Lifestyle

15 Ways to Save Money on Groceries: How to Buy Organic on a Budget

“That can’t be right,” I thought to myself as I looked at our budget. “Our monthly grocery bill is more than half our rent! Are we spending more than we should for the size of our family?”

Surprisingly we weren’t, at least according to the 2019 Official USDA Food Plans chart. This chart details the average amount that Americans in different age brackets spend on food during a given period. It features four food plans which Americans fall into: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal.

For a family like ours with a one-year old and two adults between 19 and 50 years old, the grocery costs per month are as follows:

Thrifty: $256.50
Low-Cost: $579.90
Moderate-Cost: $704.70
Liberal: $876.40

Our monthly grocery bill for the last six months has averaged $585.40. This means that even though we buy all organic produce and grass-fed or organic animal products, we still fall into the low end of the the Low-Cost Food Plan category! I felt reassured to learn I wasn’t overspending on groceries for our family. But it was also a little scary to learn that food is just plain expensive!

Since we’re apparently doing a decent job of eating organic on a budget, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite money-saving tips.

How to Buy Organic on a Budget

1. Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk is one of the easiest ways to save a ton of money. For example you can buy a single organic granny smith apple at Stop & Shop for $1.20 ($2.99/lb) or you can buy a 3 lb bag of them for $5.99 ($1.99/lb). That’s a savings of $1 per pound!

If you decide to buy in bulk, first consider if you will be able to use all of the food before expires. There’s no point in buying a bunch of food that is going to go to waste. Next, make sure that you have sufficient storage space for your purchase. Finally, be certain that you are checking unit prices and comparing apples to apples, so to speak, to make sure buying in bulk is actually a better deal. Bulk purchases are often, but not always, better.

2. Check Out Misfits Market

Looking for cheap organic produce? Look no further! Misfits Market is an online subscription service that we use to get seasonal, organic produce shipped directly to our door for a fraction of the cost. How do they do it? They sell misfits: produce that was too small, too big, too oddly shaped, etc. to be sold in a supermarket. This perfectly good produce would otherwise be disposed of. Subscribing to Misfits Market not only reduces your grocery bill, but it also reduces food waste!

My favorite thing about Misfits Market is that you get an interesting variety of fruits and vegetables every week (or two, if that’s what you choose). Last week we got Black Spanish radishes. I had to look them up because I didn’t know what they were! They also have great customer service – if one of your tomatoes gets squished in transit, they will take care of you.

If you’re interested in checking it out, be sure to use this link here because you’ll get a discount. It’s a referral link, so I will too. But, that’s not why I’m sharing it – I just really like this company and I think you will also!

3. Choose Frozen over Fresh…

Seafood is a great way to get heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, but it’s also expensive. You can save a few dollars by purchasing frozen fish instead of fresh. This strategy also works for berries, fruits and veggies too. For instance, we like to eat sauteed spinach with our eggs in the morning. We can either buy a 4 lb bag of frozen spinach for $6.99 or we can buy a pound of fresh spinach for $4.69. By buying frozen, we save $2.94 per pound.

4. …And Canned over Frozen

I don’t typically buy veggies in a can (unless it’s tomatoes), so for me this rule mostly applies to fish. If frozen fish is breaking your budget, then try canned. It’s more cost effective to buy canned salmon than it is frozen or fresh. If you choose smaller fish, like sardines or Atlantic mackerel, you could save even more.

5. Clip Coupons…But Not All of Them

Coupons are a great way to save money…unless you start buying things you don’t need simply because you “have a coupon for it!” Resist the urge and only buy things that you need. For more tips on using coupons to their fullest potential, check out this article here.

6. Don’t Make That Extra Trip

Did you run out of bananas shortly after your last shopping trip? Don’t be tempted to go out and buy more. Why? Because you will probably find other things you “need” as well and pretty soon you’re spending more than you budgeted. Your bananas can probably wait until next week. Limit your shopping trips and get creative with what you do have.

7. Download a Receipt Scanning App

There are a few apps out there which will give you cash back or points toward a gift card for scanning your grocery receipts. This article gives you a detailed breakdown of the different apps that are available. This is one money-saving tip that we don’t actually use anymore. We tried it for a while, but for me, the time spent scanning receipts wasn’t worth the extra change we were saving. But, it may work for you!

8. Grow Your Own Produce

Right now it’s zucchini season and these versatile, green squashes are arriving daily by the truckload. (Well, at least it seems like that). If you have space in your yard, grow some veggies. You can either buy an organic zucchini for $2.50, or you can purchase a seed packet for the same amount and have an endless supply of zucchinis – you decide.

9. Time Your Trips Right

Did you know there’s a right time and a wrong time to go shopping? If you’re looking to catch the best deals and the finest produce, head to the store around mid-morning or early-afternoon on the day that new sales come out. This ensures the items you are interested in are well-stocked and fresh. If you want to get a great deal on meat, check in with the manager of the meat department to find out when they do their markdowns, and plan you shopping trips around that.

10. Purchase Organic When It Counts

Every year, the Environmental Working Group tests fruits and vegetables for their pesticide content and ranks them based on the amount of residue they find in their skins and flesh. They compile two lists from the data collected: the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen. It’s best to choose organic if the fruit or veggie in question is a part of the Dirty Dozen because produce on that list has more pesticide residues. You can use the Clean Fifteen list to help you decide which produce to purchase conventional, or non-organic. This can help you save a few dollars in the produce aisle. Find the full list here.

11. Shop Around

Did you know if can cost you big time if you only shop at one store? There’s no single grocery store that has the best prices on everything (or at least if there is, I haven’t found it!) This means it pays to shop around. We’ve found that grass-fed chicken is the cheapest at BJ’s, but avocados and eggs are cheaper at Aldi. You might have to travel a little more, but the savings do add up.

12. Roast A Whole Bird

Speaking of chicken, if you like to eat grass-fed chicken but don’t like to pay a wing and a thigh for it, try roasting a whole bird! Not only will you save a bunch of money, but you’ll be getting extra goodies like nutritious giblets and bones for stock.

13. Sign Up For Loyalty Programs

Most stores have some sort of loyalty program where you can access special deals and rack up points towards a cash reward. Take advantage of these! It may take a few minutes to sign up, but after that it’s money in your pocket!

14. Try the Store Brand

Your mom was right when she told you to buy the store-brand. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, “A recent study from the Private Label Manufacturers Association found that consumers save an average of 33 percent on the total grocery bill by buying store brands.” The packaging might not be as pretty, but it will probably taste just as good, if not better!

15. Wait For Sales and Stock Up

Our local supermarket sells grass-fed beef for $6.99, but often it is on sale for less. On rare occasions, it goes on sale for $2.99! Those are the times we like to stock up. If you want to take advantage of great sales, give yourself a little extra space in your budget so that when the time comes, you can fill your freezer! Your wallet will thank you later.


So there you have it. Those are the top fifteen ways that our family saves money at the grocery store. What about you? What are your favorite money-saving tips?

Lifestyle

It’s Here! It’s Here! My Misfits Market Order Has Arrived!

This post contains a referral code for Misfits Market. If you click on the link for Misfits Market through my page, you get a 25% discount on your first purchase, and I get a 25% discount on my next one. It’s a win for both of us 😉

If you have been following my meal plans, then you’ll know that I have been eagerly anticipating my first shipment of fresh organic veggies from Misfits Market. I thought that I would share my first box with you all so you can share in my excitement.

I was hoping my box would arrive before I went shopping today, but it didn’t. Instead, it arrived around 4 pm. However, I made a point when I was shopping to only get the bare necessities (aka the snacks like 90% dark chocolate and aged cheese) so that I wouldn’t end up wasting food. I knew that I might have to change this week’s meal plan a bit.

Here is my box as it arrived on my doorstep.

When I first opened the box, I was a bit disappointed, because I thought that I got a bunch of vegetables that would be hard to make meals with. However, after I laid it all out, I realized that I did get some good fruits for snacking and a decent assortment of veggies to cook with. I might even be able to make some of the meals that I was planning to, albeit with some adjustments.

Here are the veggies after I unpacked and sorted them.

In case you’re wondering what was in our box, we got:
2 acorn squash
2 broccoli heads
2 cauliflower heads
2 cucumbers
2 bunches of kale
4 limes
4 mangoes
6 apples
8 onions
10 red potatoes
35 mini peppers

Some things I like about our first box? Overall, I’d say it’s a good variety of quality, seasonal organic fruits and vegetables for a good price. They arrived quickly, in good condition, and in compostable and reusable packaging which was pretty cool. (I cut up the compostable foam and it’s currently entertaining my little tot while I write this. Win!) I also like that we got some fruits and vegetables that we normally wouldn’t have purchased, like mangoes and mini peppers. It’s also fun to get produce by mail; not only do you get to anticipate the arrival of a package, but also you also get to dream about the organic goodness waiting inside! It’s a great little surprise.

One thing I didn’t like was that you can’t opt out of certain veggies or fruits (at least to my knowledge). Since we are doing a low FODMAP diet for the sake of my husband, we normally wouldn’t purchase onions, broccoli or cauliflower because they tend to be problematic for him. But now I’m going to have to find something to do with these veggies. Maybe they’ll just make their way into this week’s stir-fry and the baby and I will eat them! One other thing that will take some getting used to is planning meals around what arrives in the mail because it switches up the usual flow of things. But it will be a good opportunities to get my creative juices flowing.

Will I reorder? Probably. It’s hard to get a good feel for a product or service until you try it for a while. So we’re going to test it out and see how it works for us. Stay tuned for updates?

What do you think about getting fruits and veggies by mail? Have you ordered from Misfits Market?

Lifestyle

Our Experience on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet

About a year ago, a friend of mine with Hashimoto’s suggested that we try out the Autoimmune Paleo diet to see if it would help with my husband’s ulcerative colitis. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Autoimmune Paleo diet is a more restrictive form of the Paleo diet designed to help heal the gut by flooding your body with nutrients, restoring and balancing your gut, and regulating both your hormones and your immune system. Since the gut is integral to overall health, the idea is that if you can heal your gut, you can heal your autoimmune condition.

The diet has an elimination phase in which you can consume nothing but air and water. Just kidding, but it is really restrictive. Here’s a list from the Paleo Mom website of the things that aren’t allowed:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Refined and processed sugars and oils
  • Eggs, especially egg whites
  • Nuts (including nut butters, flours and oils)
  • Seeds (including seed oil, cocoa, coffee and seed-based spices)
  • Nightshades (potatoes [sweet potatoes are fine], tomatoes, eggplants, sweet and hot peppers, cayenne, red pepper, tomatillos, goji berries etc. and spices derived from peppers, including paprika)
  • Potential Gluten Cross-Reactive foods
  • Alcohol
  • NSAIDS (like aspirin or ibuprofen)
  • Non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives

You might be wondering what on earth you can possibly eat after you eliminate all of that from your diet. The list is very short. Basically, you’re encouraged to eat organ meat, fish, other grass-fed meat, healthy fats, fermented foods, vegetables, mushrooms and fungi, herbs and spices, and the occasional fruit.

The elimination period is followed by a reintroduction phase in which you reintroduce foods and carefully monitor your body to see if you react to them. After you complete the protocol, you should have a good idea of which foods you can tolerate and which are reactive for you. Hopefully, your condition will be in remission or at least you will be feeling significantly better.

The diet is to be combined with common sense lifestyle changes such as reducing stress (not always possible with a baby in the house), getting sufficient sleep (once again, not very easy with a baby), and gentle exercise.

So how did it work for us?

The first time we tried it was almost two years ago in November. THIS IS A HORRIBLE TIME OF THE YEAR TO START A RESTRICTIVE DIET! It makes socializing around the holidays super difficult, because the holidays always bring with them all of the tasty (and not-so-good-for-you foods) that we love. After struggling through a birthday, wedding, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I think we gave up. It was just not a good time of year to jump into Autoimmune Paleo, because there is a big learning curve when it comes to prepping meals and snacks for festive occasions.

We tried again at the beginning of this year. This time, I put significant effort into planning ahead for weekly meals. I made a detailed schedule for breakfast, lunch and dinner and did a lot of batch cooking. We ate a lot of meat and vegetable casseroles and soups during the two months that we tried the diet.

Unfortunately, the diet didn’t work for us, for a number of reasons.

The first reason was that my already thin husband was losing weight he didn’t need to lose. On top of that, he had no energy. We tried to increase calories with protein and healthy fats to keep him going, but for whatever reason, because of my husband’s body type, he needs a fair amount of carbs. Additional squash and sweet potatoes didn’t cut it for him.

In addition to having no energy, it seemed like he was always sick for the two months we tried it. Maybe it was because it was winter, but I’m thinking that not having enough carbs was actually making him more susceptible to infection.

Not only was he more inclined to infection, but also he saw an increase in some of his gastrointestinal symptoms, especially gas and pain. We think it was due to the increased amount of sulfur-rich meat and vegetables that we were eating.

Finally, the diet was expensive. For two people, we were easily spending over $500 a month on food. Not a good idea if you are living on a single income.

So what did we take away from our time on the Autoimmune Paleo diet?

We did learn some valuable things. First, I learned how to meal plan and cook new and interesting things. Second, we learned that in order for my husband to function, he needs carbs. As soon as we added oats and rice back into our diet, he began feeling significantly better. Third, we learned that sulfur-rich foods make my husband’s symptoms worse. So we’ve realized he has to limit certain foods in his diet like brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and other delicious cruciferous vegetables. This ultimately led to our newest diet discovery which has actually been beneficial in reducing my husband’s symptoms, the low FODMAP diet, which I will be sharing more about soon.

Have you ever tried the Autoimmune Paleo diet? What was you experience?