About Cara Koster
A Certified Whole30 Coach and conscious shopper, Cara had to learn how to eat healthy on a budget after some life events that found her on food stamps. Knowing that sometimes, good is good enough, Coach Cara is sharing how she does Whole30 on a budget and busting myths that healthy eating has to be expensive. Get ready to save some coin on your next trip to the grocery store with her Whole30 shopping hacks, tips, and how she chooses to nourish her wallet and herself with shopping smart.
Cara, we wanna know about you! Tell us about your background and what got you interested in Whole30 and then making the leap to finally become a Certified Coach.
I did my first Whole30 before my son turned 1 and got my pre-mommy mojo back. After a series of events, my family was on SNAP (food stamps) and WIC and I still wanted to eat well. I was able to figure out how to eat Whole30 on a serious budget and I want to become a coach to show others how to do the same.
How did your own experience influence you to share your budget-friendly Whole30 journey with others?
There’s such a huge misconception that eating healthy is so expensive that I think that notion alone keeps some people from even trying to improve their diets. I want to erase that idea from everyone’s mind.
Sometimes people think that eating “clean” or buying healthier ingredients is going to be really expensive. What wisdom can you share that busts this myth?
Don’t get tricked into thinking you have to buy all sorts of fancy ingredients or that you can only shop at health food or speciality stores. All ordinary grocery stores across the country (including Walmart) have vegetables, meat, eggs, nuts and seeds and fruit. Most offer organic, grass fed, humanely raised and other better sourced food as well if that’s within your budget.
There’s also a sort of “all of nothing” mentality behind eating clean and trying to eating better sourced food. If you can afford organic beef this week but not produce, that’s ok. If you can’t afford any organic that’s ok too! Conventional meats and produce is still better for you than a frozen Tv dinner.
Do you have some favorite money saving “hacks” for Whole30?
Shop in season for produce. As much as I love raspberries, they’re pretty expensive in January so I just have to wait until summer comes back around.
Look for bulk pricing, many groceries stores sell larger quantities of meat and produce for lower prices, no need to buy a membership somewhere.
Coupons! They’re out there for whole30 compliant products. Mambosprouts.com routinely has coupons for Tios, The New Primal and Primal Kitchen. Also, because more and more people want to change their diet to include more whole foods companies are putting coupons in the newspaper. Coupons.com is another great place, I find coupons for RX bars, avocados, Wholly Guacamole, and others.
Specifically, Driscoll's berries does something amazing! On the bottom of every container is a code. Buy the berries, eat some and then head to their website where you’ll enter the code and evaluate the berries. In return they email you a coupon starting a .50 and then as you take more they bump it to $1. You can take 2 surveys a day so this has been a HUGE help since my kids love berries.
If you have a certain product of brand that you love, go to their website and see if they have printable coupons. If not, send them an email and they might send you some coupons.
One last thing is shopping for “manager specials” in the meat department but they’re also in the produce section too. You’ll find meat that’s basically on clearance, it’s sell by date is within a day or two so they mark it down a lot. As long as you cook it or freeze it you’ll be ok (I always smell it just to be safe). This helps me provide grass fed and better quality meat for my family since they’re usually marked down to below what conventional meat costs.
Does cooking/meal-prepping play a big role in saving while on Whole30 or after?
Absolutely! I try to really maximize savings between buying in bulk and managers meat specials, and that usually means that I cook double or sometimes even triple the amount a recipe calls for so I can freeze it for later or eat it for lunch during the week.
One trap I think some people fall into is they plan their meals for the week the wrong way. They’ll go pick out recipes and then get to the store only to realize everything they need is expensive or not on sale. I do it in reverse, check the circulars to see what meat and produce is on sale and then if I need ideas open up a Whole30 cookbook, check some of my favorite bloggers and see what I can make with those items.
Can you share with us your go-to pantry or food staples that won’t break the bank?
I’m a big fan of spicy food, I always have a few cans of Rotel in my house. They retail for around $1 but are on sale frequently for less. I love putting a can in with eggs in the morning or in the slow cooker with some ground meat for burrito bowls.
Also, canned veggies like tomatoes, beets and sauerkraut are always in my house. They’re cheap, often overlooked don’t take up space in the freezer and can add a quick side to dinner with no effort.
Condiments like mustards, hot sauces, coconut milk and olives can also be really affordable and can usually be store brand.
Please ALWAYS read your labels to check for sneaky sugars and other non compliant ingredients but most of the time you’ll be surprised that store brand or foods can be compliant.
As a coach, what parting encouragement would you give to someone who is interested in Whole30 but might be intimidated by a higher grocery bill?
Depending upon what you already have in your pantry you may see an increase in your initial stock up shopping trip. After that, focus on buying local and in season produce and meat. If you can afford organic and higher quality meats and produce go for it, but if you can’t that’s ok too! Conventional produce and meat are still better for you than processed foods. There are also a ton of bloggers, Instagrammers and other people out there that have great ideas on eating whole30 on a budget.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the Model Meals/Whole30 community?
Don’t be intimidated. We all had to start somewhere and we all have unique health and financial situations. Everyone that I have met in this community wants to help others live healthier lives. Do not be afraid to reach out if you need help. Team up with a friend or find someone in the community and start a Whole30 together. Most importantly, don’t let finances stop you from living a healthier life.
Cara, thanks for giving us such easy-to-follow tips and useful ideas we can practice in our own lives. We are super grateful to have learned so much form you!
Keep up with Cara at www.whoelfoodforall.com and on Instagram @wholefoodforall.
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