It’s been about a month since I finished my first round of Whole30, and I’m still amazed by what I learned in that month. I haven’t been 100 percent clean in my eating by any stretch of the imagination since then, but I am definitely much more aware of how food makes me feel than I ever was before. Most notably, I can really tell a difference between how my body reacts when I do and do not eat gluten. When I eat it, my skin tends to break out in a rash, but when I avoid it — as I have for most of the last week — I feel so much better.
I would definitely encourage people who are interested in doing a Whole30 to take the leap. I have a whole new appreciation for whole, unprocessed foods that I never had before. Even if I'm not staying Whole30-approved — hello, cheese — I try as much as possible to avoid any and all processed, fake crap.
But one thing I see a lot of people express concern over prior to starting is cost.
Doesn’t it cost a lot to do a Whole30?
My answer is this: Not if you don’t want it to!
The truth is, you can make almost any diet work for you financially if you put the work in. You’ll have to plan, shop strategically and make some choices, but it’s absolutely possible to complete the Whole30 on a budget — and maybe even save a little money! — if you have a game plan in place.
10 Tips For Completing Whole30 On A Budget
1. Plan Your Meals: Really, meal planning is key to almost any healthy nutrition plan (the better to limit distractions and temptations), but especially on an elimination diet like Whole30. Knowing what is on the menu for the next week or so will help you plan your grocery shopping and limit food waste because you won’t have bought anything that you didn’t already plan on eating before it went bad. Don’t plan out your entire month beforehand, because there’s no saying what you’ll feel like eating on Day 15, but 3-7 days ahead of time is fair game.
2. Make Multiple Grocery Stops If You Need To: I have been known to make up to four grocery stops depending on what I need and where I’ve found the best prices. Near me, I know that Aldi is good for eggs and produce, I can get fresh meat and Lara bars for a good price at Fresh Thyme and the Whole30-approved bacon is at Whole Foods (and sometimes Fresh Thyme if I’m lucky). It’s all about knowing where you’re going to find the best deal.
3. Avoid Restaurants: This is a pretty common sense money-saving tip anyway, but restaurants really are a money suck. If you’re on Whole30, you’re going to have a hard time finding something approved on the menu anyway, and then you’re going to pay a huge mark-up on it. You’re food will be tastier and cheaper at home.
4 Prep Foods In Bulk: I did my Whole30 while my boyfriend was away and thus I was cooking for one most days. While this sucked on one level, it was nice to have leftovers that might last me the rest of the week, which also saved me effort in figuring out what my next meal should be. For example, I made my favorite Hearty Vegetable Soup twice in 30 days, and that was good for at least a week of lunches each time. So, while I kind of did this unintentionally, you can intentionally make more than you need on any given today to ensure you have options on hand later on.
5. Buy Nuts From The Bulk Food Section: You know those big nut bins you often see in produce sections? That’s where you should be buying your nuts. Prepackaged varieties are overpriced, but you can get just what you need at a reasonable rate when you bag them yourself. Cashews were a lifesaver for me during W30, but they’re notoriously expensive. I saved some money by weighing them out myself, because who can eat a pound of cashews before they go stale? (Me. The answer is me.)
6. Stock Up On Produce: No, DO NOT buy more produce than you can eat, it will go bad and that would be a waste of money. What I’m saying here is to make sure you’ve always got produce on hand, even if you have to go to the store a couple of times a week. Produce is relatively cheap, but it’s nutrient-dense and keeps you fuller longer. Plus, eating more produce is kind of the point of Whole30.
7. Buy Produce That Is In-Season. From A Farmer’s Market: In-season produce is always going to be cheaper than anything because it’s expensive for stores to haul blueberries in from South America during a harsh Indiana winter. That’s tough for me to say because I like the fruits I like and want them when I want them. But not only is it cheaper to buy in-season produce, but it’s better for the environment. If you buy your food straight from the farmer, even better. You can support your local farmers and food tends to be cheaper at the farmer’s market (in my experience).
8. Only Buy Organic When You Need To: Whole30 suggests eating as organically as possible, but acknowledges that it’s not necessarily the most economic option and gives some leeway here. If you’re going to peel your food — like a banana or avocado — you can feel OK about skipping the organic sticker. For produce where you eat the skin, try and stick with the organic option, but do what is right for you. (Definitely always buy organic strawberries. They are one of the most chemically sprayed foods when they’re not raised organically, especially with some kind of flame retardant, which is just disturbing.) Ultimately, this is going to be your call.
9. Don’t Buy Things Just Because They’re Trendy In The Health Food World: I love kombucha, which is a probiotic tea that they say aids in digestion, and it’s all the rage right now. (Certain varieties are Whole30 compliant. Read the explanation here). But kombucha can get expensive, so I limit myself to one or two a week. But there are a lot of other health food products in pretty packages — I’m looking at you Califia Farms nut milks — that I am always being tempted to buy that really aren’t necessary to successfully get through a Whole30. As long as the ingredients are compliant, I don’t need to buy the $5 almond milk when the $2.50 brand will do just as well.
10. EGGS! Eggs are super cheap, super filling and pretty much your best friend on Whole30. Right now, a dozen eggs at my Aldi cost $0.88, which is ridiculous. Two cartons of eggs would keep me fed for a week for less than two dollars. I don’t recommend only eating eggs for two weeks because that can get pretty boring, but you get my drift. (Again, you might shell out a little more if you’re going organic, but even $2.50 for 12 eggs isn’t horrible. But I am gonna stick with my $0.88 Aldi find.)
Overall, I didn’t see a whole lot of change in my grocery bill during my Whole30, which is a good thing because it means I wasn’t spending oodles of dollars maintaining that diet. It’s doable for anyone and might even save you money if you do it right.
But in case you’re not convinced, even spending just a little bit more money on healthy options now could save you thousands in health-related costs down the road. I’m much more conscious of the food I eat, viewing it as fuel and as medicine, rather than something bad or something I have to limit. When you can shift your mindset like that, it’s much harder to use food in an unhealthy way. When you incorporate it as just another way to take care of your body, health and wellness more easily follow.
What money-saving tips do you have when it comes to groceries?
If you’ve gone through a Whole30, what was your experience like?
Any questions for me on my Whole30 experience