband’s family got together for a barbecue and there was no shortage of chips, chocolate, ice cream, or dessert. I chose to go and just eat what I could (hamburgers, pickles, watermelon) rather than bring my own food, since… I wanted to rest.
But other than eating a copious amount of watermelon, I stuck to it, and was only marginally jealous that everyone else got to eat the coconut macaroons my husband chose to bring for dessert.
Every Day I also Had: 1-2 cups of coffee with Whole30 approved almond milk (they sell some at my local Fred Meyer, but it’s also super easy to make), 1/2 to 1 bottle of GT Dave’s Kombucha (as long as there is no sugar added, kombucha is a-ok for your Whole30), and at least one bottle of water.
The Week Overall:
Other than having eaten what I think might be a bit too much fruit (only because I know sometimes it’s a substitute for eating sugar, which is a habit I need to break), I am encouraged to have made it through the week going strong. Obviously the first week might seem like the easiest one, and at the end of next week I might be anxious to get through it all. But there are little things already improving in my body that I hope will keep me going:
- My hip, which has been hurting for nearly a month now even after being adjusted, is finally starting to feel better.
- My energy levels are much more consistent and starting to last all day.
- I quit feeling like I needed a nap in the afternoon.
- Food has become an energy source and makes me happy, rather than a craving source that puts me in a bad mood (literally, chocolate makes me grumpy and whiny.)
- I’ve started to sleep better.
- I feel less paranoid that I will gain a million pounds in the last trimester of pregnancy (even though I’ve only gained 20lbs overall thus far.)
I can’t wait to see what this next week brings! Having a diary to detail how I’m feeling is super helpful, and I recommend that if you’re going to do a Whole30, you should get a diary to at least write down how you feel every day, whether it’s better OR worse. There are little things that will change in your body that you might not remember unless you write them down. Like me and not feeling groggy in the afternoons.
And now, let’s get to something I’ve wanted to talk about: a budget Whole30. And I’ll even be upfront with you dollar wise, so you know exactly what my budget is like and what I spend most on.
My total weekly grocery budget: $100
Total spent on produce per week: $30-40
Total spent on meat per week: $20-30 (if I need to restock, it’s higher)
Total left for canned goods, non-30 items (husband and kid): $30-50
I am doing a Whole30, but no one else in my family is. This means that on top of what I buy for myself, I also budget for my husband’s non-30 meals — usually just his breakfast and lunch — and a few things that I feed Asa out of pure need because I am pregnant and I totally cannot cook three meals a day for all three of us all the time. We always eat Whole30 meals for dinner, since… it’s ridiculous to cook two separate dinners… and I don’t know if this helps or hurts my budget, but it is what it is! At any rate, though, I am doing everything I can to cut my grocery bill down to just what we need, and I’m here to tell you that doing the Whole30 on a budget is totally doable.
Here are my top 5 “Budget Whole30” tricks:
1. Be willing to eat a lot of repeat meats. On a regular basis, my freezer contains 5lbs of ground beef, a bag of salmon and a bag of tilapia (I snag a bag of pre-proportioned frozen fillets when I find them for cheap), and maybe a pound of steak meat if I can find it inexpensively or we can afford it. I also have a pack of canned chicken from Costco in my pantry, and IF our store happens to have any other ground meat on sale (pork, turkey, etc), I’ll grab some to make breakfast sausage. But I don’t buy all of these meats every week — the freezer meats last me two weeks, usually, and the canned chicken lasts a month — and generally I only need to “refill” my meats little bits at a time.
2. Buy ingredients that will create you the most meals. This goes with the above — I buy ground beef and fish primarily because they are the meats that I can do the most with for the cheapest. Ground beef gets me: spaghetti, taco salad, tacos, hamburgers, meatballs, chili, goulash, meatloaf, beef-and-veggie soups… I could probably go on, but you get the picture. And fish tends to be the easiest to whip up for quick lunches or dinners, and can be put in salads, topped with virtually anything, and, you know, just… who doesn’t like salmon? Personally, I don’t like chicken that much but if you buy a whole chicken you can use the meat for any number of things and save the bones for chicken stock and bone broth.
3. Keep it simple. Meal planning is great. But overplanning your week with a ton of great new recipes will not only kill your budget, it will also overwhelm you and tire you out. Weekly, I have an overall idea of what’s in my freezer and fridge that I can use up, what types of meals I might make that week (by “meals” I mean “dinners”), and what I need to refill. I only ever choose one or two new recipes to try, to keep it fun, and then I note what I’ve actually eaten from the week before, and what I probably shouldn’t buy again because it’s still sitting in my fridge.
Buy foods that are simple to prepare and don’t take a lot of fanfare to get tasting good. My favorite veggies to always have in stock are: butternut squash (mash it, bake it in cubes, put it in a soup — yes, I am mimicking Samwise Gamgee right now), zucchini or yellow squash (make zoodles, fry the rounds, shred it into things), spaghetti squash (great under chili, spaghetti sauces, with eggs in the morning; takes on flavors well), iceberg + romaine lettuce (I prefer the taste of iceberg in salads, and romaine is great for sandwich or taco wraps), tomatoes, cucumbers (again, use in salads, eat with a Whole30-approved dip as a lunch side, put in sandwich rollups), and avocados. I keep a lot more in my pantry, but those are definitely the ones I always return to.
4. Buy it canned, buy it frozen, buy it in season, buy it local. These are probably things you might have heard before, but really: canned and frozen veggies are cheaper, in-season fruits are usually priced lower, and some local farm stands sell veggies, eggs, and meat for cheaper than grocery stores. Keep an eye out for farms that might have meat-or-eggs-for-sale signs out. Frozen broccoli and cauliflower are my favorite because I can use them as a side dish OR make soups out of them. Just beware of canned foods that have added sugar, and frozen veggie mixes with corn or beans added (as those two things aren’t Whole30 approved.)
5. You don’t HAVE to buy organic/grass fed/cage free. So this one… okay, I feel as though Paleo and Whole30 lifestyle people are ALWAYS plugging the organic thing, and it makes everyone feel like that’s the only way you can do this. And you’re a bad person if you don’t get organic/grass fed/cage free. And I get it. Less pesticides, better nutrition in the animal equals better meat, better for the environment and all of that. I really am not against organic foods at all. And I say if you CAN afford it, do it! But here’s the thing: I literally cannot afford anything organic like… ever. Even fruits and veggies, unless I get them from our local farmstand or grow them myself, I get the cheapest stuff which is not usually organic stuff. I’ve never been able to afford grass fed meat or cage free eggs. It’s just not plausible. So don’t feel bad if you avoid the organic section to save a few bucks, because I do it too. And to me, it’s more important to first get my body in track and THEN move on to more fine-tuned and specific elimination such as getting pesticide-free fruits and veggies onto my table and only grass fed cage free meats in my fridge.
So that’s it for this week’s Whole30 recap and planning! If you have any questions about the Whole30, anything you want to hear about in next week’s recap, let me know and I’ll add it to my list of things to include!