Switching over to real food can be one of the best budget decisions you’ll ever make… or the worst. Buying organic, choosing grass-fed meat, wild fish, pastured eggs, switching to nuts and seeds instead of crackers and cookies for snacks… many of these are not inexpensive decisions. They’re important ones, but they can be costly, especially when you’re trying to make the switch all at once. What we want around here is realistic, sustainable changes to create a healthier life- not blown-up-budgets and even more stressed out mamas! For the next few weeks I’m going to share some of my best advice for budgeting for real food- my tips on how to save money on real food, how to create a grocery budget, and some of my tried-and-true favorite budget friendly meals (and oh, there might just be a free surprise at the end!). Here are a few of my best tips for how to save money buying real food.
1. Ditch the packaging.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the allure of just swapping ‘one package for another’, choosing ‘real food’ options instead of the more processed, chemical-laden versions. The problem is, these are typically more expensive, and though healthier in the long run– it’s not something you’re going to stick with if it throws your grocery budget out of the water. Ditching the packaging and choosing to make food at home (when possible) or choosing package-free options for snacks (like sliced cheese vs. string cheese, salted nuts instead of crackers, etc) saves money (and helps reduce plastic, to boot!).
2. Choose the cheaper cuts.
Real food does not need to mean fancy meals and new recipes every night. Sure, I post a lot of recipes on the blog (and so I do a lot of recipe testing!) but more often than not our family favors simple meals: taco bowls, steak salads, roasted chicken and veggies. Choosing cheaper cuts of meat (forget the boneless skinless chicken breast) and less expensive vegetables and fruit (sorry dragonfruit and avocado) more often than not can save your budget, big time. A few tips to save on meat and veg:
– buy bone-in cuts, they’re usually less expensive.
– fattier, less desirable cuts of meat are cheaper, and usually delicious when slow-cooked or in a stew.
– ground meat is the way to go for the most inexpensive and versatile option. burgers, tacos, soups, meat sauces- you name it!
– buy local. this way, you’re not only supporting the local economy, you’re also choosing seasonal (and more nutrient-dense) produce that is typically less expensive, as well (tomatoes don’t grow in the northeast in february!)
– use the EWG’s dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists to choose organics, instead of trying to go all-organic, which can be pricey and somewhat unnecessary.
3. Plan ahead.
It’s no secret I’m big on meal planning. Planning ahead gives you a huge budget advantage, because you can use planning to utilize the food you have on hand in the pantry and freezer; buy in bulk to save money (more on this soon) and go to the store with a concise grocery list so you are less likely to buy unnecessary extras and waste food in the process.
4. Buy in bulk.
This is a great way to save money- on items you use regularly. If you’re buying sixty bags of potato chips or a 32-oz tub of something that’s going to go bad before you get close to using it up, it’s not a smart budgeting decision. But if you buy items in bulk that you use regularly- like dried beans, whole nuts and seeds, take advantage of sales on meat, fish and dairy or utilize services like Butcherbox for less-expensive quality meat, you can save a ton of money in the long run.
5. Compare Prices.
Are you a one-stop shopper or a multi-store mama? I’m a multi store girl, because I love me a good deal. But I still don’t want to be store-hopping all day! I like using a simple price tracker to compare pricing on items I buy regularly to figure out which stores offer the better deals, over all and which ones are worth making a stop for my favorite items.
Click below to enter your email to download my free printable grocery store price tracker!