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Grocery Budget - Organic/Natural Foods

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 

Well, if you read my last post, you know I am trying to figure things out if my hubby gets a principal job and I can then stay home.


It's going to take about $1900/month from our current two income family.


Of course the easiest place to look is our food bill. I buy almost all organic. I do not want to change this. However, I do buy a lot of organic convenience foods such as: cereal, granola bars, crackers, canned beans, bread, fruit leather, juice boxes, bottled water, frozen french fries, frozen ravioli. I have been shopping for a month at a time and when I look at just the convenience foods, it is almost $150 right there.


This budget also includes all toiletries, wine and beer, and soda. We usually spend about $900-1000/month for everything. However, obviously a large part of buying all of these convenience foods is because I work as well. Breakfasts are usually in the car, and any help with dinner is appreciated :)


So, mamas, help me try to tackle this food budget and bring it down to 600-700 (maybe 700 for a couple of months and then 600). What are all of the convenience items we can make ourselves that will SERIOUSLY reduce our budget...I am sure many of you are already so good at this :)


-bake my own bread

-cook dry beans

-make granola bars/cereal bars

-make fruit rollups with dehydrator (or eat fresh fruit/dried fruit)

-no more little juice boxes/bottled water for lunches - buy a thermos

-make own oven fries with potatoes



-ideas for cheaper wine/beer??

-we already make our own laundry soap

-make shampoo and body wash

-make dishwasher soap


(edited to add that I also buy quite a lot of organic frozen fruit for smoothies)

post #2 of 30

It's a little thing, but I'd try to phase out juices and stick with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Cut soda out entirely.  You could also make your own granola -- way cheaper to get your own oats, etc., and you can control the added sugar (we'd leave it off entirely for DH).  Maybe consider home brewing.  Do you have the possibility to garden?  Buy in bulk when you can.  If rice is a less expensive option, then perhaps add that.  If you eat meat, consider decreasing or phasing out.  Can your keep chickens for eggs?


I'm guessing you already line dry your laundry, but just had to pitch that as well even though it's off topic.  It has saved us a ton.


Good luck!

post #3 of 30

We have a deep freezer, and freeze lots of bread, pizza crust, pie crust, casserolles, soup, granola, etc... so that I have to make it less often. I do once a month cooking, which saves us a ton of money. We are veg, so I also keep home-made veggie burgers and fries in the freezer for when we are out of food, instead of stopping at the grocery store for convienence foods. Basically, making convienence foods in advance and freezing them saves us money and time. If I had to make bread every week or twice a week (we eat a lot of bread), I would go nuts and just end up buying a loaf. Same with granola.


Also, we have chickens, but we spent so much on the coop I don't think it saves us any money. But we did shift breakfast to eggs instead of granola, etc., which saves us $.


I also cut down on milk a lot! We only drink it (almond milk) at dinner, whereas we used to drink it all day long. A half gallon now lasts us a week, which is half of what we used to drink.


We also eat almost all organic.

post #4 of 30



-ideas for cheaper wine/beer??



I don't know where you are at my in my state - organic wines run about $9.00 a bottle, same as most reg. but in neighboring states I am able to buy a case and get a discount (can't do it in my state)- beer (again in my state) can be bought in a growler direct from Whole Foods or local brewer and that saves, cases are always cheaper too


my local health food stores offers discount on bulk items (beans, flour, etc) and also they have buyer day specials each month


it really depends on how you eat, certain convenience organic foods with coupon and sales are a better deal in the long run when you figure in cost of cooking


certain things I never buy---beans, NEVER! always dry and make my own



post #5 of 30

Brewing, definitely. Maybe try mead, it's easy to make and really good. The fermenter bucket and carboy and siphon hose are a bit of investment but you can make 10 wine bottles worth with $20 worth of good honey.


Meal plan if you don't already, choose meals you know won't get too expensive and buy only what you need. Use up everything.

post #6 of 30

Reducing juice/wine/beer/coffee consumption.  Instead of 2 beers with dinner, maybe share one with your dp.  Liquids other than water are so expensive and easy enough to cut back on.  In smoothies, I use inexpensive organic apple cider and quite a few bananas from the freezer.  Then it just takes a cupful of more expensive marionberries to make it a delicious smoothie.


Making your own bread or raising eggs will not necessarily get you those thing any more cheaply.  More important to the bottom line is to source your food at the best possible places.  Unfortunately that means fewer dollars thrown to your local store/coop but in our case they are still part of the loop.  The prices on some items are just so expensive there!  So, that just has to be considered, unfortunately in this day and age.  That doesn't necessarily mean heading to Walmart-- I still have my personal opinions regarding that-- but I think I would shop there before I ditched organic.  Maybe not the vegetables or bulk foods, but Walmart and Costco simply have better prices for coffee, beer and wine and other things like cereals and crackers.  


Since cereals and crackers and chips are so expensive, I would start with baking those before baking bread, again just looking just at the bottom line and assuming you have a good, nutritious bread available to you at the store.  Pop your own popcorn instead of pulling out the corn chips.  Cooking methods can have a big impact.  Cooking styles that lean heavily on added fats (roasting, frying, etc.) are way more expensive than stews and baking.  Fats are really expensive, relatively.  And really monitor how much butter you spread on that bread if you want to stick with organic.  I am in the same spot, not wanting to give up that Organic Valley Pasture Butter.  For cooking our organic, pasture-raised chicken I stew it gently and get a ton of really tasty chicken broth to make into soups.  Also, pasta can be pretty expensive compared to plain grains.


And, of course, we've stopped eating out almost entirely, including coffee stops (de rigeur in our region).  We've gotten that budget down to under $20 per month or less.  Also, we watch the ice cream and candy.  DH and I love the candy from the store, but it is so expensive for organic treats we just have to watch that, and it's better for our waistline.


And just watch the prices.  In the bulk section, by the 1.15/lb "California Long Grain" rice instead of the 2.15/lb Texmati.  I know that's not so big compared to meat prices, but you should watch all the prices.  Nickels and dimes do add up!  Make brown sugar syrup with organic dark brown sugar (ordered in 25lb bags if you use it a lot) and water (1 part sugar to 1 part water).  It's just as delicious as maple syrup in its own way.  


Again, source your food.  We will pay more for honey, buying expensive local honey, but in 5 gallons buckets that last us 2 years or more (I make granola to sell occasionally and use a lot).  And never stop sourcing it.  


Lastly, watch what you eat.  Don't overindulge, especially on the expensive stuff.  You do get used to it even though it can be a rough adjustment at first.

post #7 of 30
Thread Starter 

Thank you all!


SweetSilver - I will say that I am almost positive that I can bake organic bread for less than the $3.95 a loaf I am paying! It's just the time factor...several hours when all I feel we do is run, run, run!


Thank you for the other great tips though...I love the brown sugar syrup idea! 

post #8 of 30

Tackle convenience foods first.  I would avoid anything individually-wrapped so that's a lot of pricey snacks and packaged drinks.  I would skip all fruit juice and fruit leathers, personally, as I consider concentrated fruit items too sugary anyway.   (I buy bulk nuts and dried fruits to make our own trail mixes, which is our  top kids' snack choice.  Other snacks for us are baby carrots or an apple.  The price difference for organic for these is smaller than with some foods.)  I would not bother replacing granola bars with homemade ones as for me that's too labor-intensive.  I would instead get used to eating other items that meet nutritional needs cheaply and require little preparation.  If I had to make imitations of so many convenience foods I could hardly ever get a break from the kitchen, and I'd give it up quickly.  I make my own "granola" but because we minimize grains it is based on nuts with only puffed rice to fill it out.   


I would not even consider making my own dishwashing detergents or body wash, as most of what I've heard has been that it's not enough savings and the dishwashing detergents aren't very effective.  But we use very, very cheap unindulgent toiletries and they are not organic.


Ravioli and alcohol and soda and fruit-sweets are pretty much all pricey luxuries that can be completely skipped or reduced to any degree depending what you are willing to do.  When it comes to fruit I would also skip luxury fruits like berries.  Our Berkey was the best buy in having clean water for us BTW, making it so we could always bring water from home and saved a lot of money from the water we were purchasing (and using gas to transport twice/week).



post #9 of 30

Buy in bulk (esp. with things like frozen veggies, fruit etc.) to get a lower price per oz. of food and learn about couponing and combining coupons with sales. Around here there are lots of coupons for organic products, as well as online. Just my two cents. Best of luck!

post #10 of 30

Previous posters have given tons of great advice. As far as buying in bulk check out the company Azure Standard if you're on or near(ish) the West Coast. Also check out Bountiful Baskets for produce to see if they have a drop site in your area. A big basket of organic produce is only $25. Then they have add ons such as whole grain breads etc. for about $2.50 a loaf. Oh & this week they had Raw Honey 12 lbs. for $32 ( a really great deal for my location)

post #11 of 30
Originally Posted by bethiana View Post

Previous posters have given tons of great advice. As far as buying in bulk check out the company Azure Standard if you're on or near(ish) the West Coast. 

Second Azure Standard.   We just got our delivery today.  I don't buy everything from them, but their prices on some things are so good I have a regular list for them every month.  They have also been so easy to work with, and I've been ordering from them for 6 years.  I think they deliver beyond the west coast, so check out their website.  They have only a $500 minimum per drop site, and only $40 minimum per individual.


Also, you might be able to volunteer at your local coop and get a discount.  I know at our local one,  I occasionally see kids helping their parents stocking the shelves and babies on the backs of the cashiers!


post #12 of 30

My only advice would be to start small, and set attainable goals. If I went from eating even 50% convenience foods, to trying to make do with zero overnight - I would fail. Miserably. Maybe you are a better woman than I (I know many are!!), but I think you'll find that being a SAHM is not so different from being a WOHM - always busy, more on your to-do list than fits in the day, and run run run. Your time constraints will be different, and you will be able to arrange your time according to your needs, but it will still be busy busy busy!!


You can definitely cut your grocery budget down, but I would start slowly - like start soaking beans rather than buying canned first. Start using the freezer to store certain things, but one thing at a time until it becomes routine, and then add something else. You don't want to set yourself up for failure!

post #13 of 30

And don't go crazy buying bulk in huge quantities.  Because as sure as shootin', as soon as you commit to 50lbs of oats, one of the kids is going to develop an oats allergy, or the flour will hatch a generation of bugs despite every attempt to store it well, or the brown rice will go rancid, or the 3-color quinoa never cooks up right and no one wants to eat it now and everyone wants the golden quinoa back.


I have been trying to get our bill under control, but dh does most of the shopping since he is the one in town nearly every day.  Organic is super important to me, and now I have drilled it into him so much yesterday he brought home organic hamburger priced at nearly *$10* per pound!  Whoa!  I totally would have passed.  But he didn't even look at the price.  *Sigh!*  Or I'll miss the Azure order and have to buy organic cheese at full price (Yikes!  Luckily only dh and I eat cheese.)  That happens with all kinds of things.  One of these days..... one of these days I will get this under control!

post #14 of 30
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

And don't go crazy buying bulk in huge quantities.  Because as sure as shootin', as soon as you commit to 50lbs of oats, one of the kids is going to develop an oats allergy, or the flour will hatch a generation of bugs despite every attempt to store it well, or the brown rice will go rancid, or the 3-color quinoa never cooks up right and no one wants to eat it now and everyone wants the golden quinoa back.


Seriously!! I buy in bulk no more than a months worth. It saves me some money, and it all gets used - that way if the next month I don't feel like eating it I can get something else.

post #15 of 30

I've set our budget at $700 but we often only spend $600.  I like having the extra $ built in to spend on stocking up when the price is right.  Know what you have on hand in pantry, freezer, fridge, look at sales flyers once a week & try to make a meal plan that will use up what you already have.  Write your plan down & make lists for ingredients that you need to get.  I like to have my cookbook or laptop close by to look for recipes that will use the best deals I find in the flyers.  I don't use coupons because I find that they are often for items that we do not eat.  Look for gas incentives and other programs offered by the store to make your dollar stretch even further.     


I cook our meals from scratch.  I make homemade granola, granola bars, lara bars and bread now just when we are having it with dinner.  I stock up on the whole wheat sandwich bread that my family likes when it goes on sale & I keep it in the freezer.  I can't make decent whole wheat sandwich bread that is soft and tastes like the store bought so I gave up.  I utilize the bulk bins for all my dry goods, soak & cook beans in large batches& then freeze, oats for hot breakfast and granola & bars, brown rice, raisins, nuts, seeds, flour, barley, Sucanat, bread crumbs... .A breakfast for dinner night, soup night and vegetarian night can also help.  Have planned leftovers or use a crock-pot for busy nights when you know you will be tempted to call for a pizza!  I used to keep a price book which is a good idea, but now I know what a good price is & I've memorized what I'm willing to spend for each item.  Good luck it can be a fun challenge!   

post #16 of 30

Honestly, how much you want to save depends on how much time you are willing to be in the kitchen. 


Make lots of soups.  make meal starts to put in the freezer for quick meals later.  Anytime you see a sale on produce you eat, buy alot and dehydrate or can or freeze it.  Garden--any amount you can will help.  Really, the more I am in the kitchen the more we save.

post #17 of 30

Can you wean yourself down to drinking alcohol less frequently as a special treat?


My most frugal meals are soup (made with whatever we have on hand, leftovers, whatever is on sale, etc) and "rice and stuff" (brown rice plus some kind of veg plus some kind of protein plus tamari).


If you don't already do this, get yourself and your family used to not throwing any "good leftovers" away.  Half a fried egg can be refrigerated and chopped up in last night's rice-and-stuff for lunch or a snack.  A half-eaten apple can have the brown bits cut off and be put into smoothie.  A half-eaten banana goes straight into the freezer for smoothies.  Get used to mixed-up food.  Also get everyone in the habit of offering their unwanted leftovers around to see if someone else might want them, before deciding whether to refrigerate or compost.


For soup, I have some good seasoned salt, and either a bit of chopped meat or simply some pan drippings for flavor, and whatever else is on hand that seems like a good combo.  Definitely save your pan drippings. 


If you eat meat, buy whole birds (turkeys, chickens) and roast them, then cut up the meat and freeze it to throw in soups or stews or rice, and throw the bones in a crock-pot overnight to make broth.  A big turkey yields enough bones/fat for me to do more than one batch of broth.  You can use the bones twice for a thinner broth the second time (good for egg-drop soup or other light soup).


If you do get more expensive or coveted treats sometimes, keep them under lock and key and ration them out carefully so the kids don't blow through them in one sitting.


Plain popcorn.  It's cheap and healthy and we eat it all the time.


Meat and dairy should be for flavor and excitement, but not the focus of the meal.


So many good ideas in the archives here.  Just change what you can at first without being overwhelmed, and then a little bit more as time goes on.

Edited by worthy - 3/5/12 at 4:57pm
post #18 of 30

Might seem counter-intuitive, but wash your hair less often with shampoo.  Consider buying a "shampoo bar" next time you need to refill; or try "no poo".


For dishwasher soap, try reducing the amount you use.  You can also make commercial soap go longer by following this ratio: 1 part washing soda, 1 part Borax, 1 part commercial dishwasher soap. 


Can you cut your utility expenses by unplugging things when not used?


What about reducing toiletry expenses: replace toilet paper with "family cloth", replace paper towels with cloth, replace kleenex with handkerchiefs, etc

post #19 of 30

I'm back with more tips...


Stock up on sales; understand frequency of your grocery sales and what makes a "really good sale"

Eat seasonally/locally

Preserve what you can; start canning this summer/fall - jam and apple butter are easy; freeze produce you pick up at sales price (or during peak season)

Consider shopping at Costco if available; you have to be careful and justify each purchase (understand your usage and the sales price at your regular grocery store); Costco carries a variety of organic products - depending on your location (for example: there are more organic products at Costco in Portland, OR than in Milwaukee, WI - I know from personal experience)


Comparison shop a few local stores and then buy the cheapest there of your regular staples (for example: one store sold bulk steel cut oats at $0.99/lb and the other was $1.89/lb)


Grow your own vegetables; or at least your herbs if you use heavily; greens (spinach, chard, kale and collards) are particularly pricy organic yet relatively easy to grow - start with these since they also have a long season (but they prefer cooler climate)


Make your own yogurt if a staple (this is very cost effective if you buy organic yogurt)


Make your own stock; save animal bones if you eat meat, save all raw scraps from these vegetables and freeze until you have enough to make stock: celery, carrots, onions, parsley stems, other misc veggie scraps (avoid greens and broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage); I keep 1 qt plastic bag in freezer and add to it as scraps are created.  I make veggie stock with 1 qt veggie scraps and 1 qt water, with some dry thyme, peppercorns, and bayleaf.



post #20 of 30

We just had an awesome stir-fried rice last night made up entirely of leftovers plus onion and garlic.  I guess I'm really picky about my soups and prefer my leftovers this way!  Korean sweet-and-spicy BBQ sauce is increasingly easy to find, but I have also use Thai curry paste.  

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