(My pantry stocked with a variety of whole grains and seeds)
Let's face it. Grocery shopping is hard on a budget, especially if you are trying to buy only whole foods. Here are some of my tips for using a budget. Here are some other great tips as well.
1. Shop the sales. For example, this week, my health food store (Sprout's Farmers Market) has some great sales on Organic produce going on. You can get a 1 lb. bag of Organic carrots for 69 cents/poud and a 3 lb. bag of Organic apples for $1.99. Udi's gluten free bread is on sale for $3.49 (versus almost $6 normally). Coconut water is 4 for $5. When you see sales like this, stock up as best you can so you're not tempted to buy them full price. Since I know I can get coconut water for $1.25, I have a hard time paying the full price of $2 a can.
2. Go to Farmer's Markets in your area. Often times, the produce will be comparable in price to the grocery store. It will be much fresher however, and local, which would make a slight increase in price very worth it. If you're local to the Phoenix Valley, you can shop with The Backyard Farmer, who delivers fresh produce to your door. Or, join a co-op, like Bountiful Baskets, where you can get $50 worth of produce for only $15 (or $25 for an Organic basket).
3. Buy in bulk. You will save a lot of money in the long run by buying grains, nuts, natural sweeteners, etc. in bulk. Some places to buy in bulk are Azure Standard, Costco, Sam's club, etc. You can even buy in bulk sometimes in group buys through Green Smoothie Girl or co-ops like Bountiful Baskets.
4. Realize that you are going to pay more for items like meat and dairy. When you know and have a reason for buying Organic meat, dairy, and eggs, you are more willing to pay extra for those items. You will not be getting industrial, grain-fed, hormone pumped animal products which will be quite beneficial to your health. Meat and dairy are by far the most important things to buy Organic because the pesticides and hormones will settle in the fat more than they will in the produce you buy. Of course, Organic produce is still important, but if I had to choose, I'd choose Organic meat and dairy over Organic produce. Another tip: eat less meat and dairy. Increase the amount of beans and grains in your diet. They are very nutritious and very frugal. Learn to stretch your meat further.
*To learn more about why you'd want to avoid industrial meat and dairy products, see the film Food, Inc. or read a book like "Real Food: What to Eat and Why."
5. Limit your processed food items. That part of food gets expensive, especially if buying the "healthier" processed food. Cut out sugared (or even healthy) cereal from your pantry. If your family insists on having it, limit it to once a week. Cereal can be $5-6 a box and only serve a couple of people. It is much more cost effective (and not to mention more nourishing) to serve oatmeal or eggs for breakfast. If you must buy processed food, buy it in bulk and of course, make sure it actually resembles real food (read labels!). I have found that Costco has some great bulk items. I've found a wonderfully tasty gluten free cracker, without additives and 100% whole grain, for a wonderful price. You can also search for things like that on Amazon.com. Learn to cook from scratch - search recipes and gather ingredients. You'll find that cooking from scratch can be very rewarding.
Your grocery budget may seem bigger when moving over to a real food lifestyle but be patient. With time, you will learn how to shop for your family and continue to buy healthy foods within your budget. It may take a few months to figure out how to allocate your money, but you will get better. Obviously, if you have special dietary needs like food allergies, your food bill may run higher because gluten free/casein free items tend to be more expensive. You can still keep things under control in this area buy buying in bulk and shopping sales.
A reader asked me to share my grocery list, so stay tuned for more details on a more in depth post on what I shop for and roughly what I pay.
Be sure to check out my post on Taste is Trump, 6 Tips For Your Real Food Journey.
Also, here are 11 tips to eat better this year.