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Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy Affordable

Affiliate Disclosure | in Health | by | with 146 Comments

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable

Take A Hyperventilating Walrus . . .

Some dingy fluorescent lights, and a pair of stilts and you’ve pretty much got my best copycat impression of the Cici’s Pizza greeter that welcomed us to pizza binge delirium. As we walked down the condiment aisle of the local grocery store, I bellowed, “Welcome to Cici’s! Thank you for coming!” I did it again as we passed the Heinz ketchup, strolled by the meats gassed with carbon dioxide, and one more time as we arrived to our final destination: the cookie dough aisle.

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating AffordableIt was Friday night, and all we “needed” before heading home from our pizza fest was a sausage-shaped tube of enriched wheat flour, sugar, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil . . . aka Pillsbury’s chocolate chip cookies.

Back then, I thought the cost of convenience was nothing more than pennies, which I was more than happy to push bit by bit into the automatic checkout machine while Daddypotamus counted floor tiles. It wasn’t until about a year later – when I found my health wrecked and my body too weak to risk a pregnancy – that I realized the real cost of food.

Now, I Don’t Care . . .

How many coupon gurus come on the news and show us how to get $196 in groceries for $2.33, there is no such thing as cheap food. In the long run margarine costs more than grass fed butter, high-fructose corn syrup costs way more than mineral rich maple syrup, and factory-farmed meats take the the bank compared to their sustainably-raised counterparts when it comes to our health.

The thing is, though, in the short term real food is more expensive. So how do we make it work? How do we eat real food on a budget? Good question! Here are some ways I’ve found helpful . . .

1. Make It Count

It’s not necessary to make everything from scratch (unless you want to, which can be fun!). To save money, though, figure out what you spend most on and learn to make THAT. Here are some options you might want to consider replacing:

2. Get The Scoop On Farmer’s Market Deals

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable20 pounds of organic tomatoes for $20 and a whole case of pickling cucumbers for 50% off – those are my week 1 wins after using Nourished Kitchen’s tips at my local farmers market.

Jenny just happens to be the market manager at one of the best farmers markets in Colorado, so if you want the best produce for the best price this article is a must read.

3. Make Friends With The Clean 15

When it comes to deciding what’s most important to buy organic, I prioritize animal products such as meat, dairy and lard the highest, and produce as second tier. From there I try to avoid the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen, but we eat conventional produce off the clean fifteen list.

The Clean 15

  • Onions (Update: Due to A.B.’s comment below I’d probably buy organic onions. Apparently they don’t have a lot of pesticide residue but they ARE sprayed with toxic anti-sprouting agents after they’re picked)
  • Sweet corn (Note: Corn is not a vegetable – it’s a grain! And some sweet corn varieties are now GMO so this is on my avoid list)
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloup (domestic)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapfruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

Note: Even if pesticides are not much of an issue, conventional produce has often been irradiated and most likely will not be labeled. For that reason, I like to buy from a source that can tell me whether or not their produce has undergone this process.

4. Plant A Garden

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable“If you shop at the grocery store for tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, salad greens or strawberries — and who doesn’t? — then you are the perfect candidate for becoming a kitchen gardener,” says Dan Shapley of The Daily Green. “Growing your own will save you an incredible amount of money — more than $1,200 if you plant all five, according to the analysis of one Maine gardener.”

Read more here.

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable5. Or At Least An Herb Garden!

Not only will this impart tons of flavor to simple meals, you can dry the extra to use year round. MUCH more affordable than those $5 jars at the grocery store.

6. Join A CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a fabulous way for you to “own shares” in a local farm. Here’s how it works:

“[A] farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.” (source)

Wondering how to get the most out of your CSA? Here are 10 fabulous tips you don’t want to miss!

7. Invest in Money Saving Equipment ~ A Dehydrator

One of the best ways to maximize great deals on produce is to stock up and preserve them for later. Tomatoes are dried for a zesty addition to italian dishes later and fruits such as apples can be dried with cinnamon for a kid-friendly treat.  You can also dry the herbs you grow for use in the winter, make beef jerky, yogurt, dry coconut flour, make your own soaked and dehydrated beans, grains, etc.

How to choose a dehydrator: My first dehydrator was a $10 garage sale find. I wanted to make sure this was a piece of equipment I would actually use before investing in something heavy duty. Sure enough, I wore out the motor in less than a year, so I began shopping around for a better one. This is the one I got. It has plastic trays which I usually line with parchment paper. Here’s one that has stainless steel trays.


8. Buy Online

Thrive Market is Whole Foods meets Costco, only you don’t even have to leave your house. For less than $5 a month ($59.95 annually), you can shop 3,500 of the world’s best-selling natural and organic products at 25-50% below retail prices. If you’ve never heard of Thrive, I shared how I spent $59.85 on items that would have cost me $120.39 on Amazon here.

Click here for a free 2-month membership and 20% off your first order

You can also order some things on Amazon and at other retailers. Here are a few staples to consider:

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable9. Host A Real Food Playdate

For many families, the biggest challenge to making budgets work is simply getting enough food on the table without resorting to eating out.

One way to get more done without missing out on social time is to coordinate a weekly kitchen playdate with kids happily playing in another room OR helping out. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

10. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Get the hubs to watch the kids for a few hours while you prep snacks to keep in the freezer. Here are 21 healthy ideas to get you started.

11. Stock Your Pantry

Beans are a great way to add bulk to meals, but if you’re an idealist like me you want them properly soaked. Problem is, I often forget to take them out the night before to get the process started. Meal planning is one way to help, but an even simpler way is to have them ready to throw into the crockpot using this time-saving trick. Not sure what to do once they’re prepped? The bean recipe in this post is my family’s favorite.

Where to to buy grassfed gelatin12. Add Grass-fed Beef Gelatin Into Your Diet

It’s an inexpensive protein supplement! Here’s where you can buy it.

13. Make A Meal Plan

It helps reduce waste and prevents those “what’s for dinner???” panic attacks at 4:55 pm (which, of course, usually end up with either scrambled eggs for dinner or an expensive meal out). Here are some tips to get you started, or you can save your afternoon and subscribe to one of these awesome meal plans for as little as $2.25 a week.

  • A detailed shopping list to save you time and money
  • Your schedule for the week laid out day by day (with one main cooking day and minimal time in the kitchen)
  • Recipes for 5 dinners – plus an extra – with enough leftovers to cover most of your lunches too!
  • One double recipe each week to bank “fast food” in the freezer
  • Bonus recipes each week so you always have Real food handy
  • Gluten and dairy-free options – for those with special dietary needs
  • Click here to learn more
  • Paleo Meal Plans from Emily of Holistic Squid – Save yourself hours in the kitchen, money on last minute meals and lots of unnecessary stress.A detailed shopping list will save you time and money. Your schedule for the week is laid out for you day by day (with one main cooking day and minimal time in the kitchen). Get recipes for 5 weekly dinners plus one extra with enough leftovers to cover most of your lunches too! Click here to learn more.
  • Simple Dinner Meal Plans from Jenny of Nourished Kitchen – Each week you’ll receive a simple, healthy and nutrient-dense menu featuring Meals come together in about 40 minutes, feature seasonal ingredients and you’ll enjoy cooking tips, make ahead lists and a shopping list that makes cooking traditional foods easy. Plus, coming in December, you’ll receive full access to our 700+ real food recipe database. Meal plans are suitable for dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free, and GAPS/SCD diets but don’t compromise on taste. Click here to read more

14. Invest In Money Saving Equipment: A Freezer

They pay for themselves and can store baked goods, dairy, meat, fruits and veggies, herbs and more!

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable15. Keep Your Freezer Stocked With Meals . . .

For the days when things just don’t work out, it’s pretty handy to have a backup or two. That’s why whenever I make freezable meals like chili, soup or Mexican-style beans I make a double batch and freeze half.

If you need more ideas, this grain-free freezer ecookbook from Health Home & Happiness is awesome. Rather than requiring one long 10-12 hour cooking day, there are 5 sections that take 2-3 hours each so bulk cooking can be spread out over a weekend, a week of nap times, evenings, or whatever. When you wrap up you’ll have 22 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 16 dinners, 28 snacks/sides and 8 desserts.

This principle works well for refrigerated foods, too. Just this week I made a double batch of the batter for these cinnamon apple rings so we could have them two days in a row without much fuss.

16. Do A “No Spend” Challenge

For one week give yourself “a personal “fridge and pantry cleanout” challenge to use every last item in the fridge, freezer(s), pantry, and storage shed until [you] can see the back of them.” Daddypotamus and I do this sometimes when we have an have an unexpected car repair or something come up. Our budget is usually fine without out the challenge, but it makes me feel better. (Note: This budget tip was inspired by Organic & Thrifty)

17. Buy Direct From Your Farmer or Rancher

Back in Texas I bought 1/8 of a cow for an average price of $5.50 per pound. This included more expensive cuts like ribeyes and New York Strips, which sold at my local Whole Foods for $16-$19/lb. The savings was huge, and since there was no middle man the rancher got to keep more of his hard earned cash.

18. Join A Co-Op (Or Form One!)

. . . And use your collective buying power to purchase in bulk at a lower price.

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable19. Help Out At A Farm or Farmer’s Market

If you have little ones that can help, this is a GREAT way to teach them about sustainable agriculture and the value of food. Farmers often show their appreciation with big boxes of extra produce and other goodies.

20. Be The Leftover Queen

It’s a great way to throw together quick-and-easy lunches while reducing food waste

21. Always Go Grocery Shopping With A List

Preferably organized by where things are found in the store :)

22. Never Go To The Grocery Store For One Item

Okay, I don’t really mean **never”” – but there are two advantages of not going. First, it is way to easy to pick up a “few extra” things and blow the budget. By waiting until the next scheduled shopping day you can see your purchases alongside the other things you need and prioritize if you’re over budget. Second, running out of something is an opportunity for discovery at home. A few months ago I ran out of coconut oil, so I started using pastured lard on my face as a moisturizer. Best. Stuff. Ever.

23. Get Friendly With Betty The Neighborhood Crockpot

She is seriously one of my best friends, yall . . . and she wants to be yours, too! Give her tough (but affordable) cuts of meat like top round, veggies that need to be used quickly and some spices and VOILA! You’ve got a hearty stew without even messing up your kitchen!!

Real Food On A Budget - 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable24. Make Your Own Fermented Foods

Save on probiotic supplements and increase the nutrient profile of your foods, which further reduces the need for supplementation. Since recipes on the internet can be hit or miss, you might prefer a trusty guide to help you get started. Here are a couple of good ones:

25. Make the most of “cheap” foods like broths, carrots, bananas and beans

What did I miss? Share your frugal real food tips below!

(And of course, if you know a mama who is trying to save on groceries please pass this along!)

Real Food on a Budget - 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy Affordable

Photo credit: Michael Law, framboise, Melinda Shelton, djackson

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146 Responses to Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy Affordable

  1. P.S. If you have a tip I didn’t include please let me know!

    • dj davis says:

      Love your site, but WHY is the tab with the connecting site options in the MIDDLE of what I am trying to read and type? I pressed “LIKE” for FB, but it did not Ever Go Away?

      • Heather says:

        Hi DJ! So sorry your having trouble with it. A couple of people who have reported the same problem found that maximizing their browser to full screen resolved the issue. Hope that helps!

    • EcoMama says:

      I haven’t read all the comments, so my suggestion may be here already. I bought a 2nd-hand Black & Decker All-In-One bread machine, and it may be our best investment EVER. If/when it breaks, it will be immediately replaced. It has a large horizontal pan with two paddles. I make nearly all of our bread in it. My old machine had a vertical pan, so I just made double batches of dough and baked them in the oven. I detest store-bought bread and love my homemade, and it costs even less than before, now that I bake it in the machine. I buy my baking supplies from a local bulk food store, using my own containers, which saves even more money and reduces my waste.

      And the best feature is that my hubby uses the machine to make jam! He and our kids eat a fair bit of jam, so it’s awesome to be able to control the ingredients!

    • Patti Clarke says:

      I didn’t see anything about canning. We can beef stew, chili, hamburger sauce mix for making in to spaghetti, etc., pea soup- all kinds of foods.

      • Kristen says:

        Patty, can you suggest a healthy preservative for canned prepared foods such as these? If none is necessary, how long do canned cooked soups tend to last? This would be great to have on hand. Thank you

    • Kalisara says:

      Use organ meats (cheap and healthy) and invest in whole turkey, chicken or bone-in ham – use the bones for broth, the juice for gravy, and the leftovers for everything.

    • JoAnne Parker says:

      well from where I am looking it looks like everything is being irradiated I am starting to think about all we can do to help ourselves is pray or totally grow/raise our own food

    • Joni says:

      You mention bone broth, and I’d like to expand on that recommendation. Making your own veggie broth is one of my favorite free foods. Just save your onion, garlic, carrot, and celery scraps in a container in the freezer. I don’t even thaw them first – just seer them in a pan, and put them in my VitaClay with water, peppercorns, and any herbs I feel like tossing in for four hours. I’m sure you could also do this on the stove or in a slow cooker.

      Another money saver is to join The Green Smoothie Girl’s group buy program. You can be the organizer for your community and help others save money while also having some of your food paid for for your efforts.

    • Stephanie says:

      When my mother had chicken or turkey for supper, she always froze the bones afterwards, so she could make chicken dumpling soup for next time. When she peeled potatoes, she also froze the skins and made her best roasted garlic chips fried in olive oil.

    • Nikki says:

      How do you make home made fruit snacks? My kids love them and I want them to have a more natural fruit snack.

    • Rachel says:

      Do you have a link to thrifty meal plans for the “Trim Healthy Mamma” eaters?

  2. Lori Langone says:

    AWESOME post! Thanks for sharing all of your best tips with your readers. I am already doing many of these things, but there is always more to learn. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

  3. A. B. says:

    Great tips! My only concern about the “clean fifteen” is that onions are on there. Though they aren’t sprayed with as many pesticides, they are doused with anti sprouting chemicals after they are picked. You really notice the difference when you get organic onions. They HAVE to be refrigerated!

    • Heather says:

      Whoa, I had no idea A.B. ! Thank you for letting me know – updating the post now. Funny thing is, I buy organic onions and I’ve never really had a problem with sprouting . . . guess I go through them too fast!

      • Cindy says:

        I typically buy organic onions and if I don’t refrigerate them they sprout pretty quickly! (I’m in the Tampa Bay Florida area so the warmer weather may make a difference). I have 2 that sprouted & I let them go. I am now going to plant them & see what happens! :)

        By the way, awesome post with loads of great info! Thanks so much. :)

    • Autumn says:

      I have also read that root vegetables (even on the clean fifteen) probably don’t belong there, because although they are not sprayed directly with pesticides, they absorb everything from the soil around them. On a conventional farm, that could be higher levels than you’d like to think.

    • Kristina says:

      Here’s the secret if you are growing your own organic onions. When you pull them out of the ground, put them in a partially shaded spot in the garden and let them sit there for a few days until the stems are all dry. If you don’t want to leave them in the garden, then put them on a cookie sheet in a place where they can get where they can get lots of air circulation yet not sit in the direct sun. This closes the hole at the top and dries the roots at the bottom. Once they’re all dried, you can clean them up and remove the stems, but don’t cut the roots all the way off, leave about a 1/4 inch. I store them in my walk in pantry in a corrugated cardboard shoe box that has a 1 inch hole on either side. They last me several months if stored this way. If you put them in the fridge or in a plastic bag, they will spoil due to the moisture. Now my onions aren’t as big as the ones at the store, but they taste a lot better and due to their smaller size, I use the whole onion instead of having to put what’s left in the fridge where it will lose it’s flavor or spoil.

  4. Kristine Winniford via FB says:

    Honestly, this an awesome post. Probably my favorite ever in this category. Another thing would be pick your own farms (PYO) where you get awesome deals on naturally grown produce just by asking the farmer a few questions. Work shares with CSA’s are also awesome, you can work on the farm in exchange for a discounted share. Especially great if you already garden and want to learn more. Plus farmers are often great sources of undesirable edibles, like radish tops which make awesome pesto, broccoli leavest which are better than kale, and lots of others that they

  5. Kristine Winniford via FB says:

    oops… they’ll give for cheap or free in ehange for a little weeding time.

  6. Kristin Coria McNulty via FB says:

    This is fantastic, thank you!

  7. Krista says:

    I have never heard of using gelatin as a protein supplement, but makes total sense. How would you use it? can you stick it into a smoothie like you would any other form of protein powder?

  8. Brandis says:

    Yes, great post. Lots of good tips. The only thing I would add, and you elude to it (plus it’s not exactly unknown) is buying in bulk. All the health food stores I have ever shopped at have had great bulk sections where you could buy many organic and other healthier foods for a lot cheaper than their packaged counterparts, and as long as you have the room to store them, they can save you a lot.

    Also, joining our local natural food co-op store has saved me a lot. Members get one 10% discount each month (you can choose when to use it), there are lots of sales and specials only for members, and if I want to order any bulk item I get 10% off (which I do- I regularly buy bags of organic oats and wheat from them and end up paying about the same price as I would for conventional white flour and conventional oatmeal… of course I have to grind/roll them myself, but I’m pretty sure my grain mill has paid for itself by now). All it cost was a one time fee of $100.

  9. Elizabeth P says:

    What a fantastic post! You included a lot of great information. I wish you were my neighbor so we could share fermented foods and coconut oil moisturizer. :-) I’m off to make Food Renegade’s pickle relish now. Thanks for the ideas!

  10. Great ideas, Kristine Winniford! I’ve heard of PYO berry patches in Texas and apple orchards in Maryland . . . maybe I can find some around here! The kids love collecting blackberries from the backyard :)

  11. So glad you found it helpful, Kristin Coria McNulty!

  12. Angie says:

    Some stores will give you a discount of 5% or 10% off when you order items by the case or a whole bag of an item from the bulk section. Ask!

  13. Angie Smith via FB says:

    The PYO berries & greens that I bought while on vacation a couple of years ago weren’t much (if any) cheaper than buying them at a store that was a lot closer than the farm, which meant gas $ spent & extra time used, with no savings on food – I was very disappointed. Looking into all options before you decide can help save time on things that aren’t going to save money.

  14. Awesome post and great tips many of which I follow currently. I am having anxiety over CSAs though. Many of the local, organic CSAs use manure from grain fed cows. I don’t want my meat or dairy to come from grain fed animals and I certainly don’t want my veggies grown in grain-fed crap. I am growing my own garden but it definitely won’t meet my family’s needs. I’m hopeful I will find a farmer that uses grass-fed/pastured manure for veggies next year. :(

    • Angie says:

      “Grain-fed crap” (haha! :D) Manure from grain-fed animals is still high in minerals that are depleted from the soil when food is grown & therefore needs to be replaces. Putting it in the soil that grows the local fresh produce is much better than eating veggies & fruits grown far away with no manure o other good, natural soil additives, picked before they’re ripe, then shipped & sometimes gassed to speed ripening, losing nutrient content the longer it’s been since they got picked…do the best you can, but don’t let the manure issue keep you from eating plenty of good nutritious food! :)

    • Teresa says:

      There are lots of ways to make your garden big enough to feed your whole family for a whole season (or year-round, if you preserve it); square-foot gardening, tower gardening (growing up instead of out), container gardening, etc. I use the square-foot method and it has fed 3 of us for a few years.

  15. Sara Kathryn Giorgis via FB says: is an awesome website to find PYO farms all over the country.

  16. Crystal says:

    Great post….I would add that for buying in bulk Amazon Subscribe and save is a saver!!!! You can often find non GMO beans and such in bulk at a GREAT price if you have room in your pantry as well as a great price on low mercury line caught skipjack tuna and many other things….I use the Shopping List function that way when I see something that I can use I can add it to my list so that I don’t have to hunt it down latter!!!! Everything that I buy is on a 6 month rotation that way if I don’t need it when the time comes I can tell Amazon just don’t send it. Works great when you live in an area devoid of healthfood stores, whole foods, trader joes or anything else remotely friendly to healthy eating!!!

  17. Alicia says:

    These are great! Thanks for putting this together, I’m going to share it on the Healthy Child Healthy World Facebook page! :)

  18. Ellie says:

    Thanks for the tips & links – I have some reading to do! I think Cheeseslave discontinued her menu service, though :(

  19. judysunshine says:

    I’m so glad you said that about coupon shows. I’ve watched a few times and all I can think is – you’re stocking up on garbage and if you eat that kind of food, you’re not going to live long enough to finish your hoard!!

    Love all your tips! I have yet to try fermented foods but it’s on my list. One tip I heard from someone once is that when you go to the grocery store, stick to the perimeter or outside aisles – try not to go down the middle aisles. If your grocery store is set up like most, the produce, dairy, and meat are all around the perimeter, and all the processed foods are in the middle aisles. I challenged myself to stay on the outside and now rarely go down the other aisles, except for things like dish/laundry soap, and baking supplies.

    • Ashley says:

      I also learned that tip about the grocery store. I believe it was on the documentary Food. Inc. I try to do the same thing and like you I rarely go down the middle aisles of the store :)

  20. Kirsten says:

    Thank you for this! With 5 of us in the family now (and a tandem nursing mama!) it’s getting more necessary all the time to stretch the food budget. 😉

  21. Jen says:

    This is WONDERFUL, thank you!

  22. Megan Alba says:

    GREAT ideas! I’ve been doing #15 for the past two weeks, partly due to a tighter budget and partly because we were wasting a lot of what we were buying. This week I’ve cooked dinner every night and packed our lunches every day. Having fewer ingredients and a limited budget has forced me to be creative in a good way… as in, I FINALLY learned how to use the coconut flour I bought months ago! :-)

  23. Dusty says:

    Queastion – how can I make fermented condiments without whey? My boy has life-threatening food allergies to cow’s milk, eggs & nuts. He can’t even have a trace amount.

  24. […] Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips on Make Eating Healthy Affordable […]

  25. […] love this post about eating Real Food on a Budget. This is a very real issue, good food costs a lot! Real food isn’t just for rich people, […]

  26. […] These super-easy tips for making real food work on a budget. […]

  27. mindy says:

    Thanks, Heather! This is an amazingly useful and nicely organized post! Can’t wait to try out some of these tips.

  28. Tammy says:

    Curious to know where you would find trust worthy cattle farmer who would sell part of a cow and then who butchers it? Sorry, city girl.

  29. Kristi Niclas says:

    this is so helpful as i am trying to cut my costs on groceries. I must say i have a garden and i Love it sooo much! FYI for ya’ll out there. at least in washington state you can grow potatoes just about everywhere. I stuck a few old sprouting ones in my bark landscape area and had BEAUTIFUL potatoes all fall and into winter! my goal is to Plan my meals out and def the clean cupboard challenge!
    Thanks mommypotamus!

  30. Hey Heather, who was the beef farmer you bought from here? I’ve been wanting to find one to buy from! Thanks!

  31. What a great blog! I’m looking forward to exploring it further…love this list! Thanks!

  32. Danika says:

    I save up veggie scraps (onion and potato skins, ends of zucchini, herb stems, etc.) in a bag in the freezer until I have enough to throw in the pot (with or without bones) and make stock.

    • Lori Langone says:

      I love this idea, Danika! It always seems like such a waste to throw those scraps away, since I’m not currently composting. I’m going to start making veggie stock this way. I’ve never thought of doing this.

  33. Patricia says:

    These are great tips, thanks so much for sharing. Sent to my mom as well :)

  34. Heather says:

    Get a couple of crockpots (hit the thrift store or flea market for them!). I own 4, from the little tiny one that is great for dips and for making salves and such, to a 6 quart, plus a big “roaster oven” pot, which is great for making huge batches of things like spaghetti sauce and chili to can. Some of the things that are in my crockpots at least weekly: dinner, of course!, yogurt (recipe at ), breakfast–put your oatmeal and water in the crockpot when you go to bed at night, turn it on low, and breakfast is ready when you get up, and broth, of course. It’s not unusual for us to have 2 or even 3 crocks in use at once–and thrift store ones run about $10, so they pay for themselves very quickly.

    Also, if you live in an area where Azure Standard has a stop ( )–you may have to give them a call, but they serve pretty much everything west of the Mississippi, and some places east of it, they are the best grocery co-op! They have a huge selection, you don’t always have to buy in huge bulk, and their prices are awesome!

  35. […]   Real Food On A Budget: 25 Ways To Make Healthy Eating Affordable […]

  36. Michelle says:

    I just found your website via pinterest, since I made a resolution to get these awful processed foods out of my house this year! I have shared with my kids articles about processed foods, and they have started reading labels as we convert our lifestyle to real food…it is nice to see them as grossed out as I am by it, but why did it take me 37 years to figure it out?? Anyways, great site!! Love your tips, budget strategies, and recipes. (the dehydrater is new for me, but I think I might give it a go.) Thanks!!!!!!

  37. Ashley Rossi says:

    Love this post! Is there a specific dehydrator you reccommend?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Ashley! I bought my first one at a garage sale and used it until it gave out. The next time around I invested in what I consider to be the best brand, Excalibur, because I knew it would be something I’d use often. Mine is the 10 tray but I rarely use more than 5 😀

  38. Angie Smith says:

    With our budget continually tightening, I’ve resorted to figuring out how many calories we need to get per dollar spent on food and the calories per dollar of the foods we eat. My plan was to buy the higher-calorie foods first until we get enough calories for the month, and then if we have any money left, it can buy the nutritious low-calorie stuff like produce (we have a garden for summer produce, though), meat, bones, cod liver oil, etc. The way it looks now, we can’t afford anything except dry beans, whole grains, and cheaper non-organic butter that at least doesn’t have fake hormones in it. It’s a very good thing we have the garden and a few extra things in the freezer & pantry…if you have any new ideas, I’d love to hear them!

  39. Amazing list!!!! I never thought about meal plans saving me money since it cuts down on the waste.

  40. Lan says:

    What an AMAZING list of tips!
    Do you buy your coconut oil in plastic containers? If yes, do you have any concerns over the plastic?

  41. […] crop. Even if GMO’s are not a concern organic is still the way to go for this one. (See this post for times it’s not a huge deal to skip the organic […]

  42. Lisa says:

    Wonderful post!

  43. Nesha says:

    Thank you for posting. My family was recently on track for more healthy eating on a budget until we got pregnant with our second child and I am now currently on bed rest. I think that after we have him in a couple of months, we can then begin again (I am trying to things pretty simple for my husband) and your tips will come in very handy!

  44. All great advice! I really enjoy the fact that your suggestions are based on saving money, but eating a healthy diet. My wife and I are pescatarian and try to eat healthy, support local businesses, and do what we can to be environmentally-friendly.

  45. Rose says:

    I skimmed this before but once again I realize how vital these points are. THANK YOU for posting it and leaving it up for us poor folks that need to, want to eat healthier. I mean, really, no one can afford not too. And those who are Christians need to realize that if they know what they are eating is bad and they still do it with abandonment, they are grieving the Holy Spirit – our bodies are the temple of the Lord!

  46. Valerie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, love your blog!

  47. […] Switching to real food can be more costly at first.  You need to learn where to shop, what to buy in bulk, what to make yourself, etc.  I would always rather spend my food dollar on nutrient dense food than calorie rich-nutrient poor pseudo food.  Here’s a great article with 25 tips to make healthy eating affordable. […]

  48. […] fellow Crunchy Mamas group member posted the link to this blog post on eating healthy on a budget.  I LOVE this article and will be referencing it often.  My […]

  49. Natasha says:

    Love it! I pinned this on pinterest as a part of the vitamix give away, and also because it is AWESOME! Thanks

  50. […] Real Food on a Budget – 25 Tips to make healthy eating affordable: A wonderful blog with incredible recipes and ideas. Who doesn’t want to save while still managing […]

  51. […] 1. Real Food on a Budget – 25 Tips to make healthy eating affordable: A wonderful blog with incredible recipes and ideas. Who doesn’t want to save while still managing to eat well? […]

  52. Casey says:

    I read somewhere on your blog that you use a certain type of fish oil. But now I can’t find it anywhere. Could you please tell me the name of it. I’m interested in trying it. Thanks so much!

    • Deanna says:

      Most recommend the Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil… I just tried it for the first time (the cinnamon flavored) and I love it…it doesn’t taste like fish oil at all!

  53. […] Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy Affordable | The Mommypotamus | organic SAHM s… here are some useful tips Christie […]

  54. […] Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy Affordable […]

  55. I really appreciate this list, very helpful reminder and concise too!

  56. […] Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy Affordable | The Mommypotamus | organic SAHM s… […]

  57. Christina says:

    I am new at this , Im reading everything I can trying to learn as much as I can . I have just become a stay at home Mommy at age 46,after working tons of hours every week, This organic /fresh wasnt a option,I thought we where eating well because the package said so ,so I had no idea about the junk that is in the food I was eating and making for my family . As I found out I went to making everything fresh , Holy smokes,this is a giant task , it takes me like hours a day cooking dinner ,its all good stuff but it cost so much buying organic and very time consuming ! In saying that I love this site ,It is really good and Im learning SO MUCH!!!! thank you so much ! Anyone and everyone who has any start up help for me please share !!!!!!!!

    • Erika says:

      It’s all about the slowcooker!!! (Or crockpot). There are sites galore to help you out in the recipe arena. But it literally costs pennies a day (since you have it running for hours at a time, compare it to the stove top). Oh wait > (if that doesn’t create a link, copy/paste). Bone broths are a must. No more wasted money on supplements (I just drank some, I’m brewing a batch as I type). So utterly comforting. Oh, helps out BIG time with cellulite. As a raw vegan for 6+ years, I tried this and animal proteins (mostly fish for now) in my diet, 1st thing to help! Bone broths are loaded with collagen (cellulite is void of collagen), this helps with the cellular structure of our cells. It will transform your fatty deposits into a tight, leaner physique.
      Check these out for slowcooker/freezer methods. This WILL help out your family and save you time/$$$! >>
      Just search online for slow cooker/crock pot, and/or freezer recipes.
      You’re FABULOUS Christine. You bust a*s everyday for everyone else. Make sure you take a much needed break for yourself. God knows you need it!

  58. Anna Kemp says:

    Great article! Tons of great tips! Thank you! :)

  59. Ann Marie says:

    When I have fruit that is getting a little ripe for eating pleasure, I cut them up, put on a cookie sheet to fast freeze separately, then bag them up and use them for smoothies. So now we don’t have any fruit that getes wasted or so ripe it tastes funny either.

  60. Barbara says:

    This is a great post – really liked the coconut milk tip!

  61. Erin says:

    Buying in bulk can be a great way to save. If you’re anywhere in or around TN, check out the natural foods co-op our family runs at Fruit fresh from the orchard in bulk, whole grains, and some hard-to-find traditional foods are some of our regular items.

    Thanks for the ideas, Heather! And I’m SO glad to learn that conventional onions are chemical-ized.

  62. Alison says:

    I loved this post! There are so many times when I want to just take the easy route in food – it is good to be reminded of what matters more: my momentary satisfaction or my future health and happiness with that of my family’s.

  63. […] Sources: MommyPotamus, Clean15,, Great Meals for a Change […]

  64. Sue says:

    I found both my freezer and the baby fridge I use for a root cellar on Craig’s list for 50$ each!. Also a Freezer that is NOT frost free is a better choice for long term storage than the frost free type. It has to do with the defrost cycle that frost free freezers go through every day. It will lower the likely hood of freezer burn on long term storage. I NEVER have freezer burn issues in my freezer and I have stuff that has been in there longer than it should be (like 1.5 years :-p). LOL I am currently trying to work my way through all the meat before restocking because of that. Oh and with regards to the amount of times you will need to defrost the non frost free freezer… depends on how often you open it .. I transfer my meat for the week to fridge freezer once a week. I have had freezer for 4 years and had to defrost once!!!!

  65. Sheila says:

    Great post….and lots of great comments!!

  66. Susan says:

    sorry if this was mentioned. I check to see what roast is on sale. For example, Sunday we had an eye of round roast dinner. Monday night I used some of the roast for a beef stroganoff. Hubby and I both took sandwich for lunch on Tues and I made Asian stoup with the rest of the meat –we had that for Weds. night and lunch Thurs. So, for a $8 roast I got dinner 3 nights and lunch for 2 days AND froze enough of the stroganoff (without the noodles) for us to have early next month. I’ve done the same thing with a pork sirloin roast and with chicken and turkey. Also, when I make a meat sauce, I only use tomatoes, onion and garlic–as this point if it very meaty and not too saucy. I freeze into 2-cup portions. That way when I take it out of the freezer, I can season it for different things–spaghetti, sloppy joes, tacos etc.

  67. Lulu says:

    Love love LOVE this post! I teach cooking lessons and coach people through transitioning to healthier eating choices and I’ve added this to my list of resources. Thanks for sharing!

  68. […] a post from mommypotamus about Real Food on a Budget.  Looks like some great tips and […]

  69. Lisa says:

    This is an awesome list! I truly believe that almost any family can eat organic, whole foods if they make it a priority. We’ve prioritized organic food and put it ahead of many other things, like fancy clothes and vacations, and even cellphones. I don’t regret it for a minute! Maybe someday we will have the fancy clothes and vacations, too 😉 haha

  70. Ashley says:

    I love these tips… pinned it for the Cast Iron Giveaway!

  71. Shelley says:

    I love these tips! I’m pretty cheap and already do some of these but learned some new ones to try.

    My latest budget saver is that whenever I’m using any sort of citrus for a recipe, or even pering to eat it, I zest it first and freeze the zest. It stays wonderfully fresh in the freezer and can be tossed into numerous recipes for flavor. It may seem like a small thing but I hate any thing going to waste. I realized one day how much peel I was throwing away every time. Then sometimes I needed zest and had to use a piece of citrus when it Andy being eaten. Both ways something was wasted. Now, I can grab some zest out of the freezer even if I don’t have the fruit on hand!

  72. Tina Good says:

    Love these tips! Thank you. I pinned them to help me remember to do them.

  73. Beth Ann says:

    Hunt and fish for your food. Just about anywhere in the nation you can be an hour or two drive from good hunting and fishing locations. Of course, be careful about fish from the Atlantic ocean. All deer, elk, moose, bear, duck, rabbit, geese, etc are grass, acorn, etc feed. They sure aren’t getting antibiotics and such! :) And fish, as long as it is from clean water, is also great. We live in the Rocky Mountains and heavily supplement our food with wild game and whatever fish we can catch. We’ve eaten snowshoe hair, elk, deer, fish, grouse, and goose. And as long as you hunt and fish in state, tags and licenses are often quite cheap. We also supplement with meat rabbits we raise on our city property. Four does and buck can produce 360 pounds of meat in one year with a three month break for winter. And you can totally control what they are eating.

  74. Stephanie says:

    Awesome tips. some more time consuming then others, but all are awesome money savers!
    Pinned! ^_^

  75. Faye Mc says:

    Healthy Food on a Budget
    In the current, one can always use tips on how to still eat healthy and save in the process.

  76. Mysti Robertson says:

    Super helpful! Can’t wait to try these tips out :)
    This is the post I pinned as a favorite for the giveaway!

  77. […] (Here’s how to really save on REAL FOOD) […]

  78. Kittim says:

    I pinned this post for the giveaway!

  79. Alecia says:

    I just pinned this post! I’m new to the “crunchy living” and am obsessed with getting as much information as I can. This post is awesome because I want our family to eat fresh and healthy but we have a family of 7. That can get way expensive!! I really appreciate the tips!

  80. Erin O'Brien says:

    Pinned this!

  81. Dena says:

    I pinned the post on how to make a kombucha-rita!!!

  82. […] Heather created a beautiful blog that is my favorite source for healthy family-friendly recipes. Her blog also covers natural parenting and gives alternative views on many issues facing parents today. (Also, her e-books are pretty awesome.) You should read: Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy […]

  83. Sara says:

    This is so nice to have and sit down and read when I feel a bit off the right track, following the lazy and easy way of cooking or being disappointment about a low budget- I can remember that it is possible to work and establish more efficient ways for long term nutritional preservation in the kitchen! We can do this mommas!

  84. Thank you so much. This article is very helpful.

  85. Cathy says:

    Not sure if this is where I am suppose to leave this comment but I pinned a post of yours to pinterest for the stainless steel cookware giveaway. I sure would love to give this to my daughter who has nasty Teflon pots and pans that are “shedding”!!!! Not healthy at all. Thank you so much for all that you do for your readers/followers, etc.

  86. Lynne says:

    Pinned this for the cookware giveaway.

  87. Ashley says:

    We grow our own garden for tomatoes, green beans and jalapenos. We are going to try a bunch of new veggies this year though and I hope we will have decent luck! I read about some people saying that their garden wont produce enough for their family. I’m wondering if its a space issues that holds them back? There are a LOT of great tips out there on how to garden in EXTREMELY tight spaces and how some vegetables benefit being grown next to specific other vegetables. (Squash or beans grown on an angled trellis provides much needed shade to lettuces.)
    My significant other teases me for all of the “butt ends” of veggies I have started around the house, but its been beneficial to us! During the winter, when we buy organic veggies like lettuce and celery, we cut the “butt end” or root end of the head off (about two inches) and put it in a shallow dish of water. This allows the veggies to sprout again and be replanted. It stretches out dollar a little further for when times get a bit tough. We do this with our own veggies as well. (Potatoes, garlic, and onions are great for replanting!)
    We eat a lot of yogurt and make a lot of smoothies so we make our own yogurt.
    I love this post and all the comments!

    • Stephanie says:

      It’s not just space, unfortunately, it’s also the start-up costs of dealing with soil contamination or lack of topsoil, shade, permission from landlords, wildlife/fences, breaking ground, etc. Despite being an enthused gardener, I’ve done very little gardening in my last two rentals because of the general situation and off-site community garden options were fairly distant. As an owner, some of this is probably easier to deal with (i.e. cutting a few branches off a tree) but can still be quite pricey if you need more than minor adjustments. A basic DIY deer-fence can run $300 alone, assuming you already have the tools to put it up.

  88. Tammy H says:

    Thanks for the info. I picked this as my fave pin for the giveaway.

  89. Kelly says:

    I buy organic dried goods from my local market in the bulk food section and keep it in sealed storage containers. Things like oatmeal (organic for the same or cheaper then Quaker), lentils, dried bean, nuts and even spices. I grow a garden and I buy organic items in bulk from Costco. If it’s too much for my household, then I send some to my Mom’s house… Still cheaper then buying organic at the grocery store. I’ve learned over the years to grow the things that we really use and can store for winter. Things like tomatoes, tomatillos, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, green beans and kale.

  90. Bethany says:

    Ummm, i do a lot of the things usggested in here. I am a full time college student, so budget is extremely limited. I out in the extra time and effort to research how to feed my body, rather than making sure my stomach is full. I now eat six small meals a day, and have seen my grocery bill drop dramatically. :-)

  91. Megan says:

    I wouldn’t call sweet potatoes clean by any means, they are a root vegetable so they absorb all the nastiness in the ground from the pesticides they are sprayed with PLUS the run off from other veggies that were sprayed. Being a root they absorb all of it so I don’t see how they are clean? Plus sweet potatos are also sprayed with the anti-sprouting agent.

  92. elisa says:

    I am really excited about trying the sandwich bread you mentioned. My only problem is I can’t find sprouted flour. The link for the recipe ddidn’t have a link for sprouted flour either. Where do you get your sprouted flour?
    Thanks so much!
    These are all great tips! Thanks!

  93. Stacy says:

    One of the things that I’ve noticed has helped us out is starting to make my own pasta. We eat it anywhere between 4 and 10 times a week. The boxed stuff is actually more expensive than what I make, and we have to eat a whole lot more of it to be full. And it’s easy and fun to make.

  94. Great article with some excellent advice. I am definitely guilty of heading out for one item and coming back with 7, 8, or 9 plus! Though what the heck made you decide to put LARD on your face?! Never would have thought of that one! Thanks for the great read x

  95. These are all terrific suggestions, some of which I employ myself, some I’m grateful to add to my arsenal. I love your sense of humor! Sharing this on a Facebook page I curate called Cooking with Whole Grains & Whole Foods.

  96. […] Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy … – 25 tips for making healthy eating affordable. Learn how I got twenty pounds of tomatoes for $20, plus how to save on meat, healthy fats, and more…. […]

  97. […] The other day my husband and I were going over our budget and realized we were having a bit of a spending issue when it came to food. For some reason we had gotten into this habit of buying way more food then we needed rather then using the food in our home already. So I pulled up this awesome article and we are now using these 25 tips to make healthy eating affordable. […]

  98. […] Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy … – Here’s the secret if you are growing your own organic onions. When you pull them out of the ground, put them in a partially shaded spot in the garden and let them …… […]

  99. Tamara says:

    Love, love, love this post. One note…the links to the “make a meal plan” are no longer valid. I had to google the names to find their new website addresses. Just needs a quick update. Thanks again, I love your site!

  100. […] Real Food on a Budget: 25 Tips to Make Eating Healthy … – These 25 tips will help you eat real food on a budget. Learn how I got twenty pounds of tomatoes for $20, plus how to save on meat, healthy fats, and more…. […]

  101. shelley says:

    Sweet potatoes grown conventionally are mostly sprayed with something called Bud-nip to prevent it from sprouting and such after they are picked. Bananas are gassed to help speed up the ripening process. Personally I go for the organic banannas as its usually rather cheap per pound and they are a healthy snack, plus there are so many things you can make with them like a grain free pancake. Also i know some people say its ok to eat non organic oranges but having lived near an orange grove in FL they spray those things so much its not funny, not to mention they dont always pay attention to where they are spraying><. So for that reason I avoid them.. plus after having organic oranges or homegrown ones the conventional ones have no flavor lol. Also another good tip is to grow your own of what you can. Living in FL means i can grow little sized bananas, avocados and so much more. It make take a while to et some going and to the fruiting stage but when they come in I get a surplus of generally more than I can use and this is where bartering comes in handy ^^.

  102. […] thought we were being smart. But as I wrote in my post on eating real food on a budget, we quickly discovered the true cost of cheap food. Soon after we said “I […]

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