Why does healthy food have to be so expensive?
Regardless of where you live, I think we can all agree that healthy foods can be more expensive than unhealthy food. This post will show you how to save money on produce, meat, and grains and afford healthy food for your family on a budget.
This month, I will be focusing on how to afford healthy food, even on the slimmest of budgets.
Today’s post is an overview of how to start looking for lower prices for healthy foods. These tips apply to both organic and non-organic foods, since they focus on getting whole foods for your family on a budget.
Throughout this month, I will have posts that feature tips on how to lower your expenses on certain types of items like meat, produce, and snacks.
Stay tuned and check out the rest of the series. I will link them at the bottom of this post as I put them up on the site.
Be aware of sticker shock (and learn to move past it)
Sometimes when we think of healthy foods, we think of all those specialty, packaged foods that are available at health food stores.
While many of those do have good ingredients and can taste delicious, they can trick us into thinking that we have to spend lots of money on healthy foods.
Instead, the opposite is true. When you break down a food into its individual ingredients, they tend to be less expensive as a whole because you’re not paying for processing.
Similarly, if you’re able to buy locally, especially in the case of produce and meat, you don’t have to pay for transportation expenses.
While buying all the ingredients for a recipe might be more expensive up front, you are typically purchasing a whole package of something, not just what you need for that recipe. Once you break it down to just what you need, the cost different isn’t quite so drastic.
Here are a few ways to purchase real, whole foods for your family without breaking the bank.
Stick with lower cost ingredients
When it comes to eating healthy foods, there are some that just naturally cost less than others.
You can save money by basing your meals off of less expensive ingredients.
- Ground beef and chicken are cheaper proteins than steak.
- Fruits and vegetables that grow in your area are going to be cheaper than those that have to be imported, like exotic fruits.
- Rice, oatmeal, beans, and/or pasta can be used to bulk up a meal without compromising quality for cost
The same can be said for specialty spices or sauces. Depending on what they are, sometimes you can find similar ones to substitute so you don’t have to buy the one that is more expensive.
Depending on where you live, fruits and veggies can be pretty cheap if you buy them while they’re in season and they’re something that can grow near you (or you can even grow them yourself). You can freeze them for use during the winter (if you don’t live in a perpetually warm climate) or you can look for fruits and veggies in your freezer aisle as they usually tend to be priced pretty reasonably.
Buy in bulk (but only for what you’ll actually use)
Buying in bulk can be an awesome way to save money in the long term, though the initial purchase may cost overall due the volume of food you’re purchasing.
Some of my favorite things to purchase in bulk are meat and grains.
Whether you want to purchase organic and/or grassfed meat, or you want to purchase it convetionally raised, buying meat in bulk directly from the farmer can cut costs drastically per pound of meat.
This is due to not having so many expenses for the transportation, storage, and marketing of the meat, since halves and quarters of animals (typically beef, lamb, or pork) are designated to customers before the animal even goes in to be processed. Sometimes you can even have a say on how your portion of the animal is processed so you can get cuts that you’re more likely to use.
Sometimes with purchasing in bulk, however, you’ll end up with some cuts you may never have heard of before. These can be a wonderful opportunity to expand your horizons and learn how to cook something new.
A short plug for my parents’ farm – if you’re in Central/Western Iowa or Eastern Nebraska, Thankful Harvest offers beef, lamb, pork, chicken and eggs (subject to current inventory). If you’re not in their delivery area, the website Eat Wild can help you find similar farmers in your area.
If you’re a baker, buying your grains and/or flour in bulk can save you quite a bit per pound versus buying it in smaller bags at the grocery store.
I just picked up bulk bags of rolled oats and bread flour from my Azure Standard order last week. We were using those too products so quickly that it was getting expensive to buy them in small quantities, so bulk it was!
While this wouldn’t be a good idea for purchasing a grain/flour you’ve never used before, once you’ve tried it and know you want to get more, it can definitely save you money!
As you shop for your family, one tip to help you afford healthy foods is to buy them when they’re at or near their lowest price.
You can typically find these prices when a store does big sales around a certain type of food, such as picnic food near Memorial Day or baking supplies around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
When you see things that you need are on sale, depending on what they are, you can stock up while they’re at a lower price.
Keep a price list
This tip works really well when paired with sales so you can learn when certain things usually go on sale.
You can do this by keeping a paper or digital list that includes:
- Name/package size of the food
- What store you found it at
- While sale/time of the year you found the price
Once you do this for awhile, you’ll be able to see when the healthy foods on your list are the cheapest so you can stock up on them without paying full price.
Don’t just shop at one store
If you live in a more rural area like I do, this can be harder than if you live in a big city.
However, if you keep a list on non-perishables and stock up on them during a larger shopping trip to the nearest “big” town, you can save compared to buying one can or box at a time from your local grocery store.
While I have nothing against local grocery stores, and we should still support them so they can stay open, but sometimes it can help to save money by purchasing non-perishables elsewhere and shopping at these stores for things like milk, eggs, and produce.
I hope these tips can help you save some money when it comes to buying healthy food for you family.
While local, organic foods are wonderful choices for feeding our families, conventionally-raised whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products can be as well.
Whether you’re just starting to look for whole foods and aren’t ready to move on to organic, or you’ve been eating organic foods for years, we can all benefit from cost-saving tips for buying groceries.
What are your biggest struggles when it comes to affording healthy food?
Check out my Real Food on a Budget series:
- How to Afford Healthy Food on a Budget (you’re here!)
- How to Save Money on Grass-fed Organic Meat
- Where to Find Affordable Organic Produce (and tips for how to get the best deal)
- How to Get the Most Nutrient Dense Food for Your Money
- More posts on the way!
Linking up with Rosie