This is a guest post by Crystal Paine – a wife, mom of three, founder of MoneySavingMom.com, and author of the New York Times bestseller, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. Sign up for her free Guide to Freezer Cooking and get recipes, tips, tricks, and ideas for saving money on real foods by using your freezer.
So many people have a misguided idea that the only way to eat healthfully is to spend exorbitant amounts of money. If you live in a remote part of the country, this may be the case, but in most areas you can feed your family natural, unprocessed foods without spending hundreds of dollars each week to do so.
Sure, you might spend a little bit more than someone who is eating a diet composed mostly of processed foods, but it really doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg as some people will make you think—especially if you’re willing to get creative and think outside the box. Here are eight ways to afford real foods.
How to Afford Real Food on a Budget
1. Plan a Menu Based Upon What is In Season and On Sale
If you want to feed your family on a budget, you need to have a plan for what you’ll be eating. If you can make your menu plan mostly based upon what is on sale at the natural foods store, what is in season at the farmer’s market, and/or what you’re reaping in abundance from your garden, you’re going to significantly reduce your grocery bill.
2. Practice the “Buy Ahead” Principle
If you happen to come across an incredible sale on tomatoes at the farmer’s market, or the health food store has organic frozen vegetables on a great sale, stock up. Buying items you routinely use when they are at their lowest price is another surefire way to savings.
3. Plant a Garden (or Barter with Someone Who Does!)
If you can pull it off, plant a garden. Produce is typically only pennies per item from your own backyard. It’s tremendously fresh, and you know exactly what you did or didn’t spray on it. Plus, you can can or freeze your extras—or bless your friends and neighbors with them!
Tip: Have a brown thumb? Find a friend who loves gardening and trade services (babysitting, bread baking, car maintenance?) in exchange for their garden excess.
4. Stick with Simple Meals Using Inexpensive Ingredients
When you’re planning your menu, think about how much your recipes will cost you to make. It doesn’t have to be a scientific to-the-penny figure, but just having a good idea that there is a $10 difference between the price of making one meal as opposed to another meal can help you decide whether you can afford to make something or perhaps should save it for a special occasion.
5. Serve Meat as a Condiment
I shamelessly stole this idea from Family Feasts for $75 Per Week because it’s so brilliant. Serving meat in soup or on homemade pizza is going to be a lot less expensive than serving roast and sirloin, especially if you’re buying high-quality meat.
Tip: Need ideas for stretching meat? Laura shows you how to make six meals out of one chicken.
6. Buy in Bulk
It is usually much more cost-effective to purchase meat and staple ingredients in bulk. Call around to local farmers and see what they would charge you for purchasing half a cow. In many cases, it’s at least $1 cheaper per pound to purchase in bulk. Buying large quantities of grains or beans, as well as many other basic ingredients with long storage lives, will almost always save you at least 20%, if not more.
Costco, as well as other bulk foods stores and local co-ops, offer great bulk pricing. You can also check with your local health food store to see if they’d offer you a discount for bulk purchases. It never hurts to ask!
7. Consider Joining a CSA or Co-Op
If there is a co-op or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in your area, check into pricing and details for joining. You might find that it is an affordable and money-saving option for your family. If you can’t find an affordable co-op in your area, you could consider starting your own co-op.
8. Use Coupons on Non-Food Items
A number of my readers don’t eat any processed foods, but they use coupons to save money on toilet paper, toothbrushes, and other non-food items that they purchase. Your savings might not be so exciting as others who use dozens of coupons each shopping trip, but even saving $5 each week by using coupons can start to add up over time.
What’s your best tip for saving money on real food?