Day 33: The grass-fed meat dilemma and eating to budget on AIP

Hello paleo friends. I imagine you will need no introduction to the notion of grass-fed meat and the advice from paleo experts that we should be eating more of it. Sit back and relax for these next couple of paragraphs. Non-paleo or new-to-paleo friends may be less up to speed on the food of our food and why it makes such a difference. And although that’s not really what this post is about, it’s probably important to set the stage.

What on earth is grass-fed meat?
Glad you asked. Grass fed meat is from animals that are fed grass. Tada! That was easy wasn’t it. It is kind of in the name. You’ll sometimes hear grass-fed and pasture-raised being used interchangeably, but in reality they are slightly different. Some animals (such as pigs) don’t do well on a 100% grass diet, so their food is supplemented with other stuff while they’re being raised on green pastures… hence pasture-raised.

How is grass-fed meat different from any other meat?
You’re full of good questions. Conventionally farmed meat is generally raised on cereal and grains. These foods are no more natural to the animals than they are to us and they often lead to fattier cuts of meat and increased omega-6 to omega-3 ratios (that’s a bad thing and can lead to increased inflammation). Meat from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals is more nutritious… and has probably been treated better in all honesty as they tend to get to roam around a lot more.

Sounds great. So what’s the dilemma?
Well, it’s way freaking expensive. Even being as lucky as we are with the ability to buy grass-fed meat from our local butcher sourced from local farms, we still saw our grocery bills shoot up when we were going through an ‘I’m hungry, let’s eat a lot of meat’ phase. Coupled with the fact that if you’ve landed on this page, you’ve probably already or are thinking about giving up grains.

Grains may be evil. But they’re cheap.

If you’re not eating grains, you have to find something else to eat… and those things are almost guaranteed to be more expensive. For example, cauliflower isn’t that expensive. What, 49p? A quid if you’re in the south and you buy organic. So making cauliflower rice seems as though it’s quite cheap. But that 49p gives you rice for two people for one meal. 1kg of Tesco Everyday Value white rice costs 40p and makes many, many meals.

But this is about your health! And think of all the money you’ll save on medical bills.
Well, actually the second argument really doesn’t fly here as we have something called the NHS or National Health Service, which means we get our care for free unless we choose to pay to see a private doctor. But I hear you on the health note. It’s probably worth the investment. It’s just tough to see your grocery bills go from £50 a week to nearly £100 when you’re trying to save for a deposit on a house.

So, how can I box clever about this? I really can’t afford £100 on my weekly shop.
I am all for supporting local business especially when it comes to eating local food. But there are certain things you can bear in mind when planning your weekly shop to be a bit more on budget. Here’s what we’ve learned in the last few weeks:

  1. Compromise on the fish instead.
    Wild caught fish is obviously better than farmed from a welfare perspective, but from a nutritional perspective it makes way less of a difference than the difference between conventional and grass-fed meat. Aldi sells bags of frozen fish for much cheaper than fresh fish from the fishmonger. We live about as far away from the sea as you can get in Chesterfield anyway and would freeze most of the fish we buy until the day we eat it, so buying it frozen shouldn’t make much difference. This week, we bought tuna steak, salmon fillets and basa fillets all from the freezer section of Aldi.
  2. Buy lamb from the supermarket. 
    Most lamb in the UK is grass-fed anyway (source). You may want to check this as it can depend on the time of year you buy the lamb, but often even lamb that has been ‘finished’ on a cereal diet has been grazing on open pastures for most of its life. Aldi sells lamb mince for much cheaper than the butcher and it’s British and Red Tractor certified.
  3. Eat game meats such as venison.
    Seasonal game meats like venison are also a good choice as they are often wild, but if not almost always pasture-raised (source for Venison), so these are probably safe to compromise on also and buy from the supermarket if it is cheaper. Of course, venison (like lamb) is typically more expensive than other meat you’ll find in the supermarket, so if you really want to save money, stick with as much fish as possible!
  4. Figure out what the butcher sells that fits your budget.
    Chicken is relatively cheap compared to other meats as is pork. Chicken especially should always be grass-fed as it naturally has a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Figure out what you can afford for the couple of nights a week that you’re not eating fish or lamb!
  5. Eat organ meats!
    I know, gross right? I’m still getting used to this one myself, but it is very important from a nutritional perspective, especially if you’re trying to heal from an autoimmune disease. But if you can stomach the unusual taste, lambs liver is really cheap compared to other meat. Perhaps you could buy half the amount of steak mince for that cottage pie you’re planning and bulk it out with chopped up liver if you need to hide the flavour at first!
Steak and veg

And when you’ve got enough money just go for it and buy yourself a juicy steak. Mmmm…. steak.

I think the key thing here is to buy as high quality ingredients (whether meat or vegetables) as your budget allows. We thought we were going to go bankrupt after the first couple of weeks of groceries on AIP, but soon realised that we were saving even more than usual as we’re not eating out, so maybe the money can be found from elsewhere.

We’ve gone back and forth between grass-fed and conventional meat, but we’re back on it again now. It’s just not worth it to not be 100% compliant on this diet if we can afford it. I want myself healed. So really, a few extra quid is a small price to pay. Nevertheless, I hope the tips above help you to keep your bills down and your health up!

Do you have any tips for buying the most nutritious food you can on a budget? I’d love to hear them.


 

Food Diary
Breakfast: Leftover fish pie with sauteed celery and spinach with garlic
Lunch: Leftover fish pie, an apple, a pear
Dinner: Maple sausage patties with savoy cabbage and carrots
Snacks: A full bag of dates. Damn you afternoon meetings with snacks – you gave me a hankering for sweets!

Pain level (out of 10)
Woke up with pain at about 3. It went away by 9am then came back at about 5.30pm at about 3 again. It seems to have gone for now but we’re only at 9pm so it could return before bed. I’ll come back and update tomorrow if that’s the case. Fingers crossed not!

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