How to Save Money on Groceries and Still Buy Healthy Food
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Today we're going to talk about grocery spending and how to reduce it while still maintaining a quality diet. Keep in mind that while I talk about this from the perspective of my family's nutritional needs, yours will almost certainly look a bit different.
Don't get hung up on whether the type of food you purchase is different from mine! The point is that there are some great ways to save no matter how you and yours like to chow down 🙂
Groceries are always our biggest monthly expense, with the exception of rent. I'm always looking for ways to save without sacrificing quality.
I'll admit, there are a lot of articles out there that talk about cutting down your grocery budget significantly. Here's why this one is different.
My family and I are health nuts.
I have an underlying thyroid condition, and my husband has some gut issues. We're both really healthy eaters and we aren't willing to sacrifice the quality of our food to save a buck.
We are also feeding our one-year-old as well, and it’s important to us that he gets the best nutrition possible.
Just about every article I can find out there that talks about saving money on groceries comes down to one of a few things. You need to do one of the following:
- Use coupons to buy lots of cheap processed junk food
- Subsist mainly off of rice, oats, and pasta
- Eat conventional pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables
This type of diet just doesn't work for our family. We pretty much only buy organic. We rarely eat rice or pasta. We're crunchy Seattle granola munchers. (Just kidding, we don't eat granola.)
Our goal as a family is to prepare the most nutritionally dense foods available in their most pure, unsprayed form. And since I've had a heck of a time finding any articles from other families who are able to stay on a budget this way, I thought I'd write my own!
How much do we budget each month for groceries?
I budget $500 per month for the three of us. Keep in mind, we live in the heart of Seattle where things are much more expensive than most of the US. If you live in a lower cost-of-living state, you could easily eat the same foods and come out around $350 per month at our family size.
So how do you feed three people completely organic, produce heavy, nutritious diets in one of the most expensive cities in the country for only $500 per month?
These are my secrets.
1. Imperfect Produce
Imperfect Produce is AH-mazing! I love them. The company was started in San Francisco just a few years ago, and it’s expanding rapidly.
After finding out that one in five perfectly good fruits and vegetables are thrown out due to irregular shape or size, the founders of Imperfect Produce decided to do something. Yep, you heard that right. 20% of all perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables never leave the farm.
Grocery stores have very strict standards for the way a fruit or vegetable must look to be sold in their stores. Thus, anything that doesn't perfectly meet that narrow standard is trashed. The amount of water, fertilizers, and fuel wasted just to throw out all of this good food is astronomical.
So how does Imperfect Produce fix that problem?
It's simple. The founders created contracts directly with farmers to purchase their oddly-shaped and sized produce at a massive discount, and now ships boxes of produce directly to their subscribers.
Why Do I Love Imperfect Produce?
Farmers are now paid for produce they would otherwise have thrown out. Food, water, fuel, and other resources are now being used as opposed to wasted.
On top of that, Imperfect Produce members are getting high quality produce at a much cheaper price than can be found in the grocery stores. What’s not to love?
Imperfect Produce easily saves me $50 to $100 per month in grocery costs.
I've subscribed to a small organic box that comes every week. They leave it on my doorstep, and then send me a text when it has arrived. And the best part? I get to customize my box every week!
Imperfect Produce sends their members an email before each box is sent out, giving them a chance to customize it. I can go online and look through all of the produce they have available and choose which ones I want and how many of each.
This is a great feature because I always know how much I am spending per box and what I will get for it.
I also love that Imperfect Produce makes it super-easy to skip boxes if you'll be on vacation or you simply have more produce than you need. Plus, it's really fun to see all of the strange shapes and sizes that come in that box!
Imperfect Produce has also expanded their offerings to regularly include items like high-quality olive oil, local shiitake mushrooms, medjool dates, chocolate truffles and more. These little extras change every month, but I always find interesting new things I want to try.
Quick note: You can get $10 off your first Imperfect Produce box here. Imperfect Produce is currently operating in nine cities in the US, and they are expanding super fast! If they aren't in your city yet, it's worth checking back in a month or two.
2. Bountiful Baskets
Sadly, there isn't a Bountiful Baskets co-op close to the Seattle area, so I no longer use them. But back when I lived in Portland, I would pick up a Bountiful Basket regularly and they were so, so affordable.
Bountiful Baskets is a co-op of members who pool their money to buy bulk produce from farmers in order to save money for everyone.
For example, the co-op in your area might buy 100lbs of apples, 40lbs of grapes, 50lbs of broccoli, etc, at a much cheaper cost per pound than the grocery store sells. With dozens of locals pitching in, it can make it a super affordable way to get produce every week or two.
I highly recommend checking out Bountiful Baskets to see if there is a chapter near you.
3. Discount Grocery Stores
My second best tip for eating well on a budget is to shop at discount grocery stores. My personal favorite is Grocery Outlet.
Grocery Outlet has stores on the west coast, Idaho, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. If you don't have one of these stores near you, I've also heard that Aldi is great for those east of the Mississippi.
Let's be honest. Discount grocery stores have gotten a pretty bad rap. People think of them as dirty and low quality. Having been to Grocery Outlet stores in every state except for Pennsylvania, however, I can wholeheartedly say that that is not the case!
I regularly find all of our staples as well as other fun organic products at a crazy discount. Things like avocado and olive oil, organic grass fed meat, wild caught salmon, organic frozen veggies, and dairy free yogurt are all kept in stock each time I shop. I pretty much always come out with a full grocery cart for less than $115.
I'll admit, their produce can be hit and miss. Berries are usually already on their way out, as well as the peaches and nectarines.
Sweet potatoes, lemons, apples, salad greens, and onions are almost always of the same quality as any other grocery store.
4. Cash and Carry
Cash and Carry (now called Smart Food Service, but no one calls it that) is hands-down the best place to buy food in bulk.
This chain was actually designed to provide bulk food items for restaurant owners, and you'll notice when you walk in that the sizes are appropriate.
If there are certain things that your family goes through like crazy, Cash & Carry is the most cost-effective place to stock up!
I routinely by massive jars of peanut butter for $8, 25 pound bags of oatmeal for $17, 10 pound bags of quinoa for $15, and more.
They carry plenty more than just dry goods as well. Almost anything your standard grocery store carries Cash and Carry will have. From condiments to extra large containers of fresh produce and salad greens, bags of candy, cleaning and office supplies, anything jarred or pickled, and more can be found here.
Ounce for ounce, I pay a tiny fraction of what I would otherwise have to spend at Fred Meyer or Natural Grocers for the same product. Plus, we don't consume nearly as much packaging anymore and it saves me quite a few trips to the store!
5. Follow A Meal Plan
Without a good meal plan, pretty much anything you would have saved otherwise with my above tips will be wasted.
Having food go bad in the fridge is the worst, and it happens to me too! The more time I spend planning out my meals, the more we seem to save.
Granted, I don't actually write out a meal plan every week. But I do try to keep a mental note of what we will be eating for each of our meals for the week and not buy anything more than what we will need for those.
It helps that both of us eat salad for lunch and usually eggs or oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast.
I'll usually make a large dinner in my beloved Instant Pot that we will eat for two nights, which saves me a ton of time.
I love my Instant Pot. It gets dinner done in 30 minutes flat that would otherwise take an hour and fifteen. Plus, it makes rice, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, and a bunch more. The settings are basically unlimited.
So if I don't meal plan, I know that each week we need fresh fruit to go with meals, organic peanut butter and eggs, salad greens, and then whatever ingredients for the three Instant Pot dinners I will make.
We also tend to eat a lot of wild salmon and green beans for dinner. It's super healthy, and it only takes about 20 minutes.
6. Set Strict Shopping Days
For me, the number one thing that cut down our grocery budget was setting a meal plan and then only shopping ONCE per week.
It's just too easy for me to run by the store every other evening, spending $20 on random thing each time I go. When I decided that I would only shop on Fridays, and I would take my grocery list from the meal plan I created, my grocery spending tanked.
It really doesn't matter if you shop once per week, every two weeks, or even once per month.
The savings difference comes from being intentional about what you'll be eating during each in between period, and from not nickel and diming yourself to death with midweek purchases.
7. Eat Less Meat
Sadly, quality meat is one of the most expensive items at the grocery store and one of the least ecologically sound.
I try to buy grass-fed meat from discount grocery stores when I can, and then fill in with protein heavy vegetarian meals in between. Beans, lentils, and eggs are all nutritious sources of protein that make for some great meals when paired with lots of veggies.
8. Don't shop hungry!
I don't know about you, but this is one of the biggest things for me! If I go to the grocery store when I'm hungry, I'll usually come back with a pile of chocolate, a metric cube of pre-made snacks, and maybe a frozen pizza or two. No bueno.
So instead, I make sure to grab a snack before I go or time my grocery store runs right after a meal. Yeah, it's definitely a pain. But I save a lot of money and calories by doing it.
What are your favorite tips for saving money on groceries? Let me know in the comments below!
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