Monday, January 16, 2012

Grocery Budgets

The topic of grocery budgets is a hot one for just about everyone! Everyone wants to save money, and cut the budget in any way possible. It's just not easy to do these days. The price of just about everything has gone up ... a lot! Many of you who know our family, may know that both Rich and I are savers. We don't like to spend money. We look for ways to save in every area of life. We have found, however, that saving in the area of groceries is just not the easiest thing to do. We use many specialty items that are just not available at a typical grocery store.  
I get emails and messages often from people who ask me the question:
"How are you able to afford to buy healthy food?"
I am devoting this blog post to answering that question.
First, we use Amazon for items such as organic coffee beans, organic popcorn kernels, unsweetened coconut, baking ingredients (for our homemade bread), organic cereal, organic peanut butter, and a few other misc. items.
We use a local grain co-op or The Grain Mill, Wake Forest to purchase our grain for fresh home milling.  I prefer to support local businesses as much as possible and highly recommend The Grain Mill.  They have excellent customer service and many healthy specialty items.
We are members of the local buying club BJ's located in North Raleigh. From them, we purchase organic butter, eggs (sometimes, we also get eggs from a local farmer), organic ketchup, Rumsford Baking Powder, King Arthur white flour, Organic Sugar, and whole wheat pasta, cheeses, organic vegetables, honey, agave nectar, and a few other misc. items.
We use Vitacost for organic teas, vitamins, herbal supplements, immune boosting supplements, essential oils, probiotics, shampoos, and toothpaste, as well as a few other misc. items.
We also buy many food items from Trader Joes. Trader Joes is not close to us at all, so we have to plan our trips to Trader Joes around other trips that we need to make to Raleigh.  From Trader Joes, we buy produce, tortillas (for the occasions that I don't make them homemade), organic meats, organic sour cream, organic plain yogurt, cereals, granola bars, children's vitamin C, nuts, grape seed oil, olive oil, whole wheat pasta, lunch meats, cheeses, eggs, organic butter, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, and on occasion a special ice cream snack for the children. Trader Joes is reasonably priced, uses high quality ingredients, and does not use any food items that have been genetically modified. If Trader Joes was closer to home, we would do most of our shopping at that store.
We also use local grocery stores for several items.
We buy our organic milk from a local dairy.  
Our main meat source is deer.

As you can see, in order for us to eat the way we do, we can't just go to one grocery store. We gather our items from several different places. So, how do we afford to eat healthy?
First, we hold to the philosophy that we can't afford not to. Our health depends on excellent nutrition. 
Second, we never eat out at restaurants. Eating out even once a week with a family of 6, significantly increases the food budget. On the occasion that we do go out, it's almost always because we are using a gift card. There may be some healthy choices at some restaurants, but let's be honest:  when we go out, we eat overpriced junk food. Last, (with a few minor exceptions) we avoid highly processed convenience foods. (you would be surprised at how much these foods increase the grocery budget)

Many people have also asked me about coupons. I rarely use coupons. If I can find a coupon for a food item that is on my list of items to buy, I wouldn't hesitate to use it. I have found that it is rare to find a coupon for items that we buy.  On average, for our family of 6 (keeping in mind that we eat every meal at home), we spend between $115-$150 per week on our grocery budget.  We tend to stock up on certain food items, so there are weeks that we spend much less than budget and weeks that we may spend more.  We also use cloth napkins and regular kitchen towels instead of paper napkins and paper towels. It may seem small, but over time, the cost of those items add up. (especially with 4 young and messy children!)

I hope that this post will help dispel the myth that healthy food is just too expensive. It most definitely can be difficult to reach for the $4 per pound organic butter ... when you can get the regular for only $2.50 per pound ... however, when you make cuts in other areas, the healthier options can become attainable.

If you haven't watched the documentary film, Food, Inc., I highly recommend it. If you have netflix for streaming you can watch it right here.


  1. Your shopping strategy sounds similar to ours. We go to a few different stores to get what we use. We can't just go to one place and get it all done.
    We are very thankful for our local discount food warehouse where we can find organic foods for a fraction of the price and olive oil is only $2.99 for 17 oz of first cold pressed! You never know what the store will have so it is hit or miss. But when the have it, we stock up!

    Trader Joe's! Love the store and I wish mine was closer!! We drive 1 hour 15 minutes each way and go about every 5-6 weeks. If it was closer we would get most everything there that we can't get at the discount store. I also fill in with organic items from my grocery store.

    I am very excited to get in on our churches co-op orders!! I'm getting 50 pounds of spelt and kamut tomorrow! I will have more time to look through the catalog before the next order and I'm sure I will buy more.

    Like you our raw milk and beef comes from a local farm.

    One area that I am going to try to save money is by making my own yogurt. I was learning how to do it when I got pregnant with Wilhelm and I haven't gotten back into it yet. But with another little mouth eating it, I really need to get back with it.
    I would say our weekly expense is about the same as yours and we mostly only eat out when traveling and our choise of place is Olive Garden or Panera - yum!

    Yes, I would agree that it is not too expensive to eat healthly, it just takes more work to find the best prices.

    Great post idea!!

    1. Janet - Spelt and Kamut are my favorite grains! I also started making yogurt back in December, but got out of that habit. I want to get back to it. Thanks for the reply ... it's wonderful that you have sources of organic foods for less than usual! Finding local sources of food is the best!

  2. Yay for healthy foods!!! Though I've gotten out of the habit in very recent years, so I need to get us back into that habit. I shop around some, but mainly buy from one grocery store because overall they have the best prices & quality of food. I love love their organic leeks!

  3. I follow many of the same strategies. I just wish I could find a grain co-op near me. When I need to restock that takes a big chunk of my budget.