If you are starting to eat clean, whole foods on a budget, you may be having some sticker shock. Despite so many people saying “eating organic doesn’t cost more,” sometimes it does, especially if you are not used to buying bell peppers for $3 each instead of $3 a pound. Or hamburger for $5 a pound versus $1.20 a pound. Some things are just more expensive.
The good news is that organic, fresh, clean, and whole foods generally have more nutrients and are better for you than the other choices, so they leave you fuller on less. If you cut out all the processed junk in your diet, you will find that it is actually easier to eat less, since most of the processed foods are only empty calories anyways.
I’m going grocery shopping today. It will be a test to see if I can actually cut down our grocery bills and be a smarter shopper. In keeping balance of saving money and eating healthy and organic foods, there are some things I don’t want to skip buying because they are expensive, and some things I am willing to compromise on.
Whole Milk: We buy non-homogenized organic milk that comes from pastured cows from a dairy that is fairly near to us, that is sold at the store. It’s not ultra-pasturized like all the other milk (including organic) and it’s the only milk, other than raw milk, that isn’t homogenized (that I have ever seen).
Cost: $4.59 for a half-gallon. In two weeks we go through 2-3 bottles.
Where to save: Drink less milk, eat less boxed cereal (which isn’t healthy anyways), and eat more of their whole milk yogurt instead.
Butter: we really enjoy the butter from the same brand as our milk (Strauss). It’s grass-fed, local, and organic butter. It is used mainly for cooking and when I make french toast.
Cost: $7.79 for a pound of butter, we go through about a pound a week.
Do we go for the non-grass fed butter? I feel that grass-fed dairy offers so much more than the other stuff, like more vitamin E and Omega 3’s.
Where to save: Perhaps we can buy 1 box instead of two, and cook more with other healthy fats.
Eggs: We have had a hard time finding local and pasture-raised chicken eggs, so we buy the organic eggs that come at least from our state, and claim to be pasture-raised.
Cost: $5.49 for a dozen. Or close to $8 a dozen in our CSA box. We go through about a dozen a week.
Where to save: We go through so many eggs, I think we will go back to regular grocery store eggs that are on sale for $1.80 for 18. Since being pregnant I can’t stomach a runny egg yolk, so must of our eggs are cooked on higher heats (which destroys a lot of the extra nutrients) anyways. There is a local egg place that sells flats of eggs as well – we need to look into that.
Produce: Some fruits and vegetables get sprayed with pesticides more than others and are more effected by chemicals. Certain produce products should be bought organic, but not all of them need to be. The “Dirty Dozen” include:
- Bell Peppers
What can you buy non-organic? Here is the “Clean 15”
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet Potato
- Tomato* – on the clean list this year, but has been on the dirty dozen before, so I might exclude this one.
Other ways to save on produce: Buy local, and and buy in season! Where we use to live, the farmers market was huge and you could get a variety of organic and non-organic produce at super cheap prices (you could save $1-3 a POUND on produce!). But we now live in a different town where the farmers market is only during the summer and organic produce is hard to find. Luckily some of our grocery stores sell local (which they should, since we live in CA, and surrounded by all kinds of different produce all year round, yet there is still lots of produce from South America… even though we grow some of the same produce!). Buying at the farmers market usually ensures that you are supporting the farmer as well, not the big corporations.
Wondering what’s in season? A quick Google search will help you out, but our old CSA supplier has an awesome website where you can look up both produce and recipes by the season – visit them HERE.
Meat: Grass-fed and pasture-raised meat products are again, much more expensive than other meat. Items I will continue to buy from pasture-raised animals: whole chickens and ground beef. If you make broth with animal bones, they should be from grass-fed animals as well.
Cost: a pound of grass-fed ground beef costs approximately $5. A whole chicken costs around $10-15
Where to save: Buy more bone-in poultry products and cheaper cuts of meat. We can also not go heavy on the meat everyday and substitute some of it for beans and extra veggies. Stew, soup, and chili dishes are great for making a little bit of meat go a long way.
Other money saving tips:
Make a meal plan before going grocery shopping: a plan will help to avoid those impulse buys, and on a related note, don’t go grocery shopping hungry!
When making a meal plan, chose meals that have similar ingredients and ingredients you regularly use: If you are trying to save money, you are sabotaging yourself if you have to buy an expensive spice or ingredient to make one meal. I’m not saying not to try new things once in a while, but I can tell you that the $8 bottle of fish juice in the back of my refrigerator went bad before I used it for the second time.
Don’t buy junk food: Skip purchasing juices and sodas and packaged products that seems cheap, but are empty calories and only leave you hungry (or sick).
Don’t Waste Food: If buying pershible items in bulk only leads to it going bad before you can use them, either don’t buy in bulk, or prep and freeze the extras. Many of us are guilty of wasting food, which is sad for our wallets and for a world stricken with starvation.
How does everyone else grocery shop?