Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

By Stacy Myers, Contributing Writer

Are you working to ditch processed foods and put more real food on the table? This month we’re running a series called Real Food Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Better. Our goal is to answer the questions you might have and make the transition a whole lot easier!

It costs too much to eat real food. I can’t afford it. There is some kind of conspiracy going on – healthy food costs too much…and the cheap food that I can afford to buy is bad for me. So, I keep buying the cheap food ’cause it’s easy.

The only people who can afford whole, healthy foods are rich socialites or people who live in a van down by the river because they don’t have a house and they farm all day long. I’m just a normal, average Jane and the only thing I can afford are Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs.

Nah – this whole foods thing is dumb and expensive. I can’t afford it. That’s for other people and not me – maybe one day when I hit the lottery…except I don’t play the lottery.

Does that sound dumb to anyone else? Real food is NOT too expensive – that’s a myth…and this is coming from a former coupon queen who would get $100 or more worth of groceries for $20.

It takes a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of work, and some effort to get good, whole foods at a good price. And I’m here today to tell you how – ’cause that’s how I roll.

Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

Our family has been at this “real food” thing for almost two years now.  I’ve learned a thing or two…and I still have a ton to learn. I imagine when I stop learning, I’ll kick the bucket pretty soon thereafter. So here are my tips and tricks for eating healthy, whole foods on a budget.

1. Buy in Bulk

This is pretty much the smartest thing I’ve ever done when it comes to whole food preparation. Just about anything you want to buy is cheaper when you buy it in bulk. If it’s something that will keep or you can freeze (and you have the space) why not buy a bunch of it instead of one piddly little bag?

Buying in bulk is cheaper even if you don’t want to buy a 25-pound bag. You just need to find a bulk food store or a local Amish market. They buy in bulk for you and repackage into smaller containers. The price is still cheaper because you’re not paying for fancy packaging.

BUT, you still have to have the money. Some of my favorite posts on Buying in Bulk are from Penniless Parenting. Check out these posts to get some great ideas on how to afford bulk buying:

Bulk Buying with No Extra Money

When Should You NOT Buy Bulk 

Bulk Buying: The Hidden Savings

Bulk Buying: When It Pays and When It Doesn’t

Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

2. Use Coupons

This is a shocker…yes, you can use coupons for REAL whole foods. It’s just a bit harder to find them. Some stores like Earth Fare and Whole Foods offer coupons to their store. Even Target has some whole foods coupons. Always check the store website where you’re going to be shopping to see if they offer store coupons.

My two favorite sources for whole foods coupons are Recyclebank and Organic Deals.

3. Shop late at the farmer’s market

I love my farmer’s market. Going there and seeing the foods makes me so happy. Did you know that if you go by the farmer’s market right before it closes for the day you’re likely to get a better deal? Sometimes the farmers don’t want to take home their leftover bounty and so they’re willing to sell it at a discounted rate. Yes, a lot of the good stuff is gone – but if you’re not picky, you can get some good stuff for very cheap!

Also, never be afraid to ask for a deal. If you’re going to be buying bulk at the farmer’s market, ask the farmer if he would sell to you cheaper for buying a large amount.

Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

4. Cook from Scratch

For someone like me, this is easy. I love being in my kitchen. I thrive there. I also burn stuff there, but that’s beside the point.

Making things at home instead of buying them at the store can save you some serious cash! Things like homemade cream of soup mixpeanut butter, or pizza sauce are cheaper to make at home than to purchase the organic alternative at the store.

Tons of things can be made from scratch. And if you need a cookbook to help you, Easy. Homemade. is where it’s AT!

5. Grow your Own and Can It

I can’t grow things. I have the black thumb of death. But having a garden is a great thing for someone into real food. You can grow what you will eat and do it organically.

Then when your bounty comes in, you will be able to freeze or can it. Canning is a great activity to do with family members – or on your own. If you need help, there is a great tutorial at The Prairie Homestead on how to use a pressure canner.

Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

6. Eat wild game

Around the Myers house, we eat a lot of venison. I was raised on it, so it’s normal to me. It helps to be married to a hunter. Each year we get a deer and have it processed with some beef fat to help cut the gamey taste. This costs us $40 – that’s it. $40 for a year’s worth of good-for-us meat.  If you process it yourself, the cost is free.

There are all sorts of wild game you can eat – turkey, pheasant, elk, and road kill (totally kidding on the last one). If you don’t hunt, just ask around and find a friend who does.

7. Shop Online

Since having children, I have really embraced my hermitude. I like staying at home. So, for me it’s nice to be able to get groceries online. And the fact that I can save SO MUCH by shopping online is another perk.

My favorite place to shop online is Vitacost, and I’ve talked about my love of this online store here. You can also score some great deals using Amazon Subscribe and Save (get a discount and free shipping).

Other stores like Tropical Traditions offer newsletters where you can sign up and get notifications of sales and free shipping. One of my new favorite places to shop online is Honeyville. I like to buy almond flour there. They offer a flat shipping rate of $4.49.

With online shopping you need to take into account shipping charges. Just because it’s cheaper online doesn’t mean that it will be with shipping added on. I like to wait for free shipping offers.

Editor’s Note: iherb.com is another good store to order natural foods online. (Use code CEC426 for $5 free credit towards your order.)

Keeping Costs Low in a Real Food Kitchen

8. Utilize Freezer Cooking

Sometimes cooking real food can get overwhelming. Sometimes you will come home and say to yourself “Self, I should just go to McDonald’s.” Tell self to shut up.

There are going to be times when you just don’t feel like cooking from scratch. You might be sick, tired, or just lazy (if I’m anything, I’m honest). Don’t fall off the wagon just because a few days get overwhelming. For these times you need freezer meals.

The next time you’re making a dinner, why not make two? Then you’ll have one in the freezer for one of your lazy/sick nights. Lots of crock pot meals can be made in advance and frozen.

Natural Living Tip ~ Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen

So, now I’ve shown you how you can save. Let’s share some tips!

Editorial Note from Erin: KOTH Creator Stephanie is on vacation, so I can take the liberty to toot her horn and mention that she has written an AMAZING book called Real Food on a Real Budget. If you want to learn how to transform your eating habits without emptying your bank account, Stephanie’s book will take Stacy’s points and expand on them. You can check out all of Stephanie’s books here.

Other posts in the series:

Real Food Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Better

First Steps to Real Food

What Is Real Food?

Cutting Your Kitchen Prep Time in Half — Or More!

Confessions of a Formerly Picky Eater

How to Read Food Labels

The Grain Controversy: Should We Eat Them or Not?

Second Steps Towards Eating Real Foods: Switching Your Food Sources

Sweeteners: How They Affect You, Which Ones are Best, and How to Use Them

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Pantry Staples

5 Strategies to Help Your Husband and Kids Transition to Real Food 

7 Foods to Avoid

Finding Real Food in the Grocery Store

20 Easy Real Food Switches and Substitutions {with Free Printable Chart}

First Steps to Eating for Fertility

Raising Kids on Real Food

5 Ways to Get More Fruits & Veggies into your Diet

Food Is Not Cheap: 4 Steps to Budgeting in Real Food

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Baked Goods

Simple Roast Chicken (And Fabulous Side Dish Recipes!)

17 Homemade Spice Mixes {with Recipes & Why You Should Use Them!}

5 Ways Green Living and Real Food are Connected

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Soups, Sauces, and Simple Dinners

What’s your #1 savings tip for cooking in a real food kitchen?

Disclosure: There are affiliate and referral links included in this post.

About Stacy Myers

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Annie (3) and Andy (newborn). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with her daily antics.

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Comments

  1. I LOVE this! So many people tell me that it’s too expensive, but I find my spending at an all-time low. I take advantage of Amazon and Vitacost, and I have back-ups of the items I use regularly in the freezer. The only things I get at stores or markets are perishables, and I have great sources for each item.

    Cook from scratch, prepare foods in advance so you don’t ever go to McDonald’s, and EAT REAL FOOD. :)

  2. melissa alder says:

    I shop at a Mennonite store and they have alot of cheap stuff. I buy stuff like flour, sugar and potatoes, onions and such in bulk. They also sell outdated stuff really cheap like pastas, juices and stuff like that. I generally just buy pasta and their bacon which I think is made from scratch? They also have other good stuff for cheap. I am to feed us better too. We eat venison which my husband hunts and he is teaching me how to hunt too. We grow a garden every year and we even have another Mennonite store where we get twenty pounds of tomatoes for ten dollars. We canned alot of tomatoes last year and this year decided it would be cheaper just to buy then instead of grow them. Our tomatoes don’t get as big as theirs do. We are however going to plant lettuce, carrots, broccoli, turnips, greenbeans and some other stuff I can’t remember. LOL. I also make our bread and am trying to get into making our own pizzas and stuff like that. Anyhow, my point is any little bit that you can do to help yourself eat better is going ot help you in the long run. I totally agree withy you Stacey.

  3. These are all great ideas! I just wanted to point one thing out about the wild game meat. We are also big venison eaters, but you are leaving out a lot of hidden costs to them. There is a fee for your hunting liscense that varies depending on you state. Also, unless you own your own land that it is leagal to hunt on (again, laws vary by state), you have to pay deer lease fees, which can get pretty high. We have to “tag out,” which means get the maximum number of deer, in order for it to be worth it each year. You will hear no complaining from my husband though!

  4. I just discovered this blog a few days ago looking for some grainless cooking ideas. Over the past year or so my husband and I have begun eating more healthy… more of a clean diet. A few months ago I started blogging some of my recipes and thoughts about eating real food. I like what I’ve found here. Thanks for sharing your ideas and resources. – Sheila

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