I’m a foodie in the True Food movement. I believe we should eat organic, sustainable and humanely raised food. I’m also a busy blogger, full-time Mom, and I own a real business with 18 employees. I don’t have a lot of time to go traipsing around to CSA pickups and quaint local organic farm stands, which means I make some compromises here and there. I can tell you how to eat healthy food that won’t break the bank.
My local wholesome grocery store is Whole Foods. Most of the clients at my Pilates studio (and these are relatively affluent people) refer to the store as Whole Paycheck. Yes, it’s pricey, but I’ve learned some tricks that have dropped my grocery bill by about 25%; all you really need to do is pay attention when you shop.
Buy in season. Seasonal fruits and veggies are cheaper because they’re more plentiful. If you buy what’s in season, you’ll get better deals. Yes, this means your menu will shift as the calendar changes with more root vegetables in the winter and more salads in the summer. It’s actually nice to move with the rhythms of the planet and I really look forward to those local blueberries when they finally hit my shelves in July!
Consider frozen. Frozen veggies, which are a lot cheaper, are preserved “at the moment of freshness.” That means they are usually harvested and processed on the same day so much of the nutrients are still intact. I use them to supplement my fruit and vegetable selections in the winter. (I’m in the Northeast, I’ve got seasonal limitations.) Yes, I know there are some green issues here, but it’s a compromise. During the growing season, I try to buy as fresh as possible.
Always buy the “dirty dozen” organically if you can. Organic produce costs more, but not all of what you buy in this section needs to be organically grown. There is a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that readily absorb the chemicals that are sprayed on them. Try as hard as you can not to buy the “conventionally” raised offerings. You’ll keep pounds of chemicals out of your body.
Buy the meat that’s on sale. My local store always has some kind of chicken (almost always a chicken breast) and some kind of other meat on sale, often for as much as 40% off. This one switch can significantly reduce much of your grocery bill. Instead of staring at the meat case looking for inspiration, we look for what’s on sale and get inspired to cook a dish around that.
Buy meat from the “get rid of section.” If meat is near it’s sell-by date, the store will frequently put it in a separate display and mark down the price significantly. If you’re able to cook it the same day, you can score some major deals. Ask your butcher and they’ll tell you what’s available or point you to the proper area of the store.
Try the store brands. The store brands (at Whole Foods, it’s their 365 brand) are frequently just as good, and sometimes even better than the nationally known earthy-crunchy brands. You may need to experiment, and you might find a few items that are awful, but for the most part you’ll be able to significantly reduce your food bill without sacrificing the flavor.
That’s all it takes. Someday I’ll convince my husband that a fruit and veggie CSA is the way to go (he hates beets) and I’ll have enough time to drive 2 hours out of my way to participate in the great meat CSA I found north of Boston. But until then, I’ll merge my economic and greenie principles and eat well and on budget from my local grocery store.
What do you do to save money? I’d love to hear more tips.