How We Eat Healthy On A Budget

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Let’s get specific here. I’m going to tell you exactly how I make my budget work with eating healthy. Everyone has a different budget with different numbers of family members. Currently there are three people in this household – Barry, Annie, and me…..and Dottie who THINKS she’s a person. If I tell you how we do it and make it work, hopefully you can make it work for your budget too.I’ll just go ahead and tell you, it was a hard switch to make for me. I was used to paying LOW prices for food…..and now I’m of the opinion that with only very few exceptions, you get what you pay for when it comes to food. I still do struggle at times when I realize how much more good food can cost. In the long run, I’m already finding it is cheaper. Not only do we feel better, but we ARE better in general. Before you disagree, you may want to consider future medical costs, etc. when you look at this type of diet. A Whole Foods diet is proven to lead to better health and it increases immunity levels. That means fewer doctor visits and other medical expenses, and thus more money in your pocket. For me, that actually means a Whole Foods diet is cheaper. While I know it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, I believe it is a HUGE step in the right direction.Okay, now let’s get to the fun stuff.
We allot $300 per month for food. This does not include eating out. We call that “entertainment.” This was the same amount we had before our switch to Whole Foods. I had someone ask if this new diet had blown my budget all to thunder, and I answered no. I have not changed the budget. Would I like more money in the food envelope? Heck yeah…..but I also want to pay off the house. That’s our priority right now – and to save to build our dream house with a stinking awesome kitchen and a wrap around porch. We make $300 work. The key to that is a slow change. I didn’t jump right into this. I started the switch in March, so I’ve had several months to phase things in. I’m not sure I could have made $300 work if I started immediately…..because I didn’t have anything. So, as we ran out of something, I replaced it with a healthier alternative. My advice to you is, start slow. Don’t go whole hog at all once or it WILL blow your budget all to thunder.
If you look at organic and whole foods prices, you’ll realize that $300 won’t go very far. So, here’s how I’ve made it work. I buy in bulk for most things. I might buy 25 pounds of wheat berries at once. That means I won’t have to buy them for a couple months. I get that cost out of the way this month and that gives me room to buy something else next month. When you buy in bulk, the price is higher, but you buy less often, making it cheaper overall. I buy certain things each month, and I keep tabs on what I’m low on, so that I know what to get next month. List making is your friend. If you try to make $300 work by shopping at an organic store and buying one bottle of this and one bottle of that, chances are that $300 will burn a hole in your pocket lickety split. By the way, I am not referring to Sam’s Club when I speak about buying in bulk. I’m talking about visiting Amish markets and joining co-ops. Sure, there are lots of good things at Sam’s – but there is also a TON of processed stuff. I like Sam’s for white vinegar, but I try not to buy too much other stuff there.
I don’t visit the grocery store much anymore. I do go in to get milk and bananas, but I don’t buy much other than that (unless there is a sale on butter!). Where do I shop? Well, I like bulk food stores (Amish stores and local produce markets). You can get items there at a fraction of the cost. The store buys in bulk and repackages it, making the price less for you. The packaging isn’t fancy – it’s just a bag. I’ll take it. Who needs a fancy box anyway?I buy a lot of stuff online. I order from places like Amazon and Tropical Traditions. I get the emails from Tropical Traditions and when they offer free shipping, that’s when I place my orders. You’d be amazed at the great prices on organic food on Amazon. Again, mostly the package sizes are bigger and you’re buying multiples – which drives the price per unit down a bit.I visit my local produce market. I don’t buy 100% organic foods. I would like too, but I can’t make the budget work. Instead, I try to make sure I’m buying local. That gives me comfort. And then I wash my fruits and veggies like crazy. Sometimes you’ll find great deals on local honey and items like that at your produce market. Local honey is great for you if you have seasonal allergies.

I shop at the Farmer’s Market. No, the Farmer’s Market is not cheaper than the grocery store. But, it is all locally grown and you can talk directly to the person who planted it. I like supporting my neighbors. It’s a good idea to get to know your local farmers and create a relationship with them. They’ll treat you right. I like to buy goat cheese, veggies, coffee, fruit, and flowers at mine.

We buy from a local buying club. A buying club is when a group of friends get together and place a large order from certain companies in order to save on shipping costs. It’s along the lines of a co-op. There are co-ops all over the US and they are starting to pop up like crazy! You can get a better deal if you buy as a group…..there is power in numbers. J To see if there is a local buying club near your house, just use Swagbucks and search for one (plus, it’s nice to get paid while you do your online research). When you find a few companies that do bulk orders, call and ask if they have a pick-up close to you. A local one to my area is Bread Beckers and a great one out west is Azure Standard. Ask around at the Farmer’s Market – they’re usually in the know.

So, that’s how I roll. We’re eating good and on $300 a month. I would like to encourage you that you can do it too! Even if your budget is less, I think you can make little changes here and there to make it work for your specific needs.


Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her two children, Annie (June 2009) and Andy (August 2012). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more to keep up with her daily antics.

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Comments

  1. I know a lot of people that follow you are local, so would you care to share where you actually go to the Farmer’s market and local produce market? I know there are a few in Bristol, just curious which is the ‘best’ or your favorite :)

    • I like the Abingdon Farmer’s Market best. :-) I also like JR’s Produce in Bristol and Walker’s Market in Seven Mile Ford. The Amish store at Exit 5 in Bristol is also a great place to shop. You can special order there if they don’t have what you want. Great question Brittany!

  2. Wow, is Walker’s Market still around? I remember shopping there when I was little.

  3. I’ve noticed that kroger is s starting to carry a ton or organics. Its not just in the organic aisle either. If you look in the normal aisles there is almost always an organic. Hoi e and sometimes it is only a few cents higher or cheaper in some cases. I found organic ketchup for $1.99 and organic honey for $3.99! I prefer local too but Kroger
    Works when you can’t find it anywhere else.

    • Good point Amanda! Lots of stores are starting to carry organic foods because people are becoming aware of what is REALLY in their food. If the people want it, the store will carry it. :-) Thanks for the heads up on the ketchup.

  4. Hello – I recently found your blog and love it. Our family is also slowly trying to switch over to healthier eating. We already eat quite healthy, but more so even. I love shopping in the bulk section at our organic grocery store. I just stare at the bins trying to decide what to buy. I’m curious what items you do buy in bulk and how you use the item. You said you buy wheat berries in bulk, I’m guessing to grind into wheat for bread, etc., but what else do you buy and how do you use it? I need ideas!! :)

    • I grind all our wheat…..so I make muffins, bread, pizza dough, cake, etc. If anything calls for flour, I grind it (with the exception of my sourdough starter – I use store flour for that). Here is the post about my mill: http://www.stacymakescents.com/grinding-flour-in-our-nutrimill
      Also, here is a link about what I buy in bulk: http://www.stacymakescents.com/saving-money-by-buying-in-bulk
      I buy beans, wheatberries, rice, and oats in bulk. Usually if I order online, I buy in bulk as well since the price is cheaper that way. We eat a lot of beans and rice around here. :-) I use the oats for oatmeal, granola, and granola bars. All of those are recipes on my site.
      I also try to get bulk vegetables (farmers market and produce markets) when they are in season. I’ll either can those or freeze them for the winter months. When they’re in season, you’ll get the best price. If you don’t have a deep freeze, I highly recommend it. :-)
      Thanks for the comment Shannon! I hope that answers your question. If not, just let me know and I’ll go into more detail. I’ll help you however I can. :-)

  5. I just found your site today thanks to HeavenlyHomemakers. I also have a $300 a month budget, for a family of five. None of my friends have this “small” of a budget, they think I’m some anomalie (sp?) ,so you have given me hope since I now know I am not the only person in the world trying to make whole foods work for my family with only a bit of mula! I just recently started on this journey with a 100% supportive husband, a 5 year old who thinks I’m nuts and a 3 and 1 year old who (amazingly!) eat what I put in front of them, for the most part. A friend introduced me to Breadbeckers around Christmas and it was all over with. Simply the difference I have seen (and bragged about to others) in the health of myself and family has encouraged some of our extended family to make some changes to their diets too. I really enjoy grinding my own flour, I have a Nutrimill as well, to make our bread and anything else I can bake/make. I will be checking back often with you to help figure out how to implement these changes. Thanks so much!!

    • So nice to meet you! :-) It seems we have a lot in common….you just let me know if I can do anything at all for you.
      PS – I’m nuts too. Ha, ha!

  6. I’ve heard most of these things before but I’m still so frustrated with the cost of eating healthy. We have local farmers markets here where the produce easily costs twice what I pay at the grocery store for stuff shipped in from California and drenched in pesticides, and CSAs are expensive as well. Local meat and eggs are just astronomical. Since we were married we’ve been on a $20/week budget for groceries and now, three years later, we are unemployed with no income and a baby that isn’t eating solids yet. I just can’t justify paying 3x as much for butter as for margarine or buying coconut oil in bulk or things like that when it will cost me a good two weeks’ grocery allotments – especially now when we really need to be on a no-spending-at-all time. And I have room at our rented condo for four tomato plants and that’s IT.

    Do I want to be feeding my family crap? Absolutely NOT. I’m doing the best I can with rice, beans, cooking from scratch, making my own chicken stock and ham bone soup and all the frugal recipes of the ages but it’s ridiculous how you can’t even eat “healthy” food from the grocery stores these days without them being loaded with crap.

    • I feel where you’re coming from. Sometimes I have to tell myself that “good enough is good enough.” It would be silly and irresponsible of you to spend your entire weekly budget on coconut oil and then have to do without the staples.
      I think it sounds like you’re doing a fabulous job: “The best you can.” God honors your resolve to use the money you have to the best of your ability.
      You might enjoy this recent post…take note of the comments to encourage yourself. :-) And please, let me know if I can do anything to help.
      http://www.stacymakescents.com/food-is-not-your-god

  7. Stacy, is that a pic of the Dave Ramsey wallet? Can you send me the info for that? Thanks! I am looking for a farmer’s market post and will link up to your post at KOTH…and it led me here. I always love visiting your blog :)

  8. Memphis seems to have such incredibly limited resources like this. Which I don’t understand as we are the heart of the midsouth! I have taken up shopping at some international markets, which are huge and very low price. However, because many things are not packaged in english or even translated well, you can’t be sure of the quality. However, they tend to be great as far as produce goes. They are usually very inexpensive and have a lot more variety.

    This has been a very troublesome subject for me. I struggle to feed my family of 5 healthily on a strict budget. A lot of trial and error.

    What kind of items are you buying in bulk?

  9. that’s really good advice. my husband and i have a family of five to feed and i try to spend around three to four hundred a month on food. i shop at our locan amish store and i make alot of stuff like bread, desserts, etc. i do still buy some stuff like jello and cereal cause i haven’t been able to get my kids to eat only oatmeal and eggs. it is a slow process around here. lol. we eat alot of chickens wich i buy in bulk when i can and my husband hunts so we eat deer mixed with beef when i can get it on sale. so we look for cheap ways to eat healthy too and we get fifty pounds of potatoes for nine dollars and put them in an old chest of drawers and keep them cold they last us awh9le. we also buy our onions and garlic that way too from the amish store. it is a good idea to buy stuff you use all the time in bulk. we also grow our own veggies in the summer and do alot of canning. that helps too. very good information to share with your readers. keep em coming :)

    • A slow process is really the only way to go. If you quit everything cold turkey then a family member is bound to protest. The tortoise always wins the race. :-)

  10. Wow that is unbelievable for a Canadian. Food is twice or even three times the cost here. A reasonable budget for us for a family of 5 is $720/month. Even by that number many of my friends are impressed.

  11. Hi Stacy! I enjoy your posts on FB and have recently started reading your blog. I just saw in the comments where you live, I’m from SWVA also! I’ve lived in FL for the past 14 years though, I enjoy the weather a bit more down here :)

    We have a 6 yr old and a 7 mo old and we’re rethinking all of the frivolous spending we’ve been doing. Who really needs a phone that does more than make calls and texts!? It’s going, along with its excessive bill! Who needs a V8 SUV when a 4 cylinder will get us to the same locations the same way, with half the gas bill! Who needs cable when there are little lives to raise!? What were we thinking!

    We attended FPU 6 years ago (I love Dave Ramsey!), but must have missed the point. The only debt we have is our home though. I have a question about your grocery bill (I’d be embarrassed to share how much we pay for groceries, and I don’t buy organic, yet), does the $300 you spend include paper goods and such? I know you use cloth napkins, but didn’t notice if you mentioned using cloth toilet wipes when nature calls an adult ;) Also, do you coupon?

    Thanks for sharing your secrets for living frugally!

    Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!!

    • Hi Heather! :-) Small world, huh?
      Actually, when I wrote this post our food budget was $300, but we’ve bumped that up to $400 because we’re buying higher quality food – so we cut back in other areas instead.
      No, that doesn’t include paper products. For those types of things, and toiletries, we use a category we call Household Miscellaneous. I use it to buy anything like that we need. It’s $75/month and that’s a great number for us – I use mostly reusable things anyway: diapers, napkins, hankies, etc. We do not use family cloth – Barry vetoed that. :-)
      I used to use coupons, but I don’t much any more…unless I find some on the stuff we buy. I don’t intentionally set out to use them like I once did – I can’t really find them on the products we use any more. I do use the Deal Seeking Mom coupon database before I go to the grocery store to see if there are any coupons on the things I’m buying, like Earthbound Farms or Casacadian Farms – I find them regularly. I mostly shop sales now and buy seasonally. :-) Hope that helps a little bit!

  12. How do you get on Tropical Traditions email list?

    • You sign up on their website. It’s on the left under their headings. It says “Don’t ever miss a deal. Stay updated.” :-)