A common argument against eating a whole foods diet is that it’s so much more expensive. And while it's true that you're buying more nutrients / dollar when you buy healthy food, you may eat less takeout and more home-cooked meals, I'm always still looking to share every possible way to help your grocery bill. 😊 In the end, most people I know want to buy the best available food for their families in the most cost effective way. So check out four of my favorite ways to stretch my grocery bill – I hope it helps you stretch yours too!
1. Buy non-perishables in bulk.
Costco is getting really good about stocking higher quality non-perishables - and perishables too! They carry excellent organic options of all sorts of items at good prices: tomato sauce, sea salt, frozen fruit, avocado oil, coconut oil, quinoa, apple cider vinegar... the list could go on.
An online store I REALLY like is Thrive Market. Thrive Market carries high quality, well sourced food items at wholesale pricing, and I buy all my canned tuna and salmon, coconut oil, olive oil, vinegars, mayo, some snacks, and more from them. All of these items are more expensive at the grocery store and on Amazon. Thrive does have an annual membership fee, but when you sign up as a member they offer membership to a lower income family and their goal is to make high quality food more affordable. They have weekly deals and free shipping for bulk orders, so always plan your purchasing a few weeks out to avoid costly shipping fees. Sign up here for a membership (NOTE: affiliate link).
2. Prioritize meat quality over specific meat cuts.
The biggest bang for your buck nutritionally is in buying high quality meat - grass-finished, pastured, free range, wild caught, and organic – regardless of what cut it is. Ground meats are almost always cheaper than “whole” cuts like steak or pork chops. Organ meats – especially liver – are incredibly affordable and highly nutritious (read this post for more detail), as are bones to make broth.
Even spendy grocery stores will put high quality meat on sale. The trick is to buy as much meat as you can when it is on sale and freeze what you won’t use that week. Next week you can buy whatever meat is on sale then. So if this week you buy a bunch of ground beef on sale, next week when whole chickens are on sale you can have one of those AND mix in some ground beef from your freezer for variety. You just may need to orient your meal planning to what’s on sale or what’s in your freezer.
3. Buy meat and veggies from CSAs.
Community Supported Agriculture is a wonderful development to help us city-slickers buy directly from farms, allowing the farmer a larger cut of the profit that helps them keep prices lower. It usually involves paying up front for a full season of produce and then picking up weekly or bi-monthly from the farm or from a pickup site closer to the city. You buy into the risk and the bounty of the farm – in good years, members get extra and in bad years, members may miss out on a few crops.
The concept of supporting small farmers is important to many, but does the cost make sense? While it can be a challenge to front the membership fee, over the season you can save a lot on the best produce around. This article shows a comparison of the cost per pound of produce purchased through a CSA vs at the grocery store… it can be a VERY cost effective way to get delicious, local produce.
But it is important to plan well for your CSA share so it doesn’t go to waste. All those calculations are only beneficial if you actually eat all the veggies you are receiving. Most CSAs provide some form of recipe ideas to their members, so before you sign up for a CSA, ask if they offer this service!
Veggie CSAs have become quite popular, but there are also meat, fruit, egg, and dairy CSAs… I’ve seen bread CSAs, and someone will probably come out with pizza and ice cream CSAs J
4. Make easy things you eat a lot of at home. Buy the rest.
Anything can be made at home or purchased at the store. When you shift away from processed foods and start eating more whole foods and healing foods, there are an infinite amount of options for making foods at home: broth, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, beef jerky, mayonnaise, salad dressing, granola… the list goes on! And none of these are what you need to cook for dinner – the list can become overwhelming quickly.
My strategy? Choose the EASIEST things that I eat most often to make at home, and buy the rest.
I try to eat pickled veggies and drink broth every day, and I eat salad dressing several times a week. So I hardly EVER buy these at the store. Broth takes 2 minutes to throw together in a pot, sauerkraut takes 10 minutes to prep a month’s worth, and olive or sesame oil with apple cider vinegar is a perfect dressing in my books. Not buying these pre-made saves me a ton of money.
I eat mayo at most once a week, so I don’t mind spending a little extra on that bottle that will last 1-2 months. I drink kombucha every once in a while so I don’t (currently) brew my own.
What does this list look like for you? Think through 1-2 things you could make at home easily and save a bunch on, then don’t sweat the rest.