The GAPS diet presents many challenges and cost is certainly one of them. When we first implemented the diet for our son, Raleigh, we struggled greatly to stretch the food budget wide enough to accomodate his needs. I would have loved to put the entire family on GAPS but to be able to afford the highest quality food that was not possible. In the first year, and some into the second on GAPS, the rest of our family would eat meatless meals at least twice a week to help the budget. Now, this may not be something anyone reading this wants to do, or should do, but it is what I chose to do. I had to get creative with things like lentils, beans, and quinoa to stretch our dollars.
We had been eating along the Weston A Price guidelines for a few years when Raleigh began GAPS (2017), so I was very familiar with the process of properly preparing grains in order to remove anti nutrients, and I was confident that I could make meatless meals for the rest of us that were very nutrient dense. When we first began, Raleigh was 4, and serving a different dinner to him was a much easier task. We ate this way for at least the first full year, and it certainly did help stretch the budget to support Raleigh on GAPS.
I started looking for ways to get us all eating GAPS meals at dinner so that I would only have to make one meal, instead of the two I had been making, and bring solidarity to the dinner table. I knew the day would come that he would really begin to recognize he was eating something different, and I wanted to make the switch as soon as possible. There is certainly an emotional element to GAPS that should not ever be overlooked, especially for children, and it was important for me to be able to serve all of us the same dinner.
GAPS is a sacrifice of many things; time, emotions, money, and other things like joining a community for food-related functions. This could be an entire topic for another day – and likely so – but for today I’m going to give you some of the best tips on how to do GAPS on a budget. These are all things I’ve done, learned and implemented.
- Buy conventionally raised meat. Hang with me here for a sec. Dr Natasha says that if you are forced to decide between purchasing organic fruits and vegetables or organic/pasture-raised animal foods always to choose to spend the money on the organic produce. The reason being is that animals have a built-in detox system, and their bodies will work out many of the toxins they come into contact with. Produce cannot do anything with the pesticides that are sprayed on them. They have no detox system, and the pesticides do not rinse off with washing. Dr Natasha says the chemicals on produce are far worse to consume than an animal grown conventionally. It is far better to be consuming meat stock made from a conventionally grown animal than not to be consuming meat stock at all due to a lack in the budget.
- Go dumpster diving in the freezer section. Most grocery stores, and health food stores, have a freezer section or deep freezer bins where they toss all the odd cuts of meat and fat. The “nasty bits” that no one seems to want except people like me who know Christmas can be found at the bottom of those things! If you haven’t tried this trick yet, I would highly recommend it. I have found amazing cuts like beef shanks, bone marrow, chicken/turkey necks and backs, chicken feet, chicken liver, pork fat, and so much more in these freezer bins. They can be full of some of the best cuts to make meat stock with for really low prices. Also, be sure to check for discounted meats in these places, too. I have walked away from Natural Grocers with packages of chicken thighs, legs, wings, and whole chickens for insanely low prices.
- Speak to someone behind the counter. I got to know the guys behind the meat counter at Whole Foods really well in the first year of GAPS. They would see me walk in a shout a hello! Get to know these people. Ask them questions. I asked some really silly ones at the beginning as I was learning to navigate my way around different cuts of meat and how to cook them. They would save marrow bones for me, cut them however I wanted, and truly just helped me out a lot.
- Meet a local butcher, farmer, and rancher. These people are amazeballs. Really. Salt-of-the-earth type people who will bend over backwards to help you out. It is also really nice to help them out and support locally if you are able. You can do quick internet searches for these people near you. Most will have websites where you can order or call. Our dairy farmer where we purchase raw milk has his personal number listed and answers everyone’s call. I know so many farmers and ranchers do business this way. They want to help you, they want to clear up questions, and they want to get you nutrient-dense food. All it takes is a little searching, phone calling or emailing to find these people.
Ask questions like these:
What do you do with the extra bones you don’t sell?
Can I buy them from you? (Some will give them to you for free! Especially if you explain what you need them for)
What days do you deliver these cuts to stores? Which stores?
Do you feed your animals soy, corn, gmo’s, antibiotics or vaccines?
How are the animals raised and what type of feed do you supplement?
Can you substitute non-sugar cuts in my order?
- Buy in season. Produce will be cheaper in season and go further.
- Make all of your own ferments. This is recommended on GAPS anyway for a few reasons, but it is so much cheaper to make your own ferments than it is to buy high quality ones on shelves.
- Buy in bulk. If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership use it to buy meat and veggies in bulk.
- Stock up on animal fats. When these go on sale I always buy an extra few. It is worth it to have them around since they are such a big part of the diet.
- Raise chickens. We are not here yet, but it is something we hope to be doing soon-ish. This will provide you with high quality eggs and if they are tolerated, eggs are a huge part of the GAPS diet.
- Save up to purchase a whole, half or quarter cow. I would also recommend this for a pig if you consume pork. This is a great way to meet and support a local rancher. We have purchased a half cow and a quarter cow. The half cow gave us more choosing options and enabled us to get organ meats and many cuts like shanks and knuckle bones to use for meat stock.
The Weston A Price Foundation is a wonderful resource you can tap into. You can find their website here. Find your state and then a local chapter. Reach out to the chapter leader, and he/she can help you find local sources for animal meat, raw milk and so much more.
GAPS is certainly do-able on a tight budget. Sometimes you have to get creative to make it work. I’d love to know how you have made it work. If you have a tip to share please do in the comments.