Eat Real Food: How to afford it

Grocery carts.

photo credit: polycart


It seems that the pitfall for eating healthy for most people, is the thought that it costs more. But that’s not entirely true! For us it’s actually been cheaper in the long run.

Yes, it might cost more up front to eat healthier if you do it all at once. There’s different flours to buy and natural sugars to purchase. More expensive (healthier) oils to find and spices to discover. So how do you do it?

Save where you can

Stop buying so many snacks – the cost of those chips/crackers/ice cream really add up! And there is no reason to buy cookies and such to begin with. You don’t eat them because you’re hungry, you eat them because you want a snack.

Eat simple meals, and only buy the meats and produce that are on sale. After a month take that extra money and start stocking up on healthy staples. You’re pantry won’t be revamped overnight, but you’ll be headed in the right direction. And when you have a few extra dollars, start buying what can save you the most in the long run; flours (make more from scratch) oatmeal (no more cereal) eggs (great for any meal and for added protein which will keep you full longer).

Begin to make meals at home, using the most basic ingredients. Seasoning packets, sauces, dressings, and bread products are so much cheaper to make yourself.

Use inexpensive yet nutritious foods in your meals. Added rice and/or beans can stretch a dinner of tacos, same for most other meals.

Save somewhere else

Get your haircut every 8 weeks? Maybe delay it to every 10 weeks (at 30$ a cut you’ll save $40 a year, space it out to 12 and you’ll save $65!) How about getting your nails done or buying coffee? Cell phones, cable, etc., etc. Do you really have to do those things? Try staying home on the weekends and eating in instead of at restaurants. Each small area you can cut back in, will add to your “whole foods grocery fund”. Just find those little things you do each week/month and cut them out.

Sell something!

Use e-bay and craigslist to get rid of items you no longer use. When I first decided to change our diets and eat more organic and natural foods I sold our large aquarium, a dehumidifier, and a couple of window AC units that we no longer needed. I was able to set aside that money to purchase strawberries and blueberries that I froze and made jam with as well as a quarter of a grass fed cow. We even had enough left over to cover the cost of processing a deer Todd got during hunting season. Having that extra money was pivotal in my being able to switch to a whole foods diet faster than if I had to save a few dollars each month. If you’re creative, you can find money anywhere!

Use what uncle sam gives you

Every year most Americans get back money in the form of a tax refund. Sure you could go buy something fun with it, but why not use a portion to stock your pantry? One year I spent about $300 buying good whole foods. I filled my utility room with bulk bags of flour, oatmeal, nuts, seeds, pasta, oils, tons of spices, dried fruit, sugars, and misc baking items. Most of what I bought lasted at least 6 months and many items for a year. Not only did this save me time that I normally spend in the grocery store, we now {for the most part} always have something to eat in the house. I figure this could save me more than $50 per month and that money will then be put aside for the next time I buy in bulk.


Choosing to eat healthy doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. And I’m also a firm believer that it also shouldn’t mean we go into debt trying to feed our families. If going ALL organic isn’t feasible, if buying grassfed beef isn’t in the budget, work with the budget you have and make the best purchases for your dollar you can find.

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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

About donielle

Donielle is a natural momma of two, lover of real foods, and owner and editor of Grand Rapids Natural Living and Naturally Knocked Up. You can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up some nourishing foods, cuddled on the couch reading books to the littles, avoiding the laundry and Mt. Saint Dishes, or tapping away on the laptop. Her husband puts up with her sometimes crazy "hippie" ways, but loves her regardless. Welcome to my home away from home.


  1. MaryAnne says:

    Who do you buy your bulk foods from?

  2. Amy @ Finer Things says:

    For me, it’s the convenience. I don’t know where to find raw milk (my “local” supplier is no longer taking customers) in a “doable” driving distance. Our nearest whole foods store is an hour away…

    Excuses, excuses! I need to just hunker down and make it work somehow!

  3. I struggle with the same things as Amy. Where I live I have yet to find a place that sells raw milk or grass fed meats & eggs. The closest is 2-3 hours away. There are no co-ops. There sadly isn't even a good whole foods store here. So what would be your suggestions about trying to switch over to this lifestyle when things are just not obtainably close? Where do you buy your bulk foods from?

  4. For my family, eating healthy does cost much much more than eating junk, and we are already cutting back on all the categories you mention.

    For example, on our recent camping trip the children were hungry after going on a sightseeing walk. We stopped at the local farmer’s market – if I had bought them chips or cookies to fill them up I could have paid about $3.00. Instead I bought them all an apple each and a bagful of mixed nuts to share. The cost? $11.00. (And they were still hungry afterwards.) So I can certainly see how many people say it cost more to eat healthy.

  5. Lisa Sharp says:

    Yes where do you get the bulk??? I live in a small town in Oklahoma, no bulk buying here! And we have Sams near by not Costco so no organic bulk really to speak of.

    My mom is talking about starting a co-op which would be awesome!!

  6. I faced a similar situation with the lack of availability so I helped start a local initiative that is now super-successful. It includes community gardening, 3 CSA options, bulk food (this was my contribution – I was SO tired of trying to find them) and composting. Not that this is an option for everyone, but work with other families (I meet many through playgroups) that are like-minded and make bigger purchases that way. Most national co-ops will deliver directly to you if you have enough families interested…

  7. Where I live there is certainly no shortage of options. Reading the comments I realize how blessed I am. This reminds me, again, why we choose to buy organic, whole foods even when it gets a little tight for us to do so. There are countless reasons, but one is so that those who don’t have it available may some day find it more attainable. In essence, my husband and I have opted to cast our vote for organic whole foods. We encourage others who CAN afford it to do the same so we can help drive demand; thus, lowering the cost. It might be wishful thinking, but it works in my head. 😉 So if you DO have it in your budget and it is available, I say cast your vote by buying organic/raw milk/etc. and help those who don’t have it so “easy.”

    On the other hand, some months do get tight. In those times, we stick to the dirty dozen. We make our own bread, dressings, kefir, pasta, sauces, seasonings, etc. If you set a day aside to make a bunch of this up yourself, then you can save a ton of money (and time!). Utilize the freezer! and trust me, you don’t need a big one to fit 30 meals in there. I’m still saving for a deep freeze. 🙂

    For those who have to drive so far, partner up with others in your town. Maybe you can switch off with other families to make the drive to stock up for everyone. Then, find a way to preserve what you buy so it will last until next time. Just a thought. With a kid of my own, I definitely know this is not easy. But it’s just a thought…

  8. I am currently spending less each month on food (for my husband and I and two small children) than I did three years ago for just my husband and I! We eat whole, real foods and organic when I can find a good deal on it. Eating out less and making most everything from scratch is the key to keeping the budget low — oh and eating simple meals. We live in small town Central Minnesota and order from Azure Standard. I’ve also found local eggs and honey for super cheap…still looking for meat and milk…also hope to travel to an even smaller town (25 miles away) that had a food co-op than has been recommended to me by many people. Planted lots of food in the garden (in containers) for this summer and hopefully to preserve for the long winter. Keep your eyes open, ask may find great food deals in unlikely places!

  9. Great post! We don’t have cable or satellite. We cut as many corners as we can. We try to buy local and cut out the middle man (sometimes it is a little cheaper.) Though you can lose your mind making your own stuff with really little ones it will save you bundles!

  10. One thought on the vension- process the deer yourself! 🙂 My husband & I (pretty clueless in that area), pulled up a couple utube videos last fall when he came home with a deer, and did the butchering ourselves! It probably wasn’t perfect, but it was fine.

    Good tips!
    Michele 🙂

  11. Melissa says:

    I would love to cut some costs in the technology world…although, it would be hard to convince my husband, who loves tv/cell phones/computers/etc.
    What about internet service? Just wondering what service other people use and if there are some good options I don’t know about.

  12. Cutting out buying process junk like chips and crackers and cereals really does make a difference. We don’t have that kind of stuff around the house anymore and I very rarely miss them. It does mean a lot more time cooking and preparing things, but the stuff I make is so YUMMY and nourishing! 🙂 But especially cereals and crackers are not cheap to buy, so staying away from those is huge! Planning ahead is a definite must, though, if you’re going to eat this way, because when I’m caught unprepared, we don’t have convenience foods lying around, so I’m in a bit of a pickle when that happens! But I try to do things like preparing beans in bulk and freezing for later, washing all the produce for the week at once so it’s handy for salads and snacks, making up batches of homemade nut bars for a couple of weeks at a time… just getting into the routine is the hardest part, then it gets easier.