Thursday, April 18, 2013

3 More Tips for Buying Smart on a Budget

With tax season wrapping up this week, money seems to be on everyone’s minds. It would be ideal if money were no object when it comes to personal health, humane treatment of the animals we consume, and our impacts to the environment, but the reality is we all have budgets and limited finances.

Last year, when I first introduced the idea of making major life change in regards to meat and animal product sourcing, I also talked about some of the ways that I revised our purchasing habits to ensure our new contemplative lifestyle could fit into our budget.

Not much has changed when it comes to what we do and don’t spend our money on, but upon closer observation of what the average American spends grocery dollars on, I realize that there’s a few things we’re doing differently to keep those costs down.

In that spirit, here are a few more ideas for how to buy smart on a budget so you can splurge on humanely-raised meats, eggs and dairy this year:

1. Keep snacks to fresh fruits and veggies
Although fruits and veggies can be a bit more expensive than pre-packaged snacks, booting the boxes and sticking to fresh items can save big. I stick to items that are very affordable – carrots, celery, oranges and bananas. I generally don’t buy organic for any of these, which really helps keep the costs low – usually around $1 per pound – so my total spend is about $6-$8 for the week. We just throw several in our lunch bags and either eat them for lunch or spread them throughout the day if we get hungry.

The biggest payoff for this is that we are only eating fresh foods for snacks, which means we get closer to reaching our daily dietary needs AND our bodies no longer crave the salt, sugar and fat found in pre-packaged snacks. But from a financial standpoint, those $2 and $3 boxes of crackers, cookies, granola bars and fruit snacks all really add up at the grocery store – often to far more than my measly little $6-$8 of real food.

2. Reduce beverages to your top three
Beverages are one of the biggest wastes of money and one of the easiest things to eliminate to save money and a heck of a lot of calories and sugar. We drink three things in our house: filtered tap water, milk/soy milk and two varieties of juice (orange and tart cherry). There are no sodas, sports drinks, vitamin waters or sugary juice drinks. There is no coffee. There is no bottled water. Alcohol is a treat – we keep a few of our favorites tucked away in a cabinet, but no beer or wine unless we’re entertaining guests. I also keep a few boxes or tins of my favorite teas for steeping on the weekends, but no bottled teas.

For those of you having a heart attack at the very thought of giving up all your precious fluids, just take it in steps by eliminating one item each week or simply not replenishing them when they run out. And start drinking water instead of all that other crap – you’ll be amazed at how great water tastes when you’re saving tons of money and losing weight by drinking it. 

3. Make “kitchen sink” meals
When I have a week or month where I’m especially trying to save money, you can bet the menu will be loaded with things like soup or stir fry where you can throw in everything but the kitchen sink and it tastes delicious. Meals like these mean I can buy the cheapest on-sale veggies that week, use up the veggies I already have on-hand, go meatless or throw in just a ½ pound of whatever I have from our farmer, and call it dinner. If you get sick of soup or stir fry easily, try this concept with pasta, burritos, casseroles or omelets to mix it up a bit.

Saving money to enable us to buy humane has taken some creativity over the years, and some pretty intense scrutiny of our dietary habits and purchase behavior, but the payoff has been huge. I encourage you to keep finding good, contemplative solutions to free up extra grocery cash for those humanely raised eggs, milk and meats and share your tips here!

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  1. Great post Christina! Our family has also made a drastic change this year to eating clean, primarily organic (although yes, it can get spendy!), and avoiding GMOs. We also have a strict budget to feed all 5 of us. A few things we've found is first of all, we've become loyal Fred Meyer (kroger) shoppers because they often put their organic produce on sale and offer the same sale price as conventionally grown. They have a new line of organic products that is extremely affordable and stays fresh for a long time so we can stock up a little more when it's on sale. If you have their loyal customer card they also mail coupons for produce which is almost unheard of!
    We season food almost exclusively with herbs and spices which saves on the amount of butter, milk, or oil you may use in foods and we grow our own most frequently used herbs. Super easy on my kitchen counter in small pots. Use what you need and cuts down on what you throw out. Anyone who can grow a few vegetables I highly recommend it! Saves us a lot of money!
    We've had all kinds of creative ways to eat this way on a budget but what it really comes down to is choice. We choose to cut out processed foods and surprisingly we've received NO backlash from the kids. They LOVE the fresh food. Even my 10month old eats bulgar wheat and veggies =)

    1. Jill, that's awesome! I, too, frequent Kroger for their organic produce sales and many items from their organic line. I LOVE the coupons for produce - I always am getting free baby carrots or frozen veggies or other good deals.

      And it's good to hear the kiddos are agreeable. Not having kids, I often wonder if this is truly doable with children, but it sounds like if you introduce it early and don't give them the choice of bad foods, they won't even know the difference!

  2. Oh my gosh it's totally doable! The first few weeks were challenging introducing the new life style but the girls adapted well and in fact look forward to all the new recipes. Jackson is young enough he hasn't been introduced to junk food, other than pizza (I love pizza!), and happily eats fruits and veggies. In fact, not long ago, we told the girls as a treat we'd take them out to dinner wherever they wanted. After a little huddle between the two of them, Bella asked "can you just cook? We like that best." If you ever want any info or write on converting kiddos to this eating style, I have a few tips that have proven successful for our family.