How We Cut Our Grocery Budget by 40% and Still Eat Healthy

Small House Living

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Oy. I wondered if I should actually tackle this topic as there are more blog posts on saving money on food on the interwebs than you can shake a stick at.

And yet, I’ve been asked about a dozen times over the past month (and especially after the last Cohesive Home podcast) how we keep our grocery budget low and eat healthy while also having several allergies and food intolerances in our family. So here it goes.

A little background: Kirk and I have been eating paleo-ish since 2008. We aren’t control freaks about it and love our dairy and occasional gluten. My oldest daughter has a severe gluten intolerance, and she and I are both allergic to peanuts. Thankfully, our youngest daughter has not shown any allergies or intolerances yet. Hallelujah!

We actually went vegan for about 4 months early this spring, and I loved it! I was totally surprised by how good I felt. I love that my body seems to flourish on different styles of eating healthy, and I bet many of you have stories of doing well on a variety of diets as well. Your idea of what’s healthy may vary from mine, and that’s okay. I think the human body does well with fresh and unprocessed foods, regardless of the (diet) label. Believe me, I don’t plan on writing the manifesto on the ideal diet; instead I’m sharing what works for us.

But whenever I get in baby-growing mode, I tend to gravitate toward a Weston Price style of diet. This means making many foods from scratch, including bone broth, fermented foods (sauerkraut, sourdough bread, and kombucha), and eating weird stuff like liver. My pregnant body does exceptionally well on this sort of diet, but your mileage may vary.

So what do we actually eat?

I spend about $90-100 per week at Aldi’s on all of the staples: nuts, almond butter, olive and coconut oil, kalamata olives, coffee, some fruit and veggies, grass-fed ground beef (3-4 lbs), black beans, rice, frozen fruit (for smoothies), and butter. I will occasionally buy their “premium” wild caught frozen salmon and ice cream (because it’s beyond yum and this mama needs sweets once in awhile!)

And then I head to our local farmstand, which has a year-round store. Yes, I know we are beyond lucky to have them, and I tell the owner that nearly every time I see her! Every week I spend about $50-60 and buy: 2 whole pastured chickens, 4 dozen pastured and soy-free eggs, 1 lb chicken livers, honey and lard (probably every couple of weeks), and some fresh herbs or veggies as available.

Then I may run to our town’s nutrition store for local milk at about $5 per quart. It’s expensive, my girls guzzle it down, and I wish there was a better alternative. Some weeks I don’t buy it, especially if our budget is running tight. The farmstand is hoping to add pastured, raw and organic milk in glass bottles in the next year, and I practically kissed the owner when she told me. If they do, I will start making homemade yogurt and kefir again.

And finally, I pick up fresh flour from our bulk store for making bread for a cost of about $8 every other week.

All that rambling aside, I spend around $150-$170 per week for a total of $600-700ish a month on groceries, and I pay using the cash envelope system. This means I pull out all of my grocery money for the month in cash, record EVERYTHING, and do not buy if I have no money left. Which, when you have kids, means you must be conservative so you don’t run out of money at the end of the month. So far it’s working extremely well. If we were vegan or vegetarian I’m sure we would spend even less, but I’m happy with where we’re at.

When we lived in Oklahoma City, I did most of my shopping at Whole Foods or Sprouts because it was 1)convenient and 2) it was my retail therapy to buy fancy foods. Since moving to a more rural area, I’ve kicked that habit and cut our grocery budget by about 40-50%. It was bad, I tell ya…

So how do we actually feed ourselves on this?

  1. meal plan for an entire week
  2. focus on fats to satiate
  3. buy (almost) nothing packaged and DIY our snacks

There isn’t much I can say on meal planning that I bet you don’t already know. I’m not a stickler, I just plan about 5 meals for a week and we stretch those meals out.

We use fat liberally throughout the day: I drink butter coffee in the morning, cook my morning eggs in lard, drink warm bone broth, snack on nuts, and cook with plenty of butter and olive oil. And no, fat doesn’t make you fat.

And then I bake sourdough bread every couple of days, chop up raw veggies (broccoli, bell peppers, carrots) for snacking, and try to make one green smoothie per day for all of us. We also tend to buy cheaper fruits (apples, bananas, kiwi) and only in-season ones to save money. No blueberries in January (and besides, they taste terrible anyway.)

After I cook my chickens, I use the bones to make broth. And I drink about half of the broth throughout the week (warmed with sea salt) and use the other half to make a creamy veggie soup like this tomato one. We also eat a few vegetarian meals per week to further save on the moolah. A weekly favorite is this Brazilian beans recipe (although I do use a few slices of chopped bacon in it for flavor.)

In general, I look for simple recipes that have a limited number of ingredients and use cheaper pastured meats. If it’s not an ingredient I typically already have in my kitchen then I skip that recipe. We stick to tried and true recipes like egg bakes, gluten-free pancakes, soups and stews, and butternut squash shepherd’s pie. Yes, our meals are fairly basic and some may say boring, but it makes my days easier and my wallet happier, to do so.

My final pieces of advice? Don’t have any untouchables on your grocery shopping list. Closely examine it for those expensive splurges and experiment with getting rid of them. Make your grocery list and do not buy anything that isn’t on it. Add up your total as you shop to avoid surprises in the check-out line. Get busy in the kitchen, DIY your snacks, and eat more fat.

What’s your favorite tips for saving on groceries?

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9 thoughts on “How We Cut Our Grocery Budget by 40% and Still Eat Healthy

  1. I don’t know what the advice is in the states but in the uk pregnant women are advised not to eat liver, something about the form of a vitamin, sorry to be that person 😕

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    1. Interesting! Our supplements here tend to not contain very much Vitamin A, which is what I’m guessing is the concern. Liver is generally recommended here as a healthy source of natural Vitamin A (not synthetic), B vitamins, including folate, iron, and aids in the assimilation of Vitamin K2. I’m sure if I ate liver daily it might be a concern, but in small quantities definitely find it beneficial. And of course source matters, since the liver is a detoxifying organ. Mine is from local, pastured chickens. Thanks for bringing that up!

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  2. What is the name of the year round farm stand you visit. We live in very southwest Michigan and have been looking for a local pastured meat and egg option. Thanks

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    1. Hey Erin! It’s called Acorn Acres, and they are out of Kouts, IN. You can find them on Facebook as well! Hope that helps. 🙂

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  3. When I told someone once that I spend $75-$105 for food each week, they couldn’t believe me and thought my fridge was too empty too, but really, we just get what we need for the week and I know what I am cooking each day to help like you said. It really helps a lot in the financial part of my life. What is annoying though is that my sons are picky eaters. My little one also has a nut/peanut allergy and my husband and I have fruit allergies (he has only been for about two years and is really annoyed about it). Have you tried Wowbutter by the way? It is made with sunflower seeds and taste better than peanut butter to me! My sons with the nut allergy LOVES it. I can have peanut butter in the house around him as the smell isn’t a problem but I know some have it as bad as not allowing to have it around at all.

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    1. It’s so gratifying to buy exactly what you need for one week and nothing more! I’m finding that what I buy for one week is actually stretching to 10 days or so, so I need to either buy less or be content with shopping less often. That’s probably a good thing! And I’ve tried Sunbutter, but not Wowbutter! My daughters like it, but I tend to stick to plain almond butter.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sunbutter has the seeds in it but Wowbutter does not. 🙂 Your daughters might like that more. I am assuming you are only allergic to peanuts and not the rest of the tree nuts since you are having almond. Wish my son was that way, but he is allergic to every single type of nut. 😦

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  4. I so appreciate this post. We work very hard to be frugal, but we also want to support our local cooperative and farmers’ market. We spend around $150 a week, which feels like a good spot for us in terms of shopping our values, but also saving where we can. We eat a lot of bulk beans and rice. 😉 It is great to hear from another family trying to balance their values of frugality and supporting the local food system. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Sarah! It’s great to find kindred spirits when it comes to food and frugality. 🙂

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