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How to Save Money on Groceries When You Only Eat Whole Foods

Is it possible to save money on groceries if you only eat whole foods? In this post, I give some of my best tips and encouragement for how to keep your grocery budget low, even if you only eat whole foods.

I have been scouring the internet for easy, budget friendly meals for those on a strict diet. Over a year ago my health was a mess and we figured out my body has a sensitivity to toxins in the environment, particularly from plastic, treated water, and also chemicals used on food. I found I feel so much better when eating whole, organic foods and organic meats. However this shot our grocery budget up to a crazy high amount.

We live in a sparsely populated area in the midwest, one stoplight in our whole county. Healthy food is not cheap. I am desperate for ideas on how to have a “beans and rice” budget but not sacrifice the progress I have made in my health. I would love to hear insight on this. Thanks and God bless your journey! -Kristy

First off, Kristy, I just want to encourage you to know that you are not alone. I have heard from many other women who are in similar situations. And I’ve also seen many women who have found very creative ways to eat very healthfully on a tight budget.

One of my local friends, Cheapskate Cook, is a fantastic resource for how to eat healthfully on a budget. She constantly inspires me with her outside-the-box ideas!

I also wanted to share some other strategies and suggestions that might help you in your journey:

1. Have a can do attitude.

The first step to lowering your budget is believing that you can. If you think you can’t, you probably won’t be able to. But if you believe you can, you’ll likely be motivated to figure out creative ways to make it happen.

When there is a will, there is usually a way.

2.  Cut your budget in other areas.

Now, that said, I’m not saying you should be unrealistic or put undue pressure on yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other people or other budgets.

Also, realize that getting creative could mean choosing to cut back in other budget categories in order to give you more wiggle room in your grocery budget.

For instance, maybe your family choose to drive an older car and not go on vacations and live in a smaller home in order to free up extra money for your grocery budget. Everyone has different priorities and it’s okay if your priorities are very different from another family’s priorities.

3. Buy in bulk.

Research all of the local farms in your area to see which ones would be willing to sell to the public. Could you drive an hour or two to buy half a cow and save $1 or $2/lb.?

Are there any orchards or farms nearby that would be willing to sell you their produce “seconds” for less? Sure, it might not be as pretty as full-priced product, but they will taste just as good!

What about stores that are within a 50-mile radius of your home that might offer organic items and would give you a discount if you were to purchase in bulk?

Also,  check to see if Azure Standard delivers in your area. If not, could you start a group so that they will come to your area?

4. Grow your own.

One of the best ways to save on produce is to grow your own. If you have kids, make it a family affair. Challenge yourself to see how much of what you usually buy at the store can be grown or made yourself!

5. Look into online options.

There are so many great online options nowadays that offer great deals on natural and organic products., Amazon, and Vitacost are a few of my favorite sites. But I’m sure if you start looking, there are many others, too!

Tip: Type in the price point you want to pay for items you routinely buy from at and they’ll send you an alert when the price goes under that amount!

What others ideas do the rest of you have for Kristy? I’d love to hear in the comments!

More posts to check out:

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  • Elizabeth says:

    Love to see you mention Azure Standard. They are THE BEST way to save money on healthy groceries.

    You can even save extra $ with their share program. It gives you a whopping $25 when someone uses your code and buys just $100.

    Everyone should try Azure- their quality and service is better than Thrive or any other online grocery option

    • Thanks so much for these great tips! I’d love for you to write a guest post on Azure Standard, if that’s something you’d ever be interested in doing!

    • Melinda says:

      Agree! I LOVE Azure! They definitely have some very good prices on some things. And they have the BEST costumer service I’ve ever experienced. 🙂

  • Milissa says:

    First, I feel for anyone trying to eat like this on a tight budget. It’s tough. I prefer organic, whole food, too, and we’re blessed with a pretty decent food budget, but it’s a real challenge where I live, in a suburb of St. Louis, MO. None of the stores near me have any of those awesome coupon deals or weekly specials that so many other areas have. I always see tips about farmers markets, but my experience is that they are way more expensive and if they aren’t, the quality is poor. Here are the things that make it more doable for our family. First, we all eat the same things, no exceptions. Second, I calculate what every recipe/meal should cost and strive to stick to it. It takes a lot of planning, but it helps. Third, I make enough of most dinner recipes for two dinners and lunch for at least my husband on the third day. This tends to be cheaper than having different lunch options for him. Fourth, I use the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen to determine which produce it’s worth it to splurge on to buy organic. With that being said, I do try to build recipes around produce that’s part of the Clean 15 to save money. Fifth, don’t spend money on organic convenience foods, period. Annie’s organic Mac n Cheese is tasty but it’s still highly processed junk food. Sixth, expect push back but stick to the rule of whole food for snacks, too. Popcorn can be a great, cheap option if grains aren’t an issue. Trader Joe’s sells a bag of organic popping corn for just over $2. Seven, DRINK WATER. Don’t spend money on juices, soda, coconut water, sports drinks, sparkling water, etc. Invest in a good water filtering system and experiment with different fresh flavors by adding sliced fruit, cucumbers, etc. Eighth, start slowly and don’t aim for perfection, just do what you feasibly can. Ninth, consider that health issues will cost more money than healthful eating. Even with great insurance, several co-pays a month could instead be applied to your food budget. Even with our pretty reasonable grocery budget for a family of four, we can’t manage to eat completely organic and whole food all the time, but we make a decent effort and succeed more than we fail. AND, with many health issues on both sides, my husband and I and our kids have zero health problems and take no medication, so we’re saving tons of money in that respect. Good luck to everyone hoping to eat a more organic, whole food diet on a budget!

    • Such great tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • J says:

      Milissa offers great tips! I second the notion that health care will be more expensive than eating well. I personally have spent $20-30,000 on my health since a diagnosis in 2013. What I wouldn’t give to have had the nutrition education when I was young to avoid all these costs. God graciously allowed me to be in a well-paying job with great insurance during that time to fund my recovery. I am priceless and the money was well spent. I gratefully go without vacations, new clothes, iphones, cable Tv and drive a 15 year old car to spend $ on quality food, vitamins, quality water, hard-wired technology and chemical free clothing. You are priceless and every penny is worth it! God bless!

      • I just wanted to mention that while I agree this *can* be the case, I think it’s important to note that it is not always the case. I know people who have done pretty much everything as perfectly as possible when it comes to healthy lifestyle/eating and who have ended up dying from cancer or have had years and years of severe health issues that haven’t been resolved and have cost thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in testing and treatments to attempt to resolve.

        While I love your desire to prioritize your health and am so happy that changing your lifestyle has made such a difference in your recovery, I think it’s important to keep this in mind so that we don’t make others who truly cannot afford to eat all organic or who choose differently not in any way feel less than for making different choices.

        I just don’t want someone reading here to feel guilty or less than (you weren’t doing that, I just wanted to say this now, before the discussion started to go there… because it has in the past and I am such a firm believer in giving grace to others who choose differently than us!)

        • J says:

          Indeed, there are no guarantees. Since this article was focused on food, I gave it that focus to provide encouragement. After much experience, fluoride-free water, strict avoidance of blue light from screens and wireless radiation; reverting to all hard-wired technology and spending time in the sun paid off way more than a focus on expensive organic food or supplements! We all do the best we can with the tools and resources we have.

  • MaryBeth says:

    Look into Thrive Market. I find their prices quite often beat Amazon.

    • I’m also eating a whole-foods diet for health reasons, and one thing I like to do is soak dry beans overnight and cook them in my instant pot. I add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, paprika and salt, and cover it all with water and pressure-cook for 6-10 minutes. I eat this every day and it’s very filling and cheap (and healthy!), and lasts about a week. I also cook sweet potatoes in my instant pot, and eat those every day, which is also filling and cheap. One pot of sweet potatoes can also last about a week. I’m so glad Kristy’s health is improving!

    • Thanks so much for that tip!

    • Shanae says:

      I also came by to mention Thrive Market! All of the products they carry are non-GMO. They are continually rolling out their out line of products, which adds even more affordability. I have been thoroughly impressed with the company’s practices and generosity toward those in need, too!

  • Sarah says:

    See if Bountiful Baskets is in your area! We just started with that and it is SO good. The food is good and in our area we only pay $18 for a laundry basket full of fresh fruits and veggies. Their organic options are more but still a steal compared to the store. You may have to drive, we drive 20-30 minutes to our spot REALLY early but it’s worth it so far.
    If you’re near some farms, call around and see if there’s farmers markets or if they have small stores or other things for your area where people can get cheaper items.
    Check the markdowns wherever you can too. Try to stick to whatever is on sale too instead of buying at the top dollar price, even if it’s hard. I know how hard it is!! Don’t be discouraged.

  • Mary says:

    I didn’t notice a big budget change when we switched to whole foods. We added higher quality food but we also stopped buying processed foods. We don’t buy the fancy organic processed things either which really helps.

    I stopped getting sick when we made this change and that was a huge help to our budget. Even with good insurance, the constant co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions added up significantly.

    I don’t go to the store with hard menus but know that I want to buy a variety of high quality protein and in season produce. I use the dirty dozen list so I don’t have to waste money on organic when it isn’t necessary. I try to pop in every few days to get the freshest produce. That helps me just buy enough for the next 2 or 3 days and helps hold down waste.

    I blog about saving money with a game we made up and often write about saving money with your grocery budget. I think it’s a budget category with a lot of opportunity for saving money and coming in under budget. Posts like these on MSM help a lot!

  • Savannah @ Dirt Road Daisy says:

    Here are my recommendations: (1) If you’re able to smart a small garden – you can really pack quite a bit in smaller square foot spaces! It does take time and trial and error, but it is physically and healthfully rewarding. (2) Buy your meat in bulk from a local farmer. Sure you will pay a hefty amount up front, but it is SO much cheaper than buying meat each week at the grocery store. And you know exactly where it is coming from. A local farmer will likely let you stop at the farm to see how they raise their cattle/pigs/chickens, etc. (3) Check to see if any farmers or gardeners in your area offer CSA boxes during the growing months! (4) Follow @just.ingredients on Intagram! She is an amazing resource on living toxin free, and her content is invaluable!

    Good luck on your health journey!

  • Elizabeth Thompson says:

    I’m strongly inclined to think that whole plant foods are actually more affordable than the other elements of a standard American diet. Beans, brown rice, oatmeal—these are some of the cheapest things on our grocery list. Small amounts of dairy and meat can be added for flavor instead of substance.

    The biggest obstacle between me and healthier eating is not the cost, but rather the time and prep work that it takes to soak beans, wash and cut fresh produce etc.

    I do agree that prioritizing healthy eating is fiscally wise. Surely, anything can happen despite our best efforts. But we literally are what we eat, and cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in our society. Just to make a parallel, investing in our diets makes at least as much sense as the investments we make in home buying. Car accidents and tornadoes happen, but the evidence is overwhelming that health and home ownership go a long way to financial security.

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