There are a zillion posts on the internet devoted to saving money at the grocery store. A zillion. I honestly have no new coupon tricks or life hacks or other little secrets to save you tons of money while eating clean- I got nothing. But… I do know a thing or two about budgeting and living within some pretty tight guidelines.
I’m not going to lie- eating clean is not cheap. In my single mom days, I spent more money on daycare in one week than I spent on food in a month. Okay, that may not be a great analogy. But basically I lived off whatever was BOGO at Publix or 10 for $10 at Kroger. I didn’t have great options. So please excuse these tips if they aren’t for you…and take what makes sense 🙂
So here goes:
- The FIRST and MOST important step is PLANNING! I am in love with marker boards you guys. This little booger is not exactly the picture of homemaking, but he sure does get the job done. Write out your menu for the week- I don’t include lunches because my peeps literally eat the same lunch every day, and we do simple smoothies or microwave pancakes for breakfast. But if you need to shop for rotations for those, include them here too. (And yep- the chores and therapy schedule are tacked on there too. Because I will literally exhaust myself accomplishing nothing if I don’t have my list posted.)
- Once you have your menu planned, check your pantry and fridge. Don’t buy what you don’t need- and be honest with yourself. Do you need really need to buy more bread if this is the third loaf that’s gone stale? Maybe sandwiches aren’t your thing friend. Don’t restock on staples because you think you have to have them. In the same vain, be sure you DO have everything you need for your recipes. If you get to making dinner and realize you only have enough pasta or stock for half your recipe, you may wind up with an extra trip to the store, and that almost ALWAYS leads to buying more than what you need. The fastest way to save money is to waste as little as possible.
- Make out your list. Okay I know this is stupid. Everyone goes to the store with a list. But seriously. I have tried entirely too many times to shop when “I have it memorized” and I always make it home having spent my whole grocery budget and without a third of what I should have gotten.
- Know your store’s organic brands. Kroger, Target, and Trader Joe’s have awesome organic store brands with really solid prices. I buy the store brand organic bread, tortillas, milk, butter, yogurt, granola bars, fruit snacks (Target’s Simply Balanced fruit strips), peanut butter, and juice. I also use apps like Target cartwheel to save on organic flour, sugar, and spices. (It’s usually only about 5%, but that adds up!) I’m not a Whole Foods shopper- the experience there is awesome, but I can’t find enough value on the things I like to justify the trip.
- Don’t forget your farmer’s market. Most farms now offer shares for sale- we participate in a CSA, that’s Community Supported Agriculture, that provides us with enough vegetables to feed a family of four, plus a dozen eggs, at a cost of $950 for 32 weeks. That’s about $30 a week, and we have enough veggies that I’m able to can or freeze leftovers for the months when we don’t have shares. **Do not assume that because food is sold at a farmer’s market that it’s clean. Ask questions about pesticides, GMOs, and whether or not their crops are “round-up ready.” You’ll be surprised at what you find.
- Use your freezer and don’t be afraid of preserving. I sometimes get a little crazy with this part. But it works for us. If you spot a great deal- take advantage of it. I buy organic chicken breast when the store coupons take $3 off, and clear out whatever the store has. Then I take it home, cook it all in the crock pot (recipe to come), and freeze it in quart size freezer bags for later. Just be sure to label it with your dates and double check that your bags are properly sealed. I do this with burritos, vegetables, yogurt for smoothies, literally anything that I can buy or make in bulk. I’ll post these recipes as I come to them. Once you get the hang of it, cooking for your freezer and your table at the same time becomes a breeze.
I do a few other simple tricks, like making my own baby food. No- it’s not that hard. No- it’s not just an overachieving mommy/Type A psychopath kinda thing. Got 15 minutes? Got leftovers from breakfast, lunch or dinner? You can do it. That’s a later post, but seriously. At $1.39 a pack for organic baby food with two little landfills at home (J is almost 2 and K is almost 6 months), buying that stuff ready made is a one-way ticket to the poor house. Trust me.
7. You may have to make a few trips. True story. I do the same grocery shopping every week. Friday is Super Target and Trader Joe’s, Saturday is Farmer’s Market. It is what it is. Yep. I take all four kids. Yep. I’m sweating when I’m done. But when I added up the number of stops I used to make “just picking up one thing” to finish my dinner, and the total unnecessary dollars I spent because I was already in the store and I was “reminded” of what else I needed, those few trips actually save me money.
So whaddya think? Am I crazy here? To feed our family of six, we spend about $150-$200 a week. That’s a far cry from my single mama days of $150 a month, but we live within our means, right? For now, this works for us. I’d love to be able to grow the more expensive produce one day, but for now, I stick to this method. Did I miss anything? What do you do to save money and eat clean? Hopefully some of this helps you!
2 thoughts on “Eating clean on a budget”
I love this! I always hope to eat better, but planning usually fails me! What do you usually buy at Trader Joe’s vs. Target?
Ooh good question. Trader Joes is my first choice for most dairy- yogurt, butter, and milk are cheaper. Most dry ingredients are cheaper there too, so kids’ snacks like peanut butter, crackers, bread, and dried fruits are good options. But Target’s Simply Balanced brand is better and better (you have to check for the organic- it’s not all verified), so tortillas, frozen fruit, granola bars and fruit leather I get from Target. I also get Driscoll’s organic strawberries from Target, because my TJ’s is usually looking a little sketchy on those. I hope that helps!