Day 022-2 (Su, 120122) — Primal Living on the Cheap; Plan for Week 04-2

It Ain’t Cheap.  Sorry to break the red wall of silence among Primal bloggers, but eating this way is expensive.

I know there are a few million posts around the Internet explaining “how to eat Primal/Paleo on the cheap.”  Apparently I’m the only one doing it wrong because my experience is not anything close to theirs.

Before I started the Primal Program, I was already eating a normal low-carb diet.  I ate steaks, sausage, roasts, ground beef, pork chops, hot dogs, and other cuts of meat.  I ate my veggies, too.  I got my food from Walmart and Sam’s (avert your eyes and close your ears!) and, while it cost more than SAD eating, it wasn’t too bad.

Changing over to Primal, I didn’t have to change what I was eating (drop beans, add a bit of dairy & fruit) so much as the quality of what I was eating.  Switching to better (better provenance, fewer ingredients, nothing artificial, etc.) food has not been easy and it has made a significantly larger dent in my wallet.

I can find “Primal meat” — you know . . . organic, grass-fed, hand-massaged, virgin animals who were immaculately conceived and who were allowed to voluntarily expire under a full moon during a Druid ritual — but only at Central Market and Whole Paycheck.  Apparently, I am the odd man out since, in my budget, this takes a much larger slice of the pie (so to speak) than for everyone else on the ‘Net who’s written about this topic.

Ditto for all the other unadulterated A, B, and C we’re supposed to eat.

And I haven’t got the money to drop a grand on half a cow (cow-pooling) at the moment so telling me to “buy bulk” is a non-starter.

I’m still moving toward (more) Primal-acceptable food, but the switch ain’t easy or cheap.  Just sayin’ . . . .


Review of Week 03-2 — Food.  It was a good week for eating.  My goal this week was to limit my indulgences (especially Greek yogurt and dark chocolate) and I succeeded.

I fasted MTW, ate just a little during the day on R, and had a fully-tricked-out burger at SmashBurger on F.

The burger wasn’t Primal (though it was low-carb) but otherwise my food was within (primarily) proper Primal parameters. (Say that five ti. . . oh, nevermind.)

I had Greek yogurt with berries twice this week.  Ditto for the dark chocolate.  And I kept my portions smaller than before.  This is much better than (sometimes multiple in one day) big servings I’d have 6 or 7 days per week previously.

I’ve also really cut back on my diet drinks.  I’m down to having 1 or 2 every few days rather than 3-5 a day.  For me, this is a big deal.  Giving up my diet cokes* has always been one of my least favorite diet recommendations.


Review of Week 02-2 — Exercise.  I worked out on Wednesday and Friday, as scheduled.

Wednesday — I went for a 1-mile walk with my girls and did a few exercises while we ambled.  I did push-ups (50, 50), squats (50), and jump-ups (?) onto a 20″ retaining wall (10, 10).

Friday — was a normal workout day after I got home and before I ate.

Exercise Set 1 Set 2 Next/Goal/Notes:
Push-up 50 50 Plyo; 15×2
Pull Up / Chin Up 9.5 8 same; 12×2
Squat 50 50 Pistol; 15×2
Handstand 51s 46s same; 90s
Forearm Plank 90s 90s same; 120s
Forearm Side Plank 45s 45s same; 45s


Plan for Week 04-2.  More of the same.

  1. FAST 3-4 days during the week
  2. Eat PRIMAL meal(s) every day, and
  3. EXERCISE 2x / week, adding in with SLOW MOVEMENT and SPRINTS per recs
  4. LIMIT indulgences to just a few per week


* I’m from Texas.  Here, everything is “coke”.  It’s a generic term just like Kleenex or Xerox.  When you go to the restaurant and they ask what you want to drink, you say, “I want a (diet) coke.”  Then they say, “Ok, hon.  What kind?” and you specify that you want:  (diet) root beer, (diet) Dr. Pepper, (diet) Pepsi, etc.

14 responses to “Day 022-2 (Su, 120122) — Primal Living on the Cheap; Plan for Week 04-2

  1. I agree. This is more expensive. Paying $9/lb @11 the farmers market for chicken breasts is not feasible for us. Also, I’m having a hard time with the cosmetic appearance of the locally grown produce.
    Tomorrow I start week 3 with my personal trainer at the Oly gym. I’m really enjoying it.
    Best wishes to you my friend.

  2. I agree! I think that it can be a ‘net/net’ savings though if you factor in that the people many of those ‘It’s cheap to go Primal!’ posts are aimed at people who are presently eating McDonalds for breakfast, Subway for lunch, and then Chili’s or TGI Friday’s for dinner, which is really the modern SAD. Of course that’s probably a bit overboard but not too much IMO.

    My wife has recently started eating Primal and we’ve been looking into getting good quality grass-fed beef, etc., but it’s SOOOO expensive. And yeah – that ‘cow share’ thing is crazy expensive. Prohibitively so.

      • She actually just started on Jan 1st, 2012. She started going pure ‘low carb’ back last Summer but just attempted it pretty half-assed and quickly gave up (not even a couple of days).

        I encouraged her when she tried it before but only a little as I didn’t want her to feel pressure. Towards the end of 2011, only after seeing me day by day for a year lose all the weight and maintain it for months, and then on top of that watch as my lipid/health markers all steadily improved, did she finally realize that this isn’t some fad and knew it worked and is now doing it right. She’s doing well (she’s bought Sisson’s “21 Day” book and is following that).


  3. Eating grass fed beef and HIGH quality is not a requirement, not sure where you read that. It is recommend for obvious reasons but it is more important to avoid the bad stuff (*cough DIET COKE) than spend 2x as much on the high quality stuff.

    The only time I have heard grass fed/wild caught being mandatory is for people that have auto immune disease or sever allergies to the grains that the animals are fed.

    “When making the transition into the Primal way of life, a lot of people get tripped up on the question of grass-fed beef. Is it necessary? (No.)”
    Read more:

    I am cheap so I get my meat at costco most of the time. Costco even has organic meat for a decent price, and I know organic is NOT the same as grass fed 😦 but less hormones and other crap I hope.

    • I may be wrong but I believe Rob Wolf’s book preaches the importance of grass-fed beef due to the omega 6 to 3 ratio. I recall the ratio being not very good for non-grass-fed beef. Me personally, I ate a TON of very fatty steaks last year while actively losing weight and I felt great and lost weight eating them. That said, I’d love to transition to eating healthier cuts but not at the cost ($) to do so.

    • I think this may hold the record for my longest reply yet. Stick with me.


      I get my meat at Sam’s so we got something else in common. 😉

      In the Primal Blueprint, under Primal Blueprint Law #1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals, he says, “Focus on quality sources of animal protein (organic, free-range, or wild sources of meat, fowl, and fish).” Later, he says, “Eat natural sources of plants and animals and avoid processed foods….”

      In Chapter 4 (Law #1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals), he says, “I pay particular attention to the benefits of choosing organic plants and animals and contrast the often offensive ingredients (hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics) and processing methods found with conventional foods and mass-produced animal products….Organic animal foods are healthy and nutritious and will help you reduce excess body fat and build lean muscle.”

      He even justifies the higher cost, “The budget increase for buying organic products pales in comparison to the importance of leading a healthy life and avoiding disease risk factors.”

      In the section on Animal Foods, he says, “…some studies about red meat consumption have prompted alarming headlines that “excessive” consumption of red meat may be associated with a slightly increased risk for cancer and heart disease. In all such studies to date, however, there has been no distinction or separation between groups who consumed organic, hormone-free, 100% grass-fed or otherwise “clean” red meat versus the vast majority of participants who ate the standard hormone-laden, grain-fed, antibiotic-laced meats that I decry here….Most of these studies include … all manner of processed meats (hot dogs, breakfast sausage, chemically-treated jerkys, bacon, bologna, salami). These foods may contain preservatives that act as potential carcinogens. Furthermore, their nutrient value is diminished from the mechanical processing and addition of preservatives, artificial colors and often a significant level of simple sugars or artificial sweeteners. Of course, the Primal Blueprint suggests that you generally avoid these meats.”

      In the Meat and Fowl section, he says, “Many of the Conventional Wisdom health objections to eating animal foods can easily be countered by eating organic sources of meat, a suggestion that is, in my estimation, highly recommended due to the extremely poor quality of much of today’s conventionally processed animal foods. Mass-produced ranch animals can contain hormones … [and] pesticides … and antibiotics …. These three stooges can really mess up your efforts to eat healthfully.

      …Purchase your meats at a chain grocer or big-box store, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up eating a malnourished, insulin-resistant, and quite possibly diseased animal whose meat is high in omega-6 fats—a far cry nutritionally from Grok’s fresh, lean,
      wild kills.

      For these reasons, I strongly urge you to look for USDAcertified organic meat whenever possible. Clearly, there is a continuum here where you can find options that are various degrees away from ideal. While the ultimate meat would be a wild animal with lots of lean mass, little fat, and a nutritious, high omega-3 natural diet, there aren’t many of them running around the continent these days. If organically raised meats are not available, suitable alternatives would be hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat or meat from animals that were “100% grass-fed” or “100% grass-finished” (as denoted on the label).”

      He also says to avoid farm-raised fish and fowl. ““Farmed fish should be avoided because they are raised in unsanitary, waste-infested waters; have dangerous chemical additives in their diets; and offer much lower levels of omega-3s than their wild
      counterparts. . . . If you are wild about salmon and willing to endure the tradeoff of a big carbon footprint and substantial expense to get a quality product, you can do your shopping online…..”

      In Going Primal on a Dime, he says,”I understand that buying organic animal products can be cost-prohibitive….For now, I’ll proudly stand as an advocate for healthy living and getting your priorities straight, including budgeting for the best foods you can afford—even if this means your diet potentially (but not necessarily, if you do a little legwork) becomes more expensive and cumbersome for you than for the other families on your block.”

      In the chapter summary, he says, “Be sure that you choose certified organic animal products (or, failing that, certified humanely treated or 100% grassfed/ finished animal products) to avoid today’s poor quality conventional animals fattened up with grains and laden with hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics. Choose only wild fish caught in remote, pollution-free waters, which offer the extremely beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs are a healthy, nutritious food that should not be avoided based on the flawed assumption that their high-cholesterol content is a heart disease risk factor. The potential budget increase for buying organic products pales in comparison to the importance of leading a healthy life and avoiding disease risk factors.”


      He suggests that not buying other foods, planting a garden, and cowpooling to offset this increased cost. However, “You have the right and also the obligation—to yourself and your loved ones—to pursue the absolute highest dietary quality possible. Yes, it may require more time, energy, and even expense, but the payoff here is arguably greater than from any other lifestyle change you ponder…. And not to sound trite, but an investment in your health today pays dividends far greater and far longer than you might ever see in your 401(k).”

      The introduction makes it clear that he understands that perfection can’t always be achieved and to do the best you can as you are able, but doing Primal right means eating organic, grass-fed, free range, no hormones, no additives, etc. meats. To do it the best it can be done, that’s what you eat. To do it realistically, you do what you can when you can and don’t stress over it too much.

      For example, he says:

      “If, for reasons of budget or availability, you find yourself eating a less-than-ideal source of meat, always choose the leanest possible cuts and trim the excess fat. This will significantly limit your potential exposure to these toxins.”

      “Now that I’ve climbed down off my soapbox, let’s admit that real-world concerns may have you falling short here and there of the ideal spelled out in these pages. It’s important to default back to the big-picture view that the Primal Blueprint is a way of life, not a boot camp. If you are agonizing over which fruit stimulates less insulin or you find yourself eating commercial hamburger at the company picnic yet are diligent enough to toss the buns in the garbage before you dig in, congratulations are in order for the momentum and awareness you have already created. When it comes to health and fitness, there is always a higher standard to strive for, but the Primal Blueprint allows for enough deviation from “ideal” never to compromise your enjoyment of today. Every step you take toward living Primally puts you that much closer to your health and fitness goals-and that much more adept and righting course when the inevitable deviations happen.”

      In the blog post you reference, he says, “Is [grass-fed] necessary? (No.) … Eat beef, first and foremost. Get the highest quality beef you can afford, whether that ends up being premium grass-finished from the farm up the road or USDA Prime from Costco. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. …. Each route involves more effort, more money, and/or more time. All three are worth pursuing (grass-fed is that much better, in my opinion), but I can understand why the barrier to entry appears so high – a combination of price and time. To reduce the former requires more of the latter, usually. And if you do it right and get a freezer to go with your side of beef, you’re still incurring a big initial investment. Not everyone can do that.”

      It’s a balancing game and he admits it. That doesn’t mean he is not urging you to buy foods as close to the ideal as possible.

      In my experience, this striving for “better” is expensive.


      • Agreed! Well cited.

        I really need to get that book. Seems that Mark is a bit more relaxed about specifics like this than he used to be.

        Grass fed is much much better, there is no disputing that, but the difference between grass fed and grain fed is negligible compared to the difference between diet soda and water.

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