For many families, increasing the budget for a healthier diet can be difficult to handle financially. Gluten free, organic foods, pasture raised dairy and meats all have premium prices compared to their factory raised counterparts. Processed foods that have wheat and sugar products are so heavily subsidized, that pound for pound, those products often cost less on the wallet than a weekly budget that is all about real food. Coupons for produce and meat are so lacking, but plentiful for bad-for-you snacks. Sometimes, it can be so daunting to stay within a budget while needing to eat gluten free, organic, pasture raised and as much real food as possible.
I found that shopping sales, creating a food plan and being creative* has all helped me keep our food budget under control. *please note: me being creative has resulted in both delicious winning dishes as well as nights where we wind up getting tacos!
With growing teenagers, one meal full of clean protein and fresh produce easily throws off our family budget! Planning and shopping sales is the best and biggest way to save and stay on budget.
Here’s 10 more tips that we do to keep our costs lower while on a pasture raised, gluten free, rice free and as many organics as affordable lifestyle:
1. Make soups and broth – Canned soups are more expensive than homemade, and they just are not as tasty. I will use chicken quarter legs in my soup or grill T-bone steaks and pull bones before serving so I can I throw them in a crock pot overnight with some onion, ginger, celery, salt, and garlic to make broth that I can freeze for later. I freeze them in 2 cups portions and use them as I would store bought broth. When I make soups, I can use my frozen broth then add some a lot of hearty vegetables like carrots, squash, beans along with some meat like chicken or stew cut beef. It does take longer than opening and and heating a can, but I can make a lot more for the same dollar amount in about 30 minutes.
2. Limit snacking: “Paleo” and “gluten free” foods like crackers, chips, brownies and cookies are STILL JUNK FOOD! and they are hell expensive. It’s a total waste of money, you might as well shovel a spoonful of sugar, salt or oil into your mouth. It’s cheaper. Just say no when these little goodies jump into your cart. If they don’t make it home, you can’t eat them and you save yourself some cash.
3. Cabbage instead of organic kale. Both from the cruciferous family! Cabbage is #4 on the clean fifteen ranking, it’s not necessary to be organic. I often find cabbage at 3 lbs/$1! It’s great in stir fry, chopped and steamed as a side dish instead of rice or potatoes, or used in Asian cole slaw. Kale can get very pricy, though in the summer I tend to find it at the farmer market for about $1 a bunch. And according to the clean fifteen website, kale is on their dirty dozen list. We still buy and eat a lot of kale, but also including cabbage also helps our wallet.
4. Shop ethnic markets – in Southern California we are lucky to have an array of choices; Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean to name a few. The produce section of these stores are priced much better than traditional stores like Ralph’s. I’ve even found young coconuts $1 each! Asian markets will often have a variety of wild caught fish under $6 a pound. Big boxes of fruit tend to be inexpensive. A box of mangos was $4 the other day. I also bought a box of papaya* for $5. *I have heard all US grown papaya is GMO…I don’t know, have not researched it and right now prefer not to know. I love papaya.
5. Avoid “Gluten-Free” products: Many are tasteless, expensive. This is wear creativity comes in. What can you use instead? How about butter lettuce for taco shells? Cream Cheese for Pizza crust? Or Zucchini spirals instead of spaghetti? And my favorite for ease and taste: Baby Bok Choy leaves as buns for sliders?
6. Farmers market: I prefer to go early for the best selection. However, when I go late, I often can score much better pricing on produce. Their motivation is to unload as much as they can, so sometimes that last half hour vendors are offering half off, or extra pound free and other sales. This works best for fruits!
7. Buy a share of meat: considering ordering a share of beef directly from a farm as part of a co-share program. We ended up with a variety of cuts of a pasture raised cow including t-bones, rib eyes, shanks, roasts and ground packages. The ones we have ordered have been dry aged, with a flavor that just doesn’t compare to wet aged. Buying separately easily would have cost double.
8. Buy extra when on sale: I usually budget in a buffer of $20 to use towards meats on sale as well as other bargains that I can freeze. The last couple of weeks I’ve managed to score some organic chicken drumsticks, leg quarters, lamb chops and grass fed beef roasts for about half the normal cost. Also, some stores do managers specials, one of my local stores I frequent seems to have their manager’s specials on Tuesday mornings.
9. Eat less meat: Make the shares, bargains last longer! We love to eat lamb, grass fed beef, bison, wild caught fish. It can get pricey. We eat a lot of inexpensive produce based sides to compensate. Stir fry, salads, stews are all great ways to get in more veggies and less meat.
10. Ease up on being strictly organic (unless you have no choice): If I get stuck on organic everything, I could end up skip out on the nutrients vegetables an provide. Sometimes the organic version is just not found. What is worse? No veggies or veggies with pesticide? The EWG website features a clean fifteen and dirty dozen list and app. Their ranking system that is a wonderful tool on decided which foods do not have as many pesticides. I keep the app on my phone and will refer to it while shopping.
I am always looking for ways to save, and will post any ideas. Please comment with suggestions!