Although we live on a tight budget, we also want to live healthfully and thoughtfully. When my husband decided to start his own business, we made plenty of sacrifices like fewer meals at fun restaurants and no more new clothes. But the one area I refused to compromise on was our food. Just because we were living on less didn’t mean we should sacrifice our health and well-being. I knew there had to be a way to maintain our organic, local lifestyle on our target food budget of $150/week.
Sure enough, it is possible to feed a family of four a week’s worth of nutritious, largely organic meals on a shoestring. Here is what I have learned.
1. Don’t clip coupons. This might sound like a counter-intuitive tip, but coupons are usually for expensive highly-processed foods that lack nutrition. I don’t let coupons lure me into buying something I don’t need or want just because of a “good” deal.
2. Don’t buy foods packaged in a box or a bag. Keep in mind that when you processed snacks and treats you also buy the packaging it comes in. Even if these foods were free they wouldn’t be worth the empty calories and chemical overload. If I want a fun treat I make it myself at home.
3. Shop around. Every week I grocery shop at three different food stores. One is a produce market that has plenty of organic produce for the price of conventional. Most of our staples come from Trader Joe’s. And I round out the shopping at Dominick’s, a large chain market. While this practice may take a little more time that just running into one store, I save a considerable amount of money by buying what each store specializes in.
4. Don’t buy empty-calorie beverages. I justify spending $8/gallon on non-homogenized milk from grass-fed cows because I never buy pop, fancy bottled water or coffee drinks. If you balk at paying more than $2.50/gallon for milk, perhaps you should also evaluate how much money you spend on other, non-essential beverages throughout the week.
5. Make a weekly menu. Every Sunday I put together a meal plan for the week ahead. This enables me to make a very concise grocery list and easily shop from it, avoiding any unnecessary (and expensive!) temptations at the grocery store. This practice also lets me make ingredients work from one meal to the next. For example, if one recipe calls for 1/2 can of coconut milk, I am sure to find another recipe for later in the week that will use up the remaining half.
6. Join a Co-Op. The co-op we belong to provides us with nutritious local foods that are thoughtfully grown and raised. For example, the supermarket down the street sells a dozen conventional eggs for $0.99 and organic, free-range eggs for $5. However, my co-op provides a dozen truly delicious organic eggs from pastured chickens for only $3.50. By reaching out to my local farmers I am giving them my business and getting better foods. Quite a deal!
7. Make your own food. We all know it is usually cheaper to make a meal at home rather than going out to a restaurant. But, I take it a step further by making a lot of essentials from scratch. By making grocery staples like homemade peanut butter, homemade yogurt and homemade laundry detergent, I save lots of little dollars that add up fast.
What are your money-saving grocery shopping tips?
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