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How to Make a Grocery Budget for Real Food and Quality Meat provides three practical ideas to get you started. Yes: most Americans can afford to buy grass-finished meat and organic produce! It’s just a matter of re-arranging your budget (or creating one!).
Thankfully, it’s easier than you think! …
Below, 3 BIG ideas about how to create that budget and afford better food + 5 tips for grocery shopping that save money!
What’s a budget
A budget is an itemized estimate of expenses, in this case for a month, based on one’s income.
Many people “budget” for groceries by simply spending as little as possible while they buy what they want!
And, they go out to dinner to restaurants, as well as make various purchases, not seeing any correlation between the two.
Instead, get ready to make some changes, and see how happy they’ll make you!
Idea #1. Get a budget app on your phone (do this!!?)
This has been a game changer for us.
This one step transformed our spending — and ability to budget!
Plus, we make a date out of it. (This would work for singles too!)
So … forget coupons, little envelopes with money in them or random spending with good intentions.
Money is now ZERO stress for us. That’s because: we know how much income we have each month.
We have a little date over coffee and pastry once a month at a French bakery. In this happy setting, we decide where all that money will go, including our grocery budget, savings, giving, doctor visits, supplements etc. (More on categories below.)
And that’s exactly how we spend! It’s incredibly freeing.
Of course, we can make our budget however we want it! So it’s not limiting.
If we agree to spend money on Nike sneakers, we do. If we agree to not eat out at restaurants because we’d rather that money go to great groceries, that’s what we do!
It’s also nice to see the month ahead and talk about what’s coming.
Our good intentions are all followed through on: we enter each purchase on our phone as we grocery shop, pay bills, make online purchases etc. It’s fast and easy.
How to make a grocery budget
When we budget for groceries, we:
- discuss if we’re going to make a bulk beef order with our local farmer — and how much that will cost
- look in the freezer and see what cuts we want and how much ground beef we have left
- see how much chicken we need
Those bulk orders are included in our grocery budget. How much we spent the prior month informs how much we think we’ll spend in the coming month.
If it’s helpful, figure your grocery budget and other important budget estimates first. Then build the rest of your budget after that, so you can decide what optional categories to take money from so you have enough where it’s needed. Adjust and tweak a little in a few categories until it comes out even.
The budget app makes this super easy!
After the month is over, you’ll see where you need to improve or if a category wasn’t accurate and needs to be changed. Every month is different, so it’s important to create a new budget each month.
Here’s the app we have and love, created by Dave Ramsey and his team. We use the free version.
Dave’s motto is: “Tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” That’s right.
The goal of this article is: We want our money to go toward better groceries and preventative medicine.
We do not want to waste money on unknown purchases. By having categories of spending, we’re careful important dollars aren’t spent randomly on little items.
We’re also willing to spend less on optional purchases in order to afford better food.
Idea #2. Where to save money: cut spending in other categories
Once you get the budget app on your phone (read the above section if you skipped it; it’s key), you’ll choose categories of spending.
The important question is: Where can you spend less money, so you can spend more money on better meat and real food?
Only you know the answer for your unique lifestyle.
But many American’s spend unnecessary money on the following items. If this is you, can you eliminate or reduce spending in one or more category?!:
- all beverages (you only need to drink good quality water)
- including alcohol (a bad habit that’s a crutch for not feeling well)
- and regular coffee out (a bad habit that’s a crutch for not feeling well)
- entertainment (stay home, read more books, exercise more, use your imagination)
- clothing/new shoes (yes, restraint is needed here)
- car payments (do you drive the least expensive car possible that’s still reliable?)
- credit card interest (see Dave Ramsey’s site for help getting out of debt; his advice is awesome, and it works)
- convenience foods
- a higher mortgage than you need to pay (are you living outside your means?)
- restaurant food (usually full of vegetable oil and not made with organic ingredients or good meat)
- technology: cable, streaming, video games, tech gadgets …
- equipment: sports equipment, photographic supplies, hunting and fishing, bikes, boats (are they the latest and greatest, can you buy used equipment, are you living outside your means to buy these things?)
- cell phone (can you switch plans or use less data?)
I know this gets quite personal. But I do encourage you to be self-reflective. Where can you cut spending? Likely, it will bring you joy to do so.
Eating well is joyful, and it’s preventative medicine. There are few things more worth our investment.
Idea #3. Shop for cheaper groceries: with 5 tips!
Yes, shopping for cheaper groceries is still a thing! — even when buying organic and grass-finished meats. Below are 5 tips, each expounded upon with a lot of detail, that I hope you’ll find super helpful.
1. Use the most economical meat and vegetables you have on hand or can access.
- Can you access wild game? If so, use it in place of other meats in recipes. Hunt or fish if you can! It’s almost free meat, and it’s omega-3 profile is excellent. Wild game is usually better or equal to grass-finished meat’s quality, plus comes from happy, wild animals.
- Grow vegetables, and freeze or ferment extras. I know not everyone can garden, but if you can grow in pots, or begin gardening more, this saves a lot of money and can greatly decrease the vegetable grocery bill at least 2 seasons out of the year. Learn how to ferment your extra veggies. The outcome is healthy and easy to store.
- Buy bulk vegetables and dry goods from local distributors. (These are the organic companies that sell to grocery stores.) Look for local distributors in your area from whom to buy boxes of vegetables and bags of dry goods. You’ll be so surprised and excited! There’s a whole world beyond grocery stores that’s MUCH cheaper and fun to access. At the very least, shop at places like Costco for large quantities of organic produce at a reduced price.
- You may need to buy through a co-op or even form your own to buy from bulk suppliers.
- Examples of bulk suppliers that function as co-ops are: Azure Standard and UNFI.
- To form your own co-op, a group of people pool their orders to create a larger one that meets a company’s minimum order size. When delivered, the group must divide and distribute the order. This is easy, fun and community oriented.
- You may also like to order from All Bulk Foods or Nuts.com.
- Consider getting annual CSA boxes that support a local farm and offer local, in-season produce at a reduced price.
- As mentioned above and in greater detail here, buy grass-finished meats in bulk, from local farmers or through the mail. (If through the mail, I recommend Cooks Venture [here] for all cuts of pastured chicken and ground beef.)
2. Which produce items can safely be purchased from conventional growers?
- Avocados, eggplants, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages and asparagus! See this list for the Clean 15 and this for the Dirty Dozen list.
3. Go to certain markets for the best dairy.
Dairy products from feed lots are dangerous food, high in omega 6s, full of antibiotics that cause antibiotic resistance in humans and lacking in the essential nutrients we find in pasture-raised dairy: vitamins K2, D and E. We need to budget for slightly more expensive, quality dairy and then choose the best prices on those quality products.
- Buy Kerrygold butter, (unless you make your own from A2, raw, pasture-raised cream). Kerrygold is the best pasture-raised butter available commercially. In our town, I buy Kerrygold from Costco or Trader Joe’s for the best price. Trader Joe’s is better because they offer unsalted butter. While sea salt is health food, salted butters, including Kerrygold’s, usually use table salt, which contains additives like fluoride and bleaching agents. I simply sprinkle sea salt on my unsalted butter. (I have personally tried out many European butters and organic butters and find Kerrygold’s to be the gentlest.)
- Find a local, sustainable, preferably raw milk, farmer for cream. If you can’t access pasture-raised raw cream, be sure to avoid ultra-pasteurized cream, and look for the best you can find. The A2A2 company is a newer option that’s decent, but sadly, they package in plastic. U.S. residents, find raw, pasture-raised milk listings for your state HERE. Some of these farms also produce grass-finished meats, honey and more. (Look here to see if Straus is sold in your area. It is excellent.)
- For cheese, look for French cheese from Trader Joe’s, or buy Kerrygold cheddar from Costco or your local discount store. French cheese is A2 and pasture-raised, so it makes shopping for cheese easier. Trader Joe’s has the best prices in our town on French cheeses.
4. Eat lots of pasture-raised eggs and ground beef.
Most of you know this trick already, but it’s amazing how many Americans fall back on eating a lot of chicken breasts — instead of eggs and ground beef. Chicken isn’t a very healthy meat, and it’s expensive. (Stop buying cheap chicken.) Bulk ground beef can be VERY cheap (and it’s super healthy) if you find the right local farmer.
- Use eggs in place of meat for some meals, because they’re more affordable. While many recipes have meat as the centerpiece, pasture-raised eggs are less expensive and offer great nutrition: Vitamins D, E, K2, B12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, choline and omega3 fatty acids. To avoid a food sensitivity to eggs, eat them only 6 days a week, or less.
- Consider raising chickens if you have the space. The initial cost can be expensive, so here’s how to raise chickens cheaply. You’ll have more eggs than you know what to do with, but you can freeze eggs, and share with neighbors. What a great problem to have when trying to save money on groceries!
- Find a local farmer, and buy half a cow (or a quarter). You might need to invest in a chest freezer (look for a good used one), but that investment will be paid off quickly by buying meat in bulk. You may also need to budget ahead of time. It’s a lot of money all at once. But save up, and you’ll save in the long run.
5. Keep meals simple, and avoid snack foods.
- Stick to the whole food ingredients that your simple meals and recipes require. Avoid fancy products. Instead, focus on basic quality. Grow herbs if you can to add beauty and flavor.
- Avoid buying snack foods and packaged foods at the grocery store, even if they’re on sale.
- Make foods like yogurt homemade instead of from the grocery store. Homemade yogurt is very inexpensive.
- Batch cooking can help reduce the need to buy snack foods. Snack foods are often purchased because they’re convenient when someone’s hungry now. Take half a day each week to make a bunch of beef jerky, quick breads or even a batch of rice pudding. Make sure everyone in the family knows where the cucumber peeler is. 😉 They can always snack on cukes!
- Cheap recipes to make:
- Standard and gluten-free ideas: Oat Bread, oatmeal or Buckwheat, pot of rice or Rice Pudding, pot of beans, Waffles, Yogurt
- Paleo ideas: Coconut Flour Bread is inexpensive, Zucchini Bread, Sourdough Bread (make this with inexpensive raw seeds instead of nuts to save money), Tahini Brownies, already baked winter squash or Pumpkin Custard made with it, Pumpkin Scones (this recipe makes a big batch)
- If you need more affordable snack recipe ideas for your unique diet, comment below, and I’m happy to help.
- Although chicken isn’t cheap, batch cooking it ahead of time can help prevent spending more on eating out, because it’s ready and it’s easy. Here’s Meal Prep Chicken Thighs, great for fridge or freezer storage and fast meals or snacks.
- Affordable ground beef recipes: 15-Minute Asian Beef Bowl, 15-Minute Greek Bowls, tomato (or Nomato) sauce with ground meat and noodles. Meatballs are a great way to change up ground meat recipes: Asian Meatballs Sheet Pan Dinner, Meatball Korma Curry or Middle Eastern Lamb Stew (may also be made with beef).
- Make Veggie Bisque Soups with meat stock (cheap), and add optional meatballs or ground meat. Veggie bisques can use very inexpensive vegetables like carrots, leftover carcasses that are free and be spiked with special cheap ingredients to add excitement to the recipe. See this Carrot Mint Bisque with Ginger for an excellent recipe and example.
How to make a grocery budget? Let’s review!
Action items from this post:
- Get a budget app on your phone. This is the free one we use.
- Create a budget. Cut spending on non-essential categories and on random items. Budget for grass-finished meats.
- Save money on groceries by planning ahead:
- buy in bulk from organic distributors and local farmers
- shop certain stores for the best prices on dairy
- avoid snack foods
- batch cook cheap carbs
- choose simple recipes with basic ingredients
What are your grocery budget tips to share with others? How do you save money buying real food and quality meats?
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