Very Limited Income for Real Food Purchases

farmers_market

Apparently I have declared it to be Real Food Budget Week here at Heavenly Homemakers.  There’s just a lot to say about real food and money…so I just keep going with this subject.  :) If you missed the other posts, be sure to read Our Real Food Grocery Budget 2011 and No Grocery Budget Comparing Allowed.  

Several have asked me to offer suggestions for how to eat a Real Foods diet while cutting back on the budget because of a super low income.  This is a hard question for me to answer because I feel that it is very important to invest money in good foodVery important.  If you recall, I used to be a Coupon Queen and spend only about $100/month on groceries back when we had only two kids.  I’ve come a  long way since then, learning about real food and health.  I now understand that food is NUTRITION for our bodies…and we need to be careful and intentional about what we feed our families.  It costs money to eat well, there’s no way around it…more money than it costs to feed our families food that contains little or no nutrition. 

At one point during our family’s Healthy Eating Journey, we were making less than $29,000/year (with no benefits) for our family of six.  We were still able to eat a healthy diet, because we made it a priority and because we were creative and because God is good and provides…all the time.

For some of you, $29,000 sounds like peanuts…for others,$29,000 sounds like a fortune.  If you’re barely making ends meet, what are you to do?

The question has been presented to me from a reader with a very low income and a family of five:  How would you eat a whole foods diet on only $50/week?    What would you cut out?  What would you keep?

First let me say that whole foods or not…it would be very hard to feed five people with $50/week and I would encourage you to find a way to supplement that budget if at all possible. In my next food budget post (because this truly is turning into a little series!), I’ll talk about food budget creativity and share how I was able to help supplement our family’s grocery budget when we needed to spend more on groceries but didn’t have the cash flow!

For now I will address, as best as I can, what I would do if I was only able spend $50/week on groceries….

Food I’d Keep:

  • Eggs – free range if possible
  • Raw Milk – though we’d likely cut back to 1- 2 gallons a week
  • Butter
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables – in season and rationed – and I’d look high and low for free sources and I’d garden like crazy
  • Venison – hunters often love to hunt but don’t always like the meat
  • Beans – I’d likely get much more creative with my bean recipes!
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Wheat to grind and make my own flour

Food I’d Cut Way Back On:

  • Meat – which is tough because we LOVE meat and feel like getting good protein is very important!  I’d likely focus more on buying chicken than beef, because I can stretch a chicken to last six meals if need be.  Or I’d skip the ground beef and buy soup bones and oxtail so I could make rich beef broth and stews.
  • Cheese – this would have to be a special treat

Food I’d Cut Out Altogether:

  • Sweets – these would be VERY limited – birthdays and Christmas only maybe?
  • Purchased snack food – I hardly buy these anyway, but occasionally I splurge on a bag of chips or a box of Cliff Bars for a trip. 
  • Juice – again, I rarely buy juice anyway, but if I only had $50/week to spend on groceries, this would never make the list.

I know I’m not doing a great job of making these lists and there are a lot of holes.  What about oil?  Spices?  All kinds of other things I’m leaving out? 

In my next post, I’ll address some creative ways we save, earn and come up with great sources for food.  In the meantime, help me round out these lists!!  What would you keep, cut back on and cut out altogether if you had about $10/person/week to spend on groceries?

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Comments

  1. Amy Sirk says

    What a great subject for discussion. I began gardening out of necessity. I was not able to keep the household afloat and provide quality food as well. So I started growing what I could. I started out with foods I loved but could not afford. Fresh salad greens were a big luxury so when I could enjoy my home grown salads every day for lunch I felt like a queen. Raspberries and blueberries were also not in the budget. I kept adding garden beds and growing more and more until we have an abundance no matter how much I earn or don’t earn. This year I hope to harvest the first of our Asian pears. Won’t that be a treat?

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    jen Reply:

    I would love to add…when gardening get to know other who garden and ask them what works well in your area. I have often found people who would love to give me produce or plant-like raspberry bushes-while just learning how to garden from others. Community gardens are making a come back and are a great way to supplement your family too.
    I love this topic thanks for writing about it! It is so relevant for my family!

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  2. says

    My two cents on this great topic:
    If you can’t give up meat, buy it smarter. I’ve heard people say “I was broke so all I could buy were hot dogs”. Hmm. In my area, hot dogs are $2.50 for an 8oz. pkg. That’s $5/pound!!! You could eat steak cheaper! So when buying meat, figure the cost PER OUNCE, not per package. Also, don’t overeat it – the amt. of protein you need for a WHOLE DAY is about the size of a deck of cards. Most of us eat way more meat protein per day then we need to.

    It sounded so depressing when you suggested giving up treats. When you’re broke, feeling like you can’t have anything enjoyable makes it harder. Instead, redefine what you consider a “treat”. As an example, a peach or apple, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked provides a sweet end to a meal that is also affordable and healthy.

    For me, I personally wouldn’t give up oils, nuts, spices because those are the raw materials I use to make many things homemade – doing so enables me to cut out the expensive, pre-packaged junk food and make healthier versions of the same things.

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  3. Vicki says

    When our children were small we had a hard time feeding our family. I learned to measure out hamburger so it would go farther. We put in a very large garden and I canned and froze everything I could get my hands on. I bought eggs from the store not free range. I couldn’t afford it then and still can’t. Some items are just impossible to buy. For a birthday or holiday I planned way ahead to buy a cake mix or something special for dinner and save it for that day. You are right….eating healthy is very expensive.

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    Leanne Reply:

    You are so right is is very expensive to eat healthy organic foods the way Laura does. Here in TN organics are not that popular so they are VERY VERY expensive, farmers that grow and raise free range meat are almost nonexistant and when you do find one expect to pay 20.00 for a 4lb chicken, Raw milk is illegal for sale, and well farmers look at you like you have grown 3 heads when you ask for grass feed meat. I live on a farm have all my life, my dad owns 400plus acres, he has farmed all his life, so we get our beef and pork from the farm, its not total free range but we know what its been fed! We have chickens that currently don’t lay in the winter for our eggs, I grow a 1 acre garden but lost it all due to hail twice last year. I am the one who posted the question and to be honest. My family isn’t poor 200.00 a month for groceries is a good budget to me. We are hunters, we put all the venision in the freezer we can, sometimes its still not enough though. Here to buy raw milk you have to buy cow shares for 60.00 a month you can get 8 gallons , that is WAY too expensive! I would just love for NT style eaters and ppl to realize that not all their cheap resources are readily available to everyone! Take Azure Standard i would order from them but they don’t deliver here, so while I love all the advice in the healhty eating journey post, it bothers me to see that you say go get another job, make more money to feed your kids better, put in a garden, we have always done those things since the time I was a little girl. I am a farm girl, and can still tell you eating NT style is very expensive doesn’t matter how you look at it! It really bothers me too that everyone thinks we are just so poor and stretched thin, we pay our bills on time do the Dave Ramsey budget and live a very happy good life! I don’t buy prepackaged foods, cokes, or anything like that and I am not new to all these things mentioned. I would just love for eveveryone to see that it doesn’t work for everyone to eat all NT style, its even impossible we eat very healthy I think but not everything we consume is organic and free range. I wouldn’t call us super low income either, we homeschool 3 children as well. We are your normal middle class family who loves the Lord, and would love to eat all organic free range foods but its just not possible, I do know though that I have prayed about this much, and the Lord has showed me that no matter how healthy we eat HE is in control of us, our bodies our health, our children, our paychecks. IT is HE wwho allows us to have the blessing we have and just because we can’t eat that way doesn’t mean our Food isn’t BLESSED!! I am so glad I prayed so much about it because it is then I got real peace about this topic, and freedom from the bondage of thinking the only way we could be healthy was to eato eat NT way, which is not true at all! I do the best I can, and let the Lord take care of the rest, its not a question here, it is definately expensive to eat the NT way. I am sad to say I have learned nothing new, since the question. I just hope everyone realizes that its the Lords job to determine our health, eating healthy is so much better for us and helps us stay healthy but in the big picture, it is he whom sustains us.

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    Laura Reply:

    I first would like to say again (as I said when I responded personally to your original question) that I’ve NEVER said that YOU MUST EAT THE WAY LAURA DOES!!! Nor have I said that your food isn’t blessed.

    I’m very sorry that you have gotten that message from my posts. If you read through all the other comments, you’ll find that there are MANY others who also are not able to buy $12/gallon raw milk andI don’t blame you or any of them for not wanting to fork out that much money. I am VERY BLESSED to have such wonderful resources for lower prices on good/whole foods.

    All I’ve done/have been doing is to offer suggestions of what has worked for ME…that’s all I know. And as far as I understood…that’s what you wanted me to do…offer some suggestions.

    I DIDN’T say that I think you should go get another JOB so that you’ll have money to buy expensive food. NOT AT ALL. I’m pretty opposed to the idea of anyone taking another job outside the home (thus taking away from family time) just to pay off debt or have more money for stuff – even food. What I was suggesting (although maybe I didn’t say it very well) was that our family has done bits of this or that to earn some extra money so that we’d have enough money for what we needed. Just about everything we’ve done for extra money has INVOLVED our whole family, which was a double blessing.

    I’m sorry you didn’t learn anything new…I did my best to offer some suggestions based on my limited knowledge and based on my experiences.

    Please know that I’m not being critical of anyone. I get hundreds of emails from people wanting to know how they can eat better – I can’t meet everyone in their exact situation and answer perfectly for everyone. I try, but everyone is different. Everyone needs to do what they feel God calling them to do, which is exactly what you are doing. GO FOR IT!! Sounds like you’re doing great!

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    Leanne Reply:

    Laura,
    I wasn’t meaning to sound like I was personally attacking you and for that I am sorry! I was just saying like the post I read from you earlier no grocery budget comparing, it made me upset for you too think that we were very low income just because that is the budget we allow for food spending. we are doing the get out of debt thing, so 3-500 a month on on groceries is like our house payment and not do able at all. I want my family to consume all organics and raw milk and for me it was so dishearting to read NT and then know that I couldn’t change everything about our situation and well healthy eating and making sure I do everything just right so that we don’t consume anything we should became an idol, i researched and researched asked and asked everyone I could on this subject and I kept getting the same answers..you need more morey in your grocery budget. Well it was VERY dedepressing, to think we maybe weren’t going to be as healthy as say your family because we just couldn’t afford it. That when we started really praying asking the Lord to help us in this, and no we didn’t have lots of door open for opportunity but we did get peace, that even though we can’t consume all organics and free range we are still ok, I’m not compromising my kids health, I working with what I have. I am sorry if you felt like I was being mean I wasn’t really trying too, I just want you to know that it can be sooooo disheartening and depressing to want to consume raw milk, free range and not be able to, and it can make a mom really feel like she isn’t doing her job like she isn’t doing her best. Then to look at other food budgets and know that we will never be able to spend that much on food until we are debt free, it really makes you compare yourself and then see a failure in the mirror.
    So again I am sorry, and you do a great job with your blog, just know there are readers out here that LONG to eat that way, but can’t. Thats why I asked what you would let go of, meaning free range organic or raw milk? Comparing budgets can be hard, so when I posted the question and then you posted it, it was disheartening to see everyone think we were so very poor, when in our area we are truly middle class. Again sorry
    Leanne

    Laura Reply:

    Thank you so much for responding again and for explaining your situation further. I may have answered the question differently had I known more about WHY you were keeping your grocery budget so low. When I answered your question, I was sort of mixing in several other people’s questions at the same time who are earning VERY low income…that’s probably why I phrased the question the way I did. I’m sorry if I misrepresented you and your income situation.

    One thing I have to be very careful of when I write posts is that while I have some readers in your situation…I have others on the other end who feel like the fact that I spend $500/month on groceries is amazing and they feel BAD that they can’t keep their bill that LOW. I try to meet people in the place where they are without stepping on toes…that’s hard to do!

    That’s why I just tell how I do things and hope it encourages or inspires someone.

    I can see how reading NT and other people’s ways of doing things can be discouraging. As long as you feel like you’re doing what God is calling you to do, I really do feel like you’re doing great! It sounds like you’re feeding your family well! I really feel like even if you can’t buy raw milk or free range products, as long as you aren’t feeding your family a bunch of processed foods and junk…you really are doing a good job of feeding your family a healthy diet!!

    Laura Reply:

    Ooh, and one more thing!! :) Reading NT is great for learning information about what’s healthy and what isn’t…but I have also found it discouraging as it has made me feel like if I don’t feed my family PERFECTLY, I am poisoning them!! I have learned now just to take the information shared in that book and try to apply it to my situation, doing the best I can with what I have. I can only pull that book out to reference it every so often…otherwise I am completely overwhelmed and discouraged too!! (And for the record, I don’t think I will/can ever eat raw meat as suggested in that book!!!) :)

    Brianah Reply:

    Leanne,

    I just wanted to say that I understand where you are coming from! What you wrote has been exactly what I have been going through for a few months (and I haven’t even read NT yet..lol). It is so disheartening to KNOW that there are healthier options out there and then not be able to translate that or make it fit with your personal situation. I struggle with this almost daily! We live on one income with $200/month for food to feed me, my husband, our 1 1/2 year old, and 3 month old (who I’m bfing so I eat all the time). My son also has gluten sensitivity issues.

    Almost daily I think that ignorance really would be bliss. It has taken a lot of prayer for me to get through this feeling like I’m not doing as well as I should. I finally confessed all of these feelings to my husband and we have both prayed continually over this issue. We have felt led to focus our money on a few key issues for us. One is eating grassfed beef (only b/c we have a great source for it where we get it inexpensively). Another is to eat bread without HFCS. We also feel that eating regular veggies and fruit is better than nothing. We eat regular store-bought eggs and chicken (though we try to stay away from Tyson).

    God has revealed many other things to me. For one, we are so blessed! We are doing something (living on one income) that many people in this country don’t feel they can. We have SO MUCH MORE than so many people around the world!

    The other thing he has revealed to me is that his will is for each of us to follow HIS guidance. It’s great to eat all organic, whole foods IF that is God’s will for us. For my family, to do that, would mean taking away from other areas of our finances that we feel God wants us to continue (like putting my husband through seminary, giving to our church, and continuing our ministry). It’s not God’s will for us right now. As He reveals new things that we are to sacrifice on then we will follow that. But He is blessing us for being thankful and rejoicing in what He is blessing and providing us with. I hope I’m wording this well…it’s hard for me to really put into a few sentences. I will be praying for you and your family and that you continue to have peace in your decisions knowing that you are following God’s lead! I have to pray that for myself ALL THE TIME! :)

    Laura,

    Your site has been wonderfully helpful to me and, obviously, so many others! I pray you continue to find God’s blessing in what you write and how you provide for your family! I have so much trouble trying to verbalize my feelings about whole foods to other and it is so nice to read some of your posts and think…”that’s what I was trying to say!” Keep up the good work!

    Bri

    Karen Reply:

    I have looked over several of the posts here, and I wish I could plant some kind of garden. However, I live in a aprtment complex and that is not allowed. I have thought of growing herbs in containers, but sso far it has just been a thought. I live on a very limited income (less than 15,000). But, I find creating a menu for the month helps in purchasing more wholesome foods. Beans, rice, fresh fruits in season, fish and chicken. I am not a coupon clipper but I do pay attention to sales. I also try to shop in grocery stores such as Winco as opposed to a Von’s, Albertson’s or other places where foods, even staples,run at a much higher cost. I am glad I happened onto this site, as I am doing some research on eating healthy on a limited income for a newsletter that I do. Almost all of whom read my newsletter are financially strapped, so I am asking if I have permission to share your information with those less fortunate. Of course I will site my source.
    Sincerly, Karen

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, please do share about my site in your newsletter!

    Jessica Reply:

    Leanne,

    I am so happy that you have found peace in on this issue through God.

    I am sorry that the information that has been provided to you isn’t as helpful as you would like. HOWEVER, I would like you to know it has helped me personally a lot in my quest to figure out what I want my “whole” or “real” diet to look like. If it helps at all, please know that this information has helped me a lot. I think you for asking your original question. If you hadn’t the discussions below might not have taken place. I wouldn’t have known to look for a CSA in my area. I wouldn’t have learned so many ways to stretch meat out. If nothing else, please see that God worked through you to help touch not only my life but others as well.

    Laura,

    Thank you so much for all that you post. It has been truly life changing. From the recipes to this series. I am a single graduate student. I pay cash for grad school and work an internship type job in my field. I bring home about $1500 a month. That must cover all household expenses and my grad school tuition. I realize that you and I are at different stages in our life so it doesn’t make sense for our grocery budgets to be the same. I’m sure that goes for other reader also. You have made it clear that what works for you might not work for us. However by starting the conversation you have allowed others give tips and talk about what they do. I have found a lot of tips that will help me. Again, I thank you for that!

    Bottom line ladies- After reading the other comments I think it is safe to say- this series has helped a lot of people.

    Thanks!

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    Leanne Reply:

    You are so right Jessica it has helped alot, and I am so relieved to know that others feel VERY overwhelmed by NT, I thought I was the only one who felt like they were “poisioning” their kids and compromising our health by not following it to the letter!! I am so glad it has helped others it has helped me now just to know that you Laura feel the same as me on NT, its so hard to understand and not go…”OH MY GOODNESS we are all going to die and soon”LOL my husband thought I was crazy when I read it through, he was very patient with me though because I was so paranoid about everything!! I felt like we couldn’t eat anything and that I was having to watch everything. Thanks so much for the encouragement Laura, and again so sorry for sounding hateful or hurtful, that was wrong of me and I am sorry! This is such a personal issue for everyone and it is so hard not to compare ourselves to each other. I have a hard time with that! Also, since I wrote that question we have paid off somethings and increased our monthly grocery budget a little, and I am praying and really trying hard to find a raw milk source. I found one last year it was a little high but we paid it, and the Lord provided our youngest daughter was able to come off all her meds while on it, her reflux and asthma meds, then our supplier lost their cow in birth. So we have now been off raw milk for a while and back on meds, its so disheartening but I know the Lord knows our hearts and he knows right where we are!
    For the record..Laura..I am NOT going to be eating raw meat anytime soon either!!!
    Leanne

    Faith Price Reply:

    Although eating free-range and grass-fed does cost more there are great health benefits that outweigh the extra cost. I did want to respond as a producer of those type of foods. Since we have chosen not to participate in government subsidies it is near impossible for us to make any money on our farm let alone try to make a living from the farm. America is use to cheap subsidized food that people are unaware of what it really cost to produce the food. When customers mention the higher cost of our food I want to remind them if they would like to make .35 cents an hour for working at a job. Most people wouldn’t nor do they but many farmers work off the farm jobs so that they can continue to provide healthy foods for others just because it is the right thing to do. One option for those wanting clean meats would be to barter time with a local farmer. Look for them on eatwild.com or localharvest.com.

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  4. Angela Klenke says

    I agree that eating healthy can be expensive. Over the last year I have been switching to healthier foods. I make almost everything from whole ingredients. One thing that has helped me is bountiful baskets. It is a co-op here in the southwest. I can spend $15 a week for a basketful of fruits and veggies (or $25 for organic). This is nice because it gives us lots of fruits and veggies for the week. The only thing is you do not know what you get til you pick it up. I do not mind, it has gotten us to try a lot of things we do not normally buy.

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  5. says

    Oh man, that’s a tough one! I don’t have a fully formed list, but I would suggest that *something* make the cut that you consider somewhat a treat (a non-necessity, anyway) that you can always have. Like… peanut butter. Or cheap coffee (decaf would be better). It’s good for the psyche, and can help keep you from spending money you don’t have on more expensive, less good-for-you stuff because you’re getting tired of never having anything fun.

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    Kaylen Reply:

    Yes I agree – you should always have something that you buy
    just because you love it. I have lived on a $50/week food budget before, and I still always made room for coffee (just the cheap store brand stuff in a can). It made me feel good to have it in the morning, and kept me going. I was a single mom at the time, working full time to support myslef, my son and my boyfriend, and it made it so much easier to get through the days. When I met my husband that all changed since he is a great provider financially, but this reminded me of those days. You always need something that makes you smile.

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    Sarah Reply:

    I get some kind of treat for my dh and I each week (usually a Mexican Coke that we split), and keep a well-stocked spice cupboard to keep our food-on-a-tiny-budget interesting and bearable as well. Also, lots of baking. It’s amazing how many different combinations of flour, butter, eggs, milk and sugar there are.

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  6. Kandace says

    My husband is also a hunter yet I am new to cooking wild game and grass fed meat. Do you have some tried and true recipes for venison and other wild game you would be willing to share?
    Thank you so much. I appreciate all you do :)
    Kandace

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    Sharon Roach Reply:

    Grow your own garlic and use it when cooking wild game and venison. I slice the garlic in thin slivers and punch small holes in the meat and put the garlic in the meat. Viniger in small amounts deluited in water is a good way to tenderize the meat before cooking it. Cooking wine is more expensive but tenderizes the meat also. You can usually find recipe books on wild game and vension at gun and sporting shops and at gun shows.

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    Kaylen Reply:

    If you can get your hands on some cheap red wine, cook it with the meat. It takes away some of the game flavor.

    My dad is a hunter and likes to sear the meat and then use it in stews, anything that is tomato-based with a lot of vegetables.

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    weddingdance Reply:

    I can suggest cooking game in cast iron. I just used butter and season salt, but it was the cast iron pan that made it taste like store-bought steak. (Really, really good store-bought steak. :-))

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  7. says

    I completely agree with you that real food is worth the money. You will see the difference in your body and your health. Also, you might find that you actually SAVE money because you are so much healthier! I think the best way to cut back on the cost of whole, organic foods is to grow them yourself. I know this isn’t an option for everyone. If you don’t have any land, try to see if there are any community gardens where you can rent a plot. It’s usually only about 25-50 a year.

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  8. says

    In the winter alfalfa sprouts (and others) can be an inexpensive way to add greens to your diet. In the summer, dandelion greens, and other wild greens are FREE, all you have to find is a yard or field that isn’t treated with chemical fertilizers or herbicides.

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  9. Kate says

    One of my go to ways to strech the budget is to eat less meat. I “sneak” in veggies with the meat to make it go farther. One of my favorite ways to do this is in burgers… put mushrooms & a glove of garlic in the food processor… chop really well then add 1/2 to 1/3 the ground beef. They become wonderful garlic burgers with a lot less meat!! No one can ever tell that there is mushrooms in place of ground beef..it’s always my little secret : )

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  10. Sarah says

    Thank you so much for this post! We are currently in a’$29,000 sounds like a fortune’ season, and we try very hard to eat nutritious, whole foods! I too used to be an avid coupon clipper, but realized the food I could get almost free with coupons was just not good for us! I’ve found that by being careful and watching for good sales, we can eat well on an averaged out budget of $150 per month for a family of four and I rarely ever use coupons anymore – we buy in bulk, eat lots of beans, rice, and oatmeal, make everything from scratch, garden, can, and have never been happier or healthier! It can be hard on such a limited budget, but it is doable!!!

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  11. Christina Vickers says

    As I read your post and started thinking about how much I spend on the mixture of pre-packaged and fresh foods I now buy at the store, the wheels started turning. It seems to me that if I start gardening a few things (starting out small, because that is smart for me); join the local organic co-op; begin searching out local farms for meat, milk and fruits; and cut down on pre-packaged foods, that I wouldn’t necessarily be spending any more per month on groceries than I do now! I’m looking into all of this. I’d be willing to share my spending comparison when I’m through. That may be helpful to some who are considering switching to whole, healthy foods.

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    Christina Vickers Reply:

    Oops! I think I meant to post this to the “Our Real Food Grocery Budget” post, but I stand by it either way! :)

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  12. says

    Play the drug store game. I get so many items for free each month that it really frees up my money to spend in other areas – like real food groceries. I also end up getting food for very cheap or free from CVS many weeks. Recently I have gotten tuna, cheerios, coffee (hubby is NOT giving that up!), tea bags, etc for next to nothing at CVS. That means I don’t have to purchase those things at the grocery store.

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    Lorrie Reply:

    Are you just talking about their weekly specials? How do you get free foods from CVS?

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    Jennifer Reply:

    CVS (and walgreens and rite aid) do deals on food too. Many times it is cheaper than the grocery store. By combining the deals with coupons and ECBs I can get free food at the drugstore.

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    Rebecca Laird Reply:

    Lorrie ~
    Check out Coupons, Deals and More – a blog that tells you how
    to do what these girls are talking about. It is like a part-time job,
    though, to keep up with ~ so I just do this when several items are running
    out at home – like paper towels, vitamins, etc. About once
    every six weeks. I don’t get tons for free, but I do feel very happy
    getting about 3x the items for the price!

    Hope this helps!

  13. says

    I am a single mom with 2 teenagers and haven’t worked a “real” job for a year and a half. Since then I have done mostly cleaning and odd jobs, so I don’t really have a monthly budget, since income varies. I pay the bills first (electric, rent, and house phone) and then buy food. I bake all my own bread and barter that with friends for organic, grass fed beef and free range chicken (it’s cheaper to buy baking supplies than meat, and I use a sourdough starter). I have also recently started selling baked goods. I am blessed with friends who have fruit and berries and allow me to pick all I want to can, and another friend who keeps bees and gives me honey in exchange for cleaning. I have a garden in the summer and can and freeze as much as I can. I even have friends that buy fruit and veggies in bulk at the Farmer’s Market and let me have half if I will can it for them! I am truly blessed! Strangly enough, I think we eat healthier now then we did when I worked 60 hours a week and had a grocery budget. God is good!

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    Lisa Reply:

    WOW! That’s amazing-you are an inspiration!

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    sharon Reply:

    you are an inspiration!!! I was a single mom of two boys before i found my husband, and working 40+ hours a week and trying to make ends meet and spend time with the kids and cook healthy is enough to drive u crazy. Now that i am married, I feel an even stronger urge to be at home more with my children and husband. I am going to look into working from home, and other ways to make money without clocking in :)

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  14. andrea says

    We were at this point a few years ago. It is VERY difficult to make ends meet on this kind of budget, but you do the best you can. I would basically try to incorporate more beans/chicken in the diet rather than meat, and if you buy cereal/etc. do it only with sale/coupon. I would still only buy brown rice instead of white. Make all the changes you can. It’s hard with food costs supposed to be rising. I would watch for the sales on chicken/etc/ and stock up when low so you don’t have to pay higher price.

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  15. barbara says

    good topic! i am on disability and do not get foodstamps so i cant even spend $50 per week. i do good if i can spend $50-$75 in a month

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  16. Stephanie says

    We spend very little money on food, the only meat we buy at the store is chicken because my husband is a huge deer hunter and he does not hunt for the big buck but he hunts for our family. He shots enough for our family of 6 to eat for the entire year. We also put up our deer ourselves and do not take it anywhere to be processed so that saves a lot of money. We use our ground deer for everything from meatloaf, hamburgers,spagetti,chili,soups,etc. anything that needs hamburger we use deer. One thing we do is we always let the meat bleed out. If you do this it will take out the wild game taste of the deer. We use our steak type deer for chicken fried steak, beef tips over mashed potatoes, beef stroganoff over noodles, swiss steak over rice, beef stew, beef and barley stew,fried rice with a little chopped leftover deer steak, deer steak fajitas. Again I really think that if you let the deer bleed out for a little longer and also tenderize it with a little hammer. It will really help with the strong taste. I hope this helps.

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    Janee' Reply:

    Agreeing with Stephanie. We do the same thing. Letting it sit in an ice
    chest covered with ice with the drain pulled and tilted up (or drill holes
    in the bottom of an old ice chest) to drain. Just keep putting ice on it as it
    melts and rinses the blood out of the meat. We have been processing our
    own meat now for a few years and it is GREAT!

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    Kaylen Reply:

    You ladies that process your own deer meat, could you give me more info about letting it bleed out? I’ve never heard of doing that before but I can see how it would help with the gamey taste. Is that how professional shops do it? I notice when the meat is professionally processed, it tastes a lot better.

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    Janee' Reply:

    Honestly I am not sure how the processors do it. I *think* they hang the carcass in the big freezer room letting the blood bleed out for a wee before they process. I just out abot 4 inches of ice into the bottom of an ice chest. Make sure the plug is open and the ice
    chest is tilted towards the plug so it will drain well. We quarter up the meat so it will fit. Then keep covered with ice for a week or 2- adding more ice daily-
    or when needed. Then, take it out and process it. We use a vacuum sealer.

    Kelsye Reply:

    Professional shops hang the body in a large cooler where it bleeds out and ages. Both make the meat more tender and taste wonderful. My husband just puts the deer in a ice chest with lots if ice replenishing and draining as needed for a few days. For beef they hang the cow in a large refer trailer that stays around 35* for a few days. Since most people don’t have access to a large walk in cooler or refer trailer we recommend waiting till winter time for northern people or getting it done with someone who has the equipment for us southerners. It really makes a difference on the taste and texture of the meat.

  17. Lori A says

    A few more things:

    CSA farms often need help, in exchange for a couple hours a week, you get a free or greatly reduced share.

    There are other food co-op’s other than Azure that deliver to different parts of the country, try googling Country Life Natural Foods out of MI, United Foods (UNIF). I’m sure there are more.

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    Leigh Reply:

    Quail Cove Farms is in the Mid-Atlantic (MD&VA) & they offer many of the same things!

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  18. vicki says

    I would suggest that not *everything* you eat has to be “certified organic”. There is a list at The Daily Green of the top 12 foods you ought to buy organic if at all possible: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/Dirty-Dozen-Foods

    They also provide a list of foods that it isn’t necessary to buy organic, if you are on a tighter budget– http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/Save-on-Sustainable-Gallery-44032808?src=syn&mag=tdg&dom=tdg&link=rel

    You can also try growing your own vegetables. My parents grew and canned tomatoes and green beans when I was a kid, because they were on a tight budget and had 4 kids to feed. The result is we all grew up healthy and strong, having eaten almost entirely fresh produce out of our own garden year round (and in the summers off from school, it was pretty much *all* we ever ate! That’s a healthy diet for you!). We had a grape vine in the backyard too, that died, and some cherry trees. When I was a kid, my mother made her own grape jellies and preserves. My parents still grow lots of tomatoes, green beans, yellow squash and zucchini every year. I think Mom cans the green beans and tomatoes, and makes canned tomato juice. She also makes lots of squash casseroles and freezes them. She makes a lot of zucchini bread too.

    A simple dish to make in the summer is just slice up some tomatoes, zucchini, onions and yellow squash, put them in a casserole dish and cover them with thick slices of Velveeta cheese. Bake until the cheese is all melted and the casserole is sort of soupy and hot. Serve with slices of French bread. Great way to get more veggies in your diet (and use up all that zucchini)and it’s pretty healthy too, unless you’re scared of Velveeta cheese…

    [Reply]

    Crystal Reply:

    Scared of Velveeta here! But put several slices of some raw cheddar and that sounds just about like Heaven to me! :) Thanks for sharing!

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    Melanie Reply:

    I think that eating fresh, unprocessed and locally grown food is way more important for my health than eating organic. Organic food has become a huge business and can be more about making money than giving people quality food. I used to buy organic food at the grocery store when it was on sale, but now I prefer to get my produce (and meat when I have enough spare cash) at the farmers market. I am becoming excited about grass fed beef right now. Especially for people on a budget the important thing is to be cooking those fresh foods, not weather they are organic or not. Organic food is way more expensive, less efficient to produce, and if the entire world converted to organic farming methods even more people would starve than already are. Look up the facts. That said I don’t like the state of the food industry and how much energy it wastes shipping food all around. Local is the way to go and I like how many grocery stores in my area are carrying locally grown produce and say where the food is coming from so I can choose the tomatoes that are from California, rather than Mexico for instance. Farmers markets are even better if you can spare the expense and they do tend to have lots of organic options for people who are into that. I also love to garden and grew up with tomatoes, string beans and fruit trees in the yard. I have heirloom tomatoes and bell peppers growing in a planter box on my patio right now and I can’t wait to buy a house so I can have a proper vegetable garden again, but every little bit helps. The carrots you can buy in the store have nothing on home grown baby carrots.

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  19. sharon says

    There is a wonderful site, angel food ministries, where ANYONE on ANY budget can get food at a serious discount. :)

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  20. says

    I am not sure if anyone has recommended this or not but, a few nights ago my husband and I watched the documentary “Food, Inc.” on Netflix. When I finished, there was no doubt in my mind about making the transition to REAL FOOD. Watching this also has ceased my desire for fast food (McDonald’s, Sonic, Burger King, etc.). The next time I entered my local grocery store I made a beeline for the organic section in the produce area, which is very small, and brought home salad greens and cherry tomatoes. I have 5 kids and a husband to feed. Our budget is 800 a month. I made declarations to him that I will no longer buy cold cereal, sodas or treats with the grocery budget. Surprisingly, our Walmart had a pretty good variety of organic, gluten-free, and atleast hormone and antibiotic free food. Next month I plan to hit a local farm and begin buying raw milk for cheese, butter, yogurt and kefir. They also sell pastured chickens for 3.75 a pound and grass fed beef. May I suggest that anyone who wants to learn about whole foods go to gnowfglins.com and sign up for a membership (10.00 a month recurring) and Wardeh will teach you all the ins and outs of real food preparation. We had beans and rice for dinner last night. It was the first time in a long time I did not wake up hungry! This is a very inexpensive and fulfilling meal! Walmart had organic brown rice(3.14 for 2#) and I like the Casserole brand of pinto beans(1.32 for 1#). So for about 4 bucks this fed our whole family.

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  21. says

    With regards to the comments above and the heart-ache and false guilt – - I can certainly relate. My husband and I, in fact, were just talking about this again this morning.

    If I might add just a little nugget: The enemy LOVES to use anything and everything he can to accuse us and lie to us. Even GREAT material can be a spring-board for him to start pressuring, condemning, and alienating us. This is his job – that is why he is called “the Father of Lies!”

    Because of this – we have to realize that both ends – either feeling inadequate as a mom OR feeling prideful about our wonderful natural eating – is a lie and gets the focus on ourselves. I have been on both ends of the spectrum at different seasons of my life, and really God is not pleased with either.

    I was just sharing this verse with my son the other day, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles the man, but what comes out of the mouth that defiles him.” Truly our bodies are a temple, and whatever we can do to provide for our temple is important, but God is clearly, always more interested in our hearts.

    If eating from scratch, eating organic, or fermenting, etc. adds stress to your home, you will not be made well by that stress! We are made well by a heart of thanksgiving and peace with God, and living in His grace. His heart will never accuse us, condemn us, or ask us to do something we cannot reasonably do. Those are the works of “the other guy!”

    I believe Laura is sharing out of her joyful heart, what God has led them to do. It truly makes her joyful to provide for her family the way she does! What makes YOUR heart joyful? What are YOUR gifts? When we seek after HIS will for our lives, and find peace and satisfaction in Him, we can joyfully hear about others doing things differently, and still rejoice with them. No competition required.

    I am His daughter. Just as in my love for my own children, I would never want them all to be the same, so my perfect, heavenly Father would never call me to be exactly as any other lady or mom!

    I invite all of you to be on this kind of healthy journey with me:) ~ rejoicing at the healthy choices I can make ~ and blessing and giving thanks for the less nutritious things that help my budget or my time. God, sanctify it all! Thanks for it all! I only live to please YOU!

    [Reply]

    Katherine Reply:

    Wow thank you so much for this gentle, yet to the point, reminder! When you said “is a lie and gets the focus on ourselves” this convicted me. This is exactly what happens to me. I get fearful about eating wrong, instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus.
    Thanks again, and God Bless You.

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  22. says

    What kind of garden can be started in October-November in Kentucky? Any ideas? I did just get my first basil plants in August or September, and we love them! :D

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Oh boy, since I’m from Nebraska I really have no idea! Maybe some Kentucky readers will chime in if they see this!

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  23. Kay says

    In the town I live there is a small grocery store that just sells organic foods and vitamin supplements. If the produce gets even the tiniest bruise they will put it in an abused and bruised basket and reduce it to 50 cents a pound. They used to charge 25 cents a pound but went up. I get all my apples this way. I inspect the fruit and will not purchase if overly bruised but slight bruises or blemishes I can just cut out. Doesn’t really matter if the fruit is perfect if you are using it soon or going to perserve it like dehydrating, freezing or canning just as long as you cut out the bad spots. I like to juice the apples for my smoothies. Beats paying $2.83 which is what their Fuji apples are.

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  24. Sandy Cloud says

    Please don’t forget to purchase your spices/herbs in bulk!! Fred Meyer (Oregon) has a wonderful bulk selection, and you can purchase as much – or little – as you need for pennies on the dollar. Took my young teen buddy shopping one morning and we bought Christmas spices from the bulk section, then took him to the spice isle to see how much it would have cost there. It was a little over $25 difference for 4 spices. He took the info to his “Life Prep” class to share! :o)

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  25. Megan says

    When it comes down to it, we just need to eat as healthy as we can afford to. We don’t all have the same resources, certainly. Single girls like me don’t also don’t have the need or space for bulk shopping. Making something from scratch may not always be organic, but it’s much healthier (and often cheaper) than a box. I need to do more from-scratch cooking…no better time than the present! :)

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  26. says

    We’re at an income of around $24K a year, for 5 people (3 kids). While not everything in our house is “whole” foods, I do make a $200 a month food budget stretch.

    How? Cooking from scratch. Lots of rice, beans, soups, make meat a flavor instead of the main course, vegetables in season, gardening and preserving the harvests, grow our own herbs, you name it. Our items aren’t organic–especially our garden where we use Sevin to keep bugs at bay so we actually have a harvest to bring in, nor can we afford 4X the cost for one item because of an “organic” label. I bake breads, biscuits, cakes, cookies, you name it, from scratch and use lots of sourdough in the blends, make most of my own desserts for the family, and so on. Sodas are kept to a minimum, as a treat, we seldom buy candy and snack cakes and things. God has provided for our needs as they arise, sometimes I’ve had to work on a budget of less than $200 a month for food when another bill rises up and eats up the budget or an emergency arises.

    You’ll find that using closest to the root/original and cooking at home with your own ingredients makes a huge difference in budgeting, and also you get the satisfaction of knowing what’s in your meals, where most of it came from, and so on.

    This year my herb garden has been bountiful, so I’ve preserved gallon bags of dried mint (4 different kinds), oregano, basil, chives, parsley,and have thyme, rosemary, and lemon balm to bring in for a 5th harvest of the year soon. We live in town, so space in our yard is rather limited, but we have been able to put out tomatoes, 2 kinds of peppers, okra, eggplant, sunflowers (for our own roasted seed), and lots of herbs, and in spring lettuce and spinach. It takes more work, but the rewards are worth it.

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  27. Hezzielee says

    Hubby and I once had the conversation that we weren’t buying food…we were buying NUTRITION!! It has since made spending the extra money a priority in our eyes.

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  28. Rachel says

    I would like to add that prayer and generosity are also important when feeding a family with a very limited income. I know that the Lord extended our food. When my husband was laid-off, we had less than half the salary from before (eventually only 1/4-1/3 of the income), I was scared, but prayed and trusted God. Ps. 37 was a big help. We ate better and more healthily during that time. I HATE to shop, so I tend to miss the good deals, but during that season, God continually dropped great deals in my lap. Our in-laws gave us a freezer and I was able to buy fresh produce on sale and was able to can/freeze it. We also had guests over to eat with us weekly. (We finally had time!) God was amazing in how He provided.

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  29. Missie says

    I would like to encourage all of you out there with younger children…My son is 17 now, and for most of that time, I was not feeding him what would qualify as a “real food” diet. We had plenty of fresh game, good veggies, and fruit, but we still had our cereal, store bought bread, and fruit snacks. And guess what? He’s fine. He’s brilliant. He’s exactly where he is supposed to be in every area. He did not die, become mentally unstable, or begin to rob 7-11s because he did not have raw milk on his homemade granola every day.

    I am saying this not to make fun of anyone, and not to diminish what we are all trying to do as moms. We want to feed our kids well. We want the healthiest and the best food for them. However…this can be an area where the enemy of our souls comes in to condemn. Don’t let that be the case, dear ones. You are doing the best you can right now with what you have.

    Can’t afford raw milk or don’t live in an area where it’s available? That’s okay. There’s grace for that. Buy organic milk if the budget allows. If not? Then our God is big enough to bless generic milk from Wal-Mart. Make a few small changes WHEN YOU CAN. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t become Miss Organic Made from Scratch instantly. It takes time. It takes money. It takes alot of work. Do what you can when you can, and God will make up the rest.

    For our family (and this is just.us.), I buy only organic milk. That’s one area I can afford. I try to buy organic yogurt, but when I can’t, I get Tillamook brand. I no longer buy fruit snacks. I try to buy mostly organic fruits and veggies, but that’s not always in the budget. I am trying to make more things from scratch, but working outside the home 40+ hours a week makes it hard. I do small steps, when I can. And that’s it. That’s all I can do at this stage of our family’s life and budget.

    You are doing a great job, mommas. You love your kiddos, you are there for them, and you are FEEDING them, spiritually and physically. Yes, we can all improve. Every single one of us. But don’t beat yourself up. They will turn out fine. I promise. :)

    And, Laura, thanks for all you do in spreading the word about healthy eating. I appreciate your recipes, ideas, and sense of humor.

    [Reply]

    Sarah B. Reply:

    Missie, your post has made me tear up because it blesses me! I really enjoy this blog and many others that have great ideas and recipes. We feel so blessed to have a larger budget for food than a few months ago, but it’s still a challenge to stretch it for all the things I’d like to do for my family. I don’t buy organic except on occasion when it’s cheaper than regular (organic pink lady apples for 99 cents/lb!). I buy generic milk from Walmart. I buy eggs from HEB when my dear friend doesn’t have enough free range to share. I plan to have a garden next year in our small backyard – so excited about it!
    I still occasionally buy snack crackers for my small children. I tried making them from scratch but it”s expensive, and especially when my picky son won’t eat them. :( I’ve started making almost all our bread from scratch, but I still use some unbleached white four to mix in with the fresh ground white whole wheat from a friend with a grain mill.
    I’ve switched from margarine to butter – one of our “small” changes. I have discovered I have a soy allergy which makes cooking from scratch a necessity! My family has benefited from that!
    I have an auto-immune thyroid disease and so my health isn’t great. There are lots of sites/doctors telling me changes I need to make, supplements I need to take, tests I need done, etc. I got so bogged down with guilt that I couldn’t afford to get better and feed my family as I should. I forgot about the Lord.
    He has provided faithfully our every need. He will continue to do that! Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be. Especially when the resources aren’t there for me. God has recently freed me from the bondage of thinking I had to do all these things. I will continue to do what I can within our resources and know He will bless the food I lovingly place before my family. He will help me in my need for strength every day to keep up with my children.
    Thanks again for the reminder and for blessing me today!

    [Reply]

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