Looking for ways to save money on your groceries? You’re not the only one. I ran across a post the other day at Broke Parents lamenting the high cost of eating healthy. In her post, Bobbi says:
I am constantly seeing chefs and health/nutrition experts on TV claiming it’s a myth that it costs a lot to eat a healthy diet. They go through all of these examples to disprove this “fallacy,” which usually involve some really unbelievably low prices for the healthy options. Well, sorry—I’m just not buying it.
Perhaps for a single person with a modest appetite, the cost difference between healthy and unhealthy wouldn’t be as great. I have a household of five, four of whom are male—and three of those are in their teens or early 20s. As anyone who has ever tried to feed teenaged boys knows, they generally don’t eat like birds. Instead, the food seems to just vanish immediately after you buy it.
Many, many of the people reading this site and hanging out with me on Facebook are growing and/or raising some of their own food. That in itself makes a difference as far as a grocery budget. Many of us – including myself – aren’t quite harvesting everything we need to survive right in our backyard, but past conversations make me believe that the Attainable Sustainable community is a pretty healthy one. So over on Facebook, I posed this question:
I know many of us here grow our own vegetables and fruits, or at least a portion of them. But if you don’t, how do you handle the higher cost of healthy food compared to inexpensive junk options? Do you have any tips for the author of this piece?
Boy, did you.
Ways to save money and put healthy food on the table
- Several people pointed out that eating lower quality (but seemingly less expensive) foods is less filling than eating nutrient dense options, thus creating a need to eat (and pay for) more of that low quality food as bodies seek nutrients.
- Melanie over at Frugal Kiwi suggested eating seasonally. A short growing season can add a level of difficulty to the dilemma, but it’s possible. Another alternative would be to buy produce when it’s in season and preserve it at home. This allows you to take advantage of seasonal low prices.
- Bone broth is nutrient-dense and uses items that would otherwise be tossed to the chickens or go in the trash. And it’s easy. Broth can be sipped hot from a mug or used in soups and stews. Click through for my chicken stock recipe or check out the sliceable bone broth recipe over at Frugal Kiwi, who spills a secret (I had no idea!) about doubling the broth you can get from one batch of bones.
- One of the biggest ways to save money on food is to stop wasting food.
- Instead of looking for a favorite fruit or vegetable and lamenting the cost, switch gears. Seek out the least expensive options and learn to love them. Zucchini is generally pretty prolific and cheap (or free). Try it raw with a dip, stuffed, baked into a cake, made into a fritter, turned into a relish, pickled, or sliced into salad. Are apples cheap when they’re in season? Learn to make and preserve applesauce, then cook the cores and peels down into apple butter.
- If you can buy in bulk, do. It’s often less expensive because you’re not paying for the costs of individual packaging.
- Plan your meals. Knowing what you need for your weekly menu will allow you to get it all at once, eliminating costly stops for “just one thing” that turns into a cart full. This also allows you to take leftovers into account. Cook a roast on Sunday and you can turn it into enchiladas for Tuesday. Having plans will also eliminate “emergency” stops for takeout. If you’ve got ten bucks to invest in getting your kitchen on track, check out the Real Food Planning Challenge for help.
- Cook from scratch, taking it as close as you can to the source. Dry beans are less expensive than canned beans and taste great. Lentils are cheap and cook faster than beans.
- Grow your own. Even if it’s just a windowsill full of microgreens or sprouts, it’s something. Have a sunny deck or a small spot in your yard that you’d give over to growing food? You can grow 17 plants in just a square foot of ground. Put several of these towers up and you’ll be in salad for months.
- Consider bartering. Offer your skills to a farmer at the market or a gardening neighbor in exchange for their excess.
- Plant perennial shrubs and trees that fruit. An edible landscape is beautiful, plus it will provide food for years to come.
- Look for “seconds.” My local tomato grower sells her not-so-pretty fruit at a bargain basement price. They’re still perfectly edible. I use these fresh and also use them for making my own salsa, marinara, and pizza sauce.
- Think about what’s free. My friend tells me that asparagus grows wild in her home state every spring. Blackberries grow wild in many regions. Purslane is a weed that many people pull, but it’s also highly nutritious. Sound intriguing? It’s called foraging and it’s an excellent way to save money and really focus on what’s available locally. Check out this TED presentation from professional forager Tama Matsuoka Wong.
- Consider an Instant Pot. Yes, it’s an investment. But there are two reasons I think it’s worthwhile. One, we’re all busy. Pressure cooking allows us to get a decent dinner on the table in a hurry – even if your recipe starts with dried beans! And two, pressure cooking turns really inexpensive cuts of meat into tender morsels.
So how about you? What ways to save money have you implemented while still feeding your family healthful options?