Budgeting Tips For the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol – Part I: Growing Your Own Food

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This is a photo of my sweet little sister in my urban garden here in Seattle.

One of the most common worries that people have when learning about the autoimmune protocol is how much it is going to cost them. I am not going to try and fool anyone into thinking it is not expensive, but for those that are willing to put some time and energy into how they source their food they can most definitely bring that cost down, and in some instances simultaneously raise the quality of their food. This week I will be posting a three-part series on the ways that I have learned how to decrease my food costs. When I discovered the autoimmune protocol, I had lost my job because of my illness and my husband and I were struggling to pay the debt that I had incurred with all of my hospital visits and testing. Back then, I was extremely overwhelmed at figuring out how to afford the food that would enable my body to heal. Over the next few days, I will be sharing what I have learned along this journey.

Tip 1: Grow as much food as you can yourself. You may live in an apartment and think I am crazy for suggesting this, but think of how heavily the autoimmune protocol depends on fresh and dried herbs instead of seed and nightshade-based spices. Fresh herbs are among the most expensive plant by weight that you buy at the store – some going for $15-20 a pound. A little startup investment in a bag of quality dirt, some seeds or starter plants and some pots from goodwill or garage sales can yield a pretty nice indoor herb garden. Of course you have to water and care for them, which is easier said than done for some people, but it is not beyond the scope of reason that you could eventually learn how to maintain a small indoor garden.

Now if you have some yard space that could be dedicated to vegetable gardening, you can really start saving yourself some money on groceries. Even a small yard with a little south exposure can produce a fair amount of produce. Planning and building a garden can be an expensive, complicated process with raised garden beds and buying new dirt – or you could just test your soil, add anything it is deficient in along with some compost and fertilizer and start planting. If you want to build a garden for a low cost, there are many resources out there for those wanting to build using recycled and salvaged materials. I built 4 raised beds for my garden three years ago, and my first season I broke even with the cost of building them and buying the dirt. Now the garden saves me even more money, because every year I don’t have those building expenses.

When planning what to plant, you definitely want to think about what grows well where you live and what will save you the most money at the store. I use this chart when making my garden plan so that I can try and save on what I would be buying anyways. I grow lots of lettuce, herbs, and greens, both because they grow very well here in the pacific northwest and because they are pretty high on that chart, meaning that you get a high yield for the amount of space they take up in the garden. Things like carrots, cabbage, and broccoli are fun to grow, but the space and time they take compared with how inexpensive they are at the store make them not very worthwhile to have in the garden. I base my plan on the veggies I am growing to save money, and then I have a little leftover space for “fun” crops like beets, carrots, and strawberries.

Although gardening can take a lot of planning, time and energy, it is very rewarding. It is a great way to get some sunshine, fresh air and de-stress, all things that are beneficial to us. When you grow your own vegetables, you have complete control over how they are grown (organically!) and you get to eat them as fresh as possible. My favorite thing is eating baby lettuce straight out of the garden – I love it so much that I almost can’t stand to eat lettuce in the winter from the store. When I was very ill and not leaving the house much, some days my goal was getting in the yard and planting a little square of lettuce. Even though I was not able to plan or work as effectively in the garden as I had in the past, come summer I still had a bounty of vegetables to eat.

I do my food budgeting in cash, so every week as I was saving more and more money with the garden I stashed it in a “meat fund” to purchase a portion of an animal come fall. I ended up with over $500 saved up, which easily paid for my quarter beef. It has been almost six months since that purchase, and there is still plenty in the freezer. Which leads me to tomorrow’s topic – buying meat in bulk.

Have you ever started a garden, be it in your yard or on your windowsill, to save money? How has it worked out?

About Mickey Trescott

Mickey Trescott is a cook and one of the bloggers behind Autoimmune Wellness. After recovering from her own struggle with both Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience to share with others and help them realize they are not alone in their struggles. She is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner by the Nutritional Therapy Association, and is the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, a guide and recipe book for the autoimmune protocol, and AIP Batch Cook, a video-based batch cooking program. You also can find her on Instagram.

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