Let’s face it. Avoiding processed food and eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat can get expensive, especially if you buy organic. We all want to save money, so here are 8 ways I save money on real food in order to eat healthier on a budget.
Real Food Money Saving Tips:
1. I don’t buy organic all the time.
Organic produce can be very expensive at the grocery store, and I almost always get the regular kind when I shop there. But I’ve been very lucky and have lived in places where I can find fresh local produce pretty easily. If you are worried about differences between organic/conventional, you can check out the dirty dozen and clean fifteen fruits and vegetables to see which ones are better to buy organic and which ones are fine to buy conventional.
2. I avoid touristy farmer’s markets and find smaller, lesser known markets or farm stands instead.
With more and more people eating “real food“, “organic”, etc, farmer’s markets have become more elitist (at least in California), and the prices have been hiked up. I like to find some of the smaller spots where the prices are better, but the food is just as good. I wrote about my favorite places to shop for produce in Monterey in my post here: Monterey California: One year wasn’t enough.
When we were involved with a CSA in Tennessee, we got an entire cooler full of fresh produce every week for $15. That was way cheaper than I could have gotten it at any store. It was enough to eat fresh fruits and veggies 2-3 meals every day. During this time we were spending about $200 a month for food for 2 people. A good place to find a CSA near you is the Local Harvest website.
4. I make most food from scratch.
Making things from scratch is not always convenient, but it is quite a bit cheaper. For example, homemade chicken stock costs literally pennies to make, since it uses ingredients I would have normally thrown away anyway, but at the store I’d have to pay $3.00 a carton. I use a lot of chicken stock, so this really saves me a ton of money. Making food from scratch is also generally healthier.
5. I Buy Things on Sale and Freeze Them (especially meat).
Humanely raised meat costs more. A lot more. It is really important to me though, so I tend to spend more money on meat. However, I do still find ways to get it a little cheaper. When it goes on sale, I will buy more than I need and freeze the rest. When I lived in California, I got my meat at Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck!). They almost always had something on sale though, and I would just buy that. Chicken was frequently on sale for less than $2 a pound, which is pretty good for the quality. Local butchers are also an option, and may even be cheaper than one of the fancy grocery stores.
6. I eat a little less meat.
Since switching to a healthier way of eating a few years ago, we’ve started eating a little less meat around here. We still eat it plenty often, just smaller portions. I also try to come up with ways to make meat stretch a little further, like this Hamburger Monterey that uses mushrooms in place of 1/2 the ground beef.
7. I don’t go out to eat often.
When we go out, it is a treat. We make almost all our meals at home, which is cheaper than going out. I can make a healthy meal for the two of us for $10 and have leftovers. That’s less than two value meals at a fast food restaurant.
8. I Have a Garden
During the summers our grocery bill goes down quite a bit because I like to garden and can grow enough to feed the two of us pretty well. Depending on where we have lived and the soil, the cost to maintain a garden has differed. It was more expensive in Tennessee, when our soil was really rocky and we built raised beds. It cost a little less in California because the soil was better and we put a garden right into the ground. Over the course of the summer though, the amount of veggies we grew outweighed the cost of having a garden. I probably won’t be able to have a garden while we are living in Slovenia for the next year, but at the very least I know I will be growing some herbs. Fresh herbs are crazy expensive at the grocery store–I use them almost every day so growing my own herbs saves me a lot of money too.
If you have any tips on eating healthy on a budget please let me know, I’m always up for more ideas!