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!