This is an article originally posted on Culinary Reformation by Hannah Cross.
The biggest objection I hear to eating naturally is that it’s too expensive. Yes, it can be expensive, but so can eating junk food.
The other day I went to the local grocery store to buy a few items for a birthday party where junk food was the treat. These items included ice cream, candy, soda, and chips. I spent more money on junk food for a birthday party than I spend on food for myself for an entire two weeks.
There are plenty of ways to be frugal about organic food, and it can wind up being even cheaper than conventional eating.
1. Buy in bulk
One of the biggest ways to save money on nourishing, healthy food is to buy in bulk, especially if you have a large family to feed. Ordering from www.azurestandard.com is a great resource for organic and natural foods at highly discounted prices. Even if you don’t have use for a 50-pound bag of oats, split it with a friend (or six) or join a local food-sharing co-op who order together and then split the food. Even stores like Costco can have deals on whole foods. Costco carries an extensive stock of organic products, such as frozen organic vegetables, fresh organic produce, organic butter, and more.
2. Cook with what you have
The most effective way to save money on food is not to spend money on food. As obvious as this may sound, the principle of cooking with food you already have is a smart one. For example, instead of finding a recipe that looks yummy and then going to buy the ingredients needed for it, survey the contents of your pantry and refrigerator and figure out what recipes or meals your could make with the food you already have. This can be fun! As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”, so you might discover a really tasty dish you made up from the ingredients you had available.
3. Stretch your meat
Grass-fed, organic, quality meat can be expensive. And while it is significantly nutritionally superior to supermarket meat, it does usually cost significantly more money. Ways to “stretch your meat further” include substituting beans or lentils for half of the meat called for, incorporating a “meatless meal” day or two per week, and adding extra vegetables or grains into recipes to increase quantity. Buying cheaper cuts of meat is frugal as well. For example, buy a whole chicken rather than just chicken breasts. Then, you can serve the chicken meat on vegetables or rice for one meal, use the leftover meat from the bird to make a casserole or pot pie for the next meal, and make stock with the carcass to make a pot of soup (or two) for another meal.
4. Skip the middle man
Another way to save money on healthy food, particularly produce and animal products, is to buy directly from the farmer. By skipping the middle man, the distributor’s costs of transportation, packing, staff/labor, etc. don’t fall onto your shoulders. Ask around in your community about local farmers and search websites like http://www.localharvest.org/ .
5. Avoid packages
Boxes and packaging cost companies money, which in turn costs YOU money. Buying food without packages is generally healthier, and it also saves money. From buying almonds or dried fruit from the “bulk section” of the grocery store to nixing packaged snacks such as chips and crackers (even organic ones) for whole snacks like fresh produce or cheese, keeping packaged foods out of your grocery bag will save you lots of money in turn.
6. Learn to make from scratch
You might be missing those packaged crackers, granola bars, or cookies. In most cases, many packaged food items can be made in your own kitchen. This not only gives you control over what ingredients are put in and gives you the flexibility to tailor recipes to your family’s liking, but can be a huge way to save money. An all-natural packaged granola bar can cost $1 per bar, but a similar tasting homemade bar can be pennies. Experiment with making your own salad dressings, condiments, snacks, desserts, bread, tortillas, and more.
7. Plan in advance
Planning the meals you will make for each day of that week, two weeks, or month will not only save you money, but also lots of time. It can save you trips to the store and last minute convenience foods and eliminate the 5:30pm panic of “what is for dinner?!”. Also, cooking a double portion and freezing it can be super convenient if you know you’re not going to be able to cook that night.
8. Shop intentionally
Part of meal planning in advance includes compiling a shopping list of items you will need. Shop once a week, once a month, whatever works for you. By shopping less often, you’ll spend less money. With a list in hand, you are more likely to stick to it and avoid impulse purchases.
9. Price compare
My family buys food from at least four different people/stores. If we were to buy all of our food from just one distributor, it would be far less cost efficient. By shopping around for prices and avoiding the “one-stop shop” mentality, you can both save money AND support your local economy.
10. Grow it yourself
Last summer my Mom gardened and it brought forth so much bountiful produce. This was such a blessing for our family, and saved us so much money. Even if you just start small, like with an herb garden, you can save in little ways and eventually expand. Raising chickens is becoming more popular and simple, and not having to buy eggs each month can be just a small piece of frugality for natural living.