How to eat the Whole30 on a Budget. From making a meal plan, choosing recipes & making the grocery list – Learn what makes the Whole30 expensive and how you can avoid it to save money! For more inspiration on how to follow the Whole30 on a budget, here is the perfect Whole30 meal plan!
My husband has been struggling with some health issues lately, and that’s one reason why one of my goals for this year was to avoid bleached and enriched all-purpose flour.
We’ve been doing well on that goal, but a few weeks ago he wanted to “kick it up a notch,” so to speak, and really get to the root cause of some of the problems.
For us, this meant embarking on the Whole30.
Anyone who’s heard of the Whole30 though, knows that doing the Whole30 on a budget is not easy!
In fact, someone told me recently on Instagram that they were doing the Whole30 too, but were afraid their budget would go up. My response? It most certainly will.
Here’s why your budget goes up when you’re on the Whole30: you’re eating more meat.
It’s as simple as that.
Frugal foodies know that one of the best ways to save money is to eat meatless meals more often. Even just one meatless meal a week can make a huge impact on your budget.
When you eliminate grains, sugar and all sorts of trigger foods, you are by default eliminating a lot of less expensive foods that you tend to make when you’re eating real food on a budget… oatmeal, homemade muffins, granola bars, quick breads… these are all off-limits.
Even if you choose Whole30 compliant foods, following the protocol means following the spirit of the diet too. This eliminates banana & egg pancakes and anything else that resembles the foods you’re used to eating.
So what do you eat then? As much meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy fats as you want.
There are a few stipulations (like no legumes, which means no peanuts or peanut butter… and no dried fruit), but that’s the gist for the purpose of this post.
If you’re interested in the Whole30, I highly HIGHLY recommend getting the newly updated book. You can use the internet and find all sorts of resources, but I’ve found that many “Whole30 approved” recipes really wouldn’t be approved if they were put to the test of the authors.
All of this is to say that after eating the Whole30, I’ve figured out how to eat the Whole30 on a budget. Your budget will still go up, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be able to keep it under control while still eating very well!
How to Eat the Whole30 on a Budget
DO: Take inventory of what you already have before you start
I didn’t realize it at first, but we already had a lot of food that was Whole30 compliant.
Meats, almond butter, nuts, fruits, vegetables, coconut oil… even that random cup of almond flour.
When you see what you already own that’s compliant, there’s less things to buy at the store!
DO: Eat what’s not allowed before you start
Give yourself a 2-week notice and spend this time reading the book, (again, HIGHLY recommend), learning which foods you can and cannot eat, and then eat the ones you can’t.
Make it a point to finish the peanut butter, the yogurt, the milk and the coffee creamer. The food you see in your kitchen is food you’ve already paid for, so do your best to eat it before it goes bad!
The money you don’t spend at the store for the couple weeks BEFORE the Whole30 will free up funds you can use to spend DURING the Whole30.
DON’T: Follow someone else’s shopping list
There are TONS of shopping lists out there that tell you what you should and should not have on hand when you start the Whole30. My advice? Ignore them.
I thought I’d need ghee, avocado oil, spices and a few other “must-haves” and as it turns out, I haven’t. And I don’t think I will either.
I’ve been using the coconut oil we always use, and it’s been working just fine (and it’s Whole30 approved). Why spend money on something else that does the same job?
(PS – Ghee does NOT taste like butter. If you think of having a baked potato with ghee on top tastes anything like a baked potato with butter, you’re wrong. Don’t bother!)
DO: Make your own condiments
Most Whole30 dressings and condiments are based on mayo. Store-bought Whole30-approved mayo runs anywhere from $3.50 to $11 for 16 ounces.
You guys! You can use my fail-proof mayo recipe for fraction of that!! Plus making it yourself means staying out of the stores, and we know THAT saves money too.
The Whole30 book has recipes for ketchup, sauces and dressings. And if you really want to cook with ghee, you can make your own.
Do NOT buy condiments from the store that are Whole30 compliant and right off the bat, you’ll save tons of money.
DO: Make your own food staples
This is no different than our “normal” way of eating.
- Need chicken stock? Make it yourself.
- Need breakfast sausage? Make it yourself.
- Need shredded chicken? Make it yourself.
Before you go to the store, look over your shopping list and see if anything can be made from scratch. If it can, in a reasonable amount of time, do it!
DON’T: Put a huge emphasis on organics
Again, it’s a quantity thing. You will buy more meat and produce and nuts. If organic is a priority to you, your grocery budget will double, if not triple.
I realize that we all have our own real food priorities (which is why I dedicated a whole lesson to it in my course Grocery Budget Bootcamp), but you’re going to have to decide which is more important – your priorities, or the budget.
This might be hard for some people. Neither conventional nor organic foods are all they’re cracked up to be, so you do what’s best for you. If that means skipping organic for a month because you don’t have the money otherwise (like us), then don’t feel bad about it.
If you have the funds to maintain the level of food quality you normally enjoy, then go for it!
DO: Aim for affordable proteins
I mentioned earlier that your budget will go up because you’re eating more meat, but the key to doing the Whole30 on a budget is to choose affordable proteins.
Eggs are a great option, as is chicken. Be a smart shopper though, because chicken breasts per pound cost more than some beef!
Opt for whole roasts or whole chickens whenever possible, and cut it up yourself.
Canned tuna and canned salmon are good options, but be sure to read the ingredients. Some have soy listed, and that’s not allowed on the Whole30.
DO: Eat leftovers
This should go without saying, but ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS eat leftovers.
If they don’t sound appetizing, freeze them for later. Add a sauce or mix it into a salad or bake it with eggs or turn it into a stir-fry – whatever you have to do to avoid throwing food away, do it.
DON’T: Use recipes that use uncommon ingredients
I’ve mentioned avocado oil, ghee and coconut aminos because those are ingredients that most people think of when they hear “Whole30.” However, I’ve never once had to use any of these and we’re in week 3.
There are TONS of Whole30 approved recipes that can be made with ordinary, common ingredients. Avoid the recipes that call for things you don’t have (and normally wouldn’t have either) and you’ll do great!
DO: Shop at affordable stores
The first shopping trip I made for our Whole30 was at Sprouts. Sprouts tends to have good deals on produce (which is mostly what I was buying), and “average” prices on pantry items and meat.
I actually chose to go to Sprouts because their coconut aminos was much cheaper than what Kroger listed online… but the price of their meat ate up whatever I would have saved on the coconut aminos (and then some), and I forgot to buy the aminos anyway.
Remember that you’re changing the foods you’re eating, not where you shop. Continue to shop at affordable stores like Costco, Walmart and ALDI.
No matter where you shop, always read the labels for ingredients. THAT is the biggest factor for your success, not the name printed on the employee’s t-shirt.
DO: Master the art of planning
Plan your meals, everyone else’s meals, your snacks (if you have kids) and your shopping list. Double check your plans, make a back-up plan and re-check your plans daily.
The key to success on the Whole30 – and your key to Whole30 on a budget – is planning.
If you’re new to meal planning, here’s a tutorial on how to get started.
DON’T: Buy emergency snacks and bars
The creators of the Whole30 discourage snacking as a whole. While I can see the usefulness of having an approved bar or snack if you’re short on time, they’re incredibly pricey.
You also wouldn’t be in this predicament if you had planned accordingly!
Let the fact that you don’t have a back-up plan save you money, and be the fire under your tush that keeps you on top of meal prep!
(Psst – all Whole30 meals are comprised of the same 3 components: protein, fruit/veg, fat. If you’re short on time, grab single items that fit these categories and call it a meal. Will it be fancy? No. But you’ll save $2 over buying that teeny tiny bar!)
DO: Buy in bulk
As you get to the end of the first week, you’ll start to see a pattern emerge. There will be a few things that you tend to rely on in one way or another.
- Maybe it’s scrambled eggs when dinner burned.
- Or it’s cashews when no other fat compliments the meal.
- Maybe it’s grapes because the sweet compliments the savory well in your protein salad.
- Or it’s potatoes because you just can’t wrap your head around the idea of having leftover dinner for breakfast.
Whatever it is, embrace it and buy it in bulk.
DO: Shop sales and clearance and mark-downs
Good shopping habits don’t get thrown out the window just because you’re on the Whole30 – you’re trying to do it on a budget, remember?!
Walk the clearance aisles, check the mark-down meats and watch for sales. Keep the tried-and-true saving methods going and you’ll save money on the Whole30.
In fact, one of the ways we’re able to do the Whole30 on a budget is BECAUSE of mark-downs. I’ve slowly accumulated meats in my freezer – one package one week, maybe two the next – and we’ve been slowly eating that meat. The only meat I’ve had to buy in the past 3 weeks is bacon (which I shouldn’t have – see my next tip) and ground pork for testing my homemade breakfast sausage recipe!
DON’T: Buy bacon
Look. We all love bacon. I’m not saying bacon is bad, rather I’m saying that no-sugar added bacon is EXPENSIVE.
It comes in 10 oz packages (not even a full pound!) and it’s close to $8 each.
Guys, if you want to do the Whole30 on a budget, just be resolved to the fact that you’re going baconless for a month. Really, you’ll be okay. And then when you’ve completed the reintroduction phase, you can celebrate with bacon!
How to shop for the Whole30 on a budget:
- Start by reading this book. It gives you the ins and outs of the Whole30.
- Make your own condiments. My homemade mayo is PERFECT for Whole30. If you use an immersion blender, it only takes a couple of minutes to mix up.
- Make your own staples. Chicken stock can be made in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker. You can shred chicken or mix up homemade breakfast sausage in a stand mixer.
- Buy affordable proteins. Check the marked down meat at your local store.
- Always follow a meal plan. Because of all the time spent in the kitchen, planning and prepping ahead of time is crucial. You can follow my tutorial on meal planning HERE.
- Give up the bacon. I know its delicious but compliant bacon is expensive! You’ll live for 30 days without it.
I applied ALL of my knowledge on grocery budgeting and saving to make the Whole30 as “on budget” as possible. (Learn about that knowledge in my signature eCourse Grocery Budget Bootcamp). Yet, we still ended up spending much more than our usual budget (Read about our actual numbers HERE.) So just be prepared when you head into the Whole30!
I was just reading this post today, and wanted to point out that most store brand low sodium bacon (including Aldi’s) is sugar free and technically W30 compliant.
That’s awesome news, Ashley! Thank you for sharing!!
Aldi sugar free bacon is pretty inexpensive. Costco is also a great place to buy it!
Frozen veggies are a life saver! Also, a friend of mine gifted me an Instant Pot last Christmas and I make batches of root veggies in it. Easy to heat them up for part of a meal or a snack.
Sometimes the 99c stores have good prices on teas, spices, canned foid and occasionally freah veggies ad/or bagged salad. Read la els before you buy anything!
Great tips Jaye! Thanks for sharing!
If nitrates don’t bother you in your bacon then Costco’s Low-Sodium bacon is Sugar-Free.
Yes! You’re so right.
Theres a recipe online on how to make your own bacon…without sugar.. Its a gaps recipe. Still tried but want to!!
Thank you for all this valuable information about whole 30 on a budget. When I clicked on the Amazon link for the updated Whole 30 book it’s from 2015. Is that the latest updated book?
I believe so Betty. That’s the one I have, but I don’t think this is THE original as there are tons of FAQ sections and white potatoes are permitted. I’m thinking they did a major overhaul in the 2014 time frame, updated the book and re-published. Odds are that any “new” question since then is really just a variation of a question they’ve already answered. 🙂
We’ve done Whole30 twice. January 2017 and again January 2018. After too much cheer during the holiday season, we were ready for it, especially this year because we knew how much better we felt in 2017 after we finished it.
As you said, planning is KEY! We learned a lot during both of ours. We’ve eliminated bread from our diet – can’t even tell you the last time I bought a loaf. And dairy has been drastically reduced. I was a big cheese eater and now it’s not often that I indulge and when I do, it’s usually parm cheese on top of a sauce over fresh spinach leaves. We found “substitutions” during our W30 that we’ve stuck with as well as a few new favorites – – fresh spinach leaves or spaghetti squash in place of pasta, we love the breakfast sausage recipe!, plantains are a great replacement for tortilla chips, and a new favorite salad is baby spinach w/fresh arugula simply dressed with olive oil & fresh lemon juice. Food really is the best medicine.
What brand of plantain chips? I would love to try those instead of tortilla chips!
I’ve done the Whole 30 myself, but not the family. This made it super hard. Curious to hear how it went for someone who did it with hubby and especially children!
I plan to write another post when we’re done – stay tuned!
I haven’t ever done the Whole 30 diet, but I do believe it is a helpful diet for some people. I would love to hear of your husband’s results after he finishes. I am always interested in other’s health stories. I thought what you said about the ghee was funny! I too thought ghee would be more butter like! ( Now, when I made my own ghee, it was really good, but the store bought kind definitely wasn’t as good as butter.) By the way, if you do ever want to make ghee yourself, you can see how to do it at this link-https://realfoodforager.com/videorecipe-homemade-ghee/. That is where I learned. Of course, I totally agree with using coconut oil instead-that is what I do. 🙂
Thanks Kristie! I’ve made ghee before, and I think the tutorial is in my archives somewhere… I actually had it on my to-do list to make it, but I didn’t want to be caught in the instance of NEEDING the ghee, and not had a chance yet to make it… go figure!
When I did my whole30 a little over a month ago, I followed most of what you said. The bacon wasn’t an issue because I couldn’t find it at the stores I shop at! I was sad, but got over it. I didn’t make any condiments, nor did I buy them. I just went without for 30 days. I did allow myself one bottle of super expensive ranch dressing (which I bought with my fun money) – made it last for the full 30 days. I didn’t use it for each salad, but it was nice having something that wasn’t oil and vinegar a couple times a week. I did buy ghee. It was worth it for me. It added such a different taste to my fried potatoes and fried fish. But I made the 8 oz bottle last almost the entire 30 days and I’m too scared to make my own so it was worth it. Besides, Trader Joe’s ghee is $4 a bottle. Everywhere else I looked (even Thrive) was around $7/bottle.
My biggest 2 problems: 1. Using recipes that used ingredients I don’t normally purchase. 2. Sticking with organic meats and eggs. I am glad I have the ingredients now after reintroduction since I’m still not sure on grains. And even though my budget kept increasing by $25 each week (I know right!?!), I just couldn’t bring myself to not buy organic meats and eggs. Now that I have finished Whole30, but continue to mostly eat the same way (minus some cheese now and again and still figuring out non-gluten grains. I haven’t even reintroduced gluten. I digress) my budget has calmed down. Since I am continuing to eat that way and working on feeding my family mostly that way as well, our budget has increased. It has increased by $25 per week (as opposed to $25, and then to $50 and then to $75 like during Whole30). However, I have never felt better. And $25/week is something my family can handle. If we couldn’t, then I would probably cut out the organic meats and eggs and just purchase conventional (I already do that with most produce).
I hope you share your experience with Whole30 and any recipes you created or found online! I tend to get lost when I recipe search on google so having a couple blogs that provide those things for me is super helpful! Thank you for all your work you do!
These are great tips and exactly what I’ve done to save $$$ while eating healthy. I’ve done the Whole 30 about 5 times in almost as many years and it’s helped me, my hubby, and many friends feel and sleep better. To be successful, try to have a few go to recipes you can throw together when short on time. Ex. Fried eggs with avocado or guacamole and sautéed veggies, hard boiled eggs to throw into salads or make quick deviled eggs with homemade mayo, hash from microwaving sweet or white potatoes then browning them and adding in leftover meat and veggies, microwaved spaghetti squash, etc.
There are lots of great Whole 30 approved recipes from Nom Nom Paleo (blog and cookbook) and Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed books. Don’t forget your local library and using inter library loan to try out different Whole 30 cookbooks. I did this then later bought ones at Costco and on Amazon that I tested out and loved.
I hope you’re going to make a post about your Whole 30 experience when your done. I’d love to hear what you and your family thought about it and if it helped your husband’s health issues!
I have found that doing a round of Whole30 can balance out budget wise because most likely you won’t be eating out, or buying snack foods or breads, sodas, juice and sports drink
Remember that frozen veggies are usually very cost effective.
Our Walmart often has meats marked down in the mornings ( the one in our town seems to have no set day the next town over is a “gold” mine on Sat mornings at about 7:30am but plenty left even at 9am) rarely is Chicken marked down so if you see if grab it!
Freeze leftovers, and veggies that are past there prime they are great for soups.
Keep it simple protein veggies/fruit and healthy fat no need for fancy recipes.
Great tips Connie! And I agree about the eating out part – the mere idea is overwhelming!
I just want to say that if a person is trying to do the whole 30, but they struggle with giving up cheese to use ghee on their baked potato. Ghee is a game changer! If you always crave cheese eating more fat helps. Plus it is super easy to make ghee yourself!
Thanks for the tip Mindy!