People ask me all the time how we manage to eat organic and minimally processed or unprocessed foods on a budget. Here are a few ways we save money while eating well. I feed my family of 3 eating 3 meals + 2 snacks per day from home for about $500 per month. We usually have 1 eat out night every week or every other week. I could probably cut back the cost even further if I needed to.
First things first, it’s important to have a menu plan. So many people – and I was one- want to go shop with no plan of what to make and then expect to work that into a budget. Plan ahead and you’ll save time, effort, and cash. We use eMeals a lot. It provides a full grocery list and recipe list. My biggest issue with them is that we have a lot of special diet concerns packed into one menu. My husband is diabetic, we have a growing 2 year old, and we try to eat organic and minimally processed foods. All of these combined take some picking and choosing of menu items. I tend to take some from eMeals and then add some others into it. It is not free, though it is low cost. It’s quite free to make your own with a calendar and some recipe research. I’ll make a separate post about meal plan creation to reference.
The second key to frugal organic eating is shopping around and learning what your stores offer. It’s a process, not an overnight switch. It takes patience. I know this because I don’t have much extra patience and I use a lot of it shopping around. I don’t even attempt to hit all the stores in one day, but if that’s your way, go for it.
Now here’s my breakdown. This will not be the same everywhere. This is what I do in metro Atlanta. With a little work, you can figure out what stores work best for what items as well.
Now Aldi is an amazing store. They sell mostly store brand type foods. They have now begun incorporating the national brand in as well. The store brand is the cheapest option but the national brand is usually cheaper than the standard price most other places.
At Aldi, I purchase uncured sandwich meats and bacon, organic carrots, tomatoes, bananas, grass fed organic ground beef ($5.99/lb), some organic canned foods and snacks, and frozen organic strawberries and blueberries. They also have some mostly organic frozen pizza with uncured pepperoni that’s pretty tasty.
At Kroger, they have the Simple Truth Organics line. This covers everything from snacks to juice to milk, organic produce, canned foods, frozen fruits and veggies. I only purchase the organics, not the “natural” products. I sometimes purchase grass fed beef here as well. There are other organic brands here as well. I choose the Simple Truth line simply because it’s less expensive and the goal for me is to keep it healthy, but cheap. If you don’t have a Kroger, you likely have a store with similar things in your area.
Ingles has quite a few organic items. Produce is well priced, there are organic canned foods, some snacks, and meats. This varies by store, but usually the canned foods are staples.
Sprouts is a new addition to our shopping fun. It’s a small market with similar products to Whole Foods, but more affordable, and their meat prices are excellent. They don’t have a lot of organic meats, but what they do have is very well priced. They have most of the organic produce staples and some exotics, and they have great prices on bulk items and organic coffee. They have milk, eggs, and yogurt that are well priced also. Unfortunately, they’re not everywhere. Not even where we’re moving. It’s sad. I hope they keep expanding.
These guys are awesome. They’re a co-op that delivers basically. The cool part is they create an order each week or however often you’re set up for based on what size box you order. We get a small box every other week. It costs us $38 and is enough fruits and veggies to usually get us through almost 2 weeks (supplemented by my other purchases). All the foods we receive are organic, and many locally sourced. If there’s something in my order I don’t like or have a plan for, we can simply exchange it anytime after the order is created until the day before delivery. Sadly, these guys don’t currently deliver to the small town we’re moving to, but they do have an option for a co-op drop off if I can get a total of 4 people to commit. They’re working on a deal with FedEx express service to hopefully begin delivery to my new area soon.
A few other ideas-
Grow your own or get to know someone who does. You can often barter for fresh veggies or buy them at a discount. My aunt and uncle have a farm. Their neighbor has chickens. She has tons of eggs, they have tons of extra veggies. Voila. A trade is born. Yipee!
Costco supposedly has a large number of organic products. I don’t have a membership there since there’s not one close enough to my house to make it worthwhile. Sam’s unfortunately does not have many organics.
Co-ops are great if you can find one in your area. Usually, you pay by the season or month and they have a pick up place where you pick up your box weekly or however often.
Whole Foods actually has excellent prices on many items, especially on their 365 brand products. While they are super expensive on a lot of specialty items, if you’re conscientious, you can come out really good.
Amazon has a whole bunch of shelf stable organic products you can order and have shipped. Most are Prime eligible as well.
As you can see, with a little work, you can eat well inexpensively. The key is to not allow a lot of specialty snacks and foods if you’re on a tighter budget. My son loves Fig Newman’s, but they’re nearly $5 for a package. Most often I can get 2/$5 organic cheese crackers or peanut butter crackers, or at Aldi organic chocolate bear cookies for about $3. Obviously, the Fig Newman’s don’t provide the best value for the dollar. So that’s the basics. If you have additional ideas, let me know!