Eating Real Food on a Budget

In contrast to my highly emotional post on Monday, I want to give some  straight forward tips on how to make accessing healthy, whole foods more affordable.  I do understand that buying processed food can be cheaper than filling the cart with produce, meat, and a few dairy items.  Note that I said CAN BE not it is cheaper.  There are ways to make healthy food very affordable, it just takes a little commitment to the cause.  But, I would imagine that if you’re reading this, you are committed to your health and you will put this list to good use!

1. Create a budget.  Look at your monthly expenses, how much do you spend on fast food, gas station drinks and snacks, and quick trips into the grocery store to pick up dinner?  You may find that you’re spending an extra $50 or so on little stops here and there, when that money could go toward your grocery budget and be spent on healthy snacks and meals that are quick and easy. 

2. Pack a lunch box.  Yup, even as an adult I have a pink lunch box that I carry to school and the gym.  I load it up full of food in the morning, sometimes with a little extra because I never know when I’m going to be hungry.  My husband and I both take leftovers from the night before for lunch the next day, it saves on time and money.

3. Look at sale adds, there aren’t as many coupons to clip when it comes to whole foods, but stores do often put them on sale and list them in weekly adds.

4. Go to the farmer’s market.  At our farmer’s market I can get bags and bags full of produce and only spend part of my grocery money, leaving the rest for the things I need from the store.

5. Plan your meals based upon what is on sale.  If cabbage is dirt cheap, (well, even cheaper than it normally is!) find 2 recipes that include cabbage and eat it once on Monday and once on Friday. 

6. Substitute expensive ingredients.  Have you found an awesome recipe that you’d love to try, but it calls for expensive ingredients?  Substitute it!  If you can’t think of a substitute, google it and you’ll be amazed that lots of people are asking the same question!

7. Do your own rinsing and chopping.  It is very easy to buy a bag of fresh broccoli that has already been rinsed and cut, but it is also more expensive.  Take the extra 5 minutes to rinse it yourself and cut it up and put those couple dollars you saved toward another nourishing meal.

8. Buy meat when it is on sale and freeze it.  My mother was the queen of buying items on sale and putting them in her freezer!  She would plan her meals based upon the items on sale and store the rest for another time.

9. Buy frozen vegetables.  Not only are they often cheaper, but they are very convenient.  They are picked  and then frozen, so you don’t have to worry about them being fresh, they always are. (Unless you’ve had them in the freezer for 3 years).

10. Buy produce that is in season.  During the winter, greens and root vegetables are in season so they are cheaper, while strawberries are imported from somewhere warm, so they are more expensive!  Spend your money on the seasonal veggies, not only will they taste better, but you know that they haven’t been transported from somewhere that doesn’t have the same practices and regulations as US farmers.

11. Don’t waste money on junk.  You heard me, junk.  Why do they call junk food, junk food?  Because it is junk.  What do you do with junk that is laying around your house?  Take it to the junk yard.  Why do we eat junk food and take our garbage to a junk yard?   If you want your kids to have cookies, make them using quality ingredients that you can be proud of. 🙂

12. Buy meat with the bone-in.  It is often cheaper and it has a lot more flavor.  The best part, you can use the bones to make your own stock! <—This is my sister’s blog, she is a creative, culinary genius.

13. Be careful of buying in bulk.  I know, buying in bulk is supposed to save you money, and sometimes it does.  We have a Costco card and we make a visit every couple weeks because that’s about all my little heart can endure, too many people, too many isles, too many processed foods.  Ho-ly Cow.  Anyways, buying in bulk can be a double-edged sword.  You may spend $2 less buying 24 of something for $19, but at the same time you had to spend $19, which limits the rest of your grocery budget.  It only takes a half-dozen items to get your bill up to $100 in some cases.  They do sell produce, meat, and dairy at Costco and Sam’s Club, but the majority of the items in that store are huge boxes of processed foods, which we know, Lauren does not like and neither does your body.  Buy the healthy things you really enjoy eating in bulk, if you can find them, and freeze them, that can be a good way to save your pennies.  So, buy in bulk, but be mindful of how much you are saving in comparison to how much you are spending. 

14. There are LOTS of foods you can freeze that you may not even know about!  Butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, fruit (if to be used for smoothies or baking), herbs and vegetables can also be frozen with a little guidance.  Thanks to Simple Organized Living for providing us with great reference sheets for freezing herbs and vegetables.

15. MAKE A LIST!  Go to the store with a grocery list in hand, and the kicker is, get only the things on the list!  All of those extras can really add up.  If you’re taking your kids with you, it can be a little more difficult, what with them pulling things off the shelves, so make the trip meaningful to them.  Give each of them a list, maybe the ingredients to a healthy dessert, and once you’ve gathered all of the ingredients you can go home and make the dessert.  It is extra effort, I know, but it’s jut an idea!  I know it must be very tempting to promise a treat at the end if they’re good, and that’s great, just do what you can to make it a healthy treat!

Hopefully one of those 15 tips will help you!  Please share any additional tips you might have!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. potlucklove says:

    Once again, you’re so right. We didn’t buy a lot of processed foods to start with, but since I have stopped regularly buying even things like crackers and cereal, it’s amazing how much money I’m saving. It’s more than enough to justify spending a little more on locally-grown, whole foods such as pastured meats & eggs, and organic, grass-fed dairy products. The trade-off is well worth it! (It’s funny, as your post popped up, I was in the process of writing my own about giving up processed cereal.)

  2. potlucklove says:

    If you ever find a great price on pastured eggs, you can freeze those, too. I was trying to remember where I read that at… Lauren, here’s the link that might get you started on that chicken farm Evan’s so excited about.

    To freeze the whole egg, break about five eggs (approximately 1 cup) into a bowl and pierce the yolks and stir slowly to mix. Beating too fast may create foam and add air bubbles which will dry out the eggs in the freezer. Also, adding a touch of salt or sugar to the mix will help keep egg yolks closer to their natural consistency. For every two eggs add about 1/8 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar, depending on what you plan to use them for after they are thawed. Either freeze a group of eggs in a glass container with no more than ½ inch head space (be sure to make a note on the outside of how many there are and if there is salt or sugar) or you can pour the stirred eggs into ice cube trays and once frozen store in bags in the freezer.
    Egg yolks and whites can be frozen separately. Pierce about six or seven yolks and stir in either ¼ teaspoon salt or 1 teaspoon sugar and freeze. For the whites, just pour them into your container and seal (again leaving no more than ½ inch head space). Leave the frozen whites out at room temperature for half an hour and they will whip up just like fresh.

  3. Lauren says:

    That’s great, I didn’t know you could do that, I actually hadn’t even thought about it. I’ll do that at the end of the summer before all of the chickens go back to grain for the winter. Great idea….. I’m not even going to look at the chicken farm link, yet, because I don’t want to dream about chickens tonight.

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