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Oh my word, have I struggled with feeding my family. And not in the way you think. I can cook pretty dang good. Well, they’re not dead yet, so that’s a plus. Trying to figure out how to save money and eat mostly organic, local, and non-processed food has been a huge pain in my butt. But it is something I have finally managed to balance and trust me you can too!
The choice to change our diet happened when I started having health issues in my 30’s. I already had clinical depression and now I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Without going into too much detail my body was behaving similarly to a diabetic’s when it came to insulin. I was a hormonal mess and my diet had a lot to do with it. So we as a family decided to eat healthier in an effort to correct my issues and make sure Moira didn’t end up in the same boat.
That’s when the real struggle began. How do we as a lower-income family eat healthier? As we all know organic, local, healthy food is always more expensive, right? Not necessarily. But I really didn’t know that then. Nor did I really have a plan. I essentially tried the spaghetti method, throw some ideas at the wall and see what sticks.
What Didn’t Work
It seemed like I tried a different thing every month. I would plan out my grocery trip and end up going to at least three different stores every time I did the shopping. One for produce, one for meat, and one for everything else was usually the method. And I still managed to be way over budget. This became exhausting and after a while, I would go back to our old ways. It was just easier to make pre-made food that I bought for cheap all from one store. I was starting to lose hope that I would ever be able to find a method that would actually work.
It feels like food prices keep going up every year. So every time I felt like I had it figured out, something would change. The regular grocery store was great for getting produce and pantry staples, right? The big box stores were great for getting organic meat, and canned goods. The Co-op was great for hard to find organic items. And Trader Joe’s was just good all around. At least that’s what I thought.
Then I just decided to bite the bullet and buy produce from the farmer’s market, bulk meat from a delivery service that’s no longer in business, and staples from the grocery store. That didn’t work either, I was still overspending.
So What Works?
That’s the thing, and don’t hate me for saying this. It really depends on your family size, your budget, and your diet, just to name a few factors. Each store has its own advantages and disadvantages. You also have to take stock of what stores are located in your area. That being said it’s really not as difficult as it sounds.
Key Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
- What is my budget?
- How many people am I feeding on a regular basis?
- What type of storage space do I have?
- What type of cooking do I prefer?
- What type of diet does my family have?
- How much time do I have to devote to grocery shopping?
Devise a Plan
On Sunday evening I set aside time to work on my food strategy for the week. I sit down and make a meal plan on Plan To Eat. It’s my chosen meal planning website, and it really takes the hard work out of my grocery shopping. The first thing I do is look through the pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what we have and then I choose recipes both Aaron and I enjoy. When you put the recipes in the meal planner it populates a grocery list with the ingredients needed for each meal. You then go into the grocery list and remove the items you already have. You can also add staples to the list such as bread, milk, and coffee. From there you print out the list. Because your list is populated from the recipes you’re only getting the items you actually need!
You could choose to use a meal planning site yourself or do it the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. Whatever you choose, it’s always a good idea to set one specific time a week when you plan out your meals. Planning your meals can dramatically reduce your grocery bill, and in this study was shown to increase health as well as reduce weight. Once you’ve got your plan it’s time to pick your stores.
Off to the Market
So now is part of the food strategy where you take action. You’ve got your list, you’ve figured out how much you can spend, and now you have to decide which stores you want to shop at. Once again you have to go back to the list of questions you answered above. Certain stores will fit your needs best, and it is up to you to decide which ones. Don’t worry I’ve done the work for you. At the end of this post, there will be a link to my freebie “How to Eat Healthy and Not Go Broke”, this will give you a handy chart and some tips to help you out.
Now you’re ready to start eating better food and not blowing the budget! If you have friends who you know have struggled with the challenge of saving money at the grocery store please share this article, the more people we can help the better. Happy shopping! And remember….deep breaths before you walk into Costco or Wal-Mart.
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