i agree that quality is key over cost; but the reality is there are x dollars for food and there are 30 days in the month that we'd like to eat
how do you folks find the balance / have it be affordable??
(i wont even try and include my fussy meat & potatoes dh into the equation ; )
if there's a public market where you are, they're always cheap. sometimes you can find organic stuff, but you have to ask. most of the stuff at our public market is not organic, though, and if you have chemical sensitivities to toluene & other chemicals commonly used in pesticides it can be really unpleasant, because you have no way of knowing what has been sprayed on the stuff.
look into community supported agriculture. we just found out about CSA where we are. saves lots of money on organic produce, & sometimes you can get eggs, dairy, or meat too. $112 gets us a share, which means we help with a distribution shift & get 16 lbs. organic produce 6 times between now & spring.
go vegetarian, if you think your family will let you get away with it. with really stubborn meat-eaters, if you serve favorite dishes that just don't happen to not have any meat in them (lentil soup, home-baked mac-n-cheese, red beans & rice etc.) rather than "vegetarian" dishes, most of the time they won't notice or care, especially if your motive is saving money. ignore the over-priced meat analogs. vegetarianism really is cheaper! simple grains & legumes are the cheapest foods in the world! in a pinch i can feed a family of 4 (well, one of us only takes breastmilk) for $100 or less for 2 weeks of groceries.
use your freezer. freezing does damage some of the nutrients in foods, but making big batches of food & freezing can save you money & if it gets you to eat more whole, natural foods then it's still healthier! this works great with the CSA box or public market idea.
this is probably the most important: buy in bulk! buy bulk dry beans & cook them in a slow cooker rather than getting canned. ignore the fancy packaged grains. fill a sack from a bin at the co-op. bring in an empty bottle, have it weighed for the tare, and fill it with honey, vinegar or dish soap & save the cost of packaging, for yourself & the environment.
know which products are cheapest. millet & barley are usually cheaper than brown rice. green or yellow peas or lentils are versatile, inexpensive legumes & cook relatively quickly. peanut butter is cheaper than the other nut butters, but bulk "mystery butter" is cheaper still. sunflower seeds are a cheap, versatile protien source; you can also sprout them, or grind them with water in the blender for a really yummy inexpensive dairy milk substitute. (delicious on oatmeal!) organic kale is cheaper than broccoli, and sometimes collards are even cheaper. blackstrap molasses costs way less than honey or sucanat. you get the idea.
have dh watch the kids some afternoon, so you can take your time and get a cuppa chem-free decaf coffee & spend a while getting to know your co-op. if you go in cold with a cart full of wiggly bored wining kid(s) it'll be harder to concentrate on getting the really good bargains & you may miss something.
learn to make stock, and really stretch out your produce. you can make use of onion skins, squash seeds & carrot peelings, save valuable money & nutrients, & add wonderful flavor to soups, stews, casseroles & lentil loaf.
make everything from scratch, if you can. get a bread machine & buy yeast and whole wheat flour instead of bread. involve rainy-day bored kids in making homemade noodles or crackers. learn to make yoour own seitan, oatmeal burgers & veggie loaf. blend your own nut milk, or if you're really ambitious learn to make soymilk, yogurt & tofu in your kitchen. grow your own sprouts in a jar on the counter. make use of crock-pots, pressure cookers, bread machines and even the microwave to save you time and sanity. packaged goods are really expensive.
this last thing is also very important: if you don't already have it go get yourself a copy of laurel's kitchen. second-hand if necessary. if you can't find it second hand, look for their smaller, cheaper version, laurel's kitchen recipes. it's full of ideas for eating healthy & inexpensively.
there's a few other things i do to save cash: i clean with baking soda & vinegar instead of expensive & dangerous chemicals, i turn off lights, i walk instead of taking the bus (we can't afford a car anyway) i barter with friends & wear second-hand clothes. guess what, though? a lot of things that are best for your health & the environment are also better for your wallet, too! it takes a while to learn the ropes, but i managed to live fairly green on welfare, so you can afford it too!
hope this is helpful!
- BUY IN BULK. Rice, beans, flour, etc. in bulk is much less expensive and usually fresher than packaged items. STay away from mixes and other prepared foods. Soups are filling and nutritrious and can be made from almost anything.
- If you're family can't give up expensive meat, you just need a little meat or poultry to give the soup or stir fry flavor and can fill it with grains and beans and veggies.
- Look for sales and stock up, bread can be frozen. Buying in season and local is usually cheaper too.
- Don't buy packaged breakfast cereals. They are outrageously expensive as well as being overprocessed and mostly high in sugar and sodium. Buy rolled oats - very cheap - and make oatmeal. It only takes a few minutes.
- Most of all, don't go to unorganic, unhealthy foods because you think you can't afford to eat healthy. You can't afford not to!
So interesting that you posted this question! For years i have wanted to eat better, but could not afford it. going into Wild Oats, sent me spinning. On and off over the years i would try and incorporate better eating, better quality foods and mostly go back to the regular gorcery store. I have been lurking on this forum for weeks, and have made friends with a few twig & berry nurses i work with. i think that maybe, just maybe i came up with a good combo that saves my checkbook from combusting.
I make detailed menus (4 from here today!), make 2 lists, one for Wild Oats, one for Sams Club. i buy all my cereals, chips, veggies, fruit snacks for the kids, brown rice, canned tomatoes, beans etc (all organic) at Wild Oats. Then i went to Sams and bought family packs of porkchops, chicken breasts, and 2 pot roasts. i also bought my coffee at sams, in a huge tin. I did not buy my cleaning supplies at Wild Oats...i cant afford hteir detergent, windex, bathroom cleaners and the like. I decided right now to try and do better for our bodies. Sams has excellent prices on laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc.
I spent $61 at WO and $56 at Sams, for the week, for 5 people.
and low and behold, my normally wild 4 year old sat quietly in the cart at Wild Oats, at natural fruit snacks, Dried mango slices and these things that looked like M & M's without a fuss!
I am anxious to see how others do it.
Try these recipes for cheap and healthy home cleaning alternatives, you can really save a lot of money by cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, etc. : recipes from healthy home forum
Try to eat fruits and veggies in season, whether from your local farmer's market, your CSA, or your "healthy" food store. Imported, out of season fruits and veggies are way more expensive. Here are some links to help you find a CSA near you:
Comparison shop. Even the big supermarkets are starting to carry more organic produce, dairy, frozen fruits and veggies, etc. and you may find that they have better prices than the health food store.
You don't need to buy cookbooks, although it's nice to have one or two that you like, to find great ideas for less expensive meals. Check them out from the library, or surf online at places like Epicurious orVegweb
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