Keeping Expenses Low While Eating a Healthy Diet

Be sure to read Is It Expensive to Eat Healthy Food, Part One and Is It Expensive to Eat Healthy Food, Part Two if you missed them!

The choices our family has made, in our effort to eat as healthy as possible, have definitely caused an increase in our grocery budget - not to mention the fact that our boys are now eating a lot more food than they used to eat.  I don’t feel like our eating habits can necessarily be called “expensive” to maintain, because we are making what we feel is a wise investment in our health.  But yes, it does cost more to eat healthy, whole foods than it costs to eat lower quality foods.

I do what I can to keep our expenses as low as possible.  Some of the following ideas may work for you.  Some of them may not.  I’ll just share the tricks I’ve tried that have worked for us with the hope that you’ll find some new ideas that may work for you too!  I will likely go into more detail on each of these as we continue on with our No More Excuses series.  So hang with me!

How I Keep Our Expenses Low While Feeding My Family a Healthy Diet…

1.  We eat basic, simple meals.

Scroll through all of the Bread and Breakfast, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Condiments recipe ideas listed all over my site.  None of those recipes are expensive to prepare.  Or, if it is a little pricier, I balance it with a meal that is super inexpensive.  Remember how I sometimes stretch a chicken to last give us six meals?

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread – just over $1.00/loaf!

2.  I cook from scratch if at all possible.

As far as I could figure, it costs me just over $1.00 to bake one loaf of Honey Whole Wheat Bread, which is 100% Whole Grain, no corn syrup, organic ingredient filled, top knotch bread.  I’m sure if I broke down other recipes I would find that making food from scratch saves us all kinds of money.  Every once in a while I splurge on store-bought packaged food, because my sanity appreciates the sacrifice.  But overall, I try to make as much as I can so that I keep our expenses much lower.

3.  We rarely eat out.

Eating out as a family is not an option that we ever fall back on, except for the very occasional splurge while traveling or rare special occasion or treat.  This saves us so much money, making it possible for us to put our hard earned dollars toward healthy ingredients for eating well at home.  For more information and inspiration, read this post titled:  Eating Out Less.

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4.  We try to think outside the box.

We have researched, asked around, and figured out that there are many ways to save money on healthy groceries by shopping online, through health food co-ops, through local farmers and just by asking the right questions.  Many people now call us and offer us their leftover fruit from trees and bushes because they know we’ll love it.  Bartering and trading have been a wonderful way to gain access to healthy food for free or cheap.  And remember how I shared that talking to a local grocer proved to be a great way to get organic produce for a much lower priceTry this idea – it never hurts to ask!

5.  We found a food co-op that provides great prices on great foods.

Our healthy food co-op, Azure Standard, saves us loads of money on healthy foods.  Check out the following post to help you find local co-ops that might be of service for you where you live:  What Health Food Co-op Is Near You?

In addition to those ideas, we buy food in bulk, stock up when food is in season or on sale, can and preserve foods from our own garden, grind our own flour, and otherwise work as hard as we can to find ways to feed our family for as little as possible.  Look over Our Whole Foods Pantry, Freezers, and Refrigerators Resources page to see a huge list detailing where we find most of our food.

As you work to eat a healthy diet and keep your expenses low, always remember that God is in control, and he knows your heart!

Coming up next in the No More Excuses series:  With All the Conflicting Information Out There, What Does “Healthy” Even Mean?!

I know you are also working as hard as you can and doing the best you can to keep your expenses low.  Share what works best for you as you work to stay within your grocery budget.  I love that we can all learn from each other!

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Comments

  1. Nicole Stoddard says

    We eat out only once a month or less, and use meat as a condiment in meals. I try to have two side dishes at dinner that are vegetables, or plenty of veggies mixed into the main dish. Also, we are on a cash only budget for groceries, so we have our budget and it is easy to stick to because of this. We spend about 80-100 bucks a month, and since we use cash once the money is gone, we are done shopping. That has saved us the most money.

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  2. says

    I contest that eating healthy is not more expensive than junk. For example check out http://www.100daysofrealfood.com and Wildly Affordable Organic. Both of which took “food stamp” challenges to prove you could eat whole foods on less than a food stamp budget. Wildy Affordable Organic has recently switched over to a vegan plan for many reasons, but the original plans were vegetarian and included homemade yogurt, etc.

    That and the documentary Forks over Knives have changed our view point on how we fuel our made in His image bodies. We are perfect yet, but we sure are trying to do a better job. Your blog has given me some very helpful insight and believe me I point people to it as often as I can.

    Thanks for all you do!

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    Lisa Reply:

    The food stamp challenge sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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    Brandyn Reply:

    My only contrary thought to your comment is that some people don’t even have a ‘food stamp equivalent’ budget for food. My family of 4 squeaks $75~100/week for groceries, toiletries, diapers, cleaning products, etc…basically everything that isn’t ‘Tithe & Bills’…we WISH we could get FS! {{We try about once a year, lol}}

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  3. says

    I am on the envelope system so I pay with cash. When the cash is gone I am done spending on food. I also make most things from scratch. I have started buying some foods on line which is a huge savings. I buy things like real butter from Sams Club in bulk. Preparing for the future helps alot.

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  4. says

    I wish Azure Standard came to OH! We do belong to a CSA, even in the winter and get a ton of local food that way. We have gotten to know some farmers directly and buy meat in bulk. There is even a farmer’s market here that goes year round (it moves indoors in the winter) and we try to go there a couple times a winter to stock up on local foods like butter, honey, meats, cheeses, etc. It really does help us eat better when we eat locally.

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    Jennifer Hooper Reply:

    Where are you in OH that you can get a CSA in the winter? We are in OH too but I dotn’w know that our local CSA starts again until May.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    Hi Jennifer, I am in NE Ohio and the CSA is out of Cleveland. They do have a summer one that runs every week, the winter one runs every 2 weeks. It is called Fresh Fork Market. In the winter it is more meats, dairy, eggs, pasta, baked goods, canned stuff, etc with as much produce as they can get us, which is a lot in the late fall and really only lettuce right now, but will be more later again.

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    Jennifer Hooper Reply:

    Thank you so much! We are about 1.5 hours south of Clev. but it is nice to know that there is that option!

  5. says

    I just wanted to say that I have learned so much from you over the years. As we continue to add children to our family, it has become more and more necessary to save in the grocery department of our lives. I am always searching for healthy/cheap recipes to keep my large family well fed. Thank you for taking the time to blog about all of the ways we can do that! Just wanted to share a new recipe I came across which is fairly cheap to make and VERY healthy. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/quinoa-and-black-beans/detail.aspx

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    Kim Reply:

    Kara, this is my new favorite recipe. I just started making it a few weeks ago and bring it for lunches every day at work. It is so tasty and ot only do I like the health benefits of the black beans and quinoa, I love that it’s low in calories as I’m working on losing some weight. Plus, I feel full the rest of the day when I have a double serving of this (which is 1 cup and only 152 calories. ) And it’s definitely cheap. I recently found Quinoa at Costco for $9.35 for a 4 pound bag and I don’t remember how many servings I figured it would make, but I know it will last me for 4 lunches/week for about 4 months. That’s a pretty cheap lunch since all the other ingreadients are low cost as well.

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    Lisa Reply:

    Thank you SO much for sharing this recipe! I’ve been on the lookout for new, affordable, high-protein recipes (23 weeks pregnant and hungry all the time!). Can’t wait to try this!

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    Kim Reply:

    Lisa,
    This recipe definitely keeps me feeling full, I wish I had found it when I was pregnant. By the way, congrats on the pregnancy!

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  6. says

    We grow everything we can! We have purchased fruit trees, berry bushes, and grape vines (waiting to purchase them off season). We grow a big garden, and then we perserve all we can and give the rest to struggling families. Those it took a couple years to get things going each year our little 1/2 acre lot offers up more organic produce. We now buy very little produce leaving more room in the budget for meat, dairy, etc.

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  7. says

    This winter I have been trying to make at least one soup and one chili a week. They are filling, warming, healthy and cheaper than the usual meal. They also tend to last a dinner and a lunch the next day. I have several chicken soup recipes (spicy, noodles, rice, dumplings) and I make veggie chili, meat and bean chili and occasionally a stew. It prevents us from getting tired of the same old thing.

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  8. trisha says

    I’m looking to become more disciplined in our grocery budget this year or at least more intentional.

    One thing I’m having a hard time wrapping my little brain around is why is it that we (ok, perhaps not you) do not give much of a thought to spending several dollars on an individual “snack” (probably more junk than anything) but yet don’t want to spend more than a dollar or two (per person) for a real MEAL. The thing that nourishes us and gives us health.

    Yep it’s time for me to stop buying certain items and watch my costs go down (or at the very least replace them with better things). I need to come up with better “snack” items for my family since I see that as the biggest issue for us right now.

    Oh, and thanks for breaking down what you budget to buy (it’s been awhile since that post). Thinking in those terms, allowing x-amount for produce, x-amount for milk, x-amount for eggs really helped me last year to just suck it up and budget for 3 gallons of milk a week (since both dh and I really didn’t want to restrict milk drinking). Instead of cringing at the thought of spending that money that way, I just sigh and say that is where we are at and it’s ok. I do need to reevaluate how much I want to spend and break it down into those categories better.

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  9. Jessica says

    Seems to a theme among bloggers right now! Check out Stephanie’s post yesterday at Keeper of the Home. She’s got a great book on this too. I need to get more aggressive at sourcing local, frugal options. Its so tempting to just go get it at Sam’s, but I know the quality of the food is sometimes much better from small, local producers.

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  10. Kim says

    I don’t know if you plan on covering this in your series or if there is any way to even give a “cost” to this, but the savings in medical expenses from eating healthy is big as well. I think most people have heard that Diabetics can often go off medications by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise. And my mom, who has Rheumatoid Arthritis, has eliminated all her medication except for one low-dose pill by following a Gluten-Free diet. And I think most everyone knows that healthy diet and exercise keeps weight down and minimizes or eliminates many health problems. And while I’m no expert and I don’t personally know of any valid studies, I do personally believe that the more natural and true-to-form a food is, the better is for you health-wise (for example real butter vs. lower fat and lower calorie margarine or Raw Whole Milk vs. pastuerized Fat Free Milk). I believe God created our bodies and natural foods to work together perfecting and I think a lot of this processed and GMO foods are very much against what God made for us to live healthy lives. I sometimes wonder if a lot of diseases do exist because we’ve altered the foods God made for us. That’s just my opinion. I am definitely not perfect in following the best diet and what I believe is healthiest, but I’m working on improving and I agree that spending a little more up front is much more beneficial financially in the long run.

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  11. Gail Medaris says

    Thank you for all wonderful information! I need to check into Azure Standard. I was reading another blog and it said that you were in NE, I am in NE so I guess I need to find out if they deliver in our area! What farmers do you use for your milk, eggs, dairy and meat? Oh, I would also love some natural body products, we also have very sensitive skin in this house!

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    Laura Reply:

    If you want to email me, I can give you more of that info: laura @ heavenly homemakers dot com :)

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  12. Lisa says

    One of my favorite simple ways to incorporate healthier foods on a budget it to take advantage of Winco’s bulk bins. They have whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastas, and a large selection of raw nuts, to name a few. I’m sure I could make some economical loaves of homemade bread with ingredients from the bulk bins if I could find the time (we both work full time outside the home and have our first baby on the way). Maybe this Christmas I’ll ask for a bread maker!

    I also wanted to add that I appreciate your simple, basic recipes. I can usually whip up one or two on a weekend for us to have during the week. The biggest favorite in our house is your Sloppy Joes – and my husband doesn’t usually like Sloppy Joes! I’m grateful to have this resource as our family grows but our income remains the same!

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  13. Tricia says

    The #1 thing I do to save money is plan our meals and stick to it as best as I can. I first plan around what we already have in the house and then what is on sale and in season. I’ve found that planning/shopping for 2 weeks worth of meals instead of weekly has also saved us money.

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  14. Katie says

    As we have taken steps on our journey of eating healthier, I have done a few things to maintain our same budget…Instead of purchasing various boxed snack foods (even if they are “healthy”), I try to make snacks from scratch, or have the kids choose something like a piece of cheese or fruit. We do make a lot of popcorn with an air popper for snacks as well. I am so thankful to have Azure available to us, as well as Costco. I am able to get organic butter at Costco for about $7.50 for two pounds. Costco also has quite a bit of organic produce, organic canned tomato products, organic pasta, and much more. I buy raw milk from a little creamery down the road for $7.00 a gallon and get eggs locally for $3.00 a dozen. We have cut out cereal, which helps with the budget and reduces the amount of milk we go through…but it has increased greatly the number of eggs we go through (5 dozen a week for a family of 6). We also pick blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries (that grow wild EVERYWHERE here) in the summer and freeze them and make freezer jam. I am able to get some peaches from a friend that I can, get organic apples pretty cheap and make applesauce, and my husband hunts so we usually have a freezer full of game meat. We buy our wheat once a year from Wheat Montana and use it for all of our baked goods. I do have a garden, but it is a work in progress and I do not usually get much extra from it that can be put up for the winter, but we do enjoy it when it is in season.

    I really don’t know how I would stay within our budget if we didn’t put a bunch of food away in the summer and if I did not have Costco and Azure available to us. I am very thankful to live in an area that has such an abundance of good whole food choices available to us, and quite a bit of produce that grows wild or quite easily here.

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  15. Shirley S. says

    I too love Tropical Traditions’ products. It would be great to win this one !

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    Marsha M Reply:

    You commented on the wrong post.

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  16. Sea says

    One of my favorite things is to see what the store has for reduced and buy what I can- milk, eggs, chicken. Most of the items they reduce can be used in a timely manner or frozen. Also I sure enjoy reading your menu plan and recipes- because they are so simple and easy but healthy!

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  17. Greener Cleaning Mom says

    Just found this article through a Facebook link. This is one of my biggest frustrations as a wellness professional. I hear this excuse that they can’t afford to eat healthy. I love how you share that it is possible. I have a full time job and home based business, so grinding wheat and baking bread is more time consuming and not part of my plan to eat healthy on a budget, yet not eating out and making soups from scratch are definitely doable for me and how I choose to be healthy. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.

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  18. Leah says

    we are just switching over to organic and healthy foods and it’s sooo expensive! we want to buy grass fed beef but the butchering season here is in november–plus we need time to save up that amount. we’ve drastically cut our consumption of meat (although we love it!) and have been using lots of dried beans for our protein. i’ve managed to find some grass fed organic beef at kroger and i asked the meat manager when he marks them down and he was kind enough to tell me EXACTLY when–down to the time :) how awesome! never hurts to make friends with the meat manager! (or the produce manager in laura’s case!)

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  19. says

    You know I was thinking this morning about someone who told me that they couldn’t afford to eat the way we do, it was just too expensive… As I thought this over, knowing their income is much more (double!) than ours, it really is mostly about priority. We are no where near perfect but we eat pretty healthy, mostly real foods and we have a tiny budget. I try to spend about 125 a week on food AND toiletries/household items (this even includes my make up that I buy every few months). Buying more produce is more important to me than a new top. Buying grass fed beef and non homogenized whole milk from the local dairy is more important to me than having a data plan for our cell phones. It doesn’t mean I’m a better person and I don’t want to come across as haughty. I’m just saying that it’s not always affordability. Sometimes we need to really think about what our priorities are! :)

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  20. Mia Hanna says

    There is hope for people with limited budgets who still want to feed their families well. We have a family of 6 and have one income. I had to be creative to show my husband that we could eat well and not go over my small monthly grocery budget. I email my favorite organic companies and they are always willing to send me great coupons and samples to try their products. We have a natural food s co-op that uses co-op advantage. Twice a month, I plan my shopping trip around their sales and coupons and stock up on things I need at more then half the cost. We have winter five months out of the year, so I freeze or can whatever is available in the summer. I go in on larger items through the co-op truck with a friend to split the cost. Sometimes it does take more time and planning, but it is worth it.

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