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    COACH_NICOLE   72,921
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5 Ways to Save Money on Healthy Groceries

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Like most people, Iím on a budget. But buying healthy, high-quality food is a high priority for me. Itís such a high priority in fact that Iím willing to spend less money on things I deem unimportant (like clothes and other consumer goods) and more money on food. After all, you literally are what you eat!

The average American spends less than 10% of their income on food. In fact, we spend less money on food than the majority of the planet, and even less than our parents and grandparents did (people paid about 40% of their income for food in the 50ís and 60ís).

I buy 90-95% organic food for all the food in my household (2 adults). In Ohio, we spend about $300/month on groceries--that's for 3 meals and 2 snacks every single day (we only eat out maybe 1 meal/week). Now I've heard from some people that that's a lot of money, but it boils down to less than $40/week for all organic healthy foods for one person. I think that most people would say thatís pretty good. And even when I buy organic food, Iím still spending less than 10% of my income on groceriesóso it can be done!

Anyway, I'm always looking out for deals, and I know which stores in my area have the best prices on the items that I buy. Here are my general tips for saving money and buying organicallyóor when buying groceries in general.

1- If you can, sacrifice time for money. I make nearly every meal and snack we eat from scratch, which means I'm not buying processed or packaged foods at all. When you buy raw ingredients, you'll save a ton of money compared to the alternative, but you will spend more time cooking. I find that I can fit it in (the cooking) mostly on weekends and with quick dinners since I'm only home about 2-3 hours before I go to bed each night. I now make my own muffins, granola bars, trail mix, hummus, etc. for snacks, and I eat whole foods as much as possible, like snacking on whole fruits/veggies, nuts and seeds, dried fruits.

2- Go for bulk bins. This is the most money-saving thing you can use when shopping! You don't have to buy a lot to use bulk bins--only buy what you need. Wild Oats (now Whole Foods) has an awesome selection as do smaller natural foods stores. Buy your organic herbs and spices in loose form (bulk) too and you won't believe how much money you save. I buy flour, oats, couscous, pasta, nuts, dried fruits, granola, rice, honey, dried beans, and herbs/spices in bulk--all organicófrom these bins and the savings adds up. It takes more time to cook them yourself than to buy frozen or convenience packages, but well worth it for freshness and savings.

3- Buy local when possible, but don't kill yourself over it. Local is the buzzword right now, and for good reason. Local food is seasonal, fresher, more nutritious, and it helps support your local economy while reducing environmental impact. Itís also, in many cases, cheaper. I bought local produce all summer long and it was great. But over winter, the farmers markets and their contents dwindle. I'll buy local what I can, but if I can't find it local I buy: 1) seasonal food only (ever wonder why strawberries are so expensive in winter?) and 2) USA-grown food, not imports (not only does it cost a lot of money to package and ship food long distances, but it also creates environmental burden). Both of these will help you save money, even if it's not always "local."

4- Consider frozen. I rely on frozen veggies year-round, and they tend to come at good prices if you know where to shop. Check out Trader Joe's if you have it in your area. When you can stock up on that summer-fresh produce and freeze your own.

5- Look for sales, use coupons, shop around. It all adds up to savings, and itís worth the time you spend. When non-perishables go on sale, stock up!

Beyond that, we have quite a few articles on the site about eating on a budget and buying organics and seasonal food that have more tips. Feel free to share some of your own money-saving tips in the comments below!

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
KARIWITT 6/3/2008 10:29AM

I was just at the store last night getting milk, whole grain bread, napkins, healthy snacks and spent $30 on 3 Wal-Mart bags of groceries. You are doing good!
I clip coupons also.

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ANEWME70 5/31/2008 6:57PM

  I find that frozen vegetables are sometimes better than fresh considering that they get packed sooner than the vegetables in your produce section.

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ADYANCEY 4/12/2008 8:59PM

    Great suggestions! I would also suggest that people consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture co-ops. You can buy "shares" in local farm co-ops and received weekly supplies of local, in-season, organically grown veggies and fruits. In the Chicago area there is a Wisconsin co-op Homegrown Wisconsin -

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RICHARDSGIRL2 4/11/2008 8:12AM

    These are all great tips (especially #1!!!). With the birth of our son two years ago, my husband and I started eating very clean and we found that it is unbelievably expensive to buy organics at the grocery store...we found a Farmer's Market with AMAZING selection and the prices allow us to stay well within our budget! We get twice the food for nearly half the price, plus we get to try new things too!
Thanks for the tips!

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TASHAVOEPEL 4/1/2008 9:19AM

  That is really great advice, I enjoyed the helpful hints. However, I have four kids and a husband who just don't care for the healthier, fresher food options. They are all healthy themselves, none of them over weight, so my husband especially doesn't understand, the kids to young to care. Thanks a ton for the tips!!

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CELIATEN 3/26/2008 8:51AM

    Hi Coach! Trader Joe's has great foods and varieties. Here in the DC area we, too, have Aldi's. The consistency isn't as great, but you can almost always save money on something there. Joining the SP community and reading the articles on health and your blog (of course!) has made me much more conscious of cutting out the processed foods in our household. It takes a bit more time, but somehow seems more fulfilling to create foods for us to eat rather than blindly pulling things off the shelves. Thanks for your insight and love your videos.

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LULABELLE65 3/19/2008 2:10PM

  It is a good idea to buy fruit and vegetables from farmers markets when they are in season (and therefore cheaper) and then freeze them at home - that way you can support farmers directly, buy organic and save money.

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PAMMYLBEAR 3/19/2008 10:13AM

    Thanks Coach Nicole. I've been using organic cane sugar, but I'm wondering if there's that much difference between it and the less expensive sweeteners. Honey doesn't always do so great in some of my recipes. And I agree with the comments on eating out. We used to eat eat out about once a week, but now it's once a month. It just tastes better at home!

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COLEMANSR 3/15/2008 11:04PM

    Thanks for the blog. Great. I also enjoy your exercse videos.

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SLIM.ONE 3/8/2008 8:06PM

    Hey Coach,
thanks for the great blog. I am trying to save on groceries (well, on everything) right now. in fact, the only thing i'm spending money on right now (besides bills) is food. okay, and the occasional bottle of wine ;)

i agree on the frozen foods front: i buy my vegetables (esp peas) frozen. they tend to last longer, and taste just as fine for much less price. the other thing i buy is canned goods. there are some vegetables that just won't do if they're not fresh, and that's where local comes in.

anyway, thanks again for the blog on behalf of all the savers out there!

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MOUSEMARIE 3/5/2008 9:11PM

    Bubblyfish: I understand that Aldi's is extremely close to Trader Joe's. I DON'T think they have a similar selection of organic and fresh, BUT it is cheap. It is basically standard generic so there are usually one or maybe two options in any given item (i.e. one type of sugar, two types of sweetner) and some options are great and some suck. It's completely based in your opinion and trial-and-error. Enjoy! =D

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BUBBLYFISH 3/5/2008 6:57AM

    Thanks for some great tips.

I buy local and organic when I'm at home in the UK and always cook from scratch but find it difficult when we spend extended time in our Florida home. Probably because I don't know where to go to get really good local produce. I'll investigate more on our next visit as its just DH and I going this year.

I just checked and there are no Trader Joe's in the Orlando area - any suggestions for alternatives in the area are much welcome.

Comment edited on: 3/5/2008 7:00:48 AM

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JOHNBABJR 3/4/2008 7:21PM

    One of our favorite "finds" of '07 was Trader Joe's. We buy lots of organic and healthy foods, and it's cheaper there than the larger stores. We also love stocking up on frozen fruits and veggies; with 5 mouths to feed, we go through lots of produce.

We also grow our own in the summertime. Now that's fresh!

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THINNERME4ME 3/4/2008 7:17PM

    Great tips - thank you.

I do worry about the bulk bins though - you never know if someone's hands have gotten on anything.

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KITT52 3/4/2008 6:54PM

    I sure agree with you. I get the best clean food I can find. I'd rather eat at home than out. I spend more like 400+ a month for us but we have family and friends over several times a month. I think eating the healthiest food will coast less in the long run. So far we have not been sick this flu season, no colds. gary did have a 2 day bout with something but he snapped right back.
I think good food and good health go hand in hand.
Thanks for this great entry.


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