March 06, 2009
Time and time again I hear the same story: "I want to shop at Whole Foods [or other health food grocery store] but it's too expensive."
Let me start by saying this: Food Should Cost Money. The only thing in your life more important than food is water. Not TVs, not cars, not even heating your home. Not even that cute little dress in the catalog that came in the mail yesterday. The one with the V-neck and shirring... wait... No. Food and water.
Ok, so I understand the shopping dilemma. Milk and Cheerios at the conventional grocery store cost less than their counterparts at Whole Foods. But what if it's more about shopping habits than the store you happen to shop in? When you really start to shop smart you'll find that it is the conventional grocery stores that cost you more. The photo above is a week's worth of food for Max and I from Whole Foods. It was actually a big shopping week: $75. I don't usually buy a bottle of organic olive oil, or boxed cereal, or meat. (The week before was just $35.)
So start planning, sista
This is maybe the most important step to eating well/spending less. Before you hit the store, decide what you are going to cook and make a list of things you need to buy. Do this in your kitchen so if a recipe calls for garlic you can look and see if you already have enough. And this is a great point – make your meal plan around things you already have in the house and you will need to buy much less. And learn from my mistakes...the list only works if you remember to bring it to the store! This photo is last week's grocery list. Luckily, it doesn't have to be pretty.
Spinach or arugula? Who cares?
Let's say your handy list says to buy a bunch of spinach. But at the store, arugula is on sale for half the price of spinach. Buy the arugula. I'm betting that the recipe will turn out just fine and you'll save a few bucks. You may even find yourself getting more creative and eating new foods this way. Don't be afraid to be flexible and creative with your plan. If you REALLY think ahead you can create meal plans based on your store's weekly sales. Then you are a money saving ninja!
Ditch some nice-to-haves
Last week I bought meat for the first time in a very, very long time. Meat is expensive. Buy less and save money. But this week I decided it was a must have. That means other things became less important: crackers, cookies, or that yummy tea. Those were nice-to-haves that I didn't absolutely need. So I got the meat, but it meant sacrificing a few other things. Makes sense, right? Audit your shopping cart as you go.
Buy less. Duh.
I used to buy a lot of fruit because I wanted to eat more fruit. But over the course of the week I'd forget to eat it, or ultimately go for the cookies instead. The fruit would go bad. That is not money well spent. Now I buy less fruit and if we run out, I buy some more.
I love bulk, unless it's my thighs
Now here's an example of why you might choose to shop at Whole Foods or another health food store. The bulk section is amazing. Instead of spending $8 on a whole bottle of dried tarragon, I can just buy the 1 tsp. I need. Forget buying more because you might need it later. Unless it's a staple item just buy the amount you need NOW.
And now the obvious stuff...
Well, at least I think it's fairly obvious: buy the store brand whenever possible, buy more fresh ingredients and less processed or prepared food, and don't shop when you are hungry!
So why do conventional grocery stores actually cost more? Well, when you are shopping for healthy food at the A&P you will be lucky to find it. Say, whole wheat flour. And when you do find it, they will probably only have one brand and one size. So immediately you are going to buy a more expensive brand and way more quantity than you need. So the overspending begins...
Let's go back to our original example of milk and Cheerios. If you follow the guidelines here, you'll buy organic milk and spare your body the hormone and antibiotic additives. Instead of a processed food like Cheerios you'll buy organic rolled oats in the bulk section for half the price. In the end your spending the same amount of money on much, much better food choices. Happy Shopping!
Need some frugal recipes? Try these:
Six Veggie Salsa
Taco Style "It's Just Like Hummus"
World's Most Flexible Chili Recipe
This post is part of The Nourishing Gourmet's Frugal Recipes Carnival.
Posted by Michelle at 9:51 AM