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.
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:
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.
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.
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 mix, peanut butter, or pizza sauce are cheaper to make at home than to purchase the organic alternative at the store.
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.
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.)
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.
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.