If you're new to real food and notice that your grocery spending is climbing climbing climbing each month, or you're wondering how you could ever afford to buy organic meat for your family, I've put together some tips that have worked for me over the past year or so.
1. Think of things in packages of organic beef: This could be anything, but for me I think of how much organic ground beef costs per pound ($4) and then use that to keep myself in check. When I first started this whole real foods cooking, I thought there was no way I could afford to switch to organic meat, since it's about double the cost. I've been able to do it, mostly by cutting out things that I don't really need to buy... I could buy a fancy pants coffee, or a dinner's worth of high-quality meat. Another little toy that the kids don't need and will get bored with after a few hours, or 3 lbs of organic meat to nourish their growing selves. Make my own whole wheat bread this week, and save enough for another couple pounds. A mommy-and-me toddler class that is really just an excuse to get out of the class can buy even more- and the same thing is accomplished by meeting a couple friends on a regular basis. Of course I don't need this all for meat, but by saving it added up to 'upgrade' our groceries.
2. Show interest in friends' gardens: We are in an apartment right now (to save money) but we were blessed with tons of beautiful organic tomatoes, heirloom potatoes, squash, cucumbers for pickles, onions, crabapples for jelly, and more. I simply was interested in gardens, and late this summer produce came pouring out from many people, some I didn't even know. People like it when you take interest in their hobbies, and when there's too much for them to use, they love to find a good home for the fruit of their labor.
3. Start slowly: Switching everything all at once will overwhelm anyone and most likely result in wasted food and burn out. And for me, burn out way too often equates Papa John's pizza delivery. Ahem. Start with easy things that aren't that much different. Depending on the ages of your kids (I think that it's easier to switch with little ones than older ones) one new real foods thing a month or week is about all that's needed. Switching to real sea salt, home cooked chicken lunch meat, or homemade refried beans are things that aren't too weird and good starting points.
4. Prepaid cell phones: How much is your cell phone bill? Nearing $100? Do you tell yourself that it's a necessity for emergency? We switched to prepaid cell phones about 4 years ago and spend $10/month each or less. We use Tracphone and fill it with minutes that we buy online, with a 'promo code' to double the minutes. I can usually get 3 months of service and 120 minutes for $19.99. It might be worth looking into. You'll have to re-train yourself to use landline phones at work and home for the majority of your calls, but this can save a lot of money. We actually rarely use all our minutes (they roll over when you add more), even when we're on a trip. We're just in a habit of not chatting on the cell phone now.
5. Thrift store shopping: I'm not able to find much for hubby at thrift stores, but I can find most of the kids' and my clothing there. I go in with a plan, knowing what we have a lot of (pants!) and not much of (long sleeve shirts) and keep an eye out for next years' size as well.
6. TJ Maxx and Ross: I have had good luck finding Stride Rite shoes at Ross, and nice pajamas for me at TJ Maxx. I recently found some great high quality olive oil at TJMaxx too. Having a plan and not buying what you don't need is the key here. If I can't find what I need at the thrift store (especially long sleeve shirts for kids), I check here next, then department store sale racks.
7. Swagbucks: I've been having good luck using this search engine a few times a day and putting the $ towards Amazon certificates. They add up pretty quick, and once I have $25, I can easily put an order in for good quality real maple syrup or another higher ticket real food item. In the grocery store $25 for one item makes me choke, but it's easier to swallow doing it this way.
8: Have a plan and follow through: Having a menu plan helps me save time and money, because I know what's for dinner. We also plan on $40/month for 'eating out', which at the moment means take-and-bake pizza. I save this for days when the baby's teething and doesn't want to be set down or sleep all day, when we have an abnormal amount of appointments and it's throwing off my schedule, or I'm feeling under the weather.
9. Only buy priorities organic: I've found that it's not even remotely feasible to buy all organic food. Food Renegade has a post about the priorities of organic produce vs meat that explains what I try to do too. I buy high quality animal products as a priority, and then organic produce when I find it reasonably priced, otherwise I stick with conventional produce.
10. Use up leftovers. A little of this and a little of that can be turned into a meal of leftovers rather than going bad in the fridge. Saves you from feeling guilty when you go to clean out the fridge too.
This post is a part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays at Nourishing Gourmet