Oct 21, 2010

Real Food Budget Tips

The following article is written by Erin.

Are you frustrated that healthy choices seem to be more expensive?  Me too.  Here is an interesting take on why local food is more expensive.

My family is a year into this journey and we're still working on our real food budget!

We have found it especially challenging to budget for bulk buying.  I can confidently say that buying a meat share is cost effective.  It's a big chunk up front, but the farmer we're dealing with is very flexible with payments after the initial deposit.

One of our cost-cutting measures is to eat about 3 meat-less dinners a week. 

I think it's more expensive when you're first starting out because you are experimenting and discovering what works best for your family.  Once you can get a basic weekly meal plan put together it gets easier and you're not wasting as much food.  There is also a learning curve when cooking seasonally with what is locally available.

I'm so glad cold weather is almost here because I can save alot of money (and time!) by making soups with homemade stock.  Everyone in my family enjoys soup and it is so nourishing!

We eat lots of farm fresh eggs, too.  They are cheap, filling, and healthy.  I hard-boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of each week for snacks.

I make weekly trips to Drug Emporium, Whole Foods, Kroger, Walmart SuperCenter (mostly non-food items), and the WLR farmer's market.  I could probably avoid Whole Foods most of the time if we weren't getting our filtered water there.  We order from Azure Standard at the end of every month because they have very good prices on many items.

Here is a basic breakdown of where we shop and what we buy, though I'm sure I've left a few things out.  Keep in mind, we avoid dairy most of the time because hubby and eldest daughter are allergic.

Drug Emporium
Herbal/Homeopathic remedies, supplements/vitamins, essential oils, Dr. Bronner's soap, Burt's Bees shampoo, cocoa powder, Bubbie's pickles, Brown Cow yogurt, rice pasta, sprouted bread

Whole Foods
Reverse osmosis filtered water (39 cents per gallon), salsa, bulk spices, frozen organic vegetables, fresh organic produce (parsley, green onions, 5-lb bags of potatoes, yellow onions)

fresh organic produce (carrots, celery), bulk organic raisins.  Always check for clearance/manager's special items at Kroger.  They can have some really great deals on organic items.

Walmart Supercenter
toiletries, household items.  The only food I buy at Walmart is bananas, avacadoes, and organic lemons.

baking soda and white vinegar for cleaning, organic spaghetti sauce

Local Farmers
eggs, meat, honey, in-season fruits and vegetables

Azure Standard
raw walnuts, peanut butter, coconut milk (used as a dairy substitute at my house), bulk spices, popcorn kernels, oats, dry beans, assorted household items

Specialty items bought online
fermented cod liver oil and coconut butter ghee from Green Pasture; coconut oil and various herbs for homemade teas/tinctures/salves from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Instead of giving a sample of my weekly meal plan, I'm going to suggest that you start by choosing some of your simpler recipes and try substituting healthier ingredients.

For example, if you normally use canola oil for stir frying, try switching to coconut oil.  If you normally use table salt, try using sea salt (RealSalt is a good brand).  If you normally use margarine, try using real butter or ghee (clarified butter).  If you use white sugar or artificial products as sweeteners, try substituting sucanat, honey, or maple syrup.  You get the picture.

If you are past that point and want to totally re-tool your recipe box there are many good recipes on this blog and other blogs like The Nourishing Gourmet.

We save on cleaning supplies by mostly using baking soda, white vinegar (both bought in bulk at Sam's), and Dr. Bronner's soap (Drug Emporium, sometimes Kroger).

Don't stress yourself out by comparing your food choices to those who have been eating the real food way for years or have a much bigger budget.  We ALL started out slowly and felt just as overwhelmed (still do at times!).

More Frugal Tips
Kroger puts their overripe bananas (even organic ones) in sacks for 39 cents per pound.  Snatch those puppies up, take them home, cut them into large chunks, and pop them in a freezer bag.  They make great additions to smoothies.

Drug Emporium is notorious for changing their prices.  Before you put an item in your cart, look at all the price stickers.  Sometimes the ones at the back of the shelf will be significantly cheaper than the ones at the front.  Don't be ashamed to dig around.  They are also very good about stocking items at your request if they don't currently carry it.

Check for coupons on the Whole Foods website and in their flyer called The Whole Deal.  They will also give a 10% discount if you buy by the case (which is twelve of any item.)

Remember to take baby steps.  Try not to get discouraged, and ask your real food friends for more tips.

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  1. Julie
    I see you buy reverse osmosis water at whole food, just thought I would let you know , you can purchase a system from Sears right now for around 160.00, it installs under your kitchen sink and is fantastic. I have been using one for a while now, and love mine. The water is great. It has a seperate spout from the faucet so you can use it for drinking and cooking only. Just an idea.

  2. Thanks, Glenda! The article was written by Erin.

    Actually, my husband installed a RO filter under our sink about 6 months ago. It was a very happy day in my kitchen!!! :)

  3. A home r/o filter is on our list of things to buy--right after wood floors and building our savings. :) I think it's going to be a while...

  4. As the parent of a young child who is severely allergic to dairy, I can tell you that GHEE IS DEFINITELY NOT DAIRY FREE. Anyone who is anaphylactic to dairy products should not eat ghee. Most allergy moms will know this already, but it might be a good idea to amend the text above if possible. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for pointing that out, Jill. My family members don't have a severe allergy so we've had no problems with ghee. However, I do see how it could be a problem for some. We have removed the dairy-free reference.

    Pure Indian Foods sells a high quality ghee and they have addressed this concern on their website. You can read it under the "Casein- and Lactose-Free" heading on the following page: [url]http://www.pureindianfoods.com/[/url].

  6. That website addresses the "dairy-free" question very well. My son is so sensitive and dairy is so dangerous for him that we avoid ghee, but those less sensitive likely would have less of a problem. I loved the article! Great tips for saving money and how to organize shopping. Thank you for the article, and helping keep allergy kids safe!



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