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When people ask me what my blog is about, I say something like, “How to eat whole foods affordably” or “How to save money on a whole food diet.” And just about every time, the people I’m talking to tell me how much they want to do that. They want to eat better and shop better.
It’s easy to let your grocery budget spiral out of control. But with focus and planning, it’s quite possible to eat real food on a budget. If you want to get better about this too, follow these five tips to rein in your grocery spending while focusing on whole foods.
Saving Money on Real Food
Plan your meals. If you follow only one of these tips, follow this one. It’s an essential stepping stone to controlling your grocery spending. Read this post about how to meal plan for all the information you need to get started. Make a shopping list based on your plan, and stick to the list while you’re at the store. Impulse purchases are budget busters every time. Without a plan, the healthy food you buy with the best of intentions can end up spoiling in your produce drawer before you get around to eating it.
Join a farm share. Eating a whole food diet requires lots of fresh produce. A farm share, also known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), allows you to get local, often organic, produce for a much better price than you’d pay at the grocery store. I did two price comparisons to prove it (July CSA price comparison and September CSA price comparison). As an added bonus, a farm share gets a big variety of veggies into your produce drawer. If it’s there, you’re more likely to eat it. Farmers’ markets are a great alternative if you don’t have a farm share nearby.
Buy in bulk. Wholesale clubs like Costco and BJ’s make it easy to buy large quantities of the items you use frequently. I stock up once a month on things like organic tomatoes, organic eggs, frozen berries, nuts, and pasta so I don’t have to keep running out to the store for these groceries. Bulk prices are almost always less expensive than smaller units.
Use the bulk bins. On the other hand, there are some items that I only want to purchase in small, specific quantities. This is where the bulk bins at Whole Foods and similar stores become helpful. If I want to make a batch of pesto with pine nuts, I can buy just the right amount at the bulk bins. This way, I avoid the big price tag of a large package, and I eliminate the possibility of throwing out extra food that goes bad before I have a chance to eat it.
Know your stores. Do some research to compare prices for the items that come up regularly on your shopping list. I keep a price chart that lists the best price around for all my go-to shopping items. If this sounds a bit neurotic to you, at least make a mental note about the prices of staples like milk and eggs. Also, pay attention to sales and stock up when you see a good price. Many store have their weekly sale prices on their websites, so it’s easy to take a quick look before you put your shopping list together.
For store-specific tips on saving money, check out the pull-down menu tab at the top of this page where it says, “Saving Money.” And if you try one of my recipes, you can feel good about the savings when you see the price breakdown of the recipe. It really doesn’t cost a fortune to make healthy, homemade food.
See my book, Conquering Your Kitchen, for more detailed information about how I navigate grocery shopping.
What are your tips for saving money on real food? Please share them in the comments.