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7 Ways to Get Lean With A Tight Budget

Everyone wants to be healthy and fit. The easiest way to get there: Eating a clean and proper diet. The paleo diet is one of the ways to get you there, but it is not cheap. Add in budgetary restrictions and suddenly things become a little more challenging. Here are the top seven ways you can eat clean and get shredded with a lean budget!

1. Buy In Bulk


Warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club offer the best opportunity to buy healthy food for cheap. Typically well sourced and great quality, these options are wonderful for cooking large meals and prepping for the week. This should be your go-to spot for pantry items.  Spices, almond/coconut flour, butter, olive oil and other associated items.

Some produce (broccoli, avocado, berries, asparagus, etc.) is also a steal at these large warehouse merchants. Buy in bulk, cook in bulk. When you get home cook up all the stuff you bought and you’ll save on time and make less poor decisions down the road. You’ll be more likely to eat steamed broccoli and chicken breast if you have four pounds of each in the fridge. Meal prep alone is one of the best ways to get lean.

While these stores can be good for some produce and most pantry items, for meat, you need to go elsewhere. Which leads us to the next point…

2. Look For Local Ranchers


Just like you can shop in bulk for pantry items and some produce, you can typically do the same for meat. One of the biggest things to worry about is finding appropriately sourced beef and chicken. When these animals aren’t raised on pastures where they belong they become diseased and unhealthy. Classic case here of “you are what you eat.” When you eat animals that are sick and weak, you’ll become sick and weak.

Buying grass fed is important. Grass fed meat and pastured poultry has beneficial fats instead of inflammatory ones, loaded with fat soluble vitamins, and fat burning compounds such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Not only will you be supporting your own health and longevity, but also an ecosystem that thrives on local purchasing and humane treatment of animals.

Buying 1/4, 1/2 or even a full grass fed cow at a time can be a great way to support local ranches as well as get the healthiest meat available. Typically these options will end up being around $4/lb when all is said and done for all cuts. This includes steaks, ground beef, roasts, you name it. Much cheaper than the $30/lb grass fed rib eye at Whole Foods! Just pick it up and split it with some friends if you don’t have the freezer space.

Confused on where to find local ranches? Eat Wild has set up a handy guide on where there are local ranches selling grass fed beef and pastured chickens and hogs locally. Check them out!

3. Farmer’s Markets


If you’re looking to get lean, you’re going to need to make sure you’re getting enough micronutrients to feed your body what it needs. How do you get those? Eating a wide variety of nutritious vegetables! Where is the best place to find these on the cheap? Local farmer’s markets.

Most people can Google their city name and “farmer’s market” and come up with plenty of options in their towns or cities. Many times a week’s produce can be purchased for roughly $10/person. That’s about two Starbucks drinks right there.

Here you’re supporting the local farmers as well as saving some cash while trying to find the freshest produce possible.

4. Buy Only What’s On Sale


Yes, clean food is more expensive. A simple way to reduce the total at the register is to buy only what is on sale at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or your favorite grocer. Not only is the budget decreased when you spring for sale items, but it also forces you to become a better cook. When you’re relegated to only purchasing sale meats and veggies, you will end up with some items you probably don’t usually buy. Great! Go look for some recipes online using those ingredients or get creative yourself!

Are there some eggs or meat that are about to expire? Buy now on the cheap and cook in bulk! Can’t eat it all that week? Freeze it up after you cook it!  Again, what’s one of the best ways to get lean? Meal prep! Just make sure your sale items are well sourced and you should be good to go.

Be careful here. Don’t let this tip allow you to buy grain fed meats or conventionally raised eggs/chickens. These items can be inflammatory and leave you sick and fat.

5. Don’t Buy Organic When Not Necessary


Some clean foods you need to be eating to get lean don’t need to be organic – avocados, oranges, bananas, things that you peel the outer parts of are worthless to buy organic because all of the pesticides and problematic things are on the outside of the plant.

Dark leafy greens and other vegetables where you eat the skin have a high likelihood of still being contaminated, even after washing. Buy these veggies and fruits organic if you get the chance.

By skipping on the organic produce when you don’t need to buy it, you can save a lot of extra money. Check out The Paleo Fix‘s guide on how and when you need to buy organic.

6. Don’t Eat


Intermittent fasting is becoming quite a popular tool for many people to help them shred some fat in a short period of time. Fasting has been shown in several different studies to speed up burning fat, be beneficial for the heart and brain, improve heart rate and good pressure, as well as prolong lifespan.

So what do you do?  One of the easiest ways to get lean for most people is just to skip breakfast.  For a lot of people this just includes an insulin spiking (fat storing) coffee and bagel. Skipping this meal will save you $6/day as well as helping you burn extra fat. If hunger is distracting and hurting performance, then you need to eat.

A lot of people are on a breakfast routine just because they’ve been told their whole lives that it is the most important meal of the day. In reality, most people could use the chance to keep the fat burning from over the night continuing on throughout the day.

7. Reduce alcohol/soda/coffee/milk consumption

pouring water in a glass collection isolated

Water is free. Anything that you’re drinking that you have to pay for isn’t. Nothing but water is really even necessary. When you are paying to put any type of liquid into your system you could be buying things that actually deliver nutrients.

Most liquid calories you drink are detrimental to fat loss. They spike insulin, which spikes fat gain, which no one wants. Skip the unnecessary beverages and use it on something that can deliver nutrients and fuel your body. Think grass-fed meats and colorful vegetables.

Add in these tips and there shouldn’t be any excuse to not get the food you need to be healthy and lean. Interested in more? To see how you can use food for your advantage, check out The Paleo Fix Resources for ways you can bias your food and lifestyle for fat loss, mass gain, or increased performance.

About the Author

Dr. Gustin runs a sports rehabilitation and chiropractic practice in San Francisco, California with his Doctorate in Chiropractic and Master’s in Exercise and Sports Science. His perspective is undoubtedly different than some of his colleagues as he is also a Board Certified Sports Physician and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. His passion is utilizing all of the information from years of sifting through the static of nutrition, fitness, and overall wellness to help his patients to live a much higher quality life… He’s also a pretty awesome guy.

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