Why Food Trends Are (Usually) Financially Problematic

At the beginning of November, a friend and I sat down together and pledged to give the Whole30 food plan a shot. We both wanted to eat more consciously, and consume fewer carbs and less sugar. Whole30, with its focus on vegetables and stringent rejection of carbs, sugar, alcohol and processed foods, seemed to be the answer.

Well, a mere ten days into the program I realized that it was not going to work for either my appetite nor my budget.

For those unfamiliar with the Whole30 diet, let me explain the rules a little more clearly. It’s the current food trend de jour, a diet that people are supposed to undertake for 30 days.

From their website, here’s what they list as ok to eat: “Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.”

Here’s what they say not to eat: Sugar (real or processed), alcohol, tobacco, grains, legumes (including all beans), no peanut butter, dairy, sulfites, MSG, or carrageenan.

At first glance, I was totally on board. I try not to eat dairy and to limit my carbs as is. With a little nudging I thought I could kick my peanut butter habit. With a little planning, I thought I could build my meals around the meats I do eat (chicken and tilapia) and just up my veggie intake.

But you know what happened? I broke. I broke hard, and I broke pretty fast. I went from being excited about Whole30 to feeling it’s elitist, snobby, and way too restrictive. I am no longer even remotely trying to follow the plan.

It wasn’t just my raging addiction to peanut butter that broke me. I was leaving a lot of food I’d already spent money on to gather dust in my pantry. Trying to keep up with the restrictions of the diet was busting my food budget.

This diet is not really for those who stick to a strict budget. My budget for food each month is $60. I know that’s crazy low, but it works for me. Let’s remember, I’m working with a take-home paycheck of roughly $22,000 each year. 

I have a Costco membership. A few months ago I shelled out for a large package of quinoa, gluten free pasta, black beans, and chickpeas. I mean, it’s a substantial amount of food. And none of it was listed as ok to eat on the Whole30.

So I was forced into the grocery store to load up on produce. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that by and large, produce is way cheaper than packaged food. (In most places. I know in food deserts and higher cost of living areas food is much more expensive than my area.)

Produce doesn’t last unless you’re freezing it. I live in a small apartment without much dry storage and a freezer I split with two other people. I don’t have a ton of space to be socking away bags of frozen peas or broccoli crowns.

So you can very easily run out, spend a ton of money on produce, and watch it rot before you get the chance to eat it. There’s not an easy way to store it. Plus, my shelves were already stocked with all those grains and beans that I couldn’t eat. Never mind that beans are an excellent source of fiber, iron, and protein. All of which my anemic, non-meat eating self needs!

Besides the space issue, Whole30 also presents a time issue. The program assumes you have the time to be cooking either large batch meals once or twice a week, or that you have the time to cook three fresh meals a day. Now, I work from home and usually make myself a hot lunch every day. But I’m not going to make myself three hot meals and be stuck hand washing my one pan three times a day.

Finally, Whole30 depends very heavily on meats. I don’t eat most animals, so a lot of my diet is made up of grains, beans, and legumes. There’s a serious protein deficiency waiting to happen to non-meat eaters who can’t eat beans, or tofu, and who don’t want to eat ten pounds of broccoli at each meal.

While I haven’t tried any other food trend, I suspect many of them come with the same problems that Whole30 does. It simply leaves those of us who are short on income and time out in the cold. These kinds of plans kill me. They are handed down by a slim, attractive person or couple, and are more about making money than about helping people actually achieve better health.

I don’t have the budget for it. I don’ have the patience for it. Last night I had a cheese-less pizza covered in sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, and orange pepper. It broke at least three of the Whole30 rules. It was also delicious, filling, and got rid of one of the Costco pizza crusts I’ve had in my freezer for EIGHT MONTHS.

So tell me y’all. Is there a food trend that you’ve found to be budget and time friendly? Have you had success with Whole30? I’m curious if anyone has made it work!

For ways to actually save money on your grocery bill check out these awesome articles.

Healthy Costco Foods To Add To Your Grocery List
A Frugal Meal, Italian Style
Save Money: Catering Leftovers Are My Life


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11 Replies to “Why Food Trends Are (Usually) Financially Problematic”

  1. It wouldn’t work for me. I love carbs too much! I mostly cut out dairy and that helped a lot. Most of my carbs since I’ve changed are gluten free, but who knows if that really makes a difference.

    Breakfast these days tends to be scrambled eggs with diced onions and a protein shake, dinner tends to be turkey burger patty and white rice, lunch tends to be rotisserie chicken with rice and beans. But I’ll still have pizza or bratwurst occasionally. Usually I keep it to to one bad meal on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and that works for me. I was more restrictive at the beginning but it wasn’t sustainable.

    What I’ve noticed is I really do feel more lethargic when I have more of the deep fried stuff.

    I feel like you don’t need to cut out all carbs to be healthy.

    I do think like a lot of diets can sound elitist, and I hope I don’t come off that way when I talk about what I eat and don’t eat.

    Thankfully my basic diet is a lot cheaper than what I used to eat. I can’t imagine doing Whole30 on $60/mo. But I eat very few vegetables. i’m spending $18/mo just on a Greens Supplement….

    1. TJ, you need more veggies! Get that fiber man. Carbs are delicious and some of them do have a nutritional punch. I think some people think anyone who talks about food snobs like a picky snob, but you can’t please everyone. Being deliberate about what goes into your body is just fine

      1. My protein powder and veggie powder both have fiber. 😀

        Something that has helped me has been snacking on unsalted roasted nuts. I like peanuts and cashews. If I have salted peanuts or honey roasted peanuts, I eat a lot more because the salt and sweet flavors are addictive….but just plain old unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews, I can take a handful or 2 and it delays the hanger for a little while.

  2. I found the Seefood Diet to work well for me. I see food – I eat it, lol. Seriously though, our food mostly consists of varied diets. I eat everything and Mrs. SSC won’t eat mammals and tends to eat WAY more yogurt and such than I do. Pastas (although not as much as we’ve gotten older), beans, veggies, meats, etc… They work out well for us to make a variety of different meals and keep things fresh’ish and healthy.

    I found doing the 5:2 diet worked well for me and was easy to plan for. Essentially, you eat “normally” 5 days a week and then 2 days a week you only have 500/600 calories – women/men. I could plan the night before and eat stuff that was filling but low calorie, and it was only 1 day, so it didn’t feel restrictive. I wouldn’t do my 2 days back to back though, I’m no sadist. 🙂

    1. Oh, I’ve never heard of the 5:2 idea. That seems reasonable because it’s a numbers thing, not a food thing. It just burns me up when people put these really restrictive and financially taxing plans in the world. I think a mix is a good general plan. If you notice something gives you a hard time, ease up. But just giving up carbs or whatever, for the sake of elimination and not with real health in mind, is plain crazy.

  3. A balanced diet is the key, unless you have some medical condition that prevents you from eating some foods. You can eat a bit of everything including sugar, carbs, legumes etc etc as long as you restrict the less healthy foods and make up with the healthy ones. It’s not rocket science is it?

    Chuck the fad diet out the window and stick to what you already know. If you like peanut butter, it means you may have to cut back a little on other foods that are salty and oily. Or make your own peanut butter and you will know exactly what has gone into it and maybe reduce the salt a little.

    If you eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise, you don’t need to take on the latest eating craze which you know will be replaced by the next ‘latest, greatest’ not far down the track.

    And who could give up a few alcoholic bevvies at the weekend? Seriously??

    1. I agree! Overall, more vegetables than other things is a good goal. But hard restrictions are short sighted. Plus, sometimes someone hands you cake and you think ‘yup.’ ????

  4. I’ve got a raging peanut butter addiction as well and try to keep the meat intake down as well (except for weekly salmon). 🙂 I do an elimination type diet for a week every January but it’s just the whole living cleanse condensed (http://www.wholeliving.com/136336/four-weeks-your-best-self/@center/136747/whole-living-action-plan-28-day-challenge)

    1. I ate a spoonful right out of the jar this morning. 🙂 I think if you know what works for you, stick with it!

  5. I have a friend who did it, and the amount of food she had to get rid of, it was staggering. Luckily for me, she offered a lot of it to me. And I wouldn’t do it either – I don’t eat meat and haven’t for several years. I’ve recently tried shakeology – I ordered the first month’s worth of meal replacement powder, and the portion-control containers that go along with the 21 day fix. But I’ve quickly decided that I can’t afford to do it. It’s just too much money to only account for one meal per day. I’m going to use it up because I do find it does help curb cravings, and the portion control containers are nice, but it’s just too much $. I would rather stick to just eating regular healthy foods. And you’re right, not everyone has all this time to be cooking gigantic meals up once a week.

    By the way, I just discovered your blog by watching the His and Her Money youtube channel and their interview with you. I want you to know – you have completely inspired me. So much. So, thank you!

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