Please, please – if you could offer suggestions on how to feed your family on a budget while trying to do so naturally. What I mean is that I try to stay away from foods with major additives, artificial flavorings/colorings and those with ingredients that most people cannot pronounce. -Kim
Many people have this misguided idea that it is impossible to feed your family a whole foods diet on a budget. If you live in Alaska or some remote part of the country, this may be the case, but in most areas, you can feed your family natural, unprocessed foods without spending hundreds of dollars each week to do so.
Sure, you might spend a little bit more than someone who is eating a diet composed mostly of processed foods, but it really doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg as some people will make you think — especially if you’re willing to get creative and think outside the box.
Now, let me be upfront and tell you that our weekly meal plans probably wouldn’t win us the Healthiest Family of the Year award. We eat some processed foods (though we do make the majority of our food from scratch), we like sweets and we certainly do not eat 100% organic.
I know some people are really bothered by this, but we strive to have a balance of serving lots of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains while still enjoying the occasional brownies and ice cream or even letting our children have a Happy Meal every now and then (gasp! Can you believe it?!)
So, despite the fact that I’m not the most knowledgeable and experienced person to be tackling this issue, here are some suggestions:
1. Plan a Menu Based Upon What is In Season and On Sale
If you want to feed your family on a budget, you need to have a plan for what you’ll be eating. If you can make your menu plan mostly based upon what is on sale at the natural foods store, what is in season at the Farmer’s Market and/or what you’re reaping in abundance from your garden, you’re going to significantly reduce your grocery bill.
2. Practice the “Buy Ahead” Principle
If you happen to come upon an incredible sale on tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market, or the health food store has organic frozen vegetables on a great sale, stock up. Buying items you routinely use when they are at their lowest price is another surefire way to savings.
3. Plant a Garden (Or Barter With Someone Who Does!)
If you can pull it off, plant a garden. Produce is typically only pennies per item from your own backyard, it’s tremendously fresh and you know exactly what you did or didn’t spray on it. Plus, you can can or freeze your extras — or bless your friends and neighbors with them!
Have a brown thumb? Find a friend who loves gardening and trade services (babysitting, breadbaking, car maintenance?) in exchange for their garden excess.
4. Stick With Simple Meals Using Inexpensive Ingredients
When you’re planning your menu, think about how much your recipes will cost you to make. It doesn’t have to be a scientific to-the-penny figure, but just having a good idea that there is a $10 difference between the price of making one meal as opposed to another meal can help you decide whether you can afford to make something or perhaps should save it for a special occasion.
5. Serve Meat as a Condiment
I shamelessly stole this idea from Family Feasts for $75 Per Week because it’s so brilliant. Serving meat in soup or on pizza is going to be a lot less expensive than serving roast and sirloin, especially if you’re buying high-quality meat.
Need ideas? Laura shows you how to make six meals out of one chicken.
6. Buy in Bulk
It is usually much more cost-effective to purchase meat and staple ingredients in bulk. Call around to local farmers and see what they would charge you for purchasing half a cow. In many cases, it’s at least $1 cheaper per pound to purchase in bulk. Buying grains, beans, as well as many other basic ingredients with long storage lives in large quantities will almost always save you at least 20%, if not more.
Costco, as well as many bulk foods stores and local co-ops, offer great pricing. You can also check with your local health food store to see if they’d offer you a discount for bulk purchases.
7. Consider Joining a CSA or Co-Op
If there is a co-op or CSA in your area, check into pricing and details for joining. You might find that it is an affordable and money-saving option for your family. If you can’t find an affordable co-op in your area, you could consider starting your own co-op.
8. Use Coupons on Non-Food Items
I know a number of my readers don’t eat processed foods, but they use coupons to save money on toilet paper, toothbrushes and other non-food items which they purchase. Your savings might not be so exciting as others who use dozens of coupons each shopping trip, but even saving $5 each week by using coupons can start to add up over time.
I know that I’ve just barely scratched the surface in answering this question, so I’d love to hear from you. What are your best ideas for buying natural and organic products on a budget?