It's true that trying to buy organic, grass-fed, local, etc. can be expensive. Do the best you can with your budget but what it ultimately comes down to is eating REAL food! The ones that are "one" ingredient (e.g. apple) as opposed to all kinds of zombies hiding in processed foods these days.
Many processed foods can be cheaper than whole foods at face value but we typically eat more of them because they have been engineered to make us not feel full (mostly because our bodies are not being nourished). The cost of of nutrition per calorie is significantly more expensive in processed foods than in whole foods. Jonathan Bailor has some great examples of this in his book The Calorie Myth, that I'd definitely suggest checking out!
I've come to find, that some of the budget issues can be resolved with positive trade offs. Which can be started by having different conversations with yourself. For example, I sometimes say to myself in the grocery store something like "wow, that 1-lb package of strawberries is $3.50? Well, I'm glad I have the opportunity to vote with my dollars by buying these organic strawberries instead of a bag of potato chips." It really is true; we are voting with our dollars. Grocery stores will not supply local, grass-fed, organic, quality foods if we're not demanding it!
Random side note... I've been pleasantly surprised at how much better Walmart's produce section is getting in my area. I don't buy produce there very often but it looks better than it did before and they are offering many more organic options lately. I can even get my favorite Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate bar there for almost a dollar less per bar than other stores! Change is happening; maybe there really is hope in turning our eating culture around in this country! :)
Okay, how about another scenario... If you spend as little as even $5 on breakfast (coffee, donuts, pop, fast food, or whatever) every day at work, that's approximately $100 a month that could be going toward quality food that actually keeps you feeling satisfied and full (and doesn't add to your waist line). Maybe you're closer to $15 a day, the same 20 days during the month and that's $300 that could get you a quarter grass-fed beef! Trust me, you'll actually get your $300 worth out of that quality beef that I definitely can't guarantee from the burgers & donuts you bought instead.
Alright, with that said... here are some ideas to make a whole foods diet more affordable.
Buy in bulk
We like to buy a quarter grass-fed beef a couple of times a year for our little family. If you have a larger family, you may need to invest in a half or full beef. Or even better, raise your own beef to eat! Buying quality beef can be very expensive if you buy it a few cuts at a time at somewhere like Whole Foods. Buying a quarter beef typically cuts the cost per pound in half for us, or more!
Costco has HUGE bags/containers of (often organic) veggies like spinach, kale, romaine, carrots, etc. for $3-$5. We also like to buy our wild-caught fish (mostly salmon) from their freezer section. Buying quality fish tends to be one of our bigger costs, being so far from the ocean. But once again, when we can fit it in our budget, I remind myself that we are worth it and that it costs a heck of a lot less than huge medical bills down the road! Other gems I typically get at Costco (Sam's Club often has similar options) are their large container of Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Free-range eggs, raw/unsalted nuts, and berries.
Farmer's Market, CSA, & Co-ops
Other places you can often find great deals on produce and meat are local farmer's markets, CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), and Co-ops. Local Harvest is a really cool site that can help you find any of these options just by putting in your zip code or state. Not too shabby!
City living in a town home makes this one difficult for us but I do have a small square-foot garden and some self-watering planter boxes that I grow lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and tomatoes in during spring & fall. If you've got a yard, do a quick google search on produce that grows well in your climate and give it a shot! There really is nothing like the most fresh produce you can ever eat, straight from your own dirt!
Another avenue to "growing" your own would be to raise your own chickens for eggs & meat. If you have the space, you could also raise your own beef, pork, lamb, etc.
Shop the Sales
This is one that I'm trying to get better at. Some people are really great at checking out every store's ads, clipping coupons, etc. to find great deals but I tend to not have the patience for that. Something that works well for me, is knowing the sale days of my favorite grocery stores. For example, Sprouts has the weekly sales overlapping on Wednesdays (both sales are effective the same day, boo-yeah!) so that's pretty much the only day I shop there. Then I'm guaranteed to have the most sales available without having to put too much effort into it. Today I came out of there with 2 packed reusable grocery bags full of produce for only $30! It was my small victory for the day :)
Especially in the fall, I seem to find plenty of people who have too much produce that they don't know what to do with. It's also good friends and neighbors who have told us in the past where they were able to find good sources of meat and such. It only takes a second to put the word out there and people are always excited to share their great finds!
If you're wasting food because you can't get through it, it's certainly not saving you money (even if you did buy the food at a great price). It is really hard for me to watch food go to waste. Learn how to do a simple meal plan and coordinating grocery list to ensure that your time and money at the grocery store is not wasted. To learn how to handle, store, and preserve food, check out a site like this one.
Subscribe & Save
I love Amazon. Yes, it's true. I think they are a great source for many of the longer shelf life items we use. My regulars are coconut cream, coconut flour, cacao powder, gelatin, & freezer-dried peas. You can even find some nice brands of cleaning products, sanitizing wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, wipes, and such that help keep the home non-toxic! Subscribe and save is really nice because it keeps me out of the store (definitely saves me money) and you get an even better discount on the items when they are coming in regularly. AND... they are delivered right to my door. Love it, love it!
What other ideas do you have to make eating whole foods more affordable? Please share!