I read a great post on sticking to your grocery budget on Modern Alternative Kitchen. Sticking to your grocery budget is important and I have gotten pretty good at it since we embarked on our diet changes in 1999, so I have five more to add to the list.
1. Go to the farmers market
Just about every city now has at least one farmers market and sometimes more, and rural areas are starting to organize farmers markets too so more money can stay in the local economy. The best way to support farmers and encourage diverse farms using sustainable agriculture is to buy directly from those farmers at farmers markets, where there are no middlemen. The prices are usually much better than the grocery store and the food is fresher because you’re buying directly from the farmers, and you get the added awesome of developing a relationship with the people who grow your food. If you’re not sure where the closest farmers market is, check Local Harvest.
2. Buy ethnic foods at ethnic grocery stores
I am constantly shocked and amused at the prices of ethnic foods at chain grocery stores, and especially at some “natural foods” stores. If you like Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, or Latin food, take the time to look for your local ethnic grocery stores and buy your ingredients there. Ethnic grocery stores are always locally owned, usually run by an immigrant family, and are happy to help you find what you’re looking for. There are many bonuses to shopping at ethnic grocery stores- cheaper prices, finding new vegetables and fruits to try, and meeting new people in your community. Spices alone make shopping at ethnic stores worth it. Bring your kids and let them pick out a new food on each trip, and you’ll be surprised at what they want to try.
3. Join a cow pool or start one
If eating local, sustainably raised meat is important to you but you just can’t stomach the prices at the grocery store, join a cow pool. Here is a description of how cow pools work and what to expect. Local Harvest is a great place to find one near you. If you can’t find one and are interested in starting one, email me and I’d be happy to help you. In the past few years I’ve organized dozens of cow pools and rarely pay more than $5 per pound for local, sustainably raised, wild or grassfed, “happy” meat. I have learned to cook all sorts of new cuts and even new animals, and I know that much of our meat consumption fits my ethics and my budget.
4. Consider joining a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture, known as CSAs, fit in the category of “developing a relationship with the people who grow your food”, but are also good for the budget. There are CSAs for fresh produce, eggs, bread, honey, and I’ve even seen them include meat and preserves. You pay for your share in one lump sum, which seems like a lot of money until you do the math and realize how little that is per week. If your food budget is skewed heavily towards produce like mine is (a full third of my weekly food bill is fresh fruits and vegetables) then a CSA could be for you. Here is a good explanation of pros and cons to joining a CSA and how to find one, and my reasons for not joining one.
5. Stop buying boxed cereal
Many years ago when my children were small we went through a time of very tight budgeting. I had only $70 a week- $2 per person per day. I started looking very hard at our diet and what we were really spending money on. I realized that boxed breakfast cereal, even the “healthy” cereal I was buying, was not only fake food, it was really expensive. Oatmeal, rice pudding, cornmeal pudding, homemade muffins, scrambled eggs and toast… all cheaper and better than boxed cereal since you choose the ingredients, and better-tasting!
And additionally, a note on couponing.
The only reasons coupons exist is to get you to buy expensive brand-name things you don’t need and probably don’t want. Have you ever noticed the lack of coupons for say, potatoes? Or eggs? Most coupons are for brand-name processed foods that you probably don’t want to eat anyway, even if they say “organic” or “all-natural” on the label.
Shared with Small Footprint Family’s Sustainable Living Link-up!