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Q&A Tuesday: Can you buy natural & organic foods on a budget?

Buy Organic Food on a Budget

Please, please – if you could offer suggestions on how to feed your family on a budget while trying to do so naturally. What I mean is that I try to stay away from foods with major additives, artificial flavorings/colorings and those with ingredients that most people cannot pronounce. 🙂 -Kim

Many people have this misguided idea that it is impossible to feed your family a whole foods diet on a budget. If you live in Alaska or some remote part of the country, this may be the case, but in most areas, you can feed your family natural, unprocessed foods without spending hundreds of dollars each week to do so.

Sure, you might spend a little bit more than someone who is eating a diet composed mostly of processed foods, but it really doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg as some people will make you think — especially if you’re willing to get creative and think outside the box.

Now, let me be upfront and tell you that our weekly meal plans probably wouldn’t win us the Healthiest Family of the Year award. We eat some processed foods (though we do make the majority of our food from scratch), we like sweets and we certainly do not eat 100% organic.

I know some people are really bothered by this, but we strive to have a balance of serving lots of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains while still enjoying the occasional brownies and ice cream or even letting our children have a Happy Meal every now and then (gasp! Can you believe it?!) 😉

So, despite the fact that I’m not the most knowledgeable and experienced person to be tackling this issue, here are some suggestions:

1. Plan a Menu Based Upon What is In Season and On Sale

If you want to feed your family on a budget, you need to have a plan for what you’ll be eating. If you can make your menu plan mostly based upon what is on sale at the natural foods store, what is in season at the Farmer’s Market and/or what you’re reaping in abundance from your garden, you’re going to significantly reduce your grocery bill.

2. Practice the “Buy Ahead” Principle

If you happen to come upon an incredible sale on tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market, or the health food store has organic frozen vegetables on a great sale, stock up. Buying items you routinely use when they are at their lowest price is another surefire way to savings.

3. Plant a Garden (Or Barter With Someone Who Does!)

If you can pull it off, plant a garden. Produce is typically only pennies per item from your own backyard, it’s tremendously fresh and you know exactly what you did or didn’t spray on it. Plus, you can can or freeze your extras — or bless your friends and neighbors with them!

Have a brown thumb? Find a friend who loves gardening and trade services (babysitting, breadbaking, car maintenance?) in exchange for their garden excess.

4. Stick With Simple Meals Using Inexpensive Ingredients

When you’re planning your menu, think about how much your recipes will cost you to make. It doesn’t have to be a scientific to-the-penny figure, but just having a good idea that there is a $10 difference between the price of making one meal as opposed to another meal can help you decide whether you can afford to make something or perhaps should save it for a special occasion.

5. Serve Meat as a Condiment

I shamelessly stole this idea from because it’s so brilliant. Serving meat in soup or on pizza is going to be a lot less expensive than serving roast and sirloin, especially if you’re buying high-quality meat.

Need ideas? Laura shows you how to make six meals out of one chicken.

6. Buy in Bulk

It is usually much more cost-effective to purchase meat and staple ingredients in bulk. Call around to local farmers and see what they would charge you for purchasing half a cow. In many cases, it’s at least $1 cheaper per pound to purchase in bulk. Buying grains, beans, as well as many other basic ingredients with long storage lives in large quantities will almost always save you at least 20%, if not more.

Costco, as well as many bulk foods stores and local co-ops, offer great pricing. You can also check with your local health food store to see if they’d offer you a discount for bulk purchases.

7. Consider Joining a CSA or Co-Op

If there is a , check into pricing and details for joining. You might find that it is an affordable and money-saving option for your family. If you can’t find an affordable co-op in your area, you could consider starting your own co-op.

8. Use Coupons on Non-Food Items

I know a number of my readers don’t eat processed foods, but they use coupons to save money on toilet paper, toothbrushes and other non-food items which they purchase. Your savings might not be so exciting as others who use dozens of coupons each shopping trip, but even saving $5 each week by using coupons can start to add up over time.

I know that I’ve just barely scratched the surface in answering this question, so I’d love to hear from you. What are your best ideas for buying natural and organic products on a budget?

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  • Samantha says:

    I love Lauras chicken and hamburger series she did.

    She also blessed me with Azure standard. I am lucky enough that they deliver down in my area and it helps greatly on my grain and baking budget. I just bought 25 pounds of whole white wheat flour for around 15 dollars! $1.66/ pound is cheaper than the all purpose flour I was buying at WalMart, and its healthier!

  • says:

    I can’t help but chime (rather “scream in”!!!) in on this one!

    My own saving money journey started when I realized that coupons really *did* work — and I have ridden that road for a wonderful few years now. It took me a bit longer to realize how saving money on natural goods and organic items really can work also. Although the organic coupon industry is definitely picking up steam, the basis of the way to save money on natural and organic goods involves other tricks and tools that goes far beyond couponing.

    Some of those strategies include:

    – stretching your powers to truly cook from scratch
    – gardening
    – buying from local farmers (often much cheaper than regular brick and mortar organic stores)
    – buying groceries off Amazon (yes! a truly great way to save on natural and organic items)
    – CSAs

    …and many more!

    *NEVER* think you can’t eat healthily and naturally for cheap!

    Claire at

  • says:

    You’re right – eating organic and healthier foods doesn’t have to set you up for bankruptcy!

    I think one of the biggest things to overcome is our thoughts on food. Do we really need to be buying all of those snacks if they do nothing to nourish our bodies? My husband and I regularly used to buy 2 bags of doritos and a half gallon of ice cream each week – sale or no sale. But even on sale days, those costs add up!! We cut out purchases like these so that we could afford to buy raw milk at $7.50 a gallon.

    I sold a lot of stuff to purchase bulk foods! I went through our store room and garage and pulled out everything I could sell. Within just a few weeks I had enough to make a bulk purchase at a local natural foods bulk store and bought enough grains and wheat for a year as well as natural sugars, oils, beans, and salts. I was also able to purchase more than enough herbs and spices for making dressings and seasoning mixes. This allowed us to eat healthier foods without the initial increase of costs.

    We actually went from a “couponing” budget of $300.00 for 2 adults and a toddler to spending only $300.00 on mostly organic and whole foods.

    It can be done!

    • Jenni says:

      I like the idea of selling things to purchase bulk foods. I think that often the mentality is to put your money into things that don’t get consumed, but in reality, this approach would leave you healthier and more clutter-free.

  • Beth says:

    95% of our food is free-range, all organic, and I use coupons on ALL the remaining items. I don’t use paper-towels, expensive shampoo, or household cleaners–I clean everything with washcloths, all purpose cleaner, and windex. I guess my question is this, I’m doing everything you suggested in this blog already, using any organic coupons I can find, buying the cheapest produce in season from a coop, planning menus, eating meat once or twice a week barely, shopping at multiple stores, making meals that last several days for leftovers, and using coupons on all non-food stuff–and I’m spending close to $140 a week! How is this possible? I live in the midwest and I go to Trader Joes for most stuff–I don’t understand how this could be done any cheaper then I’m doing it? When you eat 6-8 servings of vegetables/fruits a day–how does this work?

    • Crystal says:

      How many people are you feeding on $140 per week?

      • Beth says:

        Three (and I’m counting all the other household stuff in that–like toothpaste, that kind of thing).

        I really think this site is amazing but I don’t know how to buy fruit and veggies any cheaper and it makes up most of my grocery budget.

        • Beth says:

          I don’t know if it helps, but I make everything from scratch mostly except bread and cereals.

        • Crystal says:

          Where are you buying most of your fruit and veggies from?

          • Beth says:

            In the summer a CSA, and in the winter (my husbands picky)–I buy whatever’s cheapest by looking at the sale ads for that week. So, I go every day or two and buy from Town & Country, Wiseway, and Trader Joes. Basically whatever is cheapest, organic, and on sale that week. I do the frozen berries from Trader Joes too as they are really inexpensive.

          • Crystal says:

            Have you considered switching to only buying the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables organic? Is there a Farmer’s Market in your area? Are you having 7-8 *different* kinds of fruits and vegetables everyday? Do you garden or know people who do? Have picked from local orchards?

            $140 per week isn’t terribly high if you’re doing pretty much 100% organic — especially if you live in an area when produce markdowns and deals aren’t plentiful — but I’m guessing my readers here will have some great thoughts which they’ll share in the comments which might spark some additional money-saving ideas for you.

      • Beth says:

        We are doing some repeats and some different. Right now lots of applesauce, canned or frozen, bananas, spinach, onions, potatoes, frozen berries, and other stuff I find on sale. Thanks for the suggestions–I will check out that website and check into some more local options. Its really important to us to stay all organic so I will keep reading!

        • Andrea Q says:

          Small, local farms may not be certified organic, but the fruits and veggies are often much better choices than conventionally grown produce from factory farms. You may find that they don’t use pesticides at all…you just have to ask the farmers!

          • says:

            I have found some farmer that sell at farmer’s markets simply don’t go through the trouble of becoming certified as organic. I would definitely ask your local farmers, many probably use very little pesticides or none at all.

        • says:

          If you are doing frozen berries, then in the summer try looking for local u-pick farms. They may not be 100% organic, but smaller farmers are lesss likely to be putting as much on there plants, usually. Pick as much as you can, wash and freeze it. We pick at least 20 quarts of strawberries and freeze for smoothies and such. I know I wouldn’t be able to buy them throughout the winter otherwise, too expensive! I also find great deals at the farmers market. I bought 10 quarts of fresh blackberries at $2 each to froze. I also froze the peaches after I got tired of canning, $12 for half a bushel was a great price! I can always find great prices on apples, minimum sprayed $10 a bushel. Start looking in the summer and in a few years you will have your own list of farmers and s to help get fresh fruits and veggies in season to can or freeze. They are better tasting and local!!

    • Andrea Q says:

      From experience, if you eat *fresh* fruit and veggies all of the time (that you aren’t growing yourself), it will be very difficult to get your food bill below $40/person/week.

      Have you tried farmer’s markets? One of the best ways to cut your spending is to buy in season in bulk from farmers/orchards and then freeze, dry or can the produce.

      Also, carefully look at what you’re buying a Trader Joe’s. Their convenience items are pricey!

      • Beth says:

        Okay, so its good to know that I’m not too far off then with the $140. I just feel like thats so much more then most of the posts on this site! I noticed that about TJ, and switched to making the stuff myself 🙂

        • Crystal says:

          Definitely don’t compare non-organic prices to organic prices. Actually, I’ve found that when you just plain don’t compare yourself to other people, you enjoy life a lot more. 🙂

          Make decisions based upon what is best for your family and then be inspired by others but don’t feel guilted by them.

        • Celia Husmann says:

          If you can afford it, spend it. We need to use our $$ to support small family farms AND organic food whenever possible. Not only because organic is better for your body but it is better for than environment…. chemicals only turn the soil to dust. I am honored that you shared this information. Your family is worth the $!!!

        • Jill says:

          Also, play the drug store game to get all the other stuff–toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, toilet paper, etc for free or close to it. That is probably the only area that you can really coupon.

          • says:

            You can also find natural/cheap alternatives to these things-we don’t use paper towel, disposable diapers/wipes etc etc-it’s all cloth now. I also make my own deodorant-which eliminates the aluminum that store bought ones have. I use Dr. Bronners for almost everything in our house-which is natural and organic. You can even brush your teeth with it 🙂

            There’s so much stuff you can just stop buying or find better alternatives!

          • says:

            Somehow I couldn’t reply directly to Sara, but I wondered what you use instead of paper towels for covering food in the microwave?

          • Beth says:

            @Amber– you can just use a light dishtowel to cover food in the microwave (or heating everything on the stove is super fast in a saute pan too).

          • says:

            What about when you cook bacon, sausage, ground beef, fried foods… I usually set mine on a plate covered by paper towels to soak up the excess grease. Do you have any ideas for that?

        • Ann says:

          I think you’re doing great. We just went off wheat and dairy and mostly organic and it’s costing me about $300 per week right now for 3 of us. Of course husband eats enough for 2 or 3 people. We’re having to shop for many things at the only health food store in our area to get some of the wheat and dairy free things. We don’t have a Trader Joes or Whole Foods here. We have started ordering from the coop and that is saving us a little. And we’ve started gardening but I’m not very good at it yet, and we’re looking into the Grow Alabama CSA.

      • Crystal says:

        I agree with Andrea. If you’re willing to eat frozen and canned, buying in bulk from a local orchard or farmer when it’s the lowest price of the season (or they might give you a great deal if you buy in bulk) or growing it yourself and then canning and freezing enough to last you for the next six months or year should significantly reduce your grocery bill over the longhaul, though it might mean more $$ upfront for a few months.

        • says:

          Friends of our were able to get 1/2 a truck load of free organic corn from a farmer’s market last year. It was getting near closing time and the farmer didn’t want the corn to go to waste. Thankfully, they shared some with us 🙂

      • Tania says:

        Where do you live, Andrea? From experience, eating fresh organic fruit, fresh organic veggies and grains plants our family at ~$40/week – for the two of us the three cats.

        Just curious as I hear this a lot and I look at my grocery bill and I’m like, what are you buying? lol

        • Andrea Q says:

          I lived in Las Vegas for four years and now in New England. We aren’t vegetarians, so maybe the difference is meat, milk and eggs?

          • Tania says:

            Maybe that’s it. I know when we lived in the New England area, we were actually spending a little less even. Hrm. So weird how grocery prices and things work out.

    • Cindy says:

      I have struggled with the same questions…here are my conclusions and I hope this helps. It sounds like you’re doing great with the wonderfully healthy diet that you have. Eating WELL does cost more, there is no way around it. But think of the trade-off. I would much rather have my budget set a little higher (if you can afford it) and support local, organic, etc. Fresh fruits and vegetables are worth the extra cost! I’m learning to do my best at what works for us without comparing my numbers with others…Blessings to you!

      • says:

        I went shopping today and bought almost all organic/natural/fresh (a few canned items for my chili). My bill was $70 and that also included $15 in things for our churchs backpack ministry. I won’t buy organic if it’s not local to the US. Organic produce from Paraguay means nothing to me. We eat “plain” fruits and veggies. Apples, bananas, celery and carrots are all VERY cheap here in Arkansas. We only eat meat 1-2 times a week and stock up like crazy when I find organic markdowns and sales. My monthly budget is about $350 and this is with very few coupons. It can be done!

    • says:

      I feed my family of 6 on about $250 a month. We eat a lot of fruits & veggies, whole grains, more natural meats. I’ve done a lot of the stuff Crystal suggest here. I buy grains in bulk, grind my own flour, stock up on lost leaders (which can be cheaper than Aldi, I’ve found) and get meat from farmers. I also garden and can my own food when I can. Right now you can get a heck of a deal on frozen veggies at Target! Can you stock up? Do you have Aldi? It’s owned by Trader Joes. I don’t have TJ in my area, but we do have Aldi.

      Here’s a post I wrote last week on some ways I keep my grocery budget low:

      Good luck!

      • Beth says:

        I totally agree that you can eat well on that monthly budget. what I was saying is that its hard to eat “Organic only” for that much 🙂

        I did see the Target deals and the Aldi here doesn’t carry anything Organic.

    • Emily says:

      You said you live in the midwest. By any chance, do you have a Meijer near you? I buy only certain things organic (like Crystal mentioned, mainly the “dirty dozen” fruits/veggies that my family likes to eat). I have found that Meijer’s prices on organic produce are really good. Sometimes, organic apples or pears are only 10 cents more per pound than non-organic.

      • says:

        This may not be the case everywhere but often find organic produce at my local 99 cent only. I have gotten lettuce and other veggies and 3 lb bags of apple (btw were originally from trader joes) and frozen strawberries.

        it’s worth a look if you .99 store stocks produce.

        One more idea- if you find organic at a really good price consider buying extra and freezing.


        • Mandi says:

          I find organic fairly regularly at my 99 cent store, too. It has been a great find! Although it’s not consistent which can be frustrating.

      • says:

        If you have a Meijer you need to check and see if your store has a reduced produce rack-I regularly find organic produce on mine and it’s cheap! Examples-3lbs of organic apples for $1, big bags of organic oranges for $1 or $1.50, etc.
        And the produce is never in bad shape 🙂

    • Leah says:

      I know you said you don’t eat much meat, but I get mine at the local winter farmer’s market and it is cheaper than Trader Joe’s. You might want to look around and see if you have one in your area. I’m in NE Ohio.

    • says:

      If you have access to a Trader Joe’s then I assume you don’t live in a rural area? But if you go out of the city a little ways, you can buy farm-raised (not organic) meat in bulk for a great price. Most butcher shops will have different cuts of meat for sale right there in the shop. You can usually place an order over the phone and go pick it up later. We do this for things like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs. They are MUCH better quality than what you get in the store, taste WAY better, are locally raised, and usually cheaper or a comparable price. The butcher shop will also probably be able to give you a couple of names of people who raise cows or pigs, and you can purchase a whole animal. We have the freezer space, but in the past, we have split animals into 2 or 4 portions and shared the cost with family or friends. You pay one cost for buying the animal, and then a cost for butchering. This is a much cheaper way (and much better quality) to buy meat than going to the store – especially if you’re comparing it to organic meat. The good part is that you don’t have to go to the farm to buy the cow (usually a check in the mail is fine), and you don’t have to take the cow to the butcher yourself (the seller does that). All you have to do is go pick up the meat at the butcher when it’s ready. Another great thing about this is that you can choose how you want your meat separated. For example, you can have them make as many steaks or roasts as possible, or you can have the whole thing ground into hamburger. You can have them save out the organ meats, or grind it up into the hamburger. You can choose the hotness of your sausage. Whether you want 1/2 pound, 1 pound, 1 1/2 pounds, 2 pounds (etc) of hamburger/sausage in a casing.

      I’ve been doing this with beef and pork for several years, and would NEVER go back to storebought meat. My next step is to buy some farm-raised chickens. In rural areas, at least, it is pretty easy to get them from someone local, and the price is not much different than the storebought variety.

      And I agree whole-heartedly with some of the others that growing your own produce is the only way to go – and saves a TON of money! In my area, there are so many people who have gardens that it is not uncommon for us to be given an abundant supply of tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, etc. during the summer – even though we may not garden every year. But if you’re going to store your crop to last over the winter, you’ll probably still need to grow a garden full of your own.

      My grocery budget is currently pretty close to yours (except that I don’t count the bulk meat into that figure). I believe that it’s the non-grocery items that kill us! Especially if you’re buying any “green” items. It is possible to get a few things for cheap (Seventh Generation dish liquid when stacking coupons at Target). But I haven’t totally figured that one out yet. I have signed up for All You daily free sample emails, and through that venue have received so many shampoo and feminine supply samples that I haven’t had to buy any for 3 months now. That’s something! And if you look into some of the items on your shopping list, you can probably find a few things you can do without for awhile longer. I like the idea someone else posted about using wash cloths for cleaning. Also using them for napkins would save a little money. Making your own cleaners, laundry detergent, and some personal care items.

      Just keep up the good work, and continue to get creative on what you can make yourself or do without!

      • says:

        Amber, thanks for sharing your insight on farm raised meat. I have close friends who raise cows (although not organic) and I feel so much better about buying from them than the grocery store. I know that they care about their animals, etc. That is our plan after we pay off our debt! It is good to hear from someone who has been doing it for awhile.

    • Sara says:

      Beth, I would love to know what your family spends on health care costs vs. what the average family spends on health care. Do you find that you have more resilience against the average viral and bacterial infections and can stay away from the doctor more easily because of your food choices?

      • Beth says:

        Our insurance is quite reasonable through my husband’s work and our Health Savings Account covers any of our expenses. My 16mo old only had to go in once for an ear infection and I went to the doctor once in the past year (due to asthma). I’m not sure if that answers your question? We were sick several times this winter but I feel we are less sick then most people. We are very active and go to stores, museums, mall etc which is partly what I blame for us getting sick but theres no use to sit at home either 🙂

    • says:

      I think you need to spend some time breaking down your grocery receipts to see how much you are spending on each area.

      I usually break it down into meats, fruits, fats, vegetables, dairy and junk (I consider baking items and processed foods junk – meaning it’s something that isn’t providing a lot of nutrients for my body).

      You may find that you are spending $40 for “junk” or you may find that you are completely happy with how much you are spending in each area.

      You can also break it down by wants vs. needs vs. luxury items. In your case, organic is not a luxury, it’s a need for your family. However, you have the choice to buy organic cauliflower or organic cabbage or organic brussel sprouts. You can choose to buy the lower priced item (which would be a need) or the highest priced item (which would be a luxury).

      Both methods are time consuming, but very eye opening!

    • Jen says:

      We are in a similar situation. I often feel the same way about our budget, though I’m not doing as well as you are! But here are some things I’ve recently started that are making a difference. I don’t know what you’re doing or not doing already so some of these suggestions may be repeats.

      1) After a year of saying I was going to, I finally sat down and started a price book. Already it’s making a big impact. I have a bad memory so I could never remember what was a low price for broccoli or whatever. Now when I see a *really* low price, I stock up. If it’s meat, I freeze it. If it’s veg, I plan several meals around that item and freeze leftovers so I have many more meals of it left. If it’s a pantry item, I stockpile. If it’s not a *really* low price, I compare it to other produce that’s on sale around town that week and only buy what we need for the week.

      2) I am lucky to live in an area with lots of smaller “ethnic” grocery stores. They usually have lower prices on produce and even meats. It’s mostly conventional so I pick and choose, but I’ve actually found a couple stores that carry a few organic items too. For instance, I bought bunches of organic kale for $1/lb recently and made up several meals with that. Problem is, this takes some time as I usually have to go to 4 or 5 stores a week. For me this isn’t too bad because they’re all along my commute, but I know for some this isn’t feasible.

      3) Stop wasting food. Maybe you don’t have a problem with this, but we do! I have not gotten good at knowing how much food I need to buy. Often I see a good sale and stock up, but in my excitement I buy too much and can’t cook it all before it goes bad. Or I buy fruit with the intention of eating it for breakfast and then I’m in a hurry and reach for toast and jam and the fruit gets moldy. I’ve decided to buy more conservatively, even if that means missing out on a good deal, rather than throw away because I couldn’t eat it fast enough.

      4) Be conservative at the farmer’s market. I LOVE shopping at the farmer’s market–it’s literally my favorite summer activity. But I often end up buying too much stuff (especially non-produce items like cheese, bread, etc). It either leads to the problem of wasting I mentioned above, or I just buy too many specialty ($$) ingredients. I’ll often come back having spent $60 on foods that won’t even feed us all week. This summer I plan to still shop the farmer’s market but go with a budget each week and use my price book to know if something is a good farmer’s market price.

      5) This last one was hardest for me. We are in a really tight financial situation right now, so I’ve decided to drop down to only buying the “dirty dozen” organics. I can’t let perfect be the enemy of good, and it’s better for my family to eat some conventional fruits and veg than no fruits and veg. I am still going to buy organic milk for us all, organic yogurt for my son, and organic/sustainable meat whenever I can afford it. But I’m not going to obsess about it.

      Anyway, those are some of the things I’ve been trying. It’s difficult, for sure! Good luck. 🙂

      • Beth says:

        I don’t know if this helps or is possible, but I shop every 2 days or so and that keeps us from wasting ANY food! I can buy exactly what I need and then eat it before it goes bad. Fast trips are easier for my son to sit still and then I can browse through different stores for deals.

  • says:

    I have been able to find great coupons for organic and whole foods! and post a lot of deals along with MSM’s(I think once a week) post with links. My local whole foods and co-op accept store & mfc coupons conbined too!! Here are two great places for coupons for organic and whole foods…
    mambo sprouts and
    Also, companies!! IT WORKS!! They are more than happy to mail coupons! I have received them from Alexia, Ian’s, Horizon, etc.
    Happy couponing! Hope any of this helps!

  • Jaycee says:

    Another thing: if you cannot afford organic everything, opt to buy non organic with those that are NOT on the “dirty dozen” list. The dirty dozen are the fruits and veggies that are highest in pesticides. Here they are:

    This year’s Dirty Dozen.

    1. Peach
    2. Apple
    3. Bell Pepper
    4. Celery
    5. Nectarine
    6. Strawberries
    7. Cherries
    8. Kale
    9. Lettuce
    10. Grapes (Imported)
    11. Carrot
    12. Pear

    Here are the ones that are not as high in pesticide content:

    The Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)

    1. Onion
    2. Avocado
    3. Sweet Corn
    4. Pineapple
    5. Mango
    6. Asparagus
    7. Sweet Peas
    8. Kiwi
    9. Cabbage
    10. Eggplant
    11. Papaya
    12. Watermelon
    13. Broccoli
    14. Tomato

    Got this from

    • Andrea Q says:

      If you are avoiding genetically-modified organisms, do not buy non-0rganic corn.

      • says:

        Agree! I was going to say the same thing. GMO’s are another important thing to watch out for — especially when it comes to corn. It’s almost all GMO if it’s not organic these days (sadly).

        ~ Jennifer

      • MC says:

        “Two studies on the possible effects of feeding genetically modified feeds to animals found that there was no significant differences in the safety and nutritional value of feedstuffs containing material derived from genetically modified plants.”

        • Andrea Q says:

          I agree, it is up to everyone to research the issue for themselves and decide.

          But I will say that I’m not the least bit worried about the nutritional value. I’m concerned about the impacts GMOs have on the reproductive and immune systems of animals. Multiple animal studies (in several different countries) have shown increased infertility in animals fed GMO-heavy diets, liver/organ damage and increased mortality rates.

          • MC says:

            “no significant differences in the safety and nutritional value”

            Note that it includes “safety” and not only nutrition. And if you’re really not concerned with the nutritional value of your food, you might as well be eating tree bark.

            Everything has some genetic mutation of some sort unless it’s cloned. Everything.

          • Andrea Q says:

            Please don’t twist my words. I’m not worried about the nutritional value of conventional vs. GMO.

            The info quoted (titled “gene transfer” doesn’t expound on “safety”. The information comes from one study done on seven humans, which is not a statistically valid sample (considering there are almost 7 billion people on our planet). At the end of the paragraph quoted, two other studies are cited as having found GMO DNA in the tissues and blood of animals.

            Searching beyond Wikipedia (which is a questionable source) will net thousands of other informative articles, including information on the difference between hybrids and genetically modified organisms. GMOs are not created by natural processes; they are created in the lab by scientists.

    • Celia Husmann says:

      The Dirty Dozen list is great BUT if you purchase non-organic Corn, Soy, Sugar, or Beef you will be consuming GMO products. Corn and Soy are the obvious. Sugar is new because the government has recently approved GMO Sugar Beets which is what our Sugar these days is (if you think it’s 100% Sugar Cane, think again). Meat, because Alfalfa has been approved as a GMO product and this is what our cows eat.

      Remember, there is more to purchasing organic food other than for health reasons. Learn about what non-organic does to our soil. It creates dust, therefor causing a need for chemical fertilizers. Plants are smart. They create wonderful soil.

      • Andrea Q says:

        GMO alfalfa was just approved a few weeks ago and has not been widely planted. There’s a lawsuit trying to stop it from being completely deregulated. If the lawsuit is not successful, organic will be meaningless, because there will be no way to keep the GMO alfalfa pollen from mixing with other crops. Sugar beets are questionable, as there is a court ruling halting their use, but the USDA is apparently ignoring it.

        FYI: GMOs are in 80 percent of processed foods on our supermarket shelves.

        • Melinda says:

          I dont mean to start anything with this but I am a dairy farmer (non organic). We have round up ready alfalfa on order to plant this spring. My husband and I both have college degrees, mine is dairy science and my husbands in animal science/ag business with a minor in agronomy. I would really appreciate that before you post something you would be correct on your information. Do you know that America has the safest food in the world, and yet we have some of the cheapest prices? There have been no studies to prove what you say is true, that it will cross pollinate and ruin organic hay, which is the only crop it will cross pollinate with. This is why the FDA has approved it once and is now releasing it again. There is no proof just what a few people THINK is going to happen!!! I have nothing against organic just to let everyone know that but I do have a problem when people misinform others.

          • LYM says:

            We have cheap prices because the government subsidizes the price of grains. It doesn’t take long to find numerous news stories of contaminated fields from GM crops. It’s crucial to be aware of a wide range of sciences – not just food technology, but anthropology, biology, and history, so we can be aware of the full range of the consequences of our technology, both for the good and the bad, and can make our decisions fully informed.

          • Melinda says:

            I completly agree that people should be fully informed on both sides of the issue, but unfortunately even “news stories” are only one sided and dont give all the facts, therefore because you heard it on the “news” doesnt prove that it is true, people need to do more research on both sides!

          • MC says:

            My dad is an agronomist (has been for quite a long time) with a PhD and I just want to thank you for posting this. I can’t stand the complete lack of understanding the general population has on organic and gm food. In fact, the place he works at does research on genetically modified bananas trying to find a good replacement for Cavendish since the shelf life and susceptibility to disease aren’t so fantastic (altho better than others when including flavor as a factor).

            Organic food uses more land for the same crop yield that more modern farms get. I want someone to explain to me how cutting down more trees is good for Mother Nature when we clearly have more efficient alternatives.

      • Wendy says:

        I always thought corn, in general, was gentically modified. Did anyone else read the book 1491? I did several years ago and was thinking that it mentioned that there was no plant that resembled corn that grew in the wild. That there was only one that even came close and it produced something similar to corn but its fruit was even smaller than the corn cobs in Chinese food. If I recall correctly, it’s believed that the Native Americans modified this plant in some way to produce the corn they ate. Does anyone else remember reading this? It’s been awhile since I did.

        • Andrea Q says:

          Genetically modifying organisms is not the same thing as selective breeding and hybridization. A GMO has had foreign genes directly inserted into its DNA, which was not possible in 1491. But yes, early Americans did selectively breed maize. 7,000 years ago, it hardly resembled corn.

    • Julie says:

      I agree with what many have said in that if you can afford the $140 a week then don’t worry about it- You are choosing to spend your money on something that is important to you and your family. If however, you feel that you do need to cut your food budget- I have a few suggestions. You mentioned shopping multiple times a week. I find that the more times I shop, and the more stores I go to, the more I spend. Try to cut back to once or twice a week- you may think that you’re missing out on good deals but you’re saving on impulse buys. Additionally, you may decide that there are certain fruits or vegetables that you should buy more of, and others you should buy rarely. For example, I recently started buying apples at the local natural food store. I go once a week and buy a big bag of apples. Most of the time, if anyone in my family is looking for a snack, I suggest apples. They provide a lot of “bang for your buck.” I used to buy more of what I would consider luxury fruits- grapes, berries, cherries, mangos. I now buy a big bag of wild blueberries from BJ’s-we still get the same nutrients, but for a lot less. In the summer we will get fresh berries from local farmers, but for now, we’ll settle for frozen. As for vegetables- same thing… think bang for your buck. Since it’s winter, and I can’t buy from local farm stands, we eat a lot of broccoli (either frozn or fresh) which isn’t usually too expensive to buy organic and has a lot of fiber as well as nutrients and tons of spinnach which I can buy in a huge organic tub, inexpensively at BJ’s. In the winter, we have a lot less variety in our vegetables, but I know that we are still eating healthily.
      I LOVE Trader Joes, but I no longer have one that is local- However, it is very easy to impulse buy there because everything is so “cool.” If you really feel that their fruits/ vegetables/ etc. are your best option, make a list ahead of time, bring cash, and don’t let yourself buy anything else.

      Good Luck, and thanks for starting a great discussion.

      • Beth says:

        Thanks for the suggestion! I actually have a big basket of apples, potatoes, and onions on my counter now! lol

        About the shopping frequently, I feel we tend to waste less food and I’m not an impulse buyer when it comes to groceries. I go in with a list that I need for the next two days of dinners and I stick with my list of needed items. It works for me but I understand it might not work for other people 🙂

    • says:

      Why isn’t spinach on the dirty dozen list? SEems like an oversight!

  • says:

    I forgot…I have also been getting a lot of stuff through Amazon’s. Combining free shipping through Amazon Mom and subscribe and save discounts makes for great deals!

    • Amanda says:

      I have never bought food through Amazon. How do you find it on the website, and what is subscribe and save?

      • Jessica says:

        You can search for the product like you would normally. Like bread mix for bread machines or organic snacks.

        Subscribe and save is an option that they offer. Usually it knocks 15% off the cost. When you select this option you select a time frame when you want your next order. Once it is received you can cancel the subscription or keep it.

  • Jan says:

    I would say if this is really important to you- look for other ways in your household budget to save money- in order to spend more money on quality food. I like to shop at farmer’s markets in the summer. I also found local farmers to buy eggs, chicken and beef. We pick our own fruit and vegetables in the summer. In the winter, I found a small health food type market near us and I watch for mark downs on expiring items. Also you can find coupons for organic food items if you search. We have Whole Foods and Trader Joes about 40 min away so I plan trips occasionally to stock up but I always go with coupons. I found that a CSA was too pricey for me- but I’m going in with some other families on a food co-op. Also we have gone in with several families to buy beef- even a 1/4 cow was a lot for us. If you can’t afford to go all organic- just stick with organic eggs, milk and meat. I often buy organic frozen fruits and vegetables when I find them on sale because fresh organic produce is usually to expensive for me.

    • Beth says:

      That’s a good idea to watch for markdowns. I should check some of the more expensive stores in my neighborhood to see if they have any. We made a lot of adjustments when we decided to buy all organic and cancelled our tv and other expenses. I still would love to spend way less money on food though which is why I’m here 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        Almost all the organic produce I get is from markdowns! Our health food store has incredible markdowns, but if you don’t find them at yours, you can always ask what they do with soon-to-be-expiring stuff!

  • Jamie Johnson says:

    This was a great post. It sounds like we are a lot alike. Thanks for the link to I hadn’t seen it before. 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    Azure Standard is an awesome co-op. They do deliver to a lot of places across the US. The bulk prices seem hefty at first but buying it that way makes it very affordable. They even carry produce, currently I think their organic apples are about $1/lb.

  • Angie says:

    I feel for you, but have to admit our grocery budget is also around $140 a week. We are a family of 4 that has to avoid gluten, soy, milk protein, nuts and beans. I order through a food coop and make everything from scratch. I watch for sales for toiletries and use coupons. I am reading like crazy trying to improve on my gardening skills from last years. We have not made the switch to raw milk or organic meat yet. It just isn’t in our budget at this time. I am blessed in so many other ways, I can’t complain about our budget. I really enjoy this blog and love learning from another homeschool mom who loves to save money. My biggest issue is how much time it takes to make everything from scratch. I feel like my life is the kitchen. Between homeschooling and cooking, their isn’t much time left. I would love to hear of some gluten free recipies that freeze well so I could cook in bulk more.

    • Rachael says:

      I agree. I’m a full time graduate student and love to make food from scatch, but sometimes we have to settle for a frozen pizza because we are too swamped. It really helps me to cook in big batches and freeze portions or serve leftovers. That way, I’m only really cooking 2-3 nights a week but still mostly eating from scatch. We do a frozen dinner once a week or so because my husband will cook these 🙂

    • Amy says:

      I feel your pain on the allergies! I can’t help much, but the items which we always have in our freezer are muffins (pretty much all GF or non GF freeze well), pancakes, pizza crust (sauce and veggies minus the cheese. You get used to it!), and soups. We joined (meal planning site) practically for free with mamapedia a while back, and they have an entire freezer meal section. Make triple of everything and stick it in the freezer!

    • Jennifer says:

      I have to eat GF, too, as I am gluten intolerant. I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen as well, but cooking is something I enjoy (cleaning up afterwards, not so much! 😉 ). Sunday afternoons are designated cooking times for me. I make and freeze GF muffins, biscuits, breads, etc. That’s about all I eat GF, except for pizza crust. There’s a dedicated GF bakery about 60 miles away that makes pizza crust for not much more than I could make them for myself, so I just order those in bulk from them and throw them in the freezer to save myself the hassle. Sometimes I’ll make cookies (make double the dough and freeze half for another time) or brownies (which also freeze well). When you bake, make double or triple the recipe and freeze the food. That way you may be able to bake only once or twice a month. Other things I do to save time in the kitchen include cutting/cleaning fruits and veggies for the week all at the same time (usually while stuff is baking on Sunday afternoon), and trimming meats and freezing them on the same day I purchase them. That way when I need a quick weeknight meal, I can pull some chicken breast or pork out of the freezer and it’s all ready to cook. I’m not sure how old your kiddos are, but I’m sure they’d love to help Mom in the kitchen!

    • Beth says:

      CHeck out “Cooking for Isaiah” –its an amazing gluten/dairy free cookbook. I really like a lot of the recipes.

  • says:

    Thanks for reiterating that everyone’s shopping habits are different! I’m a big frugal shopper, but lately feel a lot of pressure to jump on the organic bandwagon. While it may be right for some, and I will do so in some areas, I’m choosing not to in other areas. We all have to make our own food and budget choices as is right for us and our family. Thanks, Crystal, for continuing to provide a positive and non-condemning resource!

    • Julie says:

      I agree. I’d love to do all organic and all healthy, like I did when I was single, but with a picky husband and a two-year-old (and a very tight, one-income budget) it just isn’t possible. And with a toddler in tow, it’s definitely not an option to go driving to and fro in search of the best deals on different products. Which means that yes, I do some of my shopping at….Wal-Mart! Some things I do:

      -When possible, buy non-organic fruit or vegetables if pesticides aren’t necessarily an issue. Organic bananas, for example, are a waste of money since you don’t eat the peel. The “dirty dozen” list posted above is helpful.

      -Buy frozen vegetables and fruits if at all possible. Studies have shown that these are often healthier than fresh because they are flash frozen and hold nutrients better.

      -Follow organic and healthy food companies on Twitter, Facebook or on a blog or Web site, since they offer coupons there. There are also many, many coupon blogs now that focus exclusively on organic/healthy.

      Everyone is at a different stage in life, has a different budget, and has access to different products in their area. You do the best you can with what God gives you and let it go at that (shrugs). NO ONE should be making anyone else feel guilty about their choices.

      • Rachael says:

        Also, Wal-mart has committed to lowering their prices on fruits and vegetables, thanks to Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiatives. I hope that they will extend this savings to organics, as well.

    • Wendy says:

      I agree Kristen. I’m not quite ready to jump on the organic bandwagon either. Just because it says organic does not mean that no pesticides have been used on the produce. The grower can still use pesticides, they just have to use ones with a different base that will break down more rapidly than the synthetic sprays. Which means that sometimes organic produce has to be sprayed more often than the non-organic produce. I was not aware of this until I read an article in our farmer’s magazine. In the end, we do all have to make our own choices and should not feel pressured to buy or spend a certain amount on groceries just because someone else does it. Thank you Crystal for mentioning that in the comments above.

      • says:

        Wendy — one thing to consider (if you haven’t already) is going the organic route with a local farmer. Looking around on the internet for local people who sell their own produce is a great way to feel better about what you’re eating — both because you’re paying less, and you know their (spraying or other) practices;)

    • says:

      “I’m a big frugal shopper, but lately feel a lot of pressure to jump on the organic bandwagon. While it may be right for some, and I will do so in some areas, I’m choosing not to in other areas. ”

      Yes! Thank you for the great reminder!

  • laurie says:

    We recently Got a TJ and I love it. It is close to where we live so I can stop once a week for milk,bread etc. I too had been wanting to go mostly organic for a long time,but Whole Foods is way too expensive. I do all of our groceries at TJ’s. I like that things are organic and we are ridding our diets of all the preservatives and dyes in foods. I strectch my meat to make 2 meals so our meat budget is low. I also cook from scratch most times. Our meals are not elaborate so I just keep is simple. Some nights panckakes and waffles and other nights hot casserole etc. I spend roughly around $250/mos for 3 of us. I do also belong to Sams club and buy other larger items about every 6wks. We are not big veggie eaters,but do like our fruit.

  • says:

    I agree that if you have the option, organic or homegrown is better for you. However, here’s the problem I have with organic packaged & frozen items, only a percentage of the product is required to actually be organic. It doesn’t have to be 100% organic to qualify as a truly organic product! To supplement my veggie produce for the week, I purchased some mung beans and some alfalfa seeds online. I will be sprouting these weekly to add to salads/meals. Those items will be “organically” harvested from my countertop for pennies! I’ve also given up buying canned beans for dried beans which I soak myself overnight to avoid the aluminum content of the cans.

  • Heather says:

    Yes, if you are willing to cook from scratch. In fact, I think that it’s cheaper to eat naturally – (organic, no). But it sounds like you are focused on avoiding additives etc., so it can definitely be done. Baking some chicken breasts for sanwichs is a lot cheaper than deli meat. Pancakes, biscuits, and other quick breads are so easy to make from scratch. I make white sauce instead of using canned cream soups, adding whatever herbs or spices complement the dish I am making. I only get organic if there is a special deal. I feel that avoiding chemical additives, junk food, and eating whole grains and lots of produce goes a long way to good health.

  • Diane Hoffmaster says:

    LOVE this article! You captured my whole blogging philosophy: Go Green, Get Heathy and Don’t Go Broke!

    I think that diet is one thing I am not willing to skimp on…I have found a local farmer who raises grass fed and finished beef and heritage pork. I buy in bulk from him and it is WAY cheaper than grocery store organic meat! I also feel a lot better knowing that the animals were treated humanely during their life and lived out in a pasture soaking up the sun.

    Look for sales, you may have to stop at more than one store. I frequently find deals on things like fresh organic produce and THAT is what’s on the menu that week. I taylor my menu around the sales. I dont make my list based on what I actually want to eat that week.

    I love your blog by the way and am an avid reader!


  • Lezlee says:

    You’ve gotten lots of great comments already. Eating organic fruits and vegetables is important to me, and all of our meat and eggs are from a local farmer. This takes up a big portion of our grocery budget, but it’s important to us so I make up for it in other ways. We buy store-brand groceries for everything else and I use coupons for that and all other household items. We don’t eat out. We drive old cars. I shop at garage sales for my son’s clothes. We sacrifice in other areas to make this work.

    I second Azure Standard for a lot of things. Also, just examine your own grocery store closely. Last week I went to pick out organic braeburn apples and bagged up a bunch that were $1.98/lb. I walked a little further down and found a pre-bagged 3lb bag of organic braeburns for $0.99/lb. And this was not a sale price! Same thing with organic oranges- I found a 4lb bag for $1.25/lb- a mere $0.25/lb more than the regular oranges. I know every store is different, but it seems my grocery store has many unadvertised sale items (stuff that isn’t in the weekly ad). It takes a little more time and effort, but I’ve been able to find some great deals.

    Also, email organic companies directly. I emailed 2 companies that my store carries and they both sent me some great coupons. It works!

  • Lori Felix says:

    A few thoughts to add your great ideas; will tell you where to find farmer’s markets all across the country. This can be a fun resource to work in to a family trip. Another great resource is . They have a crop calendar which tells you what is available to pick at the orchards. All my best, Lori

  • LYM says:

    I blogged on this a couple of years ago. Our family found we spent $1/person/meal buying almost exclusively organic meat & produce. The details are here: The gist is that we buy in bulk, cook the whole animal, use farms instead of stores (we’re in a major city; the farmers drive into town), cut back in non-food areas (like using pretty much only vinegar to clean, and cloth diapering), spend far less on medical costs now that we spend more on food costs, buy no convenience foods ($$$), eat out less, and actually eat less than before b/c we’re eating more (and natural) fats and fewer grains – fats satiate; grains create cravings.

    • says:

      Lyn — That’s an awesome article. Great job!!

      • LYM says:

        Thanks, I appreciate that! I should note that we have *not* cut back on quality, naturally-raised meats. It is terribly difficult to get enough protein without quality meat unless you resort to processed veg*n protein sources and a heavily grain-based diet. Grains increase appetite and food consumption and have a terrible environmental toll (it is actually b/c factory farms feed grains instead of grass that factory farmed meat is so bad for the environment). When we switched from a grain-based, processed diet to an organic, humanely-raised-meat&vegetable-based diet, our food costs did not go up at all, and may have decreased. Food with labels are a terrible value for your money!

        • says:

          Grains definitely increase your appetite.

          In fact, I’m amazed when my kids come home from school and they aren’t starving anymore.

          I cook them meat for breakfast every morning and they are much better off!

  • Natalie says:

    I recently had to change my grocery shopping strategy. My piles of proccessed freebies were piling up…as were the pounds =). Although I am not usually a fan of Sam’s Club prices I have found that their milk, eggs, fruits and veggies are usually cheaper.

  • Meredith says:

    I have to chime in here. One of the biggest ways you can save on your produce and natural foods is to stop eating meat all together. My husband and I started this and it has worked wonders on our budget and our bodies. We have done it for health and ethical reasons mainly, not really for our budget. That happened to be a perk! My daughter and cat still eat meat. (yes, she gets happy meals) I want it to be her decision, not ours. I try to buy organic foods as much as I can but you have to be realistic if you have a tighter budget. Keeping your meals super simple is the key. I am not a role model in this area as I feel the need to splurge from time to time. I coupon like crazy on other things and if I can’t afford something I want some week, I go with the next best healthiest option.

    • says:

      That’s funny…we just did the opposite.

      I’ve never eaten so much meat in my life and I have so much more energy than I ever have before. My hypoglycemia is completely gone now that I eat meat.

  • says:

    I don’t buy all organic by any stretch of the imagination but we do enjoy garden produce all year long by canning. This was my first year of doing so, and it’s been awesome to enjoy tomatoes all year long. That being said, I know it’s not the norm.

    I have found a number of great organic deals at Kroger by walking the natural section each time I’m there. I typically find a least a few items that are “manager’s specials” or “BOGO” that weren’t listed in the ad. I typically stock up especially when they’re not perishable. I’m still kicking myself for not grabbing more Annie’s Mac n’ cheese for $.50 a box a month ago. I felt guilty and only grabbed a few.

    In addition to the natural/organic section I buy organic produce when it’s on the clearance rack at Meijer. I bought a number of peppers today and plan to cut and dice them and then freeze for later use. : )

    • LYM says:

      “I’m still kicking myself for not grabbing more Annie’s Mac n’ cheese”

      Well, don’t! Organic processed food is still processed food and is a terrible value – almost no real nutrients for the money you spent. Make every dollar count by buying nutrient-dense food that truly nourishes the body.

      • says:

        So true LYM! Stick with whole, organic foods and avoid the organic processed foods and organic junk foods.

        Mary Ellen
        The Working Home Keeper

    • says:

      Annie’s Mac and Cheese is a life saver on days where I don’t have much time to make lunch. I know it is not super healthy but it is better than Kraft Mac and Cheese and my kids love it. If I saw it at .50 a bx Iwould have bought a bunch too!

  • Meredith says:

    Oh yes, like another reader said, email (or check out websites) companies directly. They love to send coupons/freebies/etc. We have been getting organic valley cream cheese for less than the processed sister version for months now!

  • kellie says:

    I recently went to Whole Foods and found a fruit/vegetable spray there for $5.99. It is called Rebel Green. It is proven to wash away a significant amount of surface pesticides waxes and chemicals, but only on produce.

    • says:

      Better than good old homemade soap (or Castille’s) and water?

      • Julie says:

        No need for the fancy sprays. I think it was Cook’s Illustrated but I read an article about a year or so ago where they tested the best method to clean product and good, cheap, and simple vinegar worked the best!

    • says:

      I just use diluted Dr. Bronners castile soap to wash our fresh produce 🙂
      I already have it in a foaming soap dispenser at my kitchen sink to wash our hands, so I just squirt some on the fruit/veggie and ‘scrub’ it for a few seconds and then rinse with water. Works great!

  • Jaclyn says:

    I only eat organic – 100%. I spend anywhere from 40-60 (this includes water & protein powder) a week for 2 people two pugs. One thing I would say is that you need to buy items that you will actually eat. Often people will go to the grocery store with good intentions and buy a ton of organic produce and most of it goes bad in the fridge because they don’t know what to do with it. This obviously can get expensive. Make a meal plan and try to stick to it!

    If you really care about eating healthy and staying on a budget – go vegetarian or vegan! Not buying meat, cheese, milk, and eggs really saves.

    I think someone already mentioned amazon and I second that – there are great deals. They often have amazing deals on organic/vegan products. I even see good deals on gluten free items.

  • says:

    We buy mostly natural/organic items for our house (in order to avoid chemicals, additives, GMO’s, etc…) and in order to keep my grocery budget down for our family of five, we buy much of it from Azure Standard (as others have mentioned). I love the the company so much that I had to chime in as well! They deliver once a month (and they deliver all over the country). I highly recommend them. We often get our organic produce for right around a dollar a pound. Granted, we buy it in bulk (often 20 lb. boxes) but it would be something you could easily share with another family — or as I do, freeze it or use it up in recipes throughout the month.

    ~ Jennifer

  • Rachel Disloquez says:

    I will chime in on trader joes being the best way to feed our family. I shop nowhere else for food. Everything I buy is free range organic grass fed etc. But even if you buy conventional or even convenience products from them, they have extraordinarily high standards for what can carry their label. No MSG. Low pesticides. No colors, no high fructose corn syrup. No gmo’s. And many more things that keep their products on my shelves. I spend about 150/wk if I cook everyday. Family of 5. Most weeks I can spend 75-90. They have GREAT prices. Which is what most people don’t know before stepping inside. Of I wasn’t such a stickler for organics and fancy stuff, I could spend less. I LOVE trader joes. I don’t run all over town, they have everything at one stop, they have delicious coffee and samples and helpful wonderful HAPPY employees who bend over backwards to make you happy.

  • says:

    Thanks for the information. After reading the article and all the comments, I have nothing to add. I do appreciate those who don’t add guilt or the fear factor to how we feed our families, when we are doing the best we can in our unique situations.

  • Emily Jo says:

    Buy from your local farmers!! I live in a farming community and in many cases it is MUCH cheaper than the grocery store. If you buy a half or a whole steer from a farmer chances are your steak will cost less than your hamburger simply because the processing charge is less. My family often butchers our own hogs and cows in the winter time.

    My dad owns a dairy and is very willing to sell his milk although in the state of Kansas you cannot advertise it anywhere expcept for within so many feet of your dairy barn due to DFA regulations. Dairy farmers are hurting and what you are paying in the store for your milk is NOT what they are receiving. I know of another local dairy farmer who did not have enough cows at one point for DFA to feel it was worth their while to pick it up. They now have a much better milk supply but have decided to sell out of their tank!

    I also love to support our local orchard and I got windfall apples for 35 cents a pound this fall. Windfalls are certainly fine for applesauce that I can freeze or can for the year, and my 2 and 3 year old loved “picking” apples. Just down the road another farmer sells me fresh eggs for $1 a dozen.

    You have to be willing to think outside the box as Crystal says in some instances, like when those hens arent laying well due to extreme cold or heat. But I love that because I have gotten to know these people and I know exactly whats in it or how its made I can feed it to my kids without having to worry about them getting Salmanila, seriously, if they did I would know EXACTLY where to go!

  • charity crawford says:

    Great post! I buy bulk from AZURE STANDARDS, make most every thing from scratch and buy local produce whenever possible….it is SO worth it…

  • Amanda Bailey says:

    I’ve been a crazy coupon woman for quite a while, and I get incredible deals on groceries AND i’m vegan and eat mostly organic, less-processed foods. I wait for the deals on the things that I eat and then I stockpile! Every Saturday, we go to the Farmer’s market to get all our produce for really cheap.

    (don’t want to preach here, but eating meat is one of the worst things for your health and the environment. , organic meat and dairy is very pricey, sometimes even more than their vegetarian counterparts.)

    I’ve been following moneysavingmom for a long time now, but I also put together my own deals for organic and natural foods. We do pretty well with Whole Foods Coupons, usually about 50-75% off the total.

    • Amanda says:

      Where do you get the Whole Foods coupons? What types of foods are you buying, and what meals are you making? I see organic coupons on, but usually they are for things we don’t use/eat.

      • says:

        You can get the Whole Foods Coupons from but they also have them in the fliers at the stores.

        Then I stack them with coupons from other websites.
        I also have REALLY good luck emailing manufacturers asking them for coupons. A lot of great organic/natural/vegan companies even send me several coupons for Free Items!

        I actually just started a new blog where I’ll be posting vegan and healthy match-ups to stores like Whole Foods and Publix AND I’m planning on posting a list of all the manufacturers that have sent me free or high-value coupons. It’s . Although, I credit moneysavingmom for teaching me the benefits of couponing in the first place =)

  • says:

    Check out your local farmers market the hour before it closes. Most of the vendors will significantly markdown and negotiate super cheap prices on local organic produce. Plus, you are stimulating your local economy by buying local.

  • Amanda Cooper says:

    Hi Crystal,

    I had to snicker a bit by your post because you mentioned Alaska. I am from Idaho but have lived in Alaska for the past five years. Let me tell you what…buying organic and “fresh” in Alaska is very expensive if not impossible. By the time produce and fruit reaches us (it has to be flown in or shipped up on a barge), the food is pretty much a couple of days away from spoiled. It is so frustrating. Fruit and veggies are my favorite foods and I have made the decision to pay more for them and cut back in other areas of my life. I can walk out of one of our grocery stores with one bag of fruit and a $50-$60 receipt. I went to Kroger today and cringed as I paid $5.99 for a small container of strawberries, $6.00 for a tiny package of raspberries, $1.27/lb for bananas, and $5.99/lb for grapes. This is just awful. Do you have any tips? We only have one or two natural food stores here and the price of their fruit is at least double and their quantity is so limited. Since we have winter here 9 months out of the year, a garden is not possible. The least expensive fruit I can find is apples and I don’t even like apples. Ugh…I am counting the days until I move back to the lower 48!

    • LYM says:

      Research the traditional diet of the Inuit. Before the foods of modern commerce came, they relied on whale & seal products, fish, and very little vegetable matter at all, but enjoyed exceptional health. The key is to eat completely unprocessed food and be sure to get plenty of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K2) in your whole, real food, and you can have fantastic health without resorting to trucked, out of season fruits that you may feel you “have to” have for good health.

      • Brittany says:

        I recently finished “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” and told my hubby if we ever moved to Alaska (or any other similar climate) that is exactly what we would be doing!

    • Jennifer says:

      Could you possibly plant an indoor container garden or plant things in pots? I’m not a gardener myself, but I’ve read several things grow well in pots.

    • Jen says:

      What about frozen fruits and veg? Would those be cheaper? My aunt and uncle lived in AK for a while and they too used to complain about how little produce they got. They’re hardcore meat and potatoes people, but even they said they missed fresh broccoli and stuff! Good luck!

  • Erin says:

    there have been so many good comments, I learned several new things and places I’m going to try. I belong to a bulk health food coop or group in my home town. our group gets a 10-13% discount off of the same products many healthfood stores carry. we split large cases among members and order once a month from . check to see if there is a group in your area.
    also, raise your own organic eggs by having your own little flock of chickens. Many towns and cities allow a backyard flock of chickens if you dont have a rooster, check with your city hall, etc.

  • says:

    Think about what produce you eat. In my stores, organic fruits are very expensive, but carrots and green peppers are inexpensive even when organic – so we now eat more veggies than fruits. Buying organic jarred applesauce is much cheaper than buying apples also, even though it’s not quite as good for you. We also use you-pick farms when it’s in season and try to get enough to freeze.

    Dairy is very important to eat organic. We always print the monthly coupons for Stonyfield milk, and the rest of the time we buy store brand organic milk. Egglands Best also has coupons that can be used for organic or cage free eggs. Not as good as locally sourced, but it all depends on why you’re buying organic.

    When we had a CSA, it actually raised our budget. I loved it, but it was too much food for us, and with a picky husband there were things we didn’t eat. Consider sharing a membership if you don’t use or store everything.

  • says:

    I just blogged last night a ton of organic coupons. It can be done. or click my name to see what I found.

  • Meg says:

    I think it all depends on what area you live in! We live outside Philly and the cost of living is high. We eat about organic fruits and veggies at least 50% of the time, joined a CSA, I garden, can and freeze, cook nearly everything from scratch (even ketchup!:), use coupons, all the stuff you’re supposed to do, and still have a hard time keeping it to $400/month. Eating better is worth it and I think its important not to focus so much on keeping the budget low, as keeping a reasonable budget considering the quality of your diet and the local prices.

  • Amanda says:

    Another great place to get boxed, canned and jarred organic items like pasta, sauces, beans, corn, cereal, bread and other things like this is Big Lots. It is hit and miss, but if you have the time and can stop and look around you can find some really good prices on organic items.

    • Erin says:

      You can also find organic foods at Ollie’s. I was shocked to find my son’s favorite organic tomato soup there.

      One other tip: Buy “moneymakers” or products that offer overage–even if you don’t want the products–to offset the cost of other items. I bought a bottle of bodywash last week and got $1.50 in overage toward my $3.19/half gallon organic milk. And keep an eye out for store coupons. I kept getting .50 coupons for store brand organic products. For some reason, it only recently occurred to me that milk was one of th0se products, and with coupon it was cheaper than the organic milk I usually buy.

    • says:

      I’ve gotten a lot of 100% whole wheat organic pasta there in the last year or so. It is marked $1.25/pound, but with the 20% off coupons it is even cheaper! Way better price then from Amazon in bulk boxes. And so much cheaper than any grocery store around here. It seems to be something they are carrying as that particular brand has been there consistently and in large quantities. Big Lots is worth checking.

      • Amanda says:

        oh, that reminds me. make sure to sign up for their frequent shopper card. you only have to make 10 $20 purchases a year and you earn a free 20% off coupon, they periodically do 20% off days.

  • says:

    I love these idea! I just started trying to avoid all processed foods and it can be very difficult. Since I am also on a tight budget it can be difficult. The biggest thing I have found is- you have to cook and bake some. I have found that if I make things ahead of time and then stick them in the freezer, I then have quick things to grab from the freezer. I make bread, muffins, mini donuts, quick breads, slice the bread after it has cooled and stick it in the freezer. Then I can grab and go if I need to.

    Also purchase foods in season – stock up if you can. Here in Michigan we have several pick your own farms in the summer. I pick strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and peaches. Then I make jam, can or freeze lots of them for later consumption. This way I get the best price- especially since you are doing the work of picking and they are fresh from the farm. It’s fun to take the kids too- the farms where we go encourage the kids to taste while they pick… my kids enjoy going and trying the fruit we are picking.

  • says:

    I have recently stopped couponing so much and tried focusing on eating healthier. I agree with Crystal with the coupons for toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, etc.. I have a large garden in the summer and try to can and freeze everything I get from it. I would like to buy a half of a cow and get it processed into hamburger, steaks, etc.. I know a few people who do this and it’s saves them big. Buying in bulk really saves money too. Baking from scratch is cheaper and healthier. I just made some homemade hamburger buns yesterday after refusing to pay $3.29 for a pack of 8 buns at the grocery store.

  • Bethany says:

    I wash all my fruits and veggies with a hydrogen peroxide solution. I take a large bowl, add about 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide and fill it with purified water. I let the fruit/veggies soak for 15-20 minutes. This eliminates the majority of the pesticides.

    • Emily says:

      Just wondering where you got this idea/information and how you know it removes most of the pesticides? It never would have occurred to me to wash produce with hydrogen peroxide. I usually just wash mine with water, although I’ve been thinking about trying one of the sprays that I see in the produce section of the grocery store.

      • Lea Stormhammer says:


        Don’t use the sprays in the store! They’re just diluted dish soap!

        Seriously, wash your veggies, fruits etc. the same way you wash your dishes – gently, with mild dish soap and hot water for a very short amount of time. That will remove the majority of the pestacides. If the fruit has a non-edible peal, you don’t need to wash it (i.e. bananas).

        Those sprays are a rip off….

  • says:

    I haven’t read through all the above, but we eat almost 100% natural and organic around here and are a family of 7 with dad temporarily on unemployment, and I’m a stay at home mama! How we do it in our home?
    -I ALWAYS write a meal plan. We are not rigid about it, and switch days around. I even plan some snacks as well. I can’t stress the meal plan enough, because without it we never would afford to eat naturally.
    -Soups are a great way to stretch the budget, where meat is not the “star” of the show, but is still in the diet. Moneysavingmom has a WONDERFUL hamburger vegetable soup recipe!
    -Learn not to waste a thing! Use up ALL your leftovers–we call them ‘smorgasborg’ meals, where everyone has something different, so we use up anything left over. Use the tops of celery, ends of carrots and simmer in water to make your own vegetable broth—
    -EVERY DAY be aware of what is getting old in your fridge, and use it up or chop it up and dehydrate it in a dehydrator or in a warm overnight with door open (during the night so little kiddos fingers stay away) You may have just bought grapes 2 days ago, but they could already be getting old, and need to get eaten up! You can dehydrate everything from fruits, for healthy dried fruits with no sulfates, to vegetables to have on hand to add to broths for quick, healthy soups!
    -Set goals to decrease your budget even more. For instance, anything processed you buy whether organic or not, you could probably make a huge batch ahead of time yourself, and save lots of money. Learn how to make your own cereal or granola, granola bars, dried fruit, and other items your family probably loves, but doesn’t fit in the budget!

    Hope these tips help you out!
    Blessings to your family!
    Joy Y.

    • says:

      Meal plans and not wasting are super important!!

    • LYM says:

      Use that dehydrator to make yogurt & jerky, too, and you can go even further in preparing natural, additive-free foods from your fridge for far less than the storebought equivalents!

      • says:

        Yes, I make those in there, too! Not to mention, rising bread, raw treats and cookies, fruit leather, every dried fruit and veggie you can imagine, homemade granola, dehydrating sprouted nuts and seeds….the list goes on and on. We have our dehydrator running almost 24 hours a day! Sounds like you get good use out of yours, too!


        • says:

          The fruit leather is amaaaaaaaazing…. 🙂

          • kjs says:

            How do you make that? I have always wanted to, but never knew how! 🙂

          • says:

            Fruit leather can be as simple as pouring applesauce onto a cookie sheet, spreading it thin, and putting it in the oven on its lowest setting for a few hours, to as complicated as cooking down whatever fruit you want, adding spices, spreading it thin on a dehydrator tray, and dehydrating it as low as you like for a day, then cutting it into strips or even shapes with cookie cutters!

    • Beth says:

      I love the “Smorgasborg meal!” lol, we do that too!

  • Erin says:

    I love all of the helpful suggestions and information here. I want to add my two cents, and it’s about grace. We do the best we can with what we’ve been given, and we trust in the timeless miracle that God is able to make it enough. I do whatever organics I can within the limits of my weekly grocery budget, creatively looking for ways to feed my family heathfully for less. It’s true what others have written- there are so many ways to eat whole, minimally processed foods affordably! In the end, though, my budget is my budget. And it’s important because it is what allows me to spend my days at home with my children — something to which I am certain God has called me. I guess my point is this: God’s ability to protect and strengthen my children is stronger than any pesticide or GMO’s ability to tear them down, and grace bridges the gap between what I can do and what He can do. Hasn’t it always? Even in taking care of my family.

    Thanks for all the good tips!

    • says:

      Well said!
      Even though my kids drive me crazy sometimes staying home with them is my calling.
      Basically, I could feed my family all organic food 100% of the time but I would have to get a full time job outside of the home to do it. The time I spend raising my children is far more important to me so I focus my budget on buying as much natural foods as possible and cooking from scratch.
      And just like Crystal, my kids do get the occational Happy Meal (I even get myself one too)!

  • Amy says:

    Great post Crystal and great comments everyone! We don’t eat all organic but we do buy some. We do eat a lot of whole foods. Yes, you can eat whole foods on a budget. Just remeber that your budget just might look different. But, like Crystal and others have said you just have to be creative to save. We all do what works for us and our families and do the best we can. We must remember to allow ourselves some grace. 🙂

  • says:

    Great advice! Right now, our grocery budget is $125/week for our family of 6 (three adults, three children). We eat organic/organically-grown and/or local foos. Our beef is local and grass-fed and our chicken, pork and eggs are local and pastured. I use alot of the strategies mentioned in the post.

    -I cook simple meal from scratch using whole ingredients – not only inexpensive but saves me time as a WOHM!

    -Shop for in-season fruits and vegetables at our farmers market

    -Visit local u-pick farms – also a fun family outing!

    -Buy extra fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market to freeze or can

    -Learned to make my own broths, dressings and spice mixes

    -I keep a small garden and fresh herb container garden

    -Shop a discount grocer (like ALDI) for non-food items. Or buy non-food items in bulk at a warehouse club

    -Shop the bulk bins at Whole Foods

    -Buy organic store brands like Whole Foods 365 or Trader Joe’s

    -I also use coupons when I can for non-food items like cat food, toilet paper, paper towels, detergents, razors

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  • Crystal says:

    Nope, not a Midwest thing. Just called I needed an easy dinner to serve one night and I had a bunch of Nature’s Own bread in the freezer. 🙂

  • Becky says:

    I appreciate this discussion and the emphasis on many ideas to feed your family well and not dwelling on one prescribed path. I think a sense of balance and feeling comfortable our own decisions is key. All of us want to feed our families well with the available time and money resources available (which will, of course, vary, even within families from time to time).

    Our family’s journey: Since our children’s birth, I’ve become much more aware of what we eat. We try to follow the “clean 15” and “dirty dozen” list when we’re able. For us, organic meat, eggs, and milk have become a priority (trying to avoid second-hand antibiotics). I too am trying not to compare our food budget to others (I’m in awe of some of the bargains some shoppers find – and I celebrate with you), but to feel good about the bargains I do find and the decisions our family is making.

    A few things I’ve found helpful along the way:

    *Calculating my time and energy into the money-saving equation (when possible): I just started making bread from scratch (making at least 2 or 3 loaves at a time and freezing the extras) because I find that I can fit that into my schedule and save money, but even though I make some baby food I buy jarred organic baby food too (store brand) because I find that convenience to be “worth it” (with a toddler and baby and the mealtime crunch).

    *As others have said, I buy bulk at farmer’s markets (and look for seconds or chemical-free, local – but not nec. organic – produce). Last summer, I found a basket of small, local, no-chemical peppers for $5; washed, chopped, and froze them into convenience food that I’m still using.

    *Making our food budget easy to manage – I’ve always had a budget for our groceries in my mind, but couldn’t find a budget software that I could stick to (never liked manual entry). For the past two months, I’ve been using the budget software “You Need a Budget,” which I love. We use credit cards (and pay them off each month), and I can easily download the transactions from my bank and credit card, then allocate what I’m spending (splitting Target purchases into “grocery” and other budget lines). No manual entry – yay! I’m able to monitor/follow my grocery budget more precisely now, which seems to be slightly reducing our overall grocery spending. I know many people like the cash method – it sounds great. I just haven’t been able to get it to work.

    Thanks so much, Crystal and others, for all of the great ideas!

  • says:

    I am working on a $50 budget for 4 people and it is difficult to get organic foods on that budget. But, I try to look for markdowns on organic items. We also buy enough produce to get our 5 a day for each person. I bake my own bread, grind my own wheat and we have a garden each year. Gardening really helps to offset high prices on produce especially if you freeze or can some of what you produce. As long as we are trying to do the best we can, I don’t think it is bad to buy sausage on sale for 28 cents and other things with coupons so you can focus the bulk of your purchases on fresh produce. We all do what we need to so we can either stay home with kids, pay off bills or whatever is important to us. We just need to try to do our best.

  • says:

    Crystal – we were definitely on the same exact wave length yesterday.

    For my Tasty Tuesday, I posted my evolution to Whole Food, Organic, Junk and every thing in between. My almond and organic milk sits side by side with Tropicana Fruit Punch. 😉

    It’s a hard balance and every one is so different. My saving money on produce, grain fed beef etc and the “dirty dozne” is in my drafts.
    Thanks for the great discussion in here. My posts comments opened my eyes as well, but it was more the sharing of everyone’s food evolution and we’ve sure all had it, and will continue to year by year.

  • Carol says:

    Wow, I have much to learn about organic foods! I used to have a more difficult time sticking to a budget of $400 a month for 2 people when I included paper products, cleaning products and health and beauty aides in that said amount. I learned extreme couponing about 3 years ago and I now shop at Walgreen’s only when there is a great money maker on a product. I will stock up on that product if it is something my family uses or for those products we don’t utilize, I choose to donate them. But, I am able to stock up on paper products, cleaning supplies, and hygeine products all for the price of tax. I bought all of the Pyrex dishes in my kitchen, as well as office supplies, first aide items, even my Sunday paper with the Register Rewards I earn. I was even able to purchase 21 basketballs to donate to church at the holidays, all with the profits I make doing extreme couponing. The point to my comments is that with the money I save on items I am able to get for minimal costs (tax and the cost of coupons from coupon clipping services) from Walgreen’s I then utilize at the grocery store. Not only do I go in and purchase whatever I want without worry, I now alot $250 a month on groceries.

  • Susan says:

    I would say take all the wonderful advice here and do the best you can with what you have. Also, I know this may be slightly off color from what most people who are reading this blog think, but take time to make yourself really educated on foods, don’t just listen to you may here on the news or read on the internet. Organic and non-GMO – I think we have been made to believe to some extent that we have to care a lot about this because if we don’t, we are doing everything we can for our families. Case in point…the dirty dozen. The Environmental Working Group that puts out this list doesn’t really satisfy me all that much. I haven’t been able to find an actual scientific write up of what they did for their experiment. They say that celery is very high on pesticide content, but unless they can show their methodology, I have some problems with that statement. How was the celery sampled? Was is washed and thoroughly cleaned before taking measurements? I don’t think most of us would give unwashed veggies or fruit to our families whether is is organic or not. Washing gets rid of most a lot of pesticide residue; pesticides are not necessarily leached into the vegetable itself. Many of the studies I have read in actual reputable scientific journals would specify sampling techniques and many of them come back with information very different than the Environmental Working Group. This is just one example of just thinking critically for yourself and not listening to media groups that are reporting on things that they just don’t have the know-how to report on.
    For me, I have a garden, not necessarily to be organic or even green; it is cheaper and I have a fun time doing it. This is the same reason why I make a lot of my own beauty products and cleaning products. I just enjoy doing it. (Although my own beauty products aren’t always cheaper, but it is a lot of fun) I also enjoy making other things. But if something is too expensive, makes me worry, or it is just a drag, I will do whatever I can to make it cheaper, more simple, and fun.

    • Jaclyn says:

      I had a family member with health issues and it caused me to take action – do the research and come up with my own conclusion. I wish I had done it sooner, that I had somehow been educated on this very important topic. I too read medical journal and studies but I also look at who fiananced those studies. Here are two books that I found eye opening: The China Study by T. Collin Cambell and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollin.

      I guess I just want to point out that if anyone is interested in this topic go out and do your own research – you won’t regret it! Libraries are great and if they don’t have a book you want ask for an interlibrary loan.

  • Susan says:

    One more thing…as for words you can’t pronounce on a food label, don’t let that guide you as to what to buy or not buy. Everything has a “chemically” sounding name, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. Examples: Tocopherol – vitamin E, docosahexaenoic acid – an omega-3 fatty acid. These are just a couple of widely known examples, but if you have a question about something on a label, look it up! Or ask someone who is an actual food scientist. Get their opinion. There are lots of them out there!

  • Sarah says:

    My trick is to find a bent and dent store and go every other month or so. They get overstock/close-to-date/outdated/dented items, many of which are organic, and VERY reasonably priced. We end up trying many new items (this month, it’s buckwheat), so we don’t get bored with the “cheaper” meals (chili with a little meat and a lot of beans, baked potato bar, etc.). And with the cheap prices, I can afford some organic “convenience” foods to supplement. They also have bulk sections, so I can get freshly milled flours and other baking goods and herbs for cheap.

  • Becky says:

    We buy a share from a local Community Support Agriculture (CSA) farm every year. We get 5-6 boxes of organic veggies for $205 and get a $200 rebate from our health insurance company. Can’t beat that value!

  • Leah says:

    As a single mama to a very big eater, I have learned that I have to prioritize. I work only part time, I do not want government benefits, and I have some hefty student loans to pay back, so I am on a strict budget. I choose not to eat out much (and to use coupons when I do) and to buy clothes second hand and allot more money to my grocery budget. My priorities right now are meat and dairy/egg products. I usually buy chicken and ground beef (the most affordable meats to buy grassfed/free range- I buy them at the local farmer’s market), and I buy local eggs and pastured dairy products. These products are the largest part of my grocery budget. I use the rest of my money on conventional produce, or organic if it is discounted/I have a coupon (Earthbound Farms offer great coupons and I can use them to get a lot of produce at the same price/less than non-organic). I buy many of my vegetables frozen. Occasionally, we eat conventional meat (maybe 10% of the time), but oh well. I’m doing the best I can.
    Anyway, my advice is to do your research and prioritize. Set a budget and stick to it. If you’re first priorities are covered, then go down the list to the “less important” stuff. If all you can afford are the first few priorities, then skip the rest and buy conventional. Avoid the most dangerous foods according to your own research/opinion (we don’t eat any GMO corn, for instance). And give yourself a break, you’re doing the best you can 🙂

  • Marcy says:

    Anybody know of something similar to “AzureStandard” that delivers in the Tennessee area?

  • Lauren Wilson says:

    After watching Food Inc., my husband and I made it a priority to buy all our meat, eggs, and milk from humane, local sources. We also eat quite a few organic fruits, vegetables, and beans. One idea is to go to your local farmer’s market near the end of the day. We often go about an hour before closing, and the farmers are willing to deeply discount any leftover items. The selection may not be quite as good as it is in the early morning, but it is still almost always fresher and better than what we find in our grocery store.

  • Jan says:

    Also watch for wild caught pacific salmon to go on sale- you can often find canned wild caught salmon at just about any store including Walmart and Big Lots! Wild caught salmon is the equivalent of “organic” fish- just don’t ever buy farm raised salmon- they are fed GMO corn.

  • Jan says:

    UNFI is another food co-op.

  • Jennifer says:

    If you live in the West, try .

  • Saralyn says:

    What is the difference between a CSA and a co-op?

    • Jerilyn says:

      A co-op is a group of people that go in on orders together- and can order directly from where whole foods, etc. orders from. A CSA is typically produce, or meat, even. Where you pay the farmer in advance and you get shares of the produce throughout the season. Both are great and you could do a co-op and csa at the same time, perhaps through the co-op.

  • A.S. says:

    Husband and I shop at Whole Foods once a week (produce, bread, dairy, pasta, etc.) and at Stop and Shop (we love their Nature’s Promise brand). We eat a mainly organic diet, based on vegetables and whole grains. Our weekly budget is $40 – $60. However, we are vegetarians (no meat, fish), and that helps a lot. We actually find Whole Foods to be comparable to other stores in many ways. They often have select organic fruit/veggies on sale every week, so I center our weekly meal plan on their produce sales. Thanks for the post!

  • Ellen says:

    We pick our own berries in the summer (and sometimes peaches, too!) and freeze them for use all year long. We also grow a simple garden, which supplies us with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and fresh herbs for the warmer months of the year.

    I also pick ALL of my GREEN tomatoes, wrap them in newspaper, and store in the basement until they ripen. We usually have fresh tomatoes until December!!!

    • Sara says:

      If you are southern, you would slice those green tomatoes, bread them with a little cornmeal and a generous serving of salt and fry them till soft and golden brown in hot oil in your grandmother’s cast iron skillet. Oh…wait…we’re talking about healthy food here! 🙂

  • Ellen says:

    “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver is also an excellent read that got the wheels turning in my brain about how our family could reduce our carbon footprint, eat more locally, and produce more of our own food ourselves. Really inspiring book.

  • says:

    I feed my family for $75 /week (that’s for 2 adults and 3 small children). We eat only lean meats, whole grains, and at least 6 servings of f &v daily.

    I follow the same advice that Crystal gave above. One area that we skimp on for this season of paying off debt is buying organic. I am planning on increasing our budget once we have reached our goal in order to buy more organic products. But I plan on only buying the dirty dozen organically. I would rather my family eat 6 servings per day of f/v than only 3-4 organic servings.

  • says:

    I never did coupons because I buy 80% organic items for my family. I decided to try it on just things like toilet paper, toothbrushes, etc. at first. I was then AMAZED to find all the ways that I can save on organic items as well! I just completed my first month of trying a grocery budget of $20/person/mnth and can say that I am right on track! I still have $63.29 left over for a few essentials this week!

  • JuliB says:

    The Chicago Tribune mentioned and I’ve found a couple of places that have grass fed cows, etc. I’m looking forward to it!

  • says:

    I don’t know if I can add more than has already been added, but I feed a family of 3 (2 adults 1 toddler that eats enough bread/fruit as an adult) on $200/month for a mostly organic/natural diet. I think the most important thing to do is to decide which foods are MOST important to you to buy organic and then work the rest of your budget around that. Cutting out most processed foods also saves a bundle. Then try the tips suggested.

    Mari @ Green & Thrifty

  • Sarah says:

    Keep your eyes peeled for deals on the daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. I’ve been seeing quite a few deals for natural food stores and CSAs in my area (Northern California). There’s a Living Social deal just today in Oakland for The Food Mill.

    I’ve also seen some nationwide deals for organic products that ship anywhere in the US.

    • Sarah says:

      Forgot to mention if you have a Chinook Book in your area they have a TON of awesome coupons for organic items.

  • says:

    I have switched to using ground turkey instead of ground beef. While farmers are allowed to treat the turkeys with antibiotics if necessary, it is against USDA regulations for them to be given growth hormones and steriods. While it may not be better than organic, grass fed beef, it is better than what we get in the stores.

  • Jerilyn says:

    We eat mostly organic/free-range/etc. We belong to a co-op and that is why we can afford to do this. We spend 400 dollars a month- groceries, misc. items, blow money etc. all lumped in one 😉

    We buy raw milk- to drink, to make yogurt and buttermilk from. It costs $8 a gallon and we restrict to 1 1/2 gallons per week. I water this down for recipes etc. as there is 3 inches of cream on top of the jar.

    We buy eggs and meat from local farmers. Buy in bulk (like half a cow) if possible.

    We buy organic fresh produce. I still buy conventional frozen fruit etc. for smoothies because of cost. Maybe this summer I can build up enough u pick etc. to freeze.

    This is slightly more than we used to spend on groceries and my two little boys eat a ton (3 & 1- what are the teen years going to be like!?!?!) but the farmers we support through our co-op get 77 cents to 82 cents per dollar back, which is way more than conventional farmers. I like knowing that I am not only giving my family the best, but I am helping a farmer provide a living wage to his family and he is putting money back into his farm and taking care of the earth. It was worth it to my family. I rarely ever used coupons for food anyways because most of those foods are just not nutrious.

  • Amanda says:

    Would anyone mind sending their “simple, made-from-scratch” meal recipes? I have been a vegetarian my entire life, but my family was not. My mother made meat as a main dish, and I either ate the “sides” as my meal or had cereal. Meaning, I never really learned to cook. Now I am married with children and step-children who all like meat. I feel like I have to “cook” a meal for the meat-eaters, and then make a second meal for myself, and quite honestly, as a full-time working mom, I don’t have the time for it. Also, I am embarrassingly, ridiculously picky… I don’t eat meat, tomatoes, eggs, etc., so this makes the whole food thing even harder. I would really, really appreciate any very simple and quick, healthy, vegetarian meal ideas.

    Also, on another note: being as incompetent as I am in the kitchen, when other commenters have said that they stock up on farmers’ market fruits/veggies in the summer and freeze or can them, how do you do it? I mean, is freezing fruit really that simple- you just wash and freeze? I have heard that you have to blanch veggies before freezing them. I have never blanched. And where do you find simple instructions for beginning canners?

    Thanks for any info.

    • Mrs. M. says:

      I have been a Lacto-OVO Vegetarian for the past year because of necessary. Cooked all meals for the entire family from the age of 11.
      Buy Frozen fish sticks in one pound packages and take out what you need. Continue to prepare vegetarian meals just ad a side of meat or cheese casserole or sea food. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes. The kids must have milk every day. Try canned milk and reconstitute. Buy 32 oz pkgs of bulk cereal containing dried fruit and sweeten with honey, pour reconstituted canned milk on the cereal. Use honey to sweeten cereal and brewed tea. Add dried green vegetables to any meal that will boil for 25 minutes. Purchase dried vegetables in bulk. Make sure the kids have fruit (dried okay), milk, green vegetables, tomatoes and plenty of vitamin C daily. Meals take 45 minutes max to prepare at night for the entire family. Macaroni & cheese, Lasagna, tuna noodle casserole, fish and chips, cheese hoagies. If you can’t stand meat or to prepare it buy case lots of TV Dinners you cannot deprive the kids of milk, vitamin C, green vegetables or tomato. Since my teens I have been around Vegetarians who are hospitalized because of immune bad health. Buy Bulk TV dinners & soup & canned milk.

  • Beth G. says:

    Check out She did a series where for 100 days her family switched to healthy/real food and away from processed. Next, she did a 100 day series of “real food on a budget”. I learned a ton about buying healthy food on a budget!

  • Mrs. M. says:

    Grow tomato, lemon and herb plants. All will flurish in a Sunny Window, planted in large flower pots or large plant boxes. Follow instructions for indoor vegetable plants and indoor herb gardens also drying herbs. Buy whole dried peas in bulk and dried green vegetables in bulk include small amounts in dishes that boil for half an hour. Buy dried cheeses and make all your favorite dishes by adding the appropiate cheese. Buy cereal in bulk from the manufacturer. Most major cereal companies have 32 oz packages of cereal mixed with dried fruit.

  • Ashley says:

    Well I put this to the test yesterday at Publix! I still stayed within my budget of $100 a week! I was so surprised! I always use coupons and we always eat probably half processed, half natural foods. But I bought a gallon of organic milk, a ton of fruits and vegetables, very good for you bread, good meat, etc. Before tax I spent $87 and saved $57! I was very excited! I’m feeding a husband with a very large appetite, a toddler that never stops snacking, and myself (I am also nursing so my appetite is very large right now!). Thanks for the motivation!

    Oh BTW, I didn’t buy organic fruits and vegetables this time but plan to make a slow transition for the dirty dozen!

  • Ashley says:

    I was also wondering if anyone knew of someone in the Birmingham, AL area that sells grass fed beef for a good price! All the ones I’ve read up on are SO expensive!!!! More expensive than the grocery store! Yikes!!!

  • says:

    wow-good post and great comments!
    We’re a family of five, on a $340 a month grocery budget, and we’ve just started transitioning to an organic/whole foods diet. I now cook and bake most everything we eat from scratch, and I’m learning how to make more from scratch each week 🙂 My goal is to be at 100% organic by the end of this year.

    Right now I shop at Coscto and Meijer, but this summer I’ll be replacing the Meijer with farmers markets and U Pick farms. I’m also starting a container garden this year-first time I’ve gardened and I’m so excited to try it 🙂

    I also just started using my swagbucks gift cards to buy organic food on Amazon-next week I’m getting organic oatmeal and organic popcorn kernels free this way!

    I think eating healthier/more naturally is possible on a budget but you just have to get creative 🙂

    Also-one tip is to check and see if you have a local bread outlet. I can get organic loaves of whole wheat bread (and several other choices like flax seed etc) for $1.39 and I can’t make it for that cheap. I’m in Michigan and use an Aunt Millie’s outlet-they’re in different states too

  • says:

    I love this because I love when people discover that they can eat naturally and even organically and do so on a budget! We have a family of four (including an infant who doesn’t eat a whole lot, yet), and we spend $61 a week on our groceries. We eat mostly organic and otherwise all-natural foods.

    I use a ton of coupons, maximize on sales, and am a part of an organic produce co-op. I actually host my group, and that saves us a whole lot! There are so many ways to be creative and trust the Lord to provide. He always does, and we are so very thankful!

  • says:

    Great tips! I know the struggle of trying to buy organic and natural on a budget. Its so hard and sometimes you gotta compromise and buy regular stuff. I buy a head and stock up as much as I can. I also try to only do one “meat” meal a week. it helps keep the cost down.
    Again, Great tips though! I love reading them!

  • says:

    I really agree with your point to join a co-op it is a great way to support local farmers and it also provide jobs to people in your area. I also find they have the best prices. Thank you so much for the tips

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