Feeding a family of 4 can be expensive. Feeding a family of 4 real, organic food can just about blow your budget if you are not careful. Most people will stop trying because they think it just cost too much, but in all actuality eating real food on a budget is very doable with a little planning. And while it may be a little more pricey upfront, buying good quality food is insurance for your future. You’ll get sick less, have fewer missed days at work and cut down on medications now and as you age. In my opinion, health is worth the extra cost.
There are several ways you can make a switch to real food without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look.
- Get cooking!
Be aware of convenience vs. saving when shopping at the store. Those premade/prepackaged convenience foods we have all become accustom to don’t come without a hefty price tag. For example, a small container of sliced fruit can run you $3-4, while buying the whole fruit may cost you $2. With 5 minutes of time you will potentially save $2 and get nearly double the amount of fruit. Not only will you save money, but often times prepackaged foods require unwanted preservatives to be added to keep them fresher longer.There are a ton of items at the grocery store that are easy and cheap to make yourself. I make our muffins, breads, granola, nut butters, condiments, some salad dressings, dips, cakes, almond flour, almond milk and more from scratch. While I know it’s not always feasible to make everything from scratch, spending a little extra time in the kitchen can save a lot of money, and even better, you will know exactly what is going into your foods making for a healthier you!
- Buy locally and in season.
Buying local, in season produce not only taste better but cuts down on the overall environmental impact and supports small local farms. During peak season, we visit the local pick-your-own farms, pick way over what we will eat and I prepare, package and freeze the remaining produce. This way we can enjoy peaches, blueberries and other fruits all winter long without paying top dollar for out of season fruits that travel thousands of miles to my grocery store.
- Stock up.
Whenever I find a staple item I use frequently on sale I typically buy more than what I need at that very moment. Items like flour, honey, maple syrup or oats all store easily and are used often in my home. Most fruits and veggies can be frozen as well, so if you find organic produce on sale make a large purchase and freeze.Likewise, if you do eat meat, you can plan large once-a-year purchase of pasture meats from local farmers. It might seem like a hefty price upfront, but over the long term it’s considerably cheaper to buy in bulk The freezer is your friend.
- Get to know the “clean fifteen.”
While it would be nice to buy all organic produce every time we are at the store, I know it’s not always accessible or affordable to do so. Luckily for us the Environmental Working Group has done a lot of research and organized a list of the most contaminated and uncontaminated produce. They call these lists the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” So if your budget doesn’t allow for ALL organic produce, try to stick to at least the Clean Fifteen. But, remember, even if you can only buy conventional produce, it is far better to do so than to buy prepackaged convenience foods.
- Plant an organic garden.
What better way to save money than growing your own produce?! If you are short on space, at least try some potted plants or consider adding a small herb garden on your windowsill. You may even find a community garden in your area.
- Join a CSA
We eat a lot of produce in our house. I mean a LOT! So last year when we joined our first CSA I thought a half share would be nothing for us to tackle each week. Let’s just say, even for us, eating a half share was sometimes a struggle. That gives you an idea of just how much produce you actually get for your money! Find a neighbor to split a share with. You’ll help support local farms for a great price!
- Don’t waste food.
Turn unused vegetable parts into veggie broth, run lemon peels with water on HIGH to clean a blender, soak orange peels in vinegar to make a homemade citrus all-purpose cleaner, crush egg shells or banana peels to fertilize plants, turn almond pulp into almond flour, freeze greens that are starting to go bad and add to smoothies, freeze the ends of bread and make breadcrumbs….in other words, don’t waste anything!
- Beans are your friend
Good quality grass fed, humanely raised meat can be expensive, especially if you are eating it everyday. Cut down on meat to 1-2x’s per week and you will save big. Beans and lentils are an easy way to add protein to your meals and are very cheap! I love Dr. Fuhrman’s Lentil Shepherd’s Pie recipe or Engine 2’s Beans and Rice Extravaganza is easy and super duper yummy.
- Shop online or at a wholesale club.
We are members at both Costco and BJ’s. With organic becoming more mainstream, wholesale clubs are stepping up to the demand as well. I have found organic chia seeds, quinoa, brown rice, hummus, fruits, veggies, vinegar, nuts, whole grain crackers, frozen produce, Kerrygold grass fed butter, spices, sunscreen, coconut sugar and more all at great bulk prices.Shopping online at sites like Amazon or Vitacost are a great place to start and find deals on your staple items. Not only will some items be cheaper, but they are delivered right to your door which keeps you from having to drive to multiple stores just to find the best deals. It’s a win/win!
- MEAL PLAN!
Probably the MOST important task you can do to help your grocery budget is meal planning. Not only will you eliminate food waste, last minute trips to the grocery store and eating out, but you will get healthier meals on the table and spend far fewer dollars doing it. I admit I have not always been good about meal planning and struggled with finding time to actually sit down and do it. Since signing up for Plan to Eat, meal planning has become a breeze. Try it out FREE for 30 days and see how easy it will be!
Do you have any tips for eating real food frugally?
Until next time, keep it real.
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