When we first went started eating organic and non-GMO, it seemed like we took a real hit in our pocket book and that it was no money saving meal plan at all. We took it in stride as we decided that if food is what sustains us daily, we would choose to budget more money there. However, in the long run, we have realized that we save more money by our change in lifestyle. We save the most money by eating smarter; this means we eat less meat, waste less, and also go to the doctor less. With each successful year we make adjustments to our money saving meal plan and get better at stocking up when the price is right.
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Our Money Saving Meal Plan for Eating Organic & healthy
There is also usually a farmers’ market that is open year round. Find it and check out what they have to offer. Usually it’s less expensive, healthier, and fresher. This is one of our best tools in our money saving meal plan. We can get a bag of organic, heirloom lettuce that lasts 1-2 weeks from the farmers’ market for $2.50 and organic, non-gmo bell peppers for $0.50 each there. From bread to meat and veggies to transplants, I’ve found the farmers’ market to be cheaper than grocery stores and obviously fresher and grown closer to my home. If you don’t have a local F.M. open year round, find farms that have green houses. Most are happy to sell to you directly and again, it’s much cheaper.
For those of us that are meat-eaters, buy local livestock. It might be a little bit of an investment up front, but buying a local cow (or half, quarter, etc) or other animal significantly expands the grocery budget. Plus, seeing the meat you have in your freezer encourages better rationing and less waste. We used approximately a quarter cow this past year and it saved us a lot on groceries! It’s also nice to find friends and family that want to go in a cow together with you if it’s still too much of an upfront cost.
Participate in Community Supported Agriculture and/or Food Co-operatives (CSAs/Co-ops)
This is the best way to buy food if you are just not a gardener. You get a basket of seasonal, local food each week to enjoy and try. It encourages branching out in the food you eat, eating fresh, and supporting local.Depending on where you live, some CSAs may deliver food to your doorstep! Most allow you to pick some of the plants grown each season (hence “community supported”) and all of the food is divided up between participants. Co-ops are run in much of the same way, but sometimes are not necessarily as local.
Ditch Convenience Food
Not only are convenience foods typically the most unhealthy for us, they also typically are what cost the most. We replaced chips, popcorn, and saltines with wholesome apples, carrots, and other easy, but nutritious snacks. Therefore, we buy lots of fruits and veggies to gnaw on and forget buying a bunch of packaged food. My daughter loves to crunch on some celery or carrot sticks!
This also plays into baby food. We are huge advocates of Baby Led Weaning where baby eats what we eat. That means no/less time or money spent on purees.
Make Your Own Snacks
Along the same lines, make some of your own snacks. In our family, we love to use a dehydrator! We make fruit chips all the time as replacements for conventional potato chips. We also like beef jerky, fruit jerky, sweet potato chips, and more! It usually costs us about $5 for a five pound bag of organic apples vs. spending 5 or more dollars on a small bag of potato chips… plus it’s a healthy snack alternative.
Freeze Meals, Make Batches, Never Waste
We do a LOT of crock pot to freezer meals as well as freezer casseroles & pasta dishes. This means we have “convenience” meals that are still wholesome for busy days. SO instead of splurging and eating something that’s not healthy for us or something that would cost a lot more, we can have something like a beef roast that cost ~$1 per serving.
It’s also easy to make wraps & burritos to freeze in foil. We have done this with bacon, eggs, and cheese breakfast burritos. They’re fully cooked and then individually wrapped in foil to be placed in the oven or toaster oven for 5-10 minutes @ 350 degrees. (Or microwaved with foil removed).
It’s also helpful to make things in batches & with the intention to save. I will make enough to have leftovers and then make the rest in another container to be frozen as a quick single meal later on. We also have made single cup salads early in the week to be consumed through the week.
Any time that anything is about to go bad, I freeze it. I have made blueberry, honey yogurt drops when I needed to use the yogurt before it went bad. And to help plan and not waste, consider using a meal planner. Click the link below to find an awesome option from MamaMiss (where I bought my planner).
My favorite of the money saving meal plan that still allows you to eat organic? Drum roll please… aim to eat organic 80% of the time. This means you can eat out a little, eat a favorite snack some, or eat the really cheap food when you have less money. Just aim to do it only 20% of the time.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!