As our family was making our way toward a more healthy lifestyle in the beginning stages of our healthy eating journey, one of the biggest obstacles I had to work through in my brain was that I had to actually spend money on groceries. I didn’t like spending money on food. I had figured out ways to use coupons to get almost all of our food practically for free so spending money on food seemed crazy to me.
I’ve done a complete about-face on that issue now. Not that I don’t work hard to keep our grocery spending low…I do. I work VERY hard as a matter of fact so that our family of six can eat a healthy whole-foods diet on a limited budget. But I’ve changed my way of thinking now about spending money on food. And…I’d like to encourage you to do the same as you make some simple steps toward healthy eating.
I see money spent on food as an investment. I understand now that food is meant to nourish us…not just fill a hole and satisfy hunger. I feel like when I spend money to buy top knotch food, I’m actually investing in a healthy future for my family.
I’d like to challenge your thinking just a little bit if you fall into the category of one who thinks that “you can’t afford to eat healthier”. You may not have much extra in your grocery budget, but that doesn’t mean you have to feed your family unhealthy foods.
It does mean you may have to work a little harder to find good, whole foods. You may have to change some of your habits. You may have to cut some other unnecessary spending out of your budget. But you don’t get to cop out with excuses about not being able to afford healthy foods. (I know this first hand as our family was barely scraping by a couple of years ago, yet we did not have to compromise the quality of food we ate. We just had to be creative!)
I’ve just about come to the conclusion that eating real food costs less than eating processed food if you go about it the right way. Now, does grass fed beef and free range chicken and raw milk and organic produce generally cost more than the “regular” beef and chicken and milk and produce from the store? Sure. (Although I’ve found many ways to save on those items too which I’ll address later on in this series.) But just hear me out on this. My boys and I did a little research one day when we were out shopping. Then we came home and did the math. We were shocked at the results we found!
The reason, by the way, that we did this little experiment is because I’m tired of people telling me that fresh produce is too expensive. So instead of giving their kids fruits and vegetables, moms (the ones complaining to me about “expensive” fruits and vegetables) fill them up on “cheaper food” like crackers and fruit snacks. I wanted to see if indeed crackers and fruit snacks were cheaper than fresh produce.
My boys and I went down the snack aisle, writing down prices and ounces of some popular snack items. Then we wrote down prices of some of our favorite fresh fruits like apples, watermelon, pineapple, bananas, oranges, peaches…
The cost for the best in-season produce averages to be around $1.00 to $1.50 per pound (or even much less in many cases).
But check this out:
- The cost for a box of cheese crackers…$3.20/pound (yes, we actually calculated how much the cost was per pound!)
- The cost for chocolate sandwich cookies with the white filling inside that you lick out and dunk in milk (yeah, you know what I’m talking about)…$3.84/pound
- The cost for an off brand of fruit snacks…$2.56/pound
- The cost for a box of granola bars…$4.18/pound
Now, I know this price comparison isn’t apples to apples (literally!). I recognize that you can use coupons to cut the cost of the boxes of snacks. I realize that when you pay for a watermelon, you’re paying for the rind that you cut away, so that part shouldn’t really count when you’re figuring cost per pound. Yes, I realize all of the variables that make this experiment not exact.
But I hope you kind of get the idea that when you break down the cost of processed foods (that do practically nothing to nourish us) compared to the cost of fresh produce (which do quite a bit to actually nourish us)…you aren’t really right on track if you think that buying “cheap” boxes of snacks is saving you money. Produce, if bought in season, is really quite reasonably priced.
Alrighty…this post is getting long!! I’ll stop there and we can talk more later about all kinds of other things you can do to save money as you switch to a healthier lifestyle. There’s so much to talk about as we break down Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating!
But do give some thought to your mind-set about spending money on food. Are you looking at it in the right way? Are you really saving money when you avoid some of the “more expensive” healthier foods and instead buy “cheaper” food?
And what about the long term effects of not eating healthy now? Will health care costs outweigh what we might be saving in groceries?
Becky @ Our Peaceful Home says
I think you made a great point about the coast of health care. I think when we are paying for food we often tend to think of the intimidate price instead of the price on our health. Good health is much more important down the road for lots of reasons. I’d much rather pay more for good food now and less on health care later. Especially since my family doesn’t have health insurance right now. It’s really not by choice, but something we have to deal with. I try to spend a little more money here and there on healthy food, but I am always looking to cut costs when I can.
Wow. This post could not have been better timed! My husband and I JUST decided that we could no longer claim that the food we wanted to be eating is “too expensive” and that we wanted to focus on eating locally. We realized that we may have to change a few things around here, but we’re determined to do it! We sent in a check to a CSA. We ordered raw milk. We are putting in an order for grass fed beef. We’re heading out to local butchers this week to find out what they have to offer and where it comes from. I do order with Azure and I have a HUGE order for next month to stock up on rices, legumes and beans.
So thank you so much for the encouragement!! We know in the long run, this is the best decision for our family.
Amy Hagerup says
This is really, really a great post. My big problem is getting my two teens to eat healthfully. I’m afraid they are too far gone. I keep lots of fresh fruits and veggies around and they will eat the fruit. It works well if I have cut veggies out with ranch dressing for them – then they will nibble on that. Thanks again for your wisdom. blessings, amy
Well said. Since our family has switched to a whole foods diet we have actually spent less money on groceries each month. I love Azure and have found local sources for our meat, eggs, and produce. I can also say that only one of my children has been to the dr. once–3 years ago–for an illness. Other than that they go for check-ups or minor accidents. If you are willing to do a little research eating healthy is very possible!
Your points are all excellent & ones I worked through earlier this year. There’s also what I consider “waste”. Those snacks that aren’t filling one of my true dietary needs (fiber, nutrition, etc) is waste. It’s stealing calories I could put towards eating something that does help me (or my family) get our requirements met. It wastes by money by doing this and it wastes my energy because if I do chose to eat it or give it to my kids, I feel badly. And what’s more you physically feel worse! Eat better, cut out the processed, the sugars, etc, an you DO feel better- more energy, healthier, everything!
I had no idea until I was watching something on food network that a local fresh produce stand may take food stamps- and the next time I was at our local market, I checked and the biggest booth did! I have never had to use them to feed my family (not that I fault/guilt/have issue with those who do or the program itself), I just would never have thought to use them there.
This article is perfect for me right now! I was just telling my husband this evening that I’ve been feeling discouraged/ depressed about my couponing lately. I made the decision a couple months ago to change our dietary habits and have been slowly implementing changes. What I’m finding hard though is not getting the “rush” when seeing a 70 or 80% savings on my receipt. No matter what I do there’s no way to save that much on whole foods. I guess it’s silly of me to think like this. I’m actually quite excited about the changes we’ve been making. Especially because when I did buy all the junk I’d feel too guilty about giving it to my kids and end up eating it my self! Thanks again for the great article!
I guess we are in the middle of both points. I have long stayed away from most junk-type foods, although there is the occasional purchase for a special treat. We have been working on cooking a lot more at home, even making our own mixes and recipes for everything from bread, pizza, and yogurt to salad dressing and granola. I purchase my flour, oats, pasta, spices and more in bulk and my kids eat fruits and veggies at almost every meal. I do buy raw goats milk from friends but I just can’t afford to go raw and organic in everything. For example, a recent stop at a local organic produce stand had me shocked to find fresh-picked corn $5/dozen and eggs $4.25/dozen. I’m trying to feed 7 of us…there is no way I can spend like that on $150/week! I do what I can but unless something changes, this is the best I’m able to do!
Melissa- Just wanted to say that I understand where you are coming from. I live in a pretty rural area
and would have to drive an hour for organic butter and cheese and then pay some pretty steep prices.
I believe if you do your best where you can, then it will be okay. Getting the over processed no nutrient
stuff out of our diets and adding more whole grains and fresh in season fruits and veggies is a huge step
for many. I can’t afford the advertised “organice” produce either, but have found local farmers
that practice organic growing. I buy from them and pay normal prices.
I’ve recently found Oscar Meyer nitrate free hot dogs, nitrate free lunch meat, Hunt’s ketchup with
no high fructose corn syrup and our Aldi’s now carries milk that is hormone free. Now I realize that these
aren’t as good as organic, but this is what fits in my budget and I feel good about upgrading our
eating that much compared to where we were. So just keep moving forward and I bet some doors will
open for you.
Ditto what you said, Miranda. I’m making so much more from scratch
now, which in itself is saving a ton of money and is healthier.
But like you, I can’t afford the more expensive stuff (or find it
sometimes in my rural community). So my goal is to be buy what I can
and not feel guilty when I buy eggs and milk at the store that are
not “organic”. I buy some of the same things you mentioned, Hunt’s
ketchup and Aldi’s milk. We do the best with what we have. I do
use coupons and have been impressed by the coupons I’ve found for
all natural products. I like the “rush” of saving money too.
Amy Floyd says
Melissa — there are 7 of us in my family too. About a year ago, we bought a 1/2 grassfed cow at $5 a pound, so that has been the bulk of our meat. I do about 90% of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods, and even there I am conscientious of what I buy. We get about 3 gallons of raw milk a week at a small local farm for $4 a gallon. Apart from the beef, I spent about $100 a week at Whole Foods. My next step is to buy a local, pastured chicken a week. Roasted, it will be one meal. Then I will make stock/broth with the bones. What I have found is that (1) I need to plan my meals, including snacks, and (2) if I concentrate on nutrient -dense foods, we all eat LESS. Buying quality food has become one of the top priorities in my family. My 8 year old daughter just finished 2 years of cancer treatment, so keeping my family healthy is of the utmost importance to me.
Check Craigslist for eggs. In our area, the going price is $2/dozen if you buy directly from a family who is raising the chickens. At Whole Foods, the cost for eggs is 50 cents a piece which is horrendous. Don’t pay those prices — go find another source!
Laura wanted to let you know that you don’t have to throw the watermelon rind away. I can almost everything, I found a recipe for watermelon rind pickles and my family likes them, they make a good delicious snack. I can get about a canner full of pickles out of one rind, so the only thing about the watermelon you are throwing away is the green peel. It’s less in the compost but you will get more for your money per pound and with them canned up you can have them even in the winter when watermelons are out of season.
Can’t wait to read more about this topic. I struggle EVERY week with keeping a food budget and eating healthy. Although I do know that I need to really look into what nourishing food actually means. I also have a hard time cutting up the fruit that I buy. Sounds pathetic but it’s true for me. I get wrapped up in other things thinking I’ll get to it later and then I don’t. Thanks for all you tips. I do love reading your blog.
Amy Floyd says
Start off with fruits that don’t need cutting — bananas, grapes, berries. Or teach one of your children to cut the fruit. Also, don’t just think fruit. Set out a bowl of almonds for an easy and filling snack. Or have one of the kids cut up some cheese.
Alan Victor says
Thanks for this excellent informative post. Inspirational for healthy foods.
Natalie McMurry says
Thank you for this post! I’m currently struggling in this area, even though I know it’s money better spent in my head, it is still really hard to hand over that much cash when you’re use to walking out for pennies!
Great post! I do love to coupon and save money, but the majority of coupons are for things we would never eat. What is so nice is that there are more and more coupons available for organic/natural foods these days. I just got several packages of Smart Chicken at a super-cheap price because it was on sale and I had a pile of coupons for it.
I’ve heard someone say once…they save money by what they DON’T buy. I like to live by this too. It irks me when I see people with their carts full of crap and they say they can’t afford to buy produce/fruits. Hello instead of spending money on that junk, spend it on the good stuff.
[email protected] says
Amy Daczyzn, the Frugal Zealot and author of the Tightwad Gazette, talked about this in her book. How folks often focus on the part of the receipt totaling their “savings” when the real focus should be on what they’re spending. It’s a worthwhile shift in focus that I remind myself of as frequently as possible.
We cut out the processed snacks long ago, just for that reason! You pay for the processing, the box, and with our boys, the poor nutrition – in the form of acting out.
Now, the boys eat fruit (although here $1.79/lb or $1.99/lb is about the best it gets in season) – and I make treats like muffins occasionally. They don’t seem to think they’re missing out at all.
This week, we tried grass-fed/pasture raised beef and free-range chicken for the first time. OMGoodness… it was incredible! We have decided that the higher prices, and they are higher, much higher here in NoVA, are worth it. To keep our food budget in line, however, we will eat less meat (smaller portions – which we should be doing anyway) and will make up the difference with more fresh produce – yummy, yummy! We’ll be healthier and happier ;)
Virginia Moore says
I just want to tell you that I look forward to your emails in my mailbox every day. I’m a 60+ grandmother who has a lot to learn and I learn a lot from your articles. I didn’t get all this when I was younger, although I have daughters-in-law who are very knowledgeable about this. Anyway, I’m so glad one of my daughters-in-law made me aware of this website! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
so true! We raise our own beef and chickens (for eggs and meat) so when I shop I don’t have the expense of meat I then buy more fresh produce. I recently found an Amish farm that sells raw milk for only $2 a gallon. Talk about a gold mine! It is hard for a busy family to eat healthy it just takes a little planning. I have run out of ground beef at times and had to purchase it at the store…YUK!
You can pay a little more now or you can pay a lot more with the huge medical bills from not eating healty. Heart disease, obesity, cancer…
I would be careful about mentioning you can prevent heart disease and
cancer. Both can run in families, for instance breast cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, high cholesterol also run in families. You can do everything right, and still get cacncer, or heart disease.
If these things run in your family you should do everything you can to at least slow down the progression. Diabetes, cancer and heart disease all run in my family and I am doing everything I can to head it off. Down to not using products like aluminum and staying clear of processed sugars and fatty foods. I didn’t mean at all that by eating healthy that you could NOT end up with any of these illnesses. Thank you for clearing that up for me.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I CAN”T wait to hear more! I SOOOO badly want to feed my family natural, healthy (if not even homegrown) food, but I have said “we can’t afford this” over and over. I want to learn to buy on sale and perserve it, I want to learn how and when to plant to have a successful garden, I am to know what is truly necessary just natural or organic. I am ‘hungry’ for information! :)
I never would have made the switch either until my daughter could NOT eat all that stuff. At the time, there were no gluten free granola bars, cereal, crackers, etc. So, we spent lots of time learning about different fruits and veggies beyond apples, oranges and bananas. It has been a wild ride, but good for us in the end. Thanks for a great post, Laura!
Wow, thanks for doing the math. Pricing it out per pound really sheds light on how much the snack foods really cost. Very interesting.
Laura I just have to say this is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I too am an avid couponer that loves the “rush” of the savings…..heck I have even been been paid to take stuff out of the store. But of course we are talking about fruit snacks, SUGARY cereal, and highly processed foods! I have finally stopped buying the “crap” and started eating better. My kids are ok with it too!!! Now if I could just get into freezing food like you do and making more from scratch I would be set!!! I absolutely LOVE your blog and completely enjoy reading each post. Keep up the wonderful work!! Seems like there are quite a few of us relying on your information!! If I could request on little thing it would be to hear more about your homeschooling…..*after you finish explaining more healthy eating tips of course!! lol
My husband and I (and our baby on the way) eat like kings! Our grocery budget is $50/week, plus our farm share, which costs $13/week and provides us with an overwhelming amount of vegetables. So overwhelming that I write a blog about it–click on my name to go to it if you’re interested.
You can do it! Join a CSA (find one at localharvest.org), buy free range/organic/antibiotic free meat in bulk from the local butcher, and eat LESS of it. Seriously, a little bit of bacon goes a LONG way.
Couponing only really worked when I ate crap. I still use coupons sometimes, but they are the far and few between ones for fresh fruit or bath items, or for the few processed things that my husband can’t seem to give up.
Is it sad that I see a post about this and I get excited? O well :)
I am like a lot of you, not much money to spend, but desperately want to feed my family with things that will help us stay healthy. I make lots of things from scratch, but do sometimes fall for a convenience item when I don’t have lots of time to cook. And we all know what’s in those…
I am in kinda a rural area so CSA’s and things like that aren’t really popular here (yet). I just do what I can and *try* to make our food healthy.
Thank you for all of the recipes you share on here-I have loved every one that I’ve tried! And PLEASE give us another installment of this healthy eating (soon) :)
Could you please blog about how to prepare the fruit and veggies in a VERY timely manner. I hand out crackers at snack time because they are so quick.
Also, if you see a small farm that has animals you may try to befriend that home. We raise chickens and we often have WAY too many eggs during laying season. We have 11 hens and often get over 30 eggs a week.
One more thing, those small farms like ours might be willing to cut you a great deal – just ask. I had no idea I could actually CHARGE for our brown eggs. If someone asked I would be glad to sell them for the store price of $1/dozen. So the moral of the story is: just ask. If the farmer says, “No” or a higher price than you were thinking all you lost was your pride. :o)
I’m not a master of this myself, but I’ve seen recommended to chop up fresh fruits and veggies and keep them in the fridge to pass out during snack time. You could also prechop cheese for snack and serve with the crackers. My kids are huge snackers so I have tried to find ways to provide them (and myself) mini-meals instead of “snacks” if that makes sense. GL!
I am pretty good about fruit for snacks/lunch, but not so great with
veggies. Here are my fruit ideas.
As someone mentioned, finger food fruits are a great way to start –
grapes, bananas, berries. Also, when I have my apple slicer, that
has been an easy to quickly cut up an apple. I typically make a big
apple be a snack for me & my 3 girls.
We have also made fruit salad early in the week – basically whatever
fruits I have in the frig – apples, pears, bananas, peaches, pears,
berries, etc. I let my kids help cut it up & put it in the bowl. We
then add a little vanilla or plain yogurt and mix it up. We then snack
out of it for the next couple of days.
Also, I cut up cantelope into pieces in advance and keep it in the
frig in a plastic container. Then it is easy to serve. :)
I absolutely love your site and especially this post today.. Your way of expressing ideas are my thoughts exactly, by the way my husband told me to order the nutrimill yesterday and I did. What a blessing! I was sure it would be months before i could save to get one. I am so excited about grinding my own wheat. Thanks for all your ideas!
Thanks for the reminder! I was working on our budget yesterday, and I need the encouragement to keep giving our family healthy, whole foods. It IS a hard transition to actually spend money on food now! We have found though too that a little “real” food fills us up and keeps us filled up much longer than a lot of processed food.
Janeen - triplet Mom says
Awesome! Great info, Laura! Just what I needed to hear as I’ve been looking at re-vamping the food budget. Also, this is great info to pass along to my hubby that likes to eat some of this processed junk and I really try to avoid buying it!
Tasmin McDonald says
I have been a silent reader of your blog for the past few months now. I wanted to first say that I have really enjoyed reading everything that you have written. I find myself constantly trying to keep up with the ideas, recipes, tips that you give.
I totally agree about investing money toward good food. I am making gradual changes for me and my family. When something doesn’t work for us, I try it again or in another way.
I think I could go on and on because I have so many thoughts about this subject. I just want to mention how much I appreciate you allowing God to lead you in taking care of your home and family with the awesome resources He provides to us daily.
I will get there someday!!
Up until a couple of weeks ago I was couponing like crazy and absolutely in love with the rush of saving a ton of money each time I would check out. However, like most people have shared I was feeding my family junk. Food that had no value to my children’s overall health. I have been researching like crazy (almost too much) the benefits of eating a wholdefoods diet and the negative effects of processed foods. However, trying to balance being frugal and healthy at the same time can seem very daunting. Your blog has inspired me in so many ways and provided me a lot of necessary tools for this journey into a healthier lifestyle. This article was just what I needed to read tonight! I am even going to share it with my husband.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
I agree that fresh produce is better, healthier, and an investment for the future. But your price per pound comparrison isn’t an applicable one. Instead, I would be more interested to see a price per serving comparrison. As far as making a budget, this is what would make sense. For examples one apple is more dense than goldfish. A serving of goldfish is probably a handful…I don’t know….1/30 of a pound. A serving of an apple is one apple which is…1/3 of a pound I guess. So even though goldfish may be more expensive per pound, you can get 10 times more servings from them. Do you see what I mean? I’d be happy to hear what you and your boys found out by analysing a price per serving comparrison.
My husband’s serving of goldfish is the entire bag… which is why I don’t buy them! :)
Laura, could you give us about how much you think it would cost to feed 1 person per week/month eating healthy? I know you do a lot of bulk stuff but my family lives in a 2 bedroom apartment (maybe able to get a house in the next two years)- no room for freezer, large things of grain, etc. So I know that costs less but I was curious anyways. We have $300/month for groceries for our family of 4. I buy meats (and bulk grains) at whole foods, and if I have the money, eggs. Otherwise it’s just the local grocery store for us.
A timely post for me! I just finished grocery shopping this afternoon and I always leave feeling a little guilty about spending the extra, like its extravagant. I KNOW this isn’t true, and my husband is all for real, whole foods. I’m beginning to wonder how longs its going to take me to un-learn the cheap food mentality!
I love this post! Thanks so much for sharing it. I always go for fresh produce no matter what the cost. It’s just too good. I’ve been stuck on your blog for an hour now, hopping from post to post. Visiting the grain mill post, seeing attachments, etc… Now a grain mill has gone on my Christmas list for sure (if not sooner.)
I am very interested in health and wellness and feel that the way that we eat is very important to our health. This book sounds excellent
Thank you so much for this post! The Lord has been working on me regarding eating healthy whole foods (that He created). I used to coupon heavily, with my goal being mostly how “cheap” I could buy lots of food. It became an addiction. The items I was buying were compromising my standards, because I became so focused on saving money. I didn’t have peace in my spirit about this for several months. I finally realized that my priorities were out of alignment with God’s, because he wants us to take care of our bodies (His Temple). This required me to realize that really I was being greedy by emphasizing so much on money. We do have a budget, but if I pray and ask God to show me the deals and how to be creative- He will help me. We actually spend less money now! It’s amazing!. Where the Lord leads-He provides. And I feel so much better now!!!
My husband and I decided to STOP eating out and stop eating food with ingredients listed that we could not pronounce. One thing we thought of, as far as the “waste” goes on real food… we bought a chicken tractor and 4 hens and a rooster. Now, all of our “waste” ends of squash, watermelon rinds, etc. goes to the hens, who give us fresh organic eggs…. nice trade I think, and I have actually seen our food budget plummet even tho we are eating REAL foods…. we seem to eat less, and use more eggs, since they are “free” Just an idea
I agree! I hear from couponers though that you aren’t doing a fair comparison because you aren’t including coupons in the equation. So your box of crackers can usually be free or even a “money maker”. A long time ago my DH and I stopped buying snackie food. Yeah it means more food period like yogurts, fruits, etc. And I pay to eat ice cream out as a treat instead of buying a half gallon but it’s a way for me to save on calories.
How do you refute coupon claims? I am on your side, but i can see their side of the argument of feeding a family of 4 on $25/month.
Oh definitely, if a person is using coupons and getting a bunch of processed foods for free or close to free, this comparison doesn’t hold up at all. But that’s exactly the point of this post…we need to invest money in good foods that nourish us. I totally used to be the mom feeding her family of 4 for $25. I LOVED it. And then I learned about health. I had to wrap my brain around the whole thing and learn to spend money on food. Here’s a series I wrote about Our Healthy Eating Journey if you’re interested or if you haven’t seen it already: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/category/our-healthy-eating-journey
I could not agree with you more on this subject. I rarely use coupons because they are quite often for products that are highly processed and not really good for you after all. We have been improving our diet throughout our entire marriage sometimes it has been 2 steps forward and one step back. I do try to look for coupons for the products we do buy, but I will probably never be able to get products for free or cash back like they allow now.