When the topic of organic or whole food shopping comes up, it’s often met with the lament, “It’s so expensive!” True, much of the organic fare that’s offered in stores is expensive. Ideally, we would like to have our own land to grow as much of our own food as we can. Have a cow to get our own milk to supply our butter, cheeses, milk…but right now, it’s not possible. So for now, I have to be as creative as possible and do the best with what’s available to me.
So, how do I manage to feed my family while sticking within a realistic food budget? Believe it or not, it can be done! I am NOT an expert and definitely have things to continue learning, but, I do it and thought I’d share how.
1. If possible, start a garden, even if it’s small. Even if you can only grow tomatoes and squash, it’s worth having a garden! You do not need a large amount of land to begin reaping the benefits of growing your own food. There are crazy stories about people growing large amounts of produce in a very small amount of space. Check out this site for helpful and inspiring information about square foot gardening.
2. Realistically evaluate your budget. If you have been transitioning to “real” food, you may have noticed that it is more expensive. Is it because you are still buying filler “foods”? Or, is it because you are buying food that is really more expensive? We have definitely increased our food budget from time to time, and just this month, we added more money to it. Since moving and not having the benefit of tax-free military living, food prices are a little higher for us. We’ve also switched some brands and what I am purchasing now is more expensive. When I kindly appealed to Blane about why I thought we needed an increase, he happily agreed.
3. Buy only food with your food budget. Sounds silly, but I know a number of people who include into that money allotment things such as toilet paper, toothpaste…Keep food money for food. How will you really know how much your spending on it otherwise? I’d also recommend keeping “eat out” money separate. You might be surprised to learn that you spend $75-$100/month when you eat out! Yikes! No wonder your food budget seems to dwindle quickly. We personally only allocate $15/month to eat out. Sounds a little skimpy, but we are pretty committed to the way we eat and don’t miss eating in restaurants. When we get the hankering, the money is there!
4. Buy in bulk. I cannot stress this one enough. We have found that in the long run, it is much more economical to do so. This does mean shelling out more money in the front end, however, which requires some planning and saving. This can mean buying more of something when it is on sale or joining a co-op.
Here are some of the organic products we typically buy in bulk: beef, grain, sweeteners (honey, Sucanat, cane juice crystals), nuts, raisins, cocoa powder, yogurt, coconut oil, diapers (non-food, but worth mentioning)…
Take this example of savings reaped: I just purchased 5 gallons of extra-virgin centrifuge extracted coconut oil for $228.40 (shipping included). Yes, that’s a lot of coconut oil, but that’s not the point! That works out to being $12.32/quart. The cheapest I can find around here is for $9.99/pint! I have saved us $171.20!
In our budget, we have a general “savings” category that is intended to be for whatever we feel like saving for that is separate from an emergency fund or investments. We have bought several things from this category, but we have decided that it is also worth using that money to buy food in bulk. As I use it, I pay the category back from my food category. Make sense? So, while I just spent over $200 on coconut oil, it did not come from my food budget. Each time I fill a jar with coconut oil, I’ll pay the savings category from my food budget.
I realize that not everyone has money to save. If you do, I’d encourage you to consider doing things in a similar manner. It does not require much, a little adds up. Currently, we put $80/month for miscellaneous savings. We usually go several months before spending it, so it adds up quickly. If you are unable to save, ask around or look for yahoo groups, co-ops, or people in your area who are similarly minded when it comes to the way you eat. You might be surprised to find that someone just placed an order for 5 gallons of coconut oil and is willing to share!
Be sure to check out your local farmer’s market and ask if they give discounts for buying in bulk! Local farmers who don’t participate in farmer’s markets might be willing to work with you as well. You never know if you don’t ask.
See below for a list of online resources that might be worth looking to ordering from.
5. Subscribe to this new blog for daily deals and coupons for whole foods. I don’t buy many processed foods, save the ones that I just can’t reproduce at home. So, it has proved very helpful to me and I’m saved the legwork of searching out coupons for some of the foods I buy (they really do make coupons for some of them!). Read this post for advice on how to find co-ops.
6. Cut out non-nutrient dense foods. Things such as coffee, tea (non-herbal), ice cream (guilty!), chips…can be quite pricey but don’t provide as much nourishment as foods like butter, raw milk, fresh produce, pastured eggs…You might want to consider limiting those things to provide more money for “the good stuff.” No need to be legalistic, though. It’s all about priorities and some people want their ice cream (okay, confession time: my husband came home with 5 cartons of ice cream last week because it was on sale! Do we do anything in moderation?). I don’t mind purchasing a few items that aren’t as nutrient dense, but the bulk of our foods are.
7. Buy local. I realize that this might not always be the most economical. But, I feel so strongly (for several reasons) about supporting local family farms that most times, I’m willing to pay a little more. I know where I’m getting my food from and what they do to it AND it is supporting a family. You never know, if you have some sort of service to offer or a product to trade, they might be willing to swap. I’ve done it before! I made and sold bread when we lived in KY and was able to swap out bread for eggs from time to time with the man I bought my eggs from.
I hope these tips help. It is such a process of learning not only how to eat better, but how to manage your money in the best way in which to accommodate the changes! Hang in there!
Have you checked out the Naturally Knocked Up E-Course about nutrition and pregnancy? I will be going through it and encourage you to check it out, too! I am also an affiliate, so thank you for your support!