12 Tips For Eating Real Food On A REAL Budget

1. Maximize Less Expensive Foods
Part of this tip is getting into the habit of eating in season because in season veggies are typically much cheaper than out of season.  The other thing to consider is thinking about ingredients you and your family enjoy that are (either seasonally or year-round) cheaper and incorporating them more into your meals.  For instance, carrots are a pretty inexpensive veggie year-round.  If your family enjoys them, could you incorporate those into your weekly meal planning and even more so during weeks where other ingredients are higher costs?  Burger is certainly less expensive than many other cuts of beef.  Maybe burger is incorporated 2 times a week and another cut of beef is limited to once per week?

2. Buy In Bulk When It Makes Sense
If you don't have additional money to begin purchasing meat, veggies, canned or boxed items that are on sale and that you eat often, make deeper cuts to your food budget for 1 month to free up $20.00 or more per week to use specifically for bulk sale purchases.  (i.e. a couple of menu's of only less expensive ingredients; a couple of menus using only items currently in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer are 2 examples)  This will snowball into weekly savings.  Each week you'll be spending a bit less because you've already purchased some of the ingredients.  The weeks that you spend less because of your bulk stock, use that money to continue buying bulk sale items and stock up your pantry and freezer.

3. Eat From Your Pantry, Refrigerator & Freezer
Hand-in-hand with #2, once you've started accruing a stock you've got to remember to actually shop there first.  Not only shop there, but also plan meals around what you've previously purchased.  This will be a big savings in two ways: less money spent that week and you're ensuring you aren't throwing any of it out for going bad before you used it.

4. Right-Size Your Recipes
For 2 reasons:  to eliminate waste and, if overeating is a problem in your household, this will be the first step in fixing it.  If you right-size your recipes then there simply isn't enough left for seconds.  Many recipes are created to serve 4 and I've been bad in the past about not cutting them down for two.  This is fine when we eat the leftovers.  But not fine when I throw out the leftovers (the Coop girls usually get them but it's still throwing them out).

5. Eliminate Waste
If you don't believe you lose much money per week in food waste I would challenge you to keep a tally of what you throw away for a month.  At the end of each week tally up what you believe the ingredients cost.  It truly is amazing.  Two night's worth of leftovers, a couple of apples that went bad, 1 lemon that is a mound of mold, and a few veggies all add up.  And do you know what one of the best ways is to avoid waste............

6. Meal Plan
You knew this was going to end up on the list, didn't you????  What are you waiting for?  Meal planning is a HUGE time and money saver.  It allows me to figure out how to best utilize the ingredients I'm going to buy for the week, which in turn allows us to not overspend on ingredients we wouldn't use.  Look at your grocery store sale flyers (tip #7), look at what you currently have in your pantry/refrigerator/freezer, write out a meal plan, and create a shopping list.  Now your house will be stocked with everything you need for the next week and you won't have to try and plan meals on the fly before you get home each day.

Related: Meal Planning To Save Time & Money: A Beginners Guide
Related: Real Food - Making The Switch

7. Use Grocery Store Sale Flyers
You can certainly use coupons too if you find them for what you're purchasing, but I find store sale flyers even more valuable in saving money on real food ingredients.  And the good thing is the items on sale are cyclical so once you start watching them you'll start to understand when certain items will be on sale ahead of the sale flyer coming out.

8.  Try A CSA
What is a CSA you ask?  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a system where farmers and the consumers (members) are in partnership of sharing both the benefits and risks of farming.  Members purchase a share at the start of growing season so the farmers receive up-front capital to grow and manage the farm. Members then receive an allotted amount (share) of vegetables each week.  Where the risk comes in is if the farmer has a crop that fails, that type of veggie or fruit won't be a part of the share.  This typically comes at a savings over purchasing the items themselves weekly.  We were members of a CSA a few years ago when we had a massive failure with our garden (namely, woodchuck destruction).  We joined the same CSA again this year due to lack of time to grow said garden.  I found myself shopping from them numerous times last year anyway, so it just made sense for us.

9. Find A PYO Field
Pick-your-own fields usually offer a decent savings over purchasing the vegetable or fruit off of the shelf.  We are blessed with wonderful fields of strawberries, blueberries, apples, raspberries, winter squash, tomatoes, & eggplant.  

10. Preserve In-Season Fruit & Veggies

Canning, freezing, dehydrating, etc. are all great ways to preserve in-season fruits and veggies for later use.  If you garden, this is a no-brainer.  You grow some excess, you preserve it, and you feed your family throughout winter.  If you don't garden, you can purchase fruits & veggies at pick-your-own fields, or in bulk at farm stands or farmers markets usually for quite a savings.  Use some of it now and preserve the remainder for later.

Related: Food Preservation - Freezing Veggies

11. Go Meatless One (or more) Days Per Week
Simply put, meat is expensive.  There's just no getting away from it.  If you can convert your family to a couple of meatless dishes it's a money saver in the long run.  My husband is not a fan of beans.  He's told me for years "I don't like beans".  So, I continued to try different types of beans and different recipes, thinking that he just hadn't had the right recipe.  And do you know what?  I was right!!  We found that he prefers great northern beans or refried beans and, in the right recipe, black beans.  I've now found a couple of recipes (woo hoo!) that he really likes.

So the next dilemma is finding time to make beans, right?  Problem solved again!  You can make them in the slow-cooker, instant pot or stove-top and they freeze beautifully!  Of course, canned beans are fine too (drain & rinse them because of the sodium).

12. Maximize Your Leftovers
Ahhh....leftovers.  It seems people either love them or hate them.  Although there's also the group that likes them but forgets about them (I'm raising my hand.....).  Leftovers are a great budget saver when used for lunches or dinners a couple of times a week.  Some leftovers can be turned into completely different meals (particularly roasted/grilled meats or beans) and others are perfect (or even better) as they are - especially lasagna and chili!

Do you have any tips on saving money in your grocery budget?

1 comment

  1. For us, having chickens, pigs and dogs is a great grocery saver. Literally nothing is wasted. If its just too soft or ripe to be enjoyable, the fowl get it and we get great eggs. If it's moldy and questionable it goes into our compost pile which then fertilizes our garden. Too much garden produce to have time to can? Goes to the pigs which just turns into pork chops for us. Bones from the chops go to the dogs who keep predators away from chickens and pigs. Around and around it goes here!


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