Real Food on a Realistic Budget
Do you struggle with wanting to eat healthier but just do not know how to do it on your current budget?
I find that I personally have two main complaints about eating healthy:
- Processed foods are often cheaper than “real” food.
- Processed foods are less time consuming to feed the family.
Do you have the same complaints? When you have a large family, and especially if you have boys, they eat a lot! Food can be a big expense. I am learning, a step at a time, how to do real food on a realistic budget.
I want to share with you 3 ways my family of 7 has been eating on only $400-$500 a month. We stick to real food varieties, and I have found practical ways to make eating healthier less annoying.
1.) Create a Budget
Rarely does someone like to budget, but if we are to be good stewards of what God has given us, then sometimes budgeting is in order.
It is helpful to watch your spending habits closely for one month. Track everything and not just food. Use an easy financial planning system like this one from The Homemaker’s Companion. This will help you to see where your money is going.
At the end of that month assess with your spouse what can be cleaned up in your day-to-day expenditures.
Once you are able to see what money you really have to work with, you can then decide what your food budget is going to be. If you find yourself unable to stick to a budget, you may need to take that money out in cash and put it in an envelope to carry.
Once that grocery money is gone, it is gone! It is then time to get creative in the kitchen with what you have in the pantry and freezer. You would be amazed what you can find to throw together when you are hungry and cannot go to the grocery store.
2.) Create a Menu Plan
You won’t get very far in sticking to your food budget without a menu plan. You can do this one of two ways…
- The Standard Menu Plan – This is great for the extra organized person (a.k.a. not me). This person sits down at the beginning of the week or month and works out what she wants to make each meal, what ingredients are needed, and what her shopping list is.
- The Backwards Menu Plan – This type of menu plan is not just for the more unorganized person, it is also great for those shopping sales or who might be part of a weekly produce co-op. On this menu plan, you purchase first and make your menu plan second based on your purchases.
I personally think that a combination of the two of these would save you the most money. If you have a general idea of all the meals you want to make before going to the store, you won’t be tempted to buy something you do not need, but then if you see a sale you have the flexibility to change your menu plan later.
3.) Creative Ways to Save on Produce and Meat
I find that fresh produce and meat get me every time when it comes to my budget.
- Buy “In Season” Produce: Purchasing “in season” produce at the grocery store will help you save money. I noticed this winter that an avocado was nearly $2, but in the summer can drop down to $1 or less, so save the guacamole recipe for the warmer seasons!
- Plant a Garden: If you have the ability to at all, please plant a garden. Gardening as a family is a great educational tool. Not only does gardening teach self-sustaining life skills, but it also teaches responsibility and healthy nutritional habits, and it opens up doors to bring your school outside by fostering nature study, science lessons, and more.
- Frequent Co-ops and Support Local Farmers – Some areas have local produce co-ops. We use a national co-op called Bountiful Baskets! Read more about it HERE. and often you can find a local farmer to purchase meat, dairy, and eggs from. If you are not sure where to find these farmers, search the internet or even ask in a local Facebook group. People know people.
4.) Learn to Be Flexible
This is where we need to talk about priorities. When you are on a “real food” or “clean eating” diet, the talk is always about whether you should buy organic, non-GMO, etc.
Obviously, if you have a food allergy or other pressing health issue, then that is the priority, but sometimes we have other things that may be important, but not “break the budget” important. It is crucial that you really think hard about this one, and learn to be flexible when it comes to being a good steward of both your income and your body.
When your husband is unemployed or you are generally going through a rough financial time, you have to pick and choose what you are going to do with food for your family and leave the rest to God – and my Friend, that is okay!
Food and nutrition can be such a hot topic in the “mom wars.” I think it is important that we do not let our food consume us. God provides us with certain means, and we do need to live within those means to honor Him.
We have been in a hard place financially for years, and so I totally get that some things you just cannot afford no matter how much you want to. I find it helpful to prioritize, or create a “wishlist” of what you would like to purchase if you have the money. For me, I have a hang up about hormones and steroids in food, so when we have the means I buy special eggs and meat that does not have these added. If you have a local farmer who sells this – even better!
If buying organic is a bigger deal to you than maybe purchasing in priority of “The Dirty Dozen” would be helpful. This way you don’t have to buy everything organic, but just those particular fruits and veggies that have a tendency to be more contaminated.
It is okay to be flexible. I have had to learn that the hard way.
Making Real Food Real Easy
I think one of the worst hurdles for me to overcome with eating healthier is that it takes more time to make my food. I am busy enough as it is with 5 kids 6 and under, homeschooling, and a home business. We are a busy brood and so “extra things to do” do not come with extra time.
So how can you save time preparing all of your “real” food? Check out my post today on The Road to 31 all about making Real Food, Real Easy and get a FREE Download!
Do you have any ideas that are not mentioned here that help you save time and money when it comes to eating real food on a realistic budget? I would love to hear them! Please share with us in the comments below.