Ever wish you could ask others how they spend their money? We’re going there. In our “Cash Confessions” series, LearnVest breaks down the numbers to show how real people spend their paychecks, and whether their habits are financially on track — or off the rails.
Today, one woman tallies up how doing the Whole30 diet impacted her family’s grocery budget.
After two months of nonstop holiday overindulgence, I made a drastic decision: Starting in January, I was going to do the Whole30 challenge.
Whole30 is an intense detox diet that you stick with for 30 days. You’re allowed to eat almost solely produce, raw nuts (but not peanuts), meat, eggs and a few cooking oils. Restrictive is an understatement — for someone coming off a Christmas binge, it’s nothing short of masochism.
So of course, I made my husband do it with me. Giving up sugar, grains, dairy and other foods we loved was daunting. But whether we could stick to our food budget concerned us as much as whether we could stick to the diet. So we tracked our Whole30 grocery spending over the month, not including what we bought for the kids.
Days 1 to 5
I made up a weekly meal plan to make sure my fridge and pantry were well-stocked with Whole30-compliant foods. My first stop: My local Sprouts Farmers Market, where I spent $103.06 on things like grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, bulk raw nuts, and lots of fruits and veggies. There were fewer of our usual staples like bread and pasta, and no impulse-buy sweets.
It lasted us two days before I had to run back for more bananas and almonds. On day four I was back at Sprouts and spent $104.66. This is when I learned a jar of grass-fed ghee (clarified butter, as regular butter is not allowed) costs $12. I also bought $15 worth of RXBars on sale.
Total: $207.72 — less than a week in.
Days 6 to 10
My sugar withdrawal was starting to get under control, so I could finally muster the strength to tackle my food spending. My second trip to Sprouts lasted us four days. I decided to try another grocery store, WinCo, to see if I could lower my bill. I spent $131.41, and this lasted us through the week — except for one hangry day in which I didn’t start dinner early enough, so had to pick up Whole30-friendly takeout from a local restaurant, to the tune of $40.19.
Running Total: $379.32
Days 11 to 15
I’m finally starting to feel the health benefits of going Whole30. I’m not so sluggish in the morning, my normal bloat is gone, and I’m not craving sugar for the first time in my life. But my wallet is not in such good spirits. I looked back over the first few receipts. Meat was eating up most of our budget, so I planned a few more egg-based meals, and went for cheaper cuts of pork at WinCo and individually wrapped cod from Trader Joe’s. I also got lots of starchy, filling vegetables like sweet potatoes and parsnips.
Running Total: $484.33
Days 16 to 20
I did more food prep to keep costs down, like making my own marinara sauce and chopping vegetables instead of buying pre-cut ones. So we were able to get by with one reasonable trip to WinCo at $84.47, and a mini-trip to Trader Joe’s for bananas and almonds (my staples) for $12.48.
Total: $96.95, my best five days yet
Running Total: $581.28
Days 21 to 25
Feeling smug about my success, I thought I didn’t need to dissect my receipts before going out for the week’s shopping. That was a mistake. I spent $114.79 at Costco, on only a handful of items: bulk nuts, frozen fish, brussels sprouts, spinach, apples and some Whole30-compliant pulled pork. So I had to take another trip to WinCo ($60.17). Plus, we had a meal catastrophe when our pressure cooker broke in the middle of cooking. Emergency takeout cost $42.09.
Total: $217.05. Not only were we close to the Whole30 finish line, we were also close to running out of money!
Running Total: $798.33
Days 26 to 30
During the last five days, I knew I had to tighten our budget — fortunately the bulk foods from Costco could mostly see us through. I only needed vegetables and almond milk.
After my husband and I did our time, we noticed changes to our bodies. He lost over 20 pounds, and I maintained my weight, but gained muscle and my clothes fit better. My energy was also up. We both felt the physical benefit of Whole30 — but we were ready to cut ourselves some slack. My wallet simply couldn’t handle any more restriction (and neither could my sweet tooth).
Final Total: $875.05
Paying the Price for Healthier Eating
Including non-Whole30 groceries we bought for our three kids, our Whole30 spending edged us over $1,000 a month — way more than our usual $600 family grocery tab!
We’ve kept many Whole30 meals in rotation, but being able to eat foods like whole grains, beans, lentils, brown rice and tofu really helps keep our grocery bill down. I’m glad we reset our eating habits, but it came at a steep price tag. I’m much happier sticking to a more budget-friendly version of healthy eating.