I hear from people quite a bit that they don’t purchase or eat healthy foods (especially organic foods) because they can’t afford them. It is true that sometimes healthy, organic options can cost quite a bit more—but that also depends on when and where and how you buy them. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide for treating yourself and your family to truly good foods while sticking to your budget.
Step 1: Buy In-Season Foods
If you buy out-of-season foods, the price you’re paying includes the extra overhead of shipping that food to your area from a warmer climate. If you buy in season—especially if you buy straight from a farmer—you’re eliminating that cost, and you can feel good about supporting a local grower. You can save a lot of money by buying in-season foods in summer and fall and preserving them for winter eating. For tips on seasonal eating, see Eat in Sync with the Seasons and How to Find Local Food and Farmers.
Step 2: Buy in Bulk
If you like beans, stock up on dry beans in bulk instead of buying individual cans of cooked beans. Save even more by buying your grains and spices in bulk, too. Many natural grocers have great bulk sections.
Step 3: Buy Whole
If you eat meat, instead of buying chicken breasts at the store whenever you want chicken, buy whole chickens direct from farmers and freeze them. When you thaw one to use, stretch your dollar by using the whole chicken: roast it with veggies, then another night use the meat that’s left to make soup or stir-fry. After that, use what’s left to make chicken stock.
Step 4: Eat at Home
I know this is an oft-cited tip for saving money, but it’s so true that if you eat at home more instead of eating out, you simply have more money to spend on higher-quality, healthy foods for your plate, pantry and freezer. Every time you’re tempted to eat out but decide to cook instead, add up what you’re saving, and then use that savings to stock your pantry with a variety of staples and snacks.
Step 5: Grow Your Own
No matter your space or situation, do what you can to maximize your growing potential (even if that means growing a few things in containers or joining a community garden). There’s no better way to save money on food than to spend a few bucks on seeds and watch them turn into beautiful veggies. For tips and inspiration, see Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet.
Step 6: Make Basics
You might think of items like sandwich bread as being troublesome to make at home—but it may take much less work and time than you think! You can save loads of money by purchasing high-quality organic flours in bulk and making bread at home. Check out 5 Minutes a Day for Fresh-Baked Bread for a simple bread-making method.
For many more ideas on eating well within your means, see Cut Cost, Not Quality: How to Afford the Best Food and How Do You Save Money on Groceries?
Photo by Tim Nauman