We have heard it many times before...
"I can't afford to shop at health food stores; I'm on a budget!"
But there are so many ways to save money and still eat healthy, wholesome food. Before we delve into our bargain hunting secrets, there are a couple of things we should recognize...
First, you are what you eat. If you eat well, you will feel well. Try not to let the lure of a dollar keep you from living a healthy and happy life.
Second, you get what you pay for. If you pay for low quality food, you will get low quality food. Focusing solely on saving money (while we understand the necessity) can often put you in harm's way causing you to unknowingly choose foods that have been Genetically Engineered and/or sprayed with a scary amount of chemicals.
To avoid GMOs, food treated with chemicals, and unnatural additives, we encourage eating Organic foods and foods grown or prepared as close to home as possible. The combination of these two things will cut out overly-processed "food-like substances" that, while they are cheap to buy, do not provide the nourishment necessary for healthy living.
But how does one eat Organic, grown close-to-home foods, when they have a strict spending limit? Here are our secrets...
1. Buy high quality foods in bulk.
Instead of reaching for a box of cereal the next time you're shopping, head to the bulk bins and fill up a container with Organic granola. You'll take home more, and pay less! Here at Sunflower we have bulk bins housing everything from rice, to popcorn, to chocolate chips, and soup mix - many of which are Organic, all are high quality! We also offer 20% off on items bought in quantity (full cases or larger pound quantities - ask us for details!). Yes, small natural foods stores have bulk, too; it's not just Sam's Club!
2. Buy in season.
One of the biggest reasons for price inflation among produce, is because it is out of season. Just choosing what is in season will dramatically reduce costs because those fruits or veggies are fresh, haven't had to travel as far to get to you (sometimes it has only come a few miles!), and farmers want to sell it now before it starts going bad. Check out this post on seasonal eating to find out what's being harvested now!
3. Know your farmer.
Fresh, local, Organic food is the healthiest food you can eat, and most farms offer programs like CSAs or Farm Shares which are wonderful ways to save money and eat well. Here at Sunflower we work with Red Manse Farm to bring our CSA customers 20 weeks of fresh, Organic produce (more than 30 items including fruits, veggies, and even maple syrup!). This costs more up front, but it evens out to be less than $30 per week for a family sized share and $16 per week for a two-person share with enough healthy food to live on so your grocery shopping will only need to include a few other basics.
So find a farm, local grocery store, or a particular booth at the farmer's market that you like, and be loyal. Don't expect special treatment, but if you establish a good relationship with the farm around the corner, chances are that they might sometimes offer you special items or prices because they appreciate your support and want to keep you around.
4. Plan your menu and shopping list ahead of time.
Take a little time once a week to sit down and plan out your meals for the rest of the week. With this menu, also construct a shopping list of ingredients you'll need. This will only take a few minutes out of your day off once you have gotten into the rhythm of the planning process. Schedule meals that use in-season ingredients and make every ingredient you buy go a long way.
For example, say you know your farmer just pulled in a huge crop of kale. On Monday you could plan a fresh kale salad for lunch, make kale soup for Tuesday's dinner, stick kale on your veggie burgers Wednesday night, and make kale chips with the leftover leaves on Thursday for a nighttime snack. Making sure nothing you buy goes to waste makes your dollars spent go a lot further!
With all of that planning said, don't forget to be flexible. Having a plan is a wonderful way to make sure your budget stays on track, but if you happen to come across an especially good deal because something is close to date at the grocery store, don't be afraid to upset the menu a little.
5. Keep in touch.
Once you have found a healthy place to shop, keep in touch with that store as much as possible. Join their mailing lists, like them on Facebook, follow their blog, Pinterest, etc. We are living in the social media era and these are all places where deals, sales, coupons, and special giveaways will be mentioned (For example, we always include coupon in our monthly email - this month is 25% off any one item - and we have contests going all the time on Facebook!).
6. Know the Dirty Dozen & the Clean 15
It's true that buying Organic foods can be more expensive (although the more people buy them, the more the price will go down!). These two lists, the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15, will help you decide what needs to be purchased Organic, and what you can buy conventionally if you have to. Print the lists to keep with you when shopping, or come into our store and grab a copy from our produce section.
7. Know your discounts.
Many health food stores will offer discounts for certain customers. Here at Sunflower we offer a Senior Discount for anyone over 65 because we know that a little bit can go a long way! Some farms will offer discounts or free food to people who are willing to volunteer during harvest season.
8. Re-evaluate your other expenses.
When it comes right down to it, our health should be top priority. Eating clean foods will keep you healthy! Are there any expensive habits you have that you've been meaning to kick? Do you eat out a lot? Do you pay for a large cable package when you only need basic (or none at all)? Get rid of Netflix and rent movies for free from your library instead! Try cutting back in other areas of your life so you can relocate those funds and invest them in healthy eating habits. You will notice a difference in how you feel and you'll probably have more time on your hands, too!
Health & happiness,