Budget-friendly food

There’s a lot of talk these days about a recession, even a depression, being on the way, and for families trying to eat clean and green, it can be difficult to make our food budgets stretch any further.

As a father, I believe that feeding my family the best foods that I can buy is good health insurance. We’ve found that eating a nutritious diet pays huge health dividends and ends up being way cheaper than doctor’s visits and lost time at work.

Here’s my family’s food budget strategy for continuing to eat organic in tough times:

  • Buy in season -Trying to eat organic summer vegetables in the winter will quickly put a dent in your food budget. Right now, root vegetables, potatoes, and winter squash are at their cheapest and their tastiest. Apples are also fresh and reasonably priced, and citrus comes into season around the holidays. Use in-season vegetables and fruits to fill your family’s table with affordable nutritious goodness.
  • Think ahead – Shop once a week, and don’t shop for food while hungry. Buying all of your food on one trip avoids the trap of running to the store several times, which burns extra gas and can add extra impulse buys to your basket.
  • Make a plan – Planning your weekly meals and sticking to it keeps you from buying whatever sounds good when you’re shopping. Always shop from a list.
  • Buy in bulk – We try to have the staple foods on hand at all times, buying a month’s worth or more and storing it in the pantry. Many co-ops and health food stores offer discounts for case quantities and bulk bags of grains. Most grains, beans, and flour is sold in 25 or 50 pound bags. 25 pounds of grains fits perfectly in a 5 gallon bucket, keeping it fresh and safe from bugs or rodents. Check at hospitals or school cafeterias for free food-grade buckets.
  • Cook at home – Eating out will burn up your cash, and many restaurants serve food with dubious origins, so cooking from scratch makes the most sense to us. If you do eat out, find a local place that serves real food, clean food, food made from scratch, not a can (and organically grown, or at least MSG and GMO-free). There’s a place here in my neck of the woods that makes their own tempeh and has a 2 for 1 tempeh burger special (Tempeh Tuesday). The four of us can fill up for under twenty bucks.
  • Eat simple – For families that eat meat, cutting back meat-based dishes to once or twice a week means being able to afford organic or grass-fed choices. Fill out a dish with grains or beans. Making a casserole or soup can keep the menu simple and affordable.
  • Make extra – A large meal cooked once a week and served as leftovers or sent for lunches helps to save energy and water. It’s less stressful for the cook as well. If you do eat out, find a local place that serves real food, clean food, food made from scratch, not a can (and organically grown, or at least MSG and GMO-free). There’s a place here in my neck of the woods that makes their own tempeh and has a 2 for 1 tempeh burger special (Tempeh Tuesday). The four of us can fill up for under twenty bucks.
  • Raid the fridge – I’m the king of the end of the week random ingredient meal. I make a pot of rice (or beans, millet, etc.), sauté onions and garlic with other random veggies, mix together, and serve wrapped in a tortilla.

Stay green and clean, and stay under budget…

Image: vortistic at Flickr under Creative Commons License

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