Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Real Food Budget, Part 2 . . . Make Room

Part I

Many of you out there think that your budgets are so tight that you could not possibly buy organic products.  They are much too expensive and that can be true.  I find that we have money for things that we want.  Even tight budgets include some unnecessary extras.  If you looked closely at your budget you could maybe find $20-$60 a month extra without much effort (cut some cable channels, forgo Starbucks, stop the weekly McDonalds run).

You may say that you actually have money to buy organic but you think it is just "trendy" and not really worthwhile.

First off, I would ask you to just try watching Food, Inc..  Once you watch this you will probably at least be a little more convinced to only eat organic (or grassfed) beef.  This is one of the first changes I made when I started this and it is one that I will not go back on.  Let me show you why.  First off, in Food Inc. they talk about how your hamburger that you are eating could be made up of literally hundreds (if not thousands) of different cows from any number of different countries  - tasty right?  Let me show you a box of hamburgers you can purchase at Sam's Club.

Notice the type at the top - Product of US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Costa Rica.  Really!  Seriously, I am so glad that they now make them list the country of origin on everything.  I absolutely check it and you should too.  Before you get too excited, know that organic products must list their product of origin as well.  I recently joined Costco because I heard they had a lot of organic products.  I started to buy their organic broccoli (frozen) and then turned it over and guess what?  "Product of China" - can they not get broccoli from the US and freeze it?  Yet another reason I try to garden and go to the farmers market.

Anyway, I told you all this to say that the above reasons should make you WANT to find room in your budget to purchase products locally and/or organically.  As I said before, I am not a purist.  I don't buy all products organically.  I work towards that but I haven't made that plunge.

Lets talk numbers.  I do have a certain amount that I don't go over, but since I am currently trying a few new and different ideas I don't have an exact budget amount.

Beef (Grassfed but not certified Organic) - $3/lb. - We get 1/4 at a time which is roughly 180 lbs.  Total - $540  - This lasts us 6 months or more.
Pork - I don't buy a lot of pork but I have bought it from Trader Joe's at about $4.58/lb.
Hot dogs - I am not a fan of hot dogs but I now only buy Trader Joe's - All Beef, Nitrate Free - and they are $3.99 per package.  I only buy one a month and my husband says they are the best hot dogs.  I don't eat them so I don't know.
Lunch meat - Nitrate free ham or turkey - $3.69 to $4.99 per package.  I buy this twice a month as well.
Pepperoni - Nitrate free $2.96/pkg.  I find that one pkg will be good for 2-3 pizzas.  I freeze the leftover ones.  I buy one package about twice a month.

Dairy and Eggs
Milk - This is a hot topic and I just can't yet bring myself to drink raw milk.  (I don't drink milk myself but my kids do).  I get organic when I can or whatever is on sale, but as of last month and because my dermatologist said it will help my skin I am only buying organic because it does not have the hormones.  If I do buy raw I use it to make yogurt or buttermilk.  Raw Milk is $5.99 at my local dairy.  Organic is $5.99 at Kroger or most grocery stores around me.  Trader Joe's milk is $2.99 but it is not organic.
Yogurt - I haven't made my own lately but I do buy it and it is around $3.99 for a large tub (organic that is).
Cheese - I buy sliced colby jack from Trader Joe's at $3.49/pkg.  I sometimes buy string cheese at $3.49/pkg.  I recently have started buying actual, real Parmesan and it is yummy.  This price varies.  I do buy shredded sometimes or block cheese (from Aldi or Meijer) and shred it myself.  If I am in desperate need of it, I will buy pre-shredded cheese (Trader Joe's has it for $3.29/pkg).  I have tried raw colby jack cheese from a farm and we did not like the taste.  I may have to experiment more and see if there are some we do like.  For now I buy it at Trader Joe's and it works.
Cream - I do buy raw cream (or I do when I need it) and make ice cream with it.  It is the same price as regular cream at the stores.  I buy this from that local organic dairy as well.
Eggs - I buy my eggs from the local organic dairy and they are $2.75 per dozen.  I know I can find them cheaper but this is super convenient and the farmers are so nice.

Chicken - I need to work on this because it is hard for me to buy whole organic chicken at $12-$14 per chicken.  I recently bought Trader Joe's (not organic) for $4-$6 per chicken.  I used to buy a lot of chicken breasts (we love them) but since they are $4-$5 per pound organic I changed up my menus to not include as much recipes requiring chicken breasts.  I bought a bag of frozen ones from Trader Joe's last time and they were $6.99 per bag.  I do mostly whole chickens now and I make broth and then freeze the meat.
Turkey - I just buy Butterball but I will work on that before this Thanksgiving.

I buy organic from Trader Joe's because the prices are so reasonable.  I do sometimes make my own.  Again, even your salad dressing and BBQ sauce have high fructose corn syrup in it so this is a great place to make a small change and start getting them organically or making them yourself.

My favorite thing!  As I said last time, I try to buy mostly organic produce.  I buy it at Trader Joe's or Meijer.  In the summer I garden and I freeze and can a lot of my own stuff.  If I don't grow it, I buy it from a few local farmers.  They do not always grow organically but at least it is local.

I am picky on my whole wheat flour and only buy King Arthur's because I want my family to eat the whole wheat baked goods I make.  I have tried other whole wheat flour and you just can't beat King Arthurs.  I don't buy the organic but I buy the white whole wheat for $3.49/5 lbs.  I just tried Trader Joe's white whole wheat last month because it is only $2.99/5 lbs., but it is not as good (sorry Trader Joe's).
I buy Coconut Oil wherever it is on sale.  I buy Olive Oil from Sam's Club but I will be changing that soon.
I am still searching for places and prices to buy some of my staples.  I don't do organic for a lot of my staples.
Honey - I do buy this raw from my local organic dairy.

This post is getting long so I will stop here for now.  I will say that I have been spending roughly $115-$175 at Trader Joe's per month.  I count this as my major monthly shopping trip and any other shopping trips I do will not be as much.

If we ever move back to Springfield, Missouri I am not sure how I will buy organic on a budget.  I know there are no Trader Joe's there and it is hard to find good prices at your local health food store.

Please, please, please share with me how and what you buy in the comments.  I would love to know.

For more frugal ideas, please visit Frugal Friday at Life as a Mom.


  1. What a great list!

    Our budget is already stripped of most of the extras and organic meats still don't fit (my husband's in law school!)

    But, you're right. On some things you can get organic/raw for about the same price as what's in the store. I buy chemical-free wheat in bulk, raw honey from a local farmer and farm fresh eggs for about the same price as their less healthy alternatives. Hopefully someday we can do more, but for now this works well for us!

  2. For us, the biggest challenge is availability. We don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in the area and organic items are limited. Prepackaged crackers? Sure. Bananas? No. It is improving, though, so I have hope!

    If you don't mind me asking, what brand of coconut oil do you use? I used the very last of my jar and I need to order again. I've been happy with it but don't know that it was the right choice because I randomly guessed at a choice when I first ordered it. It's Nutiva but I'd like an organic shopper's opinion on them :)


  3. Great Post! We don't have any local organic dairies, but we do take advantage of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. We also grow a lot of our own organic fruits and vegetables which saves us a lot of money. I also am able to trade my jam, homemade applesauce, and/or fresh produce for free range, organic eggs.

  4. It's my first time reading and I hopped over on your link from Life As Mom.

    I have been fighting to incorporate more organic and/or local produce into our budget. I pay attention to the Dirty Dozen list of produce to set my highest organic priorities. For instance, blueberries are extremely cheap in the grocery stores right now; however, they were just added to the Dirty Dozen so I am not buying them. I will wait until they are available locally where I know that the farmers don't spray nearly as many chems. I also avoided buying strawberries in late winter/early spring for the same reason.

  5. We are in the same boat as you. We are slowly switching over to organics, but we live in a very rural area and have a hard time finding them. We go to the farmer's market and I order from Azure Standard. You might see if you are close enough to a drop spot. It is an amazing company.
    Also, I have a friend that lives in Springfield, MO (I used to live there too) and she gets a lot of staples from a health food store called Mama Jean's, I think. Also, really good CSA groups down that way.
    Sounds like you are doing a great job.

  6. There are a lot of organic coupons available now that make organic shopping reasonable. I've been working saving with organics and am pretty pleased with the results. I wish I knew how to save money at Trader Joe's. If you have any ideas/suggestions let me know.

  7. I just started changing the way we eat. Previously I would spend $300 per month for groceries to feed my family of 4. This $300 was plenty and we had extra to buy "treats".

    Now, my budget is very tight at $400 per month. I don't know where you are, but Azure Standard is a co-op and they deliver once a month to our area. We live in a small town and have very few shopping options.

    I am not focusing on organic as much as I am local, responsible sources. I know that the organic label is too expensive for some farmers.

    Someone once told me (as I was complaining about not finding any local eggs) ask around to EVERYONE. Even if you've been friends with someone for a long time, you never know what kind of information they have. In fact, there is a raw milk company that delivers food here that is from a neighboring town and it's my friends' brother! I had NO idea she had a brother that delivered food here!

    I'm finding, the more I ask, the more I find. I buy eggs at the Lock Shop...always cracks me up. You put your $2.00 into a cup and away you go!

    The brand of coconut oil I just bought is Wilderness Family Naturals. It's AMAZING!!! I bought it from Azure Standard and it's way better than the brand I bought last time. I've heard good things about Nutiva as well.

  8. Oh, and I wanted to say great post!

  9. I have found that my food expense has dropped since I cut out so many prepackaged convenience foods. So for me the change has been good. We have less choices but better nutrition. It is a trade-off I suppose.
    We don't have Trader Joe's or Whole Food anywhere around so I do my best at Farmers Markets and local Amish homes.

  10. We were at Aldi tonight and there was a brand new sign on the milk case. It said something like: "Friendly Farm NO growth hormones: our milk is from dairy farmers that pledge to not use artificial growth hormones". We paid barely $2 a gallon! Made me feel better about the milk we buy! Found fresh farm eggs for less than $1.50 a dozen today at an Amish Bulk Foods store that is near Kevin's work.


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