One of the major detours to healthy living for folks is that eating healthy costs more money. I’m not going to lie to you, it does. How can fresh, organic food compete with frozen dinners that are chemically processed and manufactured by huge companies? It’s a challenge for any of us that want to live as healthfully as possible.
I remember the days when I used to be able to feed myself on less than $100 a month because I only purchased processed, poor-quality foods. It’s difficult to mentally transition yourself to spending more on your food for the purpose of health. Hopefully, the 10 strategies I have listed below will make the transition smoother and work well with your budget!
Make a food budget and stick to it. This seems like common sense but sometimes not having a budget will let food costs spiral out of control. Save receipts from your grocery shopping trips and decide how much you can afford to spend from those receipts. If you’ve decided that you want to spend less on your food than what you are currently spending, knock 10% off of your weekly grocery receipts, and see if you can stay within the 90% instead.
Don’t worry about cutting coupons. Only use a coupon for something that you were already planning to purchase, otherwise you really aren’t saving money. Plan your grocery store trip and your meals around what is on sale at the store. Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and other store circulars are available online to make meal planning easier. Go through your local grocery store ads and make a list of exactly what you’re going to buy. Calculate out how much everything should cost you before you go so that you can stay within your budget. Keep in mind that food quality is important but it should not trump your budget if you just can’t afford grass-fed, organic everything. Do your best with what you can find and really afford. Shop around and learn your stores. Know where to get the best prices on meat, produce, nuts, and oils. I buy many pantry ingredients such as coconut milk, almond flour and arrowroot powder in bulk through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program. Also you can find great deals online at places like Vitacost.com. It’s often much cheaper than buying them in retail stores, and I’m also less likely to run out of my staple ingredients!
Buy in bulk and wholesale. The best way to save money on grass-fed meat is to buy whole or half animals direct from a local farmer and freeze the cuts in a deep chest freezer. Not enough freezer space? Split with friends and family and you can all save money on grass-fed meats. Always buying animals in whole form such as a whole chicken or a side of beef as opposed to buying chicken breasts or steak separately will save you piles of money each year. This will also ensure you are getting more nutrients than eating the muscle meat alone that you might get by buying just chicken breasts at the store. If you wish to buy other food items in bulk, it might be a great idea to start or join a buying club in your area. Check out companies like Azure Standard that carry bountiful amounts of organic and non-GMO food items.
How to save on grass-fed meats: choose underappreciated cuts of meat like ground meats, organ meats, bone-in chicken, chicken thighs, pork tenderloins, lamb shoulders, beef shanks, oxtail, cube steak, and tougher roasts (very economical cuts of meat that can be prepared a million ways). Use these grass-fed meats as much as possible. These foods are often less expensive than the out-of-season or prime cut options but taste just as good. Whole chickens are a great deal, and here’s why: You can use all the parts. Pastured, organic meat is expensive, so I use everything. Any time you can do this, you are saving money. Let’s say you roast the chicken, eat the meat you love for days. Use the carcass to make some chicken broth! Bones and chicken carcasses can be frozen until you have enough to make a pot of stock/broth. I also suggest buying fresh or frozen organic chicken thighs to save money when making a dish. Organic chicken thighs are much more economical than buying chicken breasts, and if you buy frozen you usually save even more money. A lot of people also forget about ground meat when they are going out to buy their meat. Well, don’t. Ground meat is cheaper, at every supermarket, and super easy to use in recipes. Throw your ground meat and a few other ingredients in a slow cooker and you’ve got a delightful chili going on! Super inexpensive, yummy, and easy! When you can’t afford the highest quality meats (grass-fed/pastured/organic), stick with leaner meats (less fat) or seafood. Toxins are stored in the fat of animals, so if the meat isn’t grass-fed, choose something very lean. I also sometimes eat less meat to save and focus on more veggies, healthy fats, plus lots of nutrient-dense canned sardines and oysters.
Find out where your local farmers markets are at and start going there every week. They will always be less expensive than big name grocery stores. Buy your veggies, fruits, and meats at the farmers market and go by the “dirty dozen” list when purchasing produce organics. This is a great place to score deals on vegetable and fruit in season! Not only are the prices great, but fresh ingredients are the key to delicious meals. Shopping at your local farmers market will be amazing for you to meet the people who grow your food while saving money. Get to know and make friends with your local farmers and butchers – they may offer discounts for their best customers. I have found them to be very generous, often giving me huge discounts on certain meats and insider secrets on upcoming price reductions! If you have local farms that sell pastured meats, organ meats are usually really inexpensive and are quite nutritious. I buy frozen (pastured, organic) chicken, pork, and beef livers for about a dollar a pound. If you don’t know where to look, Localharvest.org has a comprehensive list of farm stands, farmers markets, and C.S.A.s from all over the country.
Cook with more vegetables. By using lots of veggies in a recipe, you not only will have lots of nutrition to fill up on, you will also stretch your dollar further when pairing with grass-fed, organic meats. Make your money stretch! Just one pound of meat will usually last for two dinners for my husband and I. Nobody’s going hungry here, but I will limit the amount of meat in my meals if I know I am just as satisfied with less!
Get creative! Everyone loves to look up extravagant recipes in cookbooks to re-create, but in all honesty, it’s not always economical. Sometimes I’ll omit an ingredient or substitute a less expensive one if I know it will just work just as well. Being creative with your meals can save you big bucks!
Buy it in Season: This is when vegetables and fruits are the cheapest – when they are in season. The prices are low because there’s so much of it available. Another vegetable/fruit side tip: Do some investigating into which fruits and vegetables you definitely should buy organic (the Dirty Dozen) as some contain a high amount of pesticide or GMO (ex: apples, strawberries, and celery), while others aren’t so bad (ex: avocados, cabbage, and onions). Purchasing only the Dirty Dozen produce item as organic will save you loads of money.
Some ways I save on produce: Using less expensive items like cabbage (and it’s Clean 15!), buying frozen if usually cheaper, and eating seasonally. If you can’t afford organic, don’t let it stop you from eating fruits and vegetables. I stick with organic for my greens (high in pesticides), apples, and berries. But for the rest, if organic is significantly more expensive, I don’t stress eating conventional. Do the best you can! There’s no need to buy all organic produce. Stick to organic when shopping from the Dirty Dozen list. I also recommend buying frozen organic artichoke hearts (if you like them) which usually cost less than canned organic artichokes. The frozen artichokes hearts are easy to defrost by running room temperature water over them in a colander. When fresh isn’t necessary for the recipes you are cooking, frozen is the better option!
Cook big batches of meals so you have leftovers. Everything usually tastes a whole lot better the next day when all the flavors have had time to soak in! Investing in a slow cooker will make it really easy to prepare large batches while you’re at work…this will save you both money and time (and provide you with plenty of leftovers for future lunches).
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