Photo by juggernautco
Guest Post by Andrea of The Greenbacks Gal:
So you’ve made the decision to green your grocery list. Most people assume that to green your groceries, you need to hand over your whole paycheck.
Not so! I have some tips on how to go green at the grocers while leaving some green in your pocketbook.
First, I want to set up realistic expectations. I do save 50 -75% off what I used to spend on groceries. But, I’m afraid TLC won’t be casting me on Extreme Couponing anytime soon. This is because I buy organic milk and eggs, grass-fed beef, and all produce on the dirty dozen list organically grown – not cartloads full of processed food.
How much do I spend each week?
My weekly budget is now about $105/week. That feeds a husband who is always training for some athletic event (which means he has the appetite of a 15 year old), two teenage girls and their gaggle of friends, and myself.
1. Plan Ahead
I always plan my purchases before I head to the store. I know I need to budget about $20 each week to buy enough fresh fruits and vegetables for my family. It works out to be just the right amount to last us the week without any spoilage. In order to stay within that $20, I purchase my produce organically grown only if it is on the dirty dozen list.
You’re probably familiar with the dirty dozen – it is the twelve fruits and vegetables that have the highest amount of pesticide residue. By buying these produce items organically grown, you reduce your exposure to pesticide residue by 80%.
2. Buy Foods in Season
My second strategy to save in the produce section is to buy seasonal foods. By buying produce when it is in season, you will not only enjoy fresher and tastier produce, you will save money, because in-season produce is priced the best.
This does mean that certain foods we enjoy are not purchased at all during the winter months of the year. For example, we haven’t had a red pepper in what seems like forever. Sweet peppers are on the dirty dozen list, and I haven’t seen an organic one priced below $4.50 for months. So I buy frozen organic peppers for my cooking, and we’ll really enjoy the peppers from the farmer’s market when they come in season.
3. Buy Local Foods
Finally, I try to buy local. I love supporting my local farmers. That said, I do live in Colorado. The growing season here is dormant for several months over the winter. This is when I do my best to at the least buy domestic.
While lots of my favorites are currently in the store – like blueberries and strawberries – they’ve traveled thousands of miles to get here. So instead, I wait until summer for my fresh berries that I’ll buy at my local farmer’s market, and I load up on sweet in-season oranges and grapefruit grown in the US during the winter.
4. Look for Reduced Dairy
To save on organic dairy, I often times will buy the “Manager’s Special”.
Honestly, this is a “luck of the draw” strategy – and it doesn’t pan out for me every week. However, I make it a point to know exactly where the markdowns are in the dairy case, and I check it whenever I’m in the store.
Also don’t be afraid to ask your store manager when they do their markdowns. I’ve found if I just pop into the store on my way home from the gym in the morning, that I can often score sweet deals. It is certainly worth saving $5 – $10 each week to take those 10 minutes.
Dairy is also the place where good coupon deals can be found. Stoneyfield Farm, Organic Valley and more will all put out coupons. Hold on to the coupon, check your weekly sales flyer, and wait for a sale. When you find a good sale price, use your coupon to further your savings.
5. Stockpile Sale Items
My last strategy for saving is to “stockpile” goods when you find a great sale. What is stockpiling? It’s simply buying as much as you can when a product is at its lowest price. For example, Whole Foods recently had it’s organic chickens on sale for $1.69/lb. That is a GREAT price on organic poultry – so I bought 6 chickens.
You also need to be patient when stockpiling. The chicken sale will probably only happen once this year at Whole Foods. But, I’ve also stockpiled Tilapia and grass-fed beef, so I have proteins I can rely on to get me to the next sale.
Obviously, it helps to have a deep freeze when you stockpile meats. Stockpiling does take time, but before you know it, your deep freeze will be full of high quality protein for your family.
Using these five strategies you can fill your grocery cart with food you feel good feeding your family, while still saving money at the same time.
Emily’s note: I think this post is especially important as we’ve watched the prices of food climb and climb over the past weeks. I know we’re definitely feeling the crunch in our budget! Stay tuned next week for a great giveaway of Katie from Kitchen Stewardship’s new ebook – The Everything Beans Book! Using beans is a great way to stretch your grocery budget!
Have you felt the impact of rising grocery prices? How do you save money on quality food for your family?
Andrea Green is wife to one and mom to two. She loves to share her journey to frugal, green living on The Greenbacks Gal.
All pictures by Andrea.