Eating Healthy Foods for Less

Aug 13, 2010

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Now that we are a family of seven with one income, it is even more important to stretch our dollars. Food is our biggest expense, next to our mortgage, and eating natural, whole foods is more economical in certain categories yet more expensive in others. By avoiding overly processed, convenience foods and making more foods from scratch, I save money. For example, soaking dry beans for soup or making homemade muffins or bread. But there are certain things that I buy on a regular basis that cost more, such as organic milk or yogurt, free-range eggs, and some organics.

Money can be saved at the grocery store by choosing store brands over national brands for certain items, like dry beans, canned goods, and frozen veggies or fruits. Some stores even carry their own organic lines, like Kroger's Private Selection Organics. The prices are very close to national non-organic brands most of the time. Another example from Kroger's is their customer-specific coupons. They track your purchases when you use your shopper's card and then mail out coupons for items that you buy regularly. You can also go to their website and load electronic coupons onto your card, but they tend to be for convenience or snack foods. Kroger's also doubles manufacturers' coupons up to 50 cents, so locating coupons for organic products can help out significantly.

While you're not likely to find many coupons for natural or organic foods in your Sunday newspaper, you can find some online. Many natural food manufacturers offer limited coupons on their websites. You download them and print them on your own printer. Here are a few:
For a variety of coupons that change periodically, check out Mambo Sprouts, where you'll also find recipes, reviews, and contests, The Natural Food List, and the Grocery Coupon Guide, with a list of links to natural food manufacturers.

Grocery stores aren't the only place to purchase staple foods and other grocery items. Many cities and towns have a food cooperative or two. Ask around or search online. There are also online buying coops or you can start your own. Amazon and Vitacost are two online resources that I use regularly for specific items. Amazon has a subscribe & save program that lets you select a shipping schedule for certain items and receive an additional 5-15% discount. I order vitamins, organic/natural foods, and some personal hygiene items from Vitacost. (See the sidebar for $10 off your first order.)

Some ways to save money on fruits and vegetables are to grow your own, find a generous neighbor with an over-producing garden, or buy local and in-season from your farmers' market and orchards. Talk to the vendors to see if they use any chemicals. They may not be certified organic, but may be grown without pesticides and other chemicals. You can find your nearest farmers' market here. Other related options for cutting costs is to purchase a side of beef (grass-fed) or find a source for free-range chickens and/or eggs. I'm still working on finding local sources for my last suggestions. We don't have an extra freezer, so the beef is not a possibility right now.

Eating healthy can seem to be more expensive at first but it will most likely end up costing less over your lifetime. Consider that eating natural, whole foods will support a healthy immune system, reducing illnesses and chronic conditions, help maintain a healthy weight, and therefore, reducing doctor visits and lost work days.

Update: You can find more ways to save money at Saving Naturally.


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