Green Living
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saving money on healthy food

I'm a big proponent of eating local whenever possible, organic (or at least pesticide-free) whenever possible, grass-fed/free-ranging meat whenever possible, etc. (This is for a variety of reasons - environmental impact, health benefits, tastes better, makes me feel like part of my community, etc.)

The problem is the cost. I've been able to budget for it in the past, but H is currently unemployed and we're living off of just my paycheck, so I'm looking to cut expenses wherever I can. I know it would be cheaper to start buying all my groceries in bulk at Wal-mart, but I really don't want to. I love going to the farmer's market, I love shopping at the natural foods store down the street, and I hate to give all that up.

I think this is probably a issue for a lot of people who have "green" intentions but limited resources, so I'm posting here not only looking for advice for myself, but in the hopes that perhaps we can start a list of tips and tricks for eating clean, good food without breaking the bank.

It helps, for example, to cut down on your meat consumption, but we've already done that (we usually eat vegetarian 3 or 4 nights a week). I'd be willing to cut back more, but H looooves beef. And sausage. And bacon. Sigh.

If I can overcome my own laziness, cooking beans from scratch rather than buying canned helps (and they taste better, too). Cooking oatmeal from scratch is much cheaper than buying boxed cereal.

I've also recently gone back to making my own yogurt, which is cheaper than buying yogurt. But again, like the bean-cooking, this takes time and a certain amount of advanced planning.

Growing some of our own food would certainly help. Unfortunately, we didn't plant anything this year because we thought we were going to have to move in the middle of the summer, and now it seems sort of too late.

What other tips do people have for eating green on a budget?

Anniversary

Re: saving money on healthy food

  • Here's a blog post that I wrote about saving money on real food:

    http://thelocalcook.com/2010/08/03/10-great-resources-for-saving-money-on-real-food/ 

  • These days we can purchase any fruits or veggies without any seasonal constraint, but you can save money if you buy seasonal food, you should always go seasonal, cook your own food and eat it at home, you should store your grains and nuts in glass jars in the fridge to keep them fresher longer.
  • Freeze it!  Buy local and seasonal now, while it's all in season, and freeze it (or can it, if you are so inclined) for winter to save the money then. 

    It's not too late to plant herbs, either.  You can buy plants from the farmer's market or local greenhouse still, and throw them in the ground.  The more you cut/pick, the more they grow.  Keep cutting and freezing to stock up for the winter.  You can also always grow herbs in the house all winter, too.

    It's probably too late in the season to get in on a CSA or farm share, but that has saved us money this summer, and maybe you could consider it for next year.  Our farm charges $225 for the summer ($15/week, but you pay it up front), and we haven't bought produce since it started, we just eat what we get from the farm.  Ours also includes fresh baked bread and a 1/2 dozen eggs every week, too.

    My DH is a holdout with cutting back on meat consumption too.  I don't eat cow or pig, but I do eat chicken and fish, though I'm perfectly happy to eat vegetarian, and I was a vegetarian for years and years.  He doesn't eat a single dinner without meat, and he keeps telling me lately that our daughter isn't eating enough meat.  Ugh.  I don't buy cow or pig, either, since I have no idea what I'm buying and I have no clue how to cook it.  But DH gives me a hard time when I spend the money on cage-free, anti-biotic free, local chicken, even as he's talking about how much better it tastes.  So we're sill not quite there with meats, but our CSA has gone a long way toward better eating for less.

  • This is such a good question! I need answers too. Meat and dairy are by far some of the most expensive things at the grocery. I think cutting those out makes a huge difference! Or picking and choosing, if I'm going to make a Mexican dish, I choose between sour cream or cheese, but don't buy both, and I buy ingredients that will go the furthest. For example, I'd use cheese on other things, but the sour cream might go to waste. I also never buy niche items for recipes and just use substitutes that I will actually use again. Salad dressings can be pretty pricey too, so if you're a big salad eater like me, making your own dressing helps!

     My rule of thumb is, I won't buy fruit for over $2.00/lb unless its on sale, and I won't buy any item that's over $5.00 unless we absolutely have to have it (like olive oil or something). Of course, skin care and toiletries can be tricky, and I think those are things that are hard to cut costs with. I find that my household items like hand soap, baggies and cleaning supplies are what really add up. This is where I opt for Walmart. I also make my own cleaning agents which saves a lot of money! Like using vinegar and water, or bleach and water. They get the job done and are cheap! I also find that plastic wrap and tin foil go a lot further than plastic baggies and are cheaper, so I opt for them instead. Using actual towels instead of paper goods helps a little. I keep paper towels around for nasty things, and use hand towels for everything else.

     I also compare prices, and sometimes end up at 3 different stores! Natural foods for produce, regular grocery for canned food, and Walmart for household supplies. This is simply because natural food stores can be a rip off for things like organic canned soups or juices which are things that are often available at other stores for less. Walmart even carries organics in my area!  Another tactic is buying in bulk! Bulk is the best!  

  • I buy a lot of my organic items from Costco in bulk. Usually I get organic pasta, pasta sauce, vegetables, eggs, salsa and even some crackers. Those are just the staples, but there is always the random things I pick up as well and my grocery bill is usually around $50 a week.
  • Ugh.. I blow through money, and I'm a vegan! 

    haha!

    I have found that some things are great to buy at costco, some things are great to buy at my local farmer's market and co-op, and some just don't matter.

    It's still important to try to buy seasonally (even though things are grown and shipped easily, those shipments/imports of non-seasonal things are extra-heavy carbon footprints),

     Also, something to remember is that organic does not equal No GMO, unfortunately.. that one eludes most of us :(  

  • This seems like a difficult thing to handle. Eating healthy can be so expensive. What about growing your own. I know a starter vegtable kit is about  $30 and tomatoes are fairly easy to grow. You well at least have that part taken care of. 

     

    Alternatively you could source these products from a farm directly...  

  • Join a CSA or food co-op! I am a member of a CSA at a local farm, we get local fresh fruits, veggies and herbs all summer, and the owner does a co-op through the winter months where she orders produce from trusted organic growers. It works out to be about $20 a month for us, which is less than we would spend if we were buying all that organic stuff from the grocery store. Plus, it's local and much fresher, so you throw out less.

    If you don't have a CSA nearby or your local ones are too spendy, look up Bountiful Baskets and see if they service your area. It's a food co-op, and they do offer organic options, and add-ons such as bread, milk, eggs, etc. You only pay for the weeks you choose to pick up a basket, so you're not stuck with a subscription and a fridge full of zucchini. 

    The husband and I have tried a few other things to cut down on grocery costs - I get sick of oatmeal, so I started using those oats for homemade granola. it's SO easy to make, as long as you stir it enough to not burn it. Also - buy in bulk and freeze everything. We buy our meat from Zaycon foods. It's not organic, but it is antibiotic-free and the chicken is 50 cents a pound cheaper than my grocery stores. You're stuck buying 40 lbs at a time, but we freeze it all and that's a years supply of chicken for us. 
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