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How to feed your family organically and nutritionally for $150 a week!

Updated: Oct 20, 2018

Unfortunately Bendy and I often hear, "I can't afford to go Paleo or organic, what would we eat?" and with supermarket prices so cheap compared to nutrient rich organic produce I can see how this has become a problem. The organic farmers have to put ten times more labour and work into preparing the land before they can even have the soil approved of being certified organic compared to the chemical ridden 'fake' produce that we are getting from conventional farmers. (My rant about non organic foods  continues throughout the article).

So, how did this article  come about? Well, during a chat on a Facebook forum called Paleo in Perth, Bendy so confidently said, “ Sure you can eat Paleo on the cheap, I bet we could feed our family of four on $150 per week!”

EEK! Great, now he’s done it, I thought, but that got me thinking and anyone who knows me can hear me saying, well let’s do it! Let’s prove that we can eat Paleo/Primal for a family of 4 for $150 and let’s do it organically. In my eyes there’s not any point in eating as nature intended if we compromise veggies, fruit, meat and fish that are sprayed with chemicals and injected with goodness knows what?

So why is organic such a big deal? Well, for a start, vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruit that are grown in organic soil have a ton more nutrient dense vitamins,  lower levels of toxic metals and chemicals than those that are not grown in organic soils. 

Over at sare.org they explain how and why soil is so important in playing a role in providing the right nutrients for us to thrive and how important it is that other organic matter decomposes in our soil is a critical part of global and regional cycles. Spray free is better, but if the soil is damaged, hasn't any nutrients in it then the plants that grow in that soil won't have either. The cow, pig, lamb or chicken that is eating a modified, chemical risen crop or feed that again has no benefit to the animal, is going to pass through the animal straight into you. I know I'm preaching to the converted and that a lot of people reading this know more about farming than I do. However, if conventional farmers didn't put pesticides, fungicides and insecticides over their crops then it would take lots of effort and money to control weeds, control the insects that damage the 'look of the crop' and harder to prevent plant diseases. The crazy thing is that the conventional farmer needs to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as long sleeves/pants, gloves, and safety glasses as per pesticide label requirements when putting it on our food! In case of a risk of inhalation, a disposable respirator is used as well, because these chemicals are so bad for humans. Yet we eat them....as the chemicals are being sprayed directly onto and into the soil so the plant absorbs these chemicals and they get passed onto us.  Don't think if the plant's not getting sprayed directly that we can't absorb it from the soil either. We are eating those chemicals and not getting the nutrients that the plant is supposed to provide?? A crazy concept, but like most things in our modern world it all stops with the dollar!

A scary fact that some researchers have recently discovered is that there are over 500 different chemicals going into our food that we buy in the supermarkets, grown by conventional farmers that is causing damage to our health, well being and mindset. Experts are now saying it could years to rid toxins from our body which can lead to a variety of health risks including cancer and developmental problems in children. Doh, isn't this already happening? Traditional farming is also being rightly blamed for the increase of autoimmune disorders, chronic illness and mental health associated illnesses along side processed foods containing ridiculously high amounts of sugar and wheat. It hasn't been around for long enough to have truly established the potentially devastating effect or the scientific data that relates these findings of illness it will have on human health in the long term. You, my friends, who continue to make the wrong choices about what foods are going in your bodies are proving to be social guinea pigs. And you didn't even agree to participating in the experiment. So opt out, support your local farmers and nourish your body with organic nutrient dense foods.

Leaving the rant for a minute let's get back to the article,  where was I? I like to take a challenge and run with it. So we waited for the next pay day, took out $300 cash (as we get paid fortnightly) and for the first time in like forever, we got into the car with hardly a meal plan (we always normally do!) and headed to our local farmer’s markets to see what foods were there, in season and cheap. The markets aren’t actually local for us at all and do take nearly an hour to get there, but I am happy in the knowledge that not only are we getting fresh produce straight from the farmers. It is satisfying to know I am not giving much of our hard earned money to the bigwigs and large supermarkets.

The first market we used for this project is the main market we normally use for our weekly shop; Manning Market, Manning Road, Perth. A rather large market which has most things we need to survive and thrive on. We decided to use a bit more of the $150 in the first week, as buying some staples like macadamia oil, Olive oil, macadamia nuts, coconut oil and seeds that would last for two weeks and some of the produce lasted a bit more.

Mel making sure her produce is organic.

I wrote down and weighed up what would be the best foods and the cheapest for this time of year (May). So we bought as seasonal and as cheap as we could with what was on offer. When we got back from the markets, I took a picture of all the food and I sat down to look through my recipe books to see what yummy nutritional meals I could produce. I've kinda got a good idea of a lot of the recipes, and if you are like the Bendy's, our family goes through cycles of similar meals for weeks on end, so this was helpful when I was at the markets. Additionally you aren't going to buy foods you don't particularly like either, so when you see the meal plan you may need to tweak it to suit your household and time of the year, but nevertheless you will have a good base to focus on. I hate waste and will always plan every meal, lunch and snack down to the last veggie in my fridge. I will make, bake or prepare in bulk or ahead of time so that the prep isn't as tiresome,when I can  and so the nutrients will stay fresh.  I'll pop meals and snack foods in the freezer to keep for time poor days. Things like soups, curries, bolognese sauces, broths, meats and fish. For this two weeks I purposely bought extra small apples and bananas so they would stretch for lunch boxes and or snacks. I also asked if any of the produce was going cheap, or free. Stall holders were only too happy to give produce away if they think you can use it and it was a little past its best. I scored a huge bunch of celery which I added into the Bolognese and bags of over ripe bananas which made the best ice-cream. I spent $211.24 on the first week, a little more than I had hoped, leaving only $88.76 for week 2.  I was confident that I could do it. To use my free Paleonutter Meal Planner, click here to print off.

The second week I went to The Grower' Green Farmers Markets in South Fremantle, Perth  unfortunately this market seemed a little more expensive, or was it that I didn't have much budget left? I had written a shopping list for this week and to be able to get everything on my list I went over budget by $49.99. I felt sad that I hadn't succeeded the challenge, but in all $175.00 per week to feed a family of four organically wasn't bad. I'm sure I could have picked more simple foods and cut corners by not having biscuits or nuts, but I also wanted it to be realistic. So I'll hope you'll forgive me and see if you can challenge yourself to cut your budgets by planning, supporting your local farmers and buying in season. I will continue the challenge in the coming seasons but until then I hope you will have a go and follow the menus I have provided and see how low you can get you weekly spending down to. Don't forget to share.

In the tables below, I started on a Saturday, but I added week one and highlighted it as I originally went to the markets on the Saturday and already had food for that day. In the menu planner you will need to remember that the section highlighted is an add on but still in the budget for the 14 days. So the first Saturday you see here is actually the last day of the two week challenge. I hope that makes sense? After finishing this challenge my advice is to share ideas too. I think this would be a great experiment to do in all four seasons, so the menu is mixed up and shows a true account of seasonal recipes and if this sustainable throughout the year, so I will be doing this again. When you complete your two week challenge please post your recipes and ideas below.

Meal plan for $175 week Since this challenge started we've pulled ourselves up and Bendy and I have a new budget, which we try and stick to. Please feel free to comment below and I will answer any questions as best as I can that arise. I will add the links and recipes that I used over these two weeks. Some of the recipes are more Banting (Low Carb High Fat) than Paleo, but all are adjustable without any monetary change signifiant enough to ruin this experiment. For example in the biscuits I make, I use butter for the kids (LCHF). So I have added an alternative recipe for strict Paleo peeps. It's all about what works for you and we embrace Paleo/Low Carb High fat and Banting here.

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