Like many moms, I am always trying to figure out new ways to feed my family whole foods on a budget. My journey towards eating whole, healthy, foods has been a slow progression. It is not something that happened all at once, but more like a building process where with each small change, I have learned more and more.
Here are a few tips for buying Whole Foods on a budget.
I cannot stress the importance of meal planning enough. It takes time, and work, and it is not particularly enjoyable. But this one task absolutely makes all the difference when it comes to sticking to a budget.
Effective meal planning is a little more complicated than just picking a dish for each meal and writing it down.
Choose meals that use the same ingredients.(Ie. large carton of mushrooms split between two dinners.)
-Plan to use leftovers in a second meal. (Meal 1: Whole Chicken, Meal 2: Left Over Chicken in a Salad, Bonus: Use bones for stock.)
– Choose a mix of simple and complicated meals. Do not over schedule yourself. If you plan too many complex meals it becomes more difficult to stick to the plan. Be sure to include salads, soups, and other low input dishes.
– Life Happens. While I usually plan our meals for the week, they often get shuffled within that week depending on what else pops up. Utilize a plan, but be comfortable adjusting for the unexpected.
Buying in Bulk
Buy as much as possible in bulk. We buy most of our meat by the whole animal. This year we purchased a whole hog, as well as 20 locally produced whole chickens. In additional we harvest and process our own wild game. As such, we purchase very little meat from the local grocery store. This represents the greatest savings within our budget.
I shop at costco. In my experience, the key to saving money when buying in bulk is to focus on items you know you will purchase over the month, and resist the temptation to try new items in bulk. I purchase dry goods from costco through google express. This service makes shopping from your favorite stores as easy as ordering online. It is delivered to my door, usually within one day and shipping is free on orders over $30. The items I regularly purchase this way include; olive oil, coconut oil, rice, quinoa, peanut butter, and almond butter. For freezer and refrigerated groceries, I travel to Costco where I purchase wild caught salmon, organic frozen berries, and cheese. For me, the nearest bulk store is over two hours away, so these trips are made infrequently and usually in combination with other trips out of town.
I purchase a great deal of organic shelf stable/ specialty items from Azure Standard. They make deliveries to my area once a month.
Limit Trips to the Grocery Store
I truly avoid the store. Aside from the chaos that is taking small children to the grocery store, I find that I am better able to stick to my budget when I limit trips to the store. Most of my produce is purchased at the local grocery store. I almost never go more than once a week to twice a month. In the summer, I do my best to purchase local fruits and veggies.
Pay Attention to What to Make at Home v. What to Buy
This is something I think depends on your lifestyle and your food preferences. There are a few things I make at home that I think really stretch my budget.
Coconut Milk – Make at home.
Stock– Make at home.
Mayo- Sometimes make at home. I make my own mayo if I plan to make a recipe that takes a lot of mayonnaise such as deviled eggs, or artichoke dip. If my family will just be using a little mayo here and there, I keep a jar in the fridge. Mayonnaise without vegetable oils (soy or canola) can be difficult to find. However, I do love this avocado mayonnaise or this mayo.
In the future, I hope to preserve more food through canning, freezing and dehydrating. Ideally, I will preserve food I grow on our place, in addition to other locally produced goods I can purchase in bulk.