I’m the woman at the grocery store who is intently staring at the screen as the cashier scans my food items, watching the total and silently doing math in my head. Will the total I came up with match what the screen says? Did I do my math correctly? With a growing family of soon-to-be six, shopping on a budget is a reality I’ve gotten very good at balancing.
My husband and I don’t make a huge income; it’s not something we’re ashamed of, and we’ve managed to do quite well on the income we have. But balancing a small income and feeding a large family is tricky. Both of us are big believers in eating healthy, quality food, and it’s something we’re willing to sacrifice.
There’s this lie perpetuated that it’s impossible to eat healthy on a budget. I refuse to believe that. Yes, you can easily blow your food budget an all sorts of “organic” and “healthy” snacks and treats, but the basics of eating really isn’t that complicated or expensive.
Some tips like meal-planning and making a list you probably already know. But the following tricks combined with common sense can really help you save some money while still feeding your family quality healthy food!
One of the best tricks my family does is buying our beef and pork from a local farmer. You can save hundreds of dollars by purchasing directly from the farmer, and the quality of the meat is often superior. We’ve purchased grass-fed/pastured pork and beef for a fraction of the cost in the store.
Things like chicken, eggs, fresh veggies can all be purchased from farmers in your area. Check out any farmers’ markets you have nearby. Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) which offers a weekly or biweekly delivery of fresh produce. Even if you can’t find a certified organic farm, since the food is local, it’s about as fresh as you can get. Bonus, many insurance companies will reimburse you for CSA shares!
Eat in Season
Not only will you be eating food at it’s nutritional peak, but food in season is often less expensive. Ever compare the price of apples in October to apples in March? Not only is food purchased in season cheaper and healthier. It’s tastier too!
Check here for a list of foods and their seasons. Or you can check here for what’s in season in your state right now.
If a food is not in season, another option is to purchase it frozen. Frozen foods are picked at the peak of their season and quickly frozen maintaining much of it’s nutrition. Some foods, like fruit, aren’t local or have a short growing season where I live, and purchasing frozen is a really economical way of getting your fruit. And if you’re throwing your frozen strawberries or mango into a smoothie, it doesn’t matter anyway!
Buy the Whole Bird
I have been buying whole chickens for long time, and with good reason. The price per pound is much cheaper, and you get so much MORE out of one chicken! Depending on the size of the chicken, we can often get two sometimes three meals out of one chicken. Then I turn around and make a delicious, highly nutrient-dense (and cheap!) bone broth out of the bones, neck and giblets that come with the chicken. (Stay tuned for my recipe for bone broth!)
I share some more thoughts about purchasing a whole chicken and a recipe here that you can check out!
Use the Bulk Bins
Ever walk by those big plastic bins full of dry goods and wonder who the heck buys that? I’m about to convince you to stop and shop. Dry goods like beans, spices, grains, and dried fruit are often far cheaper in the bulk bins than purchasing from the main aisles. Why?
When you shop in the aisle, you’re paying for packaging! That pretty glass jar for your spices or the resealable bag of beans costs YOU money! Even cheap things like canned black beans are still more expensive when you compare ounce to ounce.
Like shopping in the bulk bin section, you can also save money by avoiding all the “convenience” costs. Things like pre-cut veggies, pre-riced cauliflower, pre-sliced apples all cost you MORE money because some of the work has been done for you. If you’re looking to save money, skip the convenience and do the work yourself.
And speaking of….
Make it Yourself
Salsa, dressings, spaghetti sauce, kid’s snacks, and other pre-made goodies can cost you so much more than making it yourself. Save yourself the money and make you own dressings, and sauces. Not only is it cheaper, but you control the quality of ingredients making it healthier too!
Kids’ snacks can definitely be a budget buster. Consider setting aside one day a week to make healthier snacks for your kids. I usually make things like homemade Larabars , peanut butter oatmeal balls (recipe coming soon!), and pumpkin super hero muffins from Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow .
Know Where to Shop
My favorite places to shop are Aldi, Woodmen’s, and Costco. Find the stores in your area that have really great prices on food and don’t be afraid to shop at more than one place. Believe me, I dislike making all the stops, but to me, the money saved is worth it.
When there is a sale, STOCK UP! Any time I find organic chicken on sale or discounted, I grab as much as I can. (I try to be considerate and leave some for other shoppers, but it takes self-control, lemme tell ya.)
Meat is one of the most expensive food items we buy so anytime I find quality meat discounted, I go for it. Most of the discounted meat is at or close to it’s “sell by” or “freeze by” so pay attention to dates and use or freeze immediately.
Get Money Back
One recent thing I’ve been trying to save money on groceries is the Ibotta app. Now, before you go and believe the claims that you can make “$250 dollars in one month with Ibotta!” (which I have seen more often than I’d like), know that unless you are already planning on buying some of the products, it doesn’t actually save you money to buy something you hadn’t planned on just to get $1 back.
With that said, I did get an extra $10 in this past month just on things I was buying anyway. You can get $.25 back just for submitting a receipt, which, I’ll admit isn’t really anything, but it’s still free money. You can click here to try Ibotta and get up to a $20 welcome bonus!
Give some of these tricks a try! Do you have any favorite budgeting secrets! I’d love to hear about it!
Is Organic Worth It?
How to Do Whole 30 on a Budget
Corn and Black Bean Salsa
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