Eating Real Food On A Budget

Even in the best of economic times, we’ve always had a rather small budget for food. When my husband and I first got married, we were both full-time students working part-time, minimum wage jobs at $4/hour. There were months when I fed both of us for just $15/week!

Granted, it wasn’t particularly Real Food, but I mostly mention it to say: I’ve been there, folks. I’ve been dirt poor trying to do the best I can with what I had.

I understand the sticker shock that comes from choosing nourishing, real foods. It can be hard to pay $6.50/gallon for grass-fed raw milk when the grocery store milk is $3/gallon less. It feels crazy.

And, it often makes people give up in frustration before they’ve even begun to incorporate better food choices into their diet. Well, I’m here to tell you it can be done. You may not be able to do it all at once; I know we didn’t. It’s taken us years to get to where we are, and we still make compromises all the time because of budget constraints. So, give yourself a little grace.

There are two components to eating Real Food on a budget. One is learning what foods to prioritize sourcing well, and the other is learning how to manage your kitchen properly to stretch those dollars.

How to Prioritize Food Choices

Without question, this is how I prioritize spending my money:

  1. Getting High Quality Fats & Oils — The goal here is to eat a traditional balance of fats by reducing the amount of Omega 6 fatty acids in our diet and increasing the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s also to eat more saturated and monounsaturated fats, and to reduce polyunsaturated fat intake to less than 4%. You can do that by switching to traditional fats. If buying quality animal fats like lard or tallow from pastured/wild/grass-fed animals is too expensive, consider using more coconut oil, butter, and olive oil in your cooking. Whatever you do, eliminate all yellow seed oils like corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, etc. If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough Omega 3 oils, despite your best efforts, by all means buy and take a quality fish oil or krill oil supplement that’s been certified mercury-free, etc. I highly recommend supplementing with fermented cod liver oil, just because of all it’s wonderful nutritional benefits. For online sources supplements, check out the listings on my Resources Page.
  2. Buying Raw or Fermented Dairy From Grass-Fed Animals — Obviously, this is a big step, and knowing how to prioritize buying milk or cheese can be difficult. That\’s why I recently started a What To Buy series of posts. If you haven’t already read them, or would like a refresher on how to prioritize your dairy choices according to your budget and what’s available, check out these posts on Healthy Milk: What to Buy and Healthy Cheese: What to Buy. Fermented dairy includes yogurt, kefir, cheese, sour cream, buttermilk, and the like. These all contain healthy bacteria and living enzymes.
  3. Getting High Quality Meats, Fish, & Eggs – By this, I mean for you to eat meats from humanely raised, pastured animals or wild caught seafood. Grass-fed beef is nutritionally superior to its industrially raised counterpart, and the same can be said for any pastured meats. High quality eggs are trickier to find, thanks to lax labeling standards here in the U.S. that allow egg packaging to be quite misleading and downright deceptive. Check out this post on Healthy Eggs: What to Buy.
  4. Buying Organic Fruits & Veggies — If you’ve done the first three things on this list and still have some wiggle room in your budget, then start buying as many organic fruits & veggies as you can afford. Prioritize buying organic on thin-skinned fruits & vegetables like grapes, peaches, leafy greens, etc. If a fruit or vegetable has a thicker-skin or peel, you can feel safer buying non-organic b/c you can simply peel it and eliminate most pesticides that way.

Please note that buying organic fruits & vegetables is way down on the list. In fact, it’s got the lowest priority. That’s because of all the changes listed above, switching to organic fruits & vegetables will have the smallest effect on your health and nutritional well-being.

How To Manage Your Kitchen Properly

These are tips that I listed before in a previous post on this subject, but they’re worth repeating again and augmenting with a few clarifications. This is how I manage my kitchen:

  1. I prepare our own meals – Eating out is a luxury. And contrary to what KFC claimed in their infamous $10 Challenge commercial, it really is cheaper to cook your own food at home.
  2. I don’t buy packaged foods — This is a huge money saver! (And it does wonders for your health.) There’s a reason why my first Newbie Tip is to Become A Label Nazi. After all, even so-called “organic” packaged foods can hide unhealthy ingredients.
  3. I buy in bulk, and directly from local farmers when possible – I pick up bulk grains and beans and natural sweeteners from my local grocery store (or in buying clubs with like-minded friends & neighbors), and I also plan large once-a-year purchases of pastured beef and poultry. This saves a lot of money. It is considerably cheaper to buy grass-fed meat in bulk than to buy it by the cut, and (with the exception of ground beef) I beat grocery store prices for industrially raised meats for just about every cut of steak or roast out there. I know that having freezer space is an issue for many; it was for me for years. But I kept my eyes peeled for free or low-cost freezers on Craigslist and Freecycle, and eventually ended up getting one when I moved into my new house. Considering that I’m probably saving $850/year in meat costs alone, even buying a new freezer would pay for itself quickly.
  4. I eat fewer animal products (and more veggies) — While I believe animal products are far healthier for me than the diet dictocrats would have us believe, I’m also a vegan for about 40% of the year thanks to my religious principles (Orthodox Christian). And, even when I’m not keeping a vegan fast due to pregnancy or breastfeeding, my family still only averages about 2.67 lbs of meat per week over the course of the year. The trick here is to make meat only a part of the meal, rather than the centerpiece. Instead of serving one chicken breast per person with some sides, we’ll cut up the chicken and put it in a casserole or soup or on top of a giant salad.
  5. I don’t waste food — We save up unused vegetable parts and uneaten leftovers to make hearty broths and soups each week, use chicken guts to make gravy, use the carcass for a gelatin-rich broth that’s oh-so-good for your joints. This way, I can generally get four meals out of each chicken!
  6. I make my own convenience foods – Breads, salsas, salad dressings, condiments. It’s all healthier and cheaper when you make it at home. Check out this recipe for making homemade mayonnaise.
  7. I try not to double up on expensive animal proteins in any given meal — This means I rarely pair meat with cheese, eggs with cheese, meat with eggs, and the like unless I’m cooking up something special. I save lasagna and quiche for when I have company.
  8. I eat in season & locally, when possible — This can also save you a significant amount of money. Inevitably, there is always a week at the Farmer’s Market when everyone has tomatoes. When that happens, they’re surprisingly cheap! I’ll buy a whole case of them and can them for the winter. The same goes for any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Buy it when it’s at the peak of its flavor, and you’ll not only pay less, your food will taste so much better.

In other posts when I’ve gone into the details of how much I spend on any particular food item, I’m always amazed by the diversity of people’s comments. What I’ve learned is that food costs vary greatly from place to place. You simply need to do the best you can with what you’ve got.

With time, you’ll start feeling comfortable spending a little more on food and cutting out other expenses that seem less necessary. If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. Just do your best!

I will conclude with this thought: I feed my family of four nourishing, real foods on far less than the federal food stamp allotment for a family my size ($668/month). It takes a lot of thought, planning, and detective work to eat this way, but I do it.

This post is part of today’s Fight Back Fridays carnival. For other stories, recipes, anecdotes, and news related to finding, eating, and preparing Real Food, check it out!
(photo by aarrgh)

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While I adore hats & happy skirts, nothing inspires me quite like geeking out over nutrition & sustainable agriculture.
My name is Kristen Michaelis, author extraordinaire and rebel with a cause.

Comments

  1. says

    This is so great, Kristen. Very helpful. I struggle with our budget vs. food quality all the time. Our farm market is often more expensive than Whole Foods, which is pricey enough. Fortunately we grow our own and belong to 2 CSAs. I don’t know why food is so expensive here in SoCal, I mean, we grow it right here!

    I especially like the tip about not doubling up on animal proteins in one meal and making meat part of the meal rather than the centerpiece. Thanks!
    .-= Dawn @ SmallFootprintFamily.com

  2. Kyle says

    Wow, good job. And great post, I always like money savers. And making your own things can save so much! Like for example, making yogurt from raw, grass-fed milk (5.99) is cheaper than the cheapest yogurt that we can buy when it’s on sale (1.50 for 32 oz., which is good). And it’s healthier. It just takes some practice.

    When I move out of the house, I can’t wait to try getting into the habit of making all my bread from scratch, and other things. It’s great that you don’t buy any packaged foods. It’s a hard (but good) habit to get into!

  3. says

    Excellent post! I have been working on our food budget and to be quite honest have been very surprised at how well we can eat on what we can afford. I’ll admit to going to slightly extreme measures (we are helping butcher chickens in exchange for a reduced price on them from a friend/small farmer) and we do have to make compromises plus I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen. Your tips actually help me with some of the ‘guilt’ that I feel over not switching to 100% organic for fruits and veggies. Thank you!
    .-= Millie

  4. says

    Great tips, Kristen! I think this is one of the biggest challenges for people who are trying to clean up their diet. It’s hard enough as it is to convince some people how important food quality is without the added cost. Even before cost cutting measures are taken into account, I think there needs to be a paradigm shift. Although this doesn’t apply to everyone, there are far too many people who complain about the price of real food despite the fact that they waste a lot of money on stuff they don’t need. Make health and nutrition a priority in your life and buy fewer of the material luxury items that you don’t really need!

    Buying in bulk is an excellent suggestion. Especially for meat if you have an additional freezer. I eat a lot of meat and this is a big source of savings for me. I also use a lot of oils, and for the more expensive ones like coconut oil, I order it in one gallon buckets.
    .-= Vin – NaturalBias

  5. says

    Great post! People are so used to buying packaged food that many don’t realize how expensive it really is. A box of breakfast cereal can be upwards of $4 these days, and doesn’t contain much in the way of nutrients except for added vitamins. Quality food costs more when you’re looking at pastured vs. CAFO meat side by side, but you can actually save money overall by cooking at home with whole ingredients.

    I’m lucky to live in Vermont, where I can buy fresh, organic, raw milk for $2 per half gallon – that’s half the price of organic milk at the store!
    .-= Annika

  6. says

    Great post. After some trial and error, this is what I’ve come to figure out too. I’m still only half way there with the oils/fats (we buy GMO free, but not always organic) but I’m working on it. The veggies one is a big one- switching to all organic fruit and veggies, and buying whatever looks good (like berries!) can easily send a food budget skyrocketing up.
    .-= Cara

  7. says

    I love this post. I try to tell people that we spend far less than the national average for our family (also of four) and they simply do not believe me. We’ve had a pantry challenge for the last 8 weeks, and spent about $500 total on food – for 8 weeks (that’s our weekly organic CSA and farm eggs and raw milk with a few extras here and there from the store). Of course, that is partially because we already had a lot of things stocked (flour, beef from purchasing a whole cow earlier in the year, beans, etc), but primarily because we buy in a bulk buying club and buy directly from farms and then make everything ourselves (forethought intensive, but not really time intensive).

    I have really enjoyed your Fight Back Fridays series. Perhaps after this baby is born I will have more time to participate and get back into blogging on real food (or perhaps I am dreaming!).

    Keep up the good work!
    .-= Marianne

  8. says

    Marianne — So true. We spend about $380/month on food, not counting our bulk buys of meat, oil, and grain. But even factoring those in, we’re still at less than $500/month for a family of four. And we even spend a little on luxuries like chocolate, wine, and coffee.

    Cara — Oh I know! We intended to go berry picking at a local organic u-pick place this year, but the drought meant that the harvest was short. We were about two weeks too late! Such a bummer because buying organic berries in the store is sooo expensive.

    Annika — Seems like I’m in an opposite situation. I can usually always beat CAFO meat prices by buying pastured meat in bulk, but my raw milk definitely puts the squeeze on me.

    Vin — Yep. We buy coconut oil in bulk, too.

    Millie — Glad to help. I’ll say it again: don’t feel guilt about not eating organic fruits & veggies! They’re one of the most expensive leaps to make, and it really does only offer a small nutritional reward. Of course, it’s always NICE to buy organic produce b/c you can feel better about the environment, worker’s rights, helping out a local farmer, etc. But it’s WAY DOWN on the list of priorities!

    Carrie — Thanks!

    Kyle — You’d be surprised. At first I thought it would mean a LOT more work and time. Then I realized it REALLY doesn’t. My meals all still take less than a half hour to get on the table. And the few minutes I spend prepping things for my convenience (like whipping up a batch of mayo or tending to my kombucha and other assorted ferments) is really small!

    Dawn — You’re welcome. Hope it helps!

  9. says

    Wonderful information Kristen, and inspiring to know it is possible to eat healthy without spending a fortune – that reminds me I forgot to go to the farmers market yesterday to get eggs – yikes! There is a new one I’ve been meaning to go to on Saturdays so someone pinch me tomorrow so I don’t forget :)

    It is also good to know what you said about organic fruit – prioritizing your organic buying is a good tip.
    .-= Earth Friendly Goodies

  10. says

    I recently posted a blog entry on my own experiences in greening my food life
    & the surprisingly small impact it has had on our budget. I’m so pleased w the experience so far!!!

  11. Kristen says

    Thank you Kristen, this was really helpfull. This was just what I needed. Hopefully I can make the changes slowly and be there by January 2010.

  12. says

    Kristen — You’re welcome. When I got your email I realized that I had a lot of the info you wanted scattered in different posts, and that it was time to collect them all into one master post that was easy to refer people to.

    Heather — It is surprising, isn’t it? It’s why I always balk when people say eating this way is elitist. Not at all!! It’s a little bit of work, but if you make the changes slowly they become habitual and don’t feel like work at all.

    Earth Friendly Goodies — LOL. I forgot to put in my egg order this week, too! Luckily, they think they can deliver my eggs tomorrow. Let’s hope!

  13. says

    Wow the food sounds great! Most people need a lot more meat and dairy and eggs, though. Even with all the good stuff you talk about, I’m pretty sure I would die on a diet like this!

  14. says

    Maria — I’m not sure I understand your comment. We go through 3 dozen eggs a week, 2.5 gallons of raw milk, 1 quart of raw cream, 3 pounds of sour cream, 1-2 quarts of yogurt, 1-2 pounds of cheese, 3 pounds of seafood, AND get meat (like red meat, pork, or chicken) in one meal per day, 5 days a week! PLUS we eat a very high fat diet (roughly 65% of our daily calories) by liberally adding coconut oil, tallow, lard, butter, olive oil, and ghee to just about every meal. I can’t imagine anyone feeling hungry or starving on our diet.

  15. says

    All excellent techniques. We make a lot of canned means in the fall to carry us through the winter. These are so easy to heat up with water. Hot water, that is another key because it is filling and warming. Be it stew, soup or tea – it warms us internally, something we need most of the year in our cool climate.

  16. Kitty says

    Excellent article! I was just thinking of this very topic the other day…great minds must think alike :)

    I have to say in response to Maria…you’d be surprised at how your body changes once it starts getting nourished with real food. When I first started eating this way, I did feel hungry quite often, but instead of eating ‘snack’ food I’d get a glass of milk and a piece of fruit. I’d also find myself craving whole avocadoes, tablespoons of olive oil, etc. I gave in to those cravings and have to say in the last month or so all of those cravings are gone. I eat regular meals, I don’t snack at all anymore because I am satisfied, and I have continued to drop weight throughout all of this. I am also on way less thyroid medication than I have been in the last 15 yeas, which they said I would continue to need more as I age (only 37 now) but they keep dropping it.

    Another point I think people often miss is this…when you nourish your body with healthy foods…you *eat less* so you *buy less* which helps you keep your budget low. I don’t buy ‘snack’ foods at all anymore or soda, I can’t believe how much of my budget was blown by that stuff. I am very excited to have found a place outside Austin now that sells raw milk for $5 a gallon, pastured eggs for $3 a dozen, and beef for $3 a pound!

    Thanks for an inspirational article!
    Kitty

  17. says

    GREAT POST! I think its very inexpensive to eat well. Beans, grains, fruits and veg are all so inexpensive and the primary items in a healthy diet. By eating lots of those, we can easily afford the more expensive meats, dairy, seafood, nuts and seeds. I just gobbled up an awesome BLTAB, (Bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado and basil) sando and it cost no more than a $1 – $1.50. One piece of incredible bacon, with all that produce….cheap, cheap. Local, sustainable, healthy, and TASTY!
    .-= Daily Diner

  18. says

    There was something you had said earlier that really stuck with me, I just had to come back. :)
    It was something along the lines of you don’t have to have meat as the main meal. While not really an epiphany it got me thinking. In US culture the whole meat and potatoes meal is so ingrained that it is so easy to forget to eat otherwise. Not only does using meat as an ingredient rather than the whole meal save money, it also helps give variety to each meal. Thanks for the reminder.
    .-= Earth Friendly Goodies

  19. says

    I really appreciate this post.

    I’ve been struggling lately to keep my food budget for a family of six (two teenagers and two pre-teenagers) under a thousand dollars a month. Perhaps I shall back off on the organic veggies, and focus on our grass fed milk, beef, butter, cream, pastured eggs and chicken, etc. and the healthy oils, and see what cutting back on the organic veggie expenditures will do for our budget.

    I’m just brainstorming….in your comments box. Sorry.
    .-= Alana Sheldahl

  20. says

    Amen Sistah! I find that cutting out the packaged stuff not only makes shopping quicker and saves money and helps save the environment needless packaging waste, but our belts have loosened up too! All in all a win-win-win!
    .-= Annie – Hip Organic Mama

  21. ndoublel says

    Gosh, Im sooo jealous that some of you guys can keep your food budget so tight. My husband and I eat alot, and I mean alot of protein which we get from pastured milk, eggs, beef and chicken. I have some undiagnosed reactions to grains, even some seeds so I pay the price when I do consume them. We do have our own garden and we use everything or freeze what we harvest to save that way.

    One thing I do think is key to keeping the budget down is to select some of the cheaper cuts of meat instead of the prime cuts. We eat alot of stew/kabob meat, ground beef, liver, whole chicken (never the pre-cut) and twice a month we get a large roast from the farmer. I usually intermingle wild shrimp, tilapia and tuna. I think our protein budget alone comes to about 350/month and add in another 50 dollars for butter, avocado, olive oil and ezekial wraps for my son’s pizzas, whew. that is just for 2.5 people !!

  22. says

    You all are so lucky with your raw milk prices! The cheapest I have found so far in the Sacramento area of California is $7.99 for a half gallon. raw cheese is $5.49 a pound and pastured meat is so expensive that I have not been able to go there yet, although we are planning to buy half a cow soon.
    Everything else, making my own bread, cooking from scratch and no prepackaged snack foods has made it possible to afford a few gallons a month of the raw milk.
    .-= Kendra

    • melanie says

      Hi Kendra!
      I was so frustrated reading all the posts on people bragging how low their food budget is! They are obviously not in California, or located near a farm with good prices. The CHEAPEST raw milk per gallon here where I live in Cali. is $13-$14, so for a family of four who drinks 2-3 gallons per week, along with the other expensive items: $3.75-$4.50 dozen eggs (pastured, no soy, no corn), $10/lb raw cheese, $15 for whole real pastured chicken (no soy,no corn) which only makes a couple days of sandwiches for everyone, etc etc…it is impossible to get the food bill under $650-$700/ month and I am very very careful, and an excellent budgeter. I wish people would always reference where they are from so we can see an accuracte view of a normal budget according to the state and area they live in!! Some of these posts are incredibly innacurate…I can definately eat a lot cheaper on crap food, and that is a fact because I used to do it for years!..and FYI…the only produce I currently buy is one or two veggies and one bag of apples per week. Yes, I have learned by making things myself and buying in bulk, and not buying snacks that I can have a decent budget compared to other families eating traditional American junk meals, but to say ” I only spend 300 per month on a family of 4″ is either not true, not realistic or their raw grass fed dairy is costing them pennies per ounce! You have to calculate everything in, all the bulk orders throughout the year, going weekly to the raw milk dairy hub, farmers market, regular store, online purchases for bulk coconut oils, eating out, etc.etc. I have spent hours and hours pricing, researching, budgeting cheap meals with the meat NOT used as the main portion for my family of 4..We only buy the cheapest cuts of grass fed beef. I have priced things out yearly and monthly to come to this accurate conclusion. My strong opinion in this posting is meant to help anyone who thinks “Am I crazy??..why cant I eat for a penny a day like these other families”!!! I would never ever go back to my old ways and eat cheap food, I am so grateful to be living on raw nutrition and making everything from scratch. Bottom line, there are great ways to do this at a much lower cost, but reality is, it does cost much MORE than regular coupon clipping shopping, and in most cases, more than “food stamp allotment”. Today, right now, I can go to my local grocery store with coupons and buy food for $100 for this week for my family of 4- EASY. Realistically, after calculating all bulk orders, and my raw dairy trip, etc etc… I will spend between $165- $185 for the week, and thats being extremely careful! Thank you for listening. I hope this helps anyone who is frustrated and trying to budget!!

      • Pippi says

        I know exactly what you mean, Melanie! There’s no way I’m saving money by eating this way. We’re just going to start getting raw milk from a cow share (hopefully, it was just shut down because raw milk is illegal here in Vancouver, BC) and it will cost $17.50CAN a gallon. We live in a small apartment so we can’t buy meat in bulk and it’s about $5 a pound for ground beef — one of the cheapest kinds. Eggs from the farmers market are now up $6 a dozen, about the same as I pay at the grocery store for organic grain fed chicken eggs. We spend at minimum $100 a week on groceries for two adults and a toddler. Here in Vancouver it is not possible to eat traditional foods cheaply. I’m not upset that I spend this money and I’m glad I’m supporting our local farmers and feeding my family healthy, nourishing food but I would definitely save money if I didn’t care about nutrition or our local foodshed.

  23. says

    This was an amazing post! You should try to get it published in some traditional housekeeping mags for those families that may not be reading blogs but could really use this type of information.

    I agree with your priorities and have been following a plan for my own household that is very similar and in line with your tips. I’m always amazed at how many people will choose convenience over what is best for your body.

    Especially important is the suggestion to not make meat always the main focus of the meal. It is not only the best thing you can do for your pocket, but also the environment. This country’s meat consumption is ridiculous. I’m not advocating vegetarianism but just that we treat it as the special ingredient that it is.

    Thanks for this and keep up the great work!
    .-= Jen

  24. says

    I can see why this post is so popular. It’s incredibly helpful, exactly what people need to realize that healthy whole food doesn’t have to cost a fortune. My only quibble is that I would change the order of priorities a bit, mostly because my focus is on buying whole food LOCALLY whenver possible — good for my health, good for the planet (fewer food miles lowers my carbon footprint), good for the local farmers and our local economy. So I buy lots of fruits and veggies in season and freeze for later, I buy beans and just a little bit of meat, and I cook with olive oil.

    Many thanks for this post and all they you do. I love it.
    .-= Dee´s last blog post …Local food abomination =-.

  25. says

    Thanks for your post Very helpful for all in “these times” If we are into foods that are healthy nutritious and healing I believe we also have to factor the selection according to who we are energetically because it does make a difference as to how we feel There are also lifestyle behavioral choices that also help in improving nutrition Thanks Bill

  26. Lt22t says

    You seem to overlook the environmental effects of diet choices. Buying humanely raised meat doesn’t change the facts that raising the animals uses up large amounts of land and fresh water that could be used for other needed purposes, and the methane gas from cattle is a significant contributor to global warming. And unless you’re willing to kill the animals yourself, eating their meat is ethically problematic — whether you have to look at it or think about it or not, an animal had to have its throat cut and be bled to death so you could have your meat for dinner. It doesn’t require being a “diet dictocrat” to recognize this reality.

    Finally, no amount of economizing or prioritizing is going to change the fact that it’s more expensive and consumptive of resources to produce animal foods than plant foods. Eating lower on the food chain will save you money and make it possible for more people to have their basic food needs — i.e., enough calories to sustain life — met, instead of starving to death as they do now while rich countries enjoy rich (animal) foods.

    • says

      Actually, certain studies have shown that grass-fed (so they’re not growing extra crops for feed) cows can actually benefit the environment enough to offset their methane production. As they graze they trample grass into the soil which helps the soil hold more CO2 instead of it all becoming trapped in the atmosphere.
      .-= Stacie´s last blog post …Green Thumb =-.

  27. Ahsan says

    I wish my mom would cook like this and with these priorities. She just cooks in too much oil =/ I mean she’s an excellent cook but I refrain from eating it because it’s too unhealthy even though I’m only 19 years old. I tried cooking on my own but my mom just forbids me because I “make a mess.”

    • Claire says

      Same. I try to convince my mom to cook healthy, traditional foods. But she doesn’t believe, doesn’t want to do the work, and doesn’t want to spend the money. We buy normal grocery store meat and still spend over $800 a month on food for a family of three (although we do eat a lot, with two teenagers). I do try to make traditional foods (like sprouts, lacto-fermanted sauerkraut, and soaked grains), but I’m 14 and can’t be completely in charge of my family’s food. I don’t even know where to get most of these things, like raw milk or pastured meat. Even if I did, it’d probably be way too expensive.

  28. says

    As someone who has to feed a family of 6 on a budget, this is awesome. I’m constantly struggling to feed my family healthy, good food, without going completely broke doing it. Excellent advice!

  29. jM says

    I respectfully disagree with this post. For my family, buying organic fruit and veg is at the top of the list and we have cut our budget by cutting out the meat and dairy to create a more heathy body and planet.

    • cboston says

      I agree. Along with that note: The whole brainwashing that you need animal products for protein is just hogwash. Elephants are vegan. Just think about that. (And im not even a vegan. Just wish i didnt like cheese so much).

  30. MJ says

    Feeding a family of four for less than $650? That only seems to be possible, in my opinion, if you consume a large amount of grains in your diet.

    My family of four spends close to $1200/mo in food. This includes raw milk, raw cheese, pastured eggs, pastured beef from an Amish farmer, CSA, etc. That accounts for $700/mo.

    We spend roughly $120/week at the co-op for things like stevia, oils, leafy vegetables, nuts, almond flour, coconut flour, etc.

    We’re somewhere between a Weston A. Price diet and Paleo, which I think accounts for the higher expenses.

    Eating rice, bread sandwiches, potatoes, pancakes, etc. is super cheap, but our family can’t handle that type of food.

  31. Shellee says

    I am curious to where you get your meat locally and other items. Which local grocer do you buy in bulk from? You and I live in the same town. I always looking for better cheaper options!

  32. Beth says

    Here in Los Angeles raw milk cost $8 for HALF a gallon! Gulp. I haven’t been able to the switch yet

  33. Caitlin Thompson says

    How funny! I was reading through this post and realized that you’re an Orthodox Christian! I am as well, and it’s always fun to meet other Orthodox Christians that are as passionate about “real food” as I am. I love it!

    Just out of curiosity, do you have a posts/collections of recipes that you commonly use during fasting seasons?

  34. Sarah says

    Thanks so much for this! I was so excited to find this website and then also to find that you are an Orthodox Christian. (My family and I are also)
    Thank you!

  35. says

    I was also interested to hear that you are Orthodox (I had wondered, with your Greek name,) and would love to hear any Lenten recipes that you use. There would be practically no conflict if we all lived in the Mediterranean, but winter and early spring in the Midwest can be brutal for vegans. Most vegan or Lenten recipes I find on the internet seem to depend so much on soy products and vegetable oils, but I have found that many WAP principles have helped me feel a lot better during the fasts. (Simply adding kombucha and sauerkraut has enriched our Lenten diet.) Additionally, I believe that “stocking up” on nutrients during non-fasting times gives us strength for the fasts. I’m currently pregnant so not fasting for Nativity but I’m always collecting recipes! You don’t even have to advertise them as Lenten! Your Orthodox followers will know!

    • Natalie says

      Great points, Mallory! I recently asked a similar question on her Facebook page for dinner party recipes that are vegan (Lenten) and REAL. Scroll through the “Recent Posts” to mid December. I am thrilled our beloved Food Renegade raffled a trip to the cooking class by Monica Corrado. I loooooved Monica’s classes when we all lived in DC and am so happy she is continuing to teach in Boulder. When I told her back then of my dilemna of having to eat vegan during Lent and asked her what she would do, she laughed, “Change religions.” Thought my Orthodox compadres would find that funny. Kristen, you’re going to enjoy your time with Monica! Please pass on my warm regards from the Holistic/Army/Orthodox Mom Natalie from back in DC. I need to take my parents to her classes the next time we visit home in Colorado! You mentioned in the similar post that you were “joining a host of other bloggers writing about Real Food on a Budget. Most are sharing recipes…” Which bloggers had good ones, and were any of their recipes vegan? Thanks!

  36. Daun Felker Pringle via Facebook says

    We buy what we can in bulk, and our meat portions are smaller. Honestly, rice (lotus foods volcano rice) & heirloom dried beans (seed savers) help it stretch a little further. We also go to the store every few days, and we have been much careful with what we eat & what gets wasted.

  37. Laura Rao via Facebook says

    I’m in the process of making the switch. My local grocery store sells zero grassfed meat. So I traveled into town to wegmans. While looking at the grassfed meats there, I was struck with how the prices were the same per package. It was just sold in smaller portion sizes. It really got me thinking how I can stretch my small meat further by chopping it up and getting creative. It also reminded me how Americans eat too much meat as it is. Eating higher quality meats and paying more per pound is a natural way to reduce your American sized portions.

  38. Ruthann Jagge via Facebook says

    I do “clean out the fridge/cupboard” soups and stews…have to get creative but using spices and cooking with wine, broths,beer also adds flavors to the always clean ingredients I have on hand.

  39. says

    I use coupons…yes they have organic coupons. Then we eat the food until it is gone. Several days. We waste nothing. And I only make organic food. We drink raw milk and raw apple cider and eat raw cheese, raw honey and raw milk kefir. So this can get expensive.

  40. Wild Lantana via Facebook says

    Yes- it’s high. Notsomuch the raw milk – but it’s a pain in the @ss to obtain. But, I do the best I can, and I’m not a legalist. I was told in the Word to take no thought for food or drink, and also that those who believe will drink poison and it won’t hurt them… I believe that part has an application for these perverse times. I’d rather have piece of mind than obsess over what’s largely out of my control. I’m not sold on ‘grass-fed’ meat, as there’s as much room for deception and toxins in that ‘food chain’ as there is in Grade A. And the portions are ridiculously tiny. I’m just makin’ do until I can milk and kill my own cows and chase my own chickens around.

  41. Tara Scarlett Lumpkin via Facebook says

    Cant wait for farmers market to start back in march! Wholesomewave.org. only way I can do it!

  42. Bethany Sells via Facebook says

    Growing any amount of your own food helps a LOT. Almost any apartment even has some kind of patio, or at least windowsill! :)
    And then there are community gardens! :)

  43. Lori Wilson Unitt via Facebook says

    I’m trying to follow this lifestyle with 3 grown sons at home, basically feeding 5 adults. We are also very, very limited financially.

  44. Tisha Moore via Facebook says

    This is wonderful information! I can identify with Lori’s comment. I have a 13 year old boy, very athletic. He eats a good amount and would skip the veggies for double meat if I would let him. I can’t afford that!

  45. Mark Fuller via Facebook says

    We try to keep meat to the weekends, making our meat costs about $20/wk. for a family of six. I have a seriously bad attitude about the raw milk situation in CA. Only two dairies produce it “legally” so they have the market cornered at about three times the price for organic milk. As a kid we bought it for $2/gallon from the town “dairy”. What a shame on CA.

  46. Jenny Rocco via Facebook says

    Before we raised our own beef and poultry we would buy direct from farmers, which cut out the grocery store..also we sell only whole birds and help people understand they can really stretch it by roasting it and cooking down the carcass for stock. We have given discounts to people who have gone in with friends/family to purchase quantities….buy cheaper cuts of beef and learn how to cook them..

  47. Paul Ewing via Facebook says

    I was in our local independent grocery store last week and was surprised. The generic brand milk was close to $4 a gallon and the Bordens and other big name brand milks were $5-$6.50 a gallon. I get my Jersey full cream raw milk for $5 a gallon at the dairy.

  48. Rachel Holmes via Facebook says

    It’s so disappointing that some people are taking advantage of the raw milk demand. Shame shame! I’m grateful we can get 1 gallon of raw milk for $3. It’s cheaper then commercial milk at the store.

  49. Abra Morawiec via Facebook says

    Both my boyfriend and I work on farms, so we’re lucky to get a lot of our food directly from our jobs. However, we still don’t have too much money to burn (especially in the winter), but we make it a priority to spend the majority of our income on nourishing foods that we do not produce ourselves.

    That means no cable TV, restaurant outings limited to once a month, walking or biking to work to save on gas, baking our own bread, fermenting our own veggies, etc.

    To eat well, you must prioritize and that means prioritize outside your grocery list.

  50. RaynLaura Johnson via Facebook says

    We are blessed to have our own farm where we produce all our own meat, eggs, milk & veggies. We save a lot in some areas (milk) but in others we end up paying more (eggs in the winter when the hens aren’t laying as well). We have a fairly steady supply of meat & dairy, but the rest of our diet is very seasonal – lots of greens & wild berries in summer, potatoes & dried beans & whole grains in winter. Nearly everything is made from scratch & we basically never eat out or grab fast food. I haven’t done the math on what we spend on food in a month, but I do know that we eat really well for a family of 5 on a single income.

  51. Stacy Seip via Facebook says

    I just love your posts… I refer to your where to buy things list regularly!!! Got ribs for my sons birthday from a source you recommended ( )us wellness

  52. Shipley Marmion via Facebook says

    I rarely agree with anyone on everything, but you are spot on with every one of your points. We do all of these, except #7……I put cheese on everything ;) Keep up the good work!

  53. says

    So much knowledge, amazing. I have been into healthy living for 37 years and I am familiar with most of the information you provide. However, I have had my food priorities out of order. I put organic fruits and veges first. That will be remedied today. The mind and what we tell ourselves is a very powerful thing as I used to feel “dirty” if I bought commercial produce. Not anymore and thank you for releasing me from that. I will never again though, buy anything but pastured dairy, meat and eggs.

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