My husband John and I are both eating carnivore right now, though we’ve eaten generally low-carb real food for years, even while we were paying off $66K of debt. We got the “eating healthy on a budget” thing down to a science, and even have our own business helping other people pursuing financial independence to eat healthy on a budget.
You might think that eating just meat would be way more expensive, but it can actually come out a wash or even cheaper, if you go about it the right way.
For one, it’s way more simple. You aren’t buying multiple fancy ingredients for a dish, and the cost of those can really add up quickly. And, with so much less in our fridge, our food waste has essentially gone down to zero. No more fresh herbs or giant Costco bags of greens going bad before we can finish them.
A huge part is that most people end up eating less in total on a carnivore diet. Not because you’re depriving yourself, but because you are giving your body all the bioavailable nutrients it needs, and because your cravings go away, which means you aren’t continually snacking or eating every 2 hours. You feel satisfied for hours and hours after a meal. As a result, most eat three meals a day without snacks, and many find they’re only hungry for two meals (or even one!). OMAD (one meal a day) for the win! In fact, this way of eating lends itself really well to intermittent fasting, but that is a topic for another post.
If you start to poke around the carnivore community, you might start to get the idea that it’s only ribeye steaks, all day, every day. You certainly can do that, but there is SO much room for variety in what you’re eating as well as variety based on your budget.
Here are a few ways you can do the carnivore diet on a budget.
Buy Meat In Bulk
You’re probably used to buying some foods in bulk already, but did you know you can buy meat in bulk, too? In my estimation, it can be 20-50% cheaper than grocery store prices. Get a secondhand chest freezer, and stock it with the meat from a whole or partial cow from a local farmer who raises animals in a sustainable, humane way.
Word to the wise: a freezer alarm is a wise purchase so you are alerted to a rise in temperature before you lose hundreds of dollars of meat.
EatWild.com helps you find local farmers for buying a quarter, half, or whole cow (or hog, or chicken, or lamb) that has been raised sustainably in a species-appropriate environment and fed its natural diet.
We recently bought a half cow that we split with family from our beloved local farmers at Neiffer Ranch in Ione, Oregon. It worked out to $4.50/lb for beautiful, grass-fed and sustainably raised beef, with plenty of ground beef but also steaks and roasts.
We also did a bulk order of 20 whole chickens from them at $4.67/lb, again for delicious pasture-raised chickens. I used to think I didn’t really like chicken until I had theirs. It’s super flavorful and stays moist when roasting.
Eat Ground Meat
Ground meat is often cheaper than cuts of meat like steaks or roasts. I actually often prefer ground beef in the form of meatballs or patties to steaks. Especially if you’re buying in bulk, one person could cover their entire daily nutritional needs for just $9 a day (i.e. eating two pounds of bulk ground beef at $4.50/lb).
Arguably, ground meat is not as palatable as a ribeye, but you can use sugar-free bacon as a “seasoning” to help add fat and flavor. I like forming beef patties and arranging a little bacon lattice on top, then broiling until cooked through. Or, you can finely dice cooked bacon and mix it into a batch of ground beef, then form into meatballs.
We also find that forming ground beef into patties not only keeps them more moist than stir frying, but also cooks off some of the compounds that can cause stomach upset for some people.
Eat Nose to Tail
The organ meats (called offal) are some of the most nutrient-dense parts of the animal, and also the cheapest. Eating nose to tail is not only healthier, but it’s less wasteful, and better honors the animal that has given its life to nourish yours.
It’s easy to make steaks from beef heart, or cut it up into cubes and slow-cook it as stew meat, make pâté with grass fed butter + cooked liver (if you tolerate dairy), thinly slice and fry beef tongue, or roast the bones and make a rich hearty bone broth from them (and eat the buttery marrow with some flaky sea salt)! *chef’s kiss*
Supplement with Eggs
If you can tolerate them, eggs are a great low-cost nutrient-dense option. The nutrients are concentrated in the yolk, such as choline, which is good for your brain, and the fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K (which is what gives the yolk its rich yellow color).
Your best bet is finding a local farmer or a neighbor who will sell you eggs from properly raised chickens (i.e. those raised outside on grass). Local Facebook groups and farmers markets are good places to start. The next best thing is store-bought pasture-raised eggs, like those from Vital Farms.
You’ll immediately notice the rich dark orangey-yellow color of the yolk in comparison to the pale yellow of regular store-bought varieties. That rich color means it’s packed with more nutrients! More bang for your buck! 🍳
Don’t Skip the Canned & Frozen Sections
Canned wild-caught tuna, sardines, and salmon are great, inexpensive options. Frozen wild-caught seafood can also be cheaper than fresh seafood. I’ve got a free Carnivore Shopping List for Costco which includes the canned and frozen sections of the store.
Use Your Social Connections
Last but not least, don’t forget to leverage your network. You may have friends or family members that hunt and have venison, elk, moose, or even bear meat and fat that you could buy or barter for.