"Eating healthy is expensive." That's the excuse for inaction towards one's dietary and metabolic health we hear all the time. It's especially oft claimed against a carnivore diet; "meat is expensive." What is really expensive though are junk habits and unnecessary medical costs, not to mention supplements and prescriptions.
Will you pay more on at the grocery store on a carnivore, or even paleo, diet? Absolutely. However, we must remember that **food is medicine.** So the total cost of our dietary consumables not only includes grocery expenses, but dining out, alcohol, and coffee. On top of that we must also include out-of-pocket medical expenses; be they for prescriptions, supplements, or other illnesses and injuries.
As an aside I'd argue as well that the bioavailability (how much of given nutrient is actually absorbed from your gut to your blood) is much higher when consuming animal products compared to plant products and certainly compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD). But, that is not the point I'm getting at here.
In my first 30 day test of the carnivore diet I logged my all my food related costs. This is important, not just groceries, but all food, drink, snacks, etc... My paleo / keto food costs (conventionally grown) with supplements and eating out was $85 / week. Switching to carnivore I stopped eating out, didn't have craving so I didn't need cheat meals, and didn't need any supplements (though I did look into this in the future), my cost was $66 / week!
This brings us to the grass fed vs. grain fed argument. I am adamant about advocating for regenerative agriculture and grass fed / free range animal products, so let's look at my current carnivore grocery budget:
In-Store Total: $48 / week; $192 / month:
- Eggs $4 (FR Ingles)
- Sardines $4 (WC Walmart)
- Ground Beef $35 (FR Walmart)
- Spring Water ($5 Publix)
Online Total: $27.5 / week; $110 / month:
- Kidney $7 (White Oak)
- Liver $8 (White Oak)
- Suet $5 (White Oak)
- Chuck Roast / Brisket $7.5 (White Oak)
Grand Total: $292 / month
The average American in Atlanta spends $300 / month (r) on groceries. That's per household so we'll take $75 / person / month. However, as I mentioned earlier this isn't the only cost we have to consider. Americans also spend an average of $800 - $1,100 / year in out of pocket medical expenses ($158 / month) and $490 /month in insurance premiums here in Georgia (r, r).
The supplement industry is worth $32B (r) and per capita Americans spend a little over $70 / year ($6 / month) on non-prescription vitamins. I'm not sure how this figure was calculated since even a basic whey protein costs about $1 / serving. At 1 serving / day (mild by all measures), that's $30 / month.
Next, Americans spend about 1% of their gross income on alcohol and as much as $92 / month on coffee (r,r). For the alcohol that's about $40 / month if you make $50K / year. I'm not sure who is dropping almost $100 / month on coffee, but let's say you're only stopping by Starbucks on your way to work M-F and not getting anything fancy ($2 / day, $10 / week, $40 / month).
Let's look at those numbers again. We'll assume that in both cases dinning out goes under a different budget line, like entertainment:
| Item | SAD | NTTC
| Groceries | $75 | $292
| Coffee | $40 | $0
| Alcohol | $40 | $0
| Vitamins | $6 - $30 | $0
| Health Care | $800 - $1,100 | $0
| Total | $1,123 | $292
* NTTC = nose-to-tail carnivore
If you're going to be quick to say a carnivore diet will have nutrient deficiencies, then I'll simply remind you that that has been debunked many times other places, including on this blog. As far as "supplementation" goes, I do drink spring water and use Redmond Real Salt. Both are already included in my grocery budget. I do drink coffee as well, but always brewed at home. Again, included in my grocery cost or would be a marginal addition.
Next, let's give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you really don't drink alcohol or coffee, only take a multivitamin, and take extra precautions to avoid unnecessary illness and injury:
| Item: | SAD | NTTC
| Groceries | $75 | $292
| Coffee | $0 | $10
| Alcohol | $0 | $0
| Vitamins | $6 | $0
| Health Care | $400 | $0
| New Total | $481 | $302
I'll assume that those health care costs include the long term consequences of a SAD, but we haven't even touched on the long term lifestyle costs (immobility, degenerative brain disease, depression, anxiety, etc...)(r,r)! As far as my personal out-of-pocket health care costs, I guess I buy toothpaste and deodorant; and pay more for paraben and phtalate free personal care products. Though, $400 / month is a helluva lot of laundry detergent!
Again, this is not a post about the ecological impact of food consumption; though I'll happily direct people to research regenerative agriculture, effects of monocropping, the ecological cost of shipping avocados from Mexico (plus celebrities flying private jets and the ecological impact of the pharmaceutical industry); and do some critical thinking about alleged "blue zones." (r, r, r, r). Obviously if you're not eating meat for religious or spiritual reasons, that's entirely up to you.
What would you do with an extra $180 / month? Buy a car? Invest in your future? Invest in your health? What if "investing in your health AND longevity" is what got you that extra $180 / month? Can you even imagine how much different your life would be if you were lighter, stronger, more mentally apt, increasing your longevity, and at a dramatically decreased risk for virtually all disease -- all while **saving money**?!
Our current culture tells us that we have to spend money to fix things. Hopefully this post is a testament against that. I wrote a post earlier about how a top-down approach to healthcare isn't going to work because of inseparable ties to the pharmaceutical and government subsidies of the agricultural industries.
I want to hammer home the point: Imagine how your life would change forever and neigh-irreversibly so if you ditched your SAD, dramatically improved your mental and physical health and longevity, then, say, used that $180 to join a jiu jtsu gym! (I'll proudly admit my bias here :D).
Until next time. Fly Free and stay radical!