Food Budget: How to Eat Delicious & Organic for $30 a Week
For the past few years, my adorable boyfriend and I have spent roughly three months per year traveling, much of that in Europe. And we make below poverty level income, whilst living well and eating mostly local/organic yummy food :) Our food bill comes out to $50-60 a week for two. I get a lot of pleasure out of food and am not one to deprive myself, so we’re definitely not eating cereal and canned soup. Several people in the last week have asked how we do it. It seems automatic to me so it’s a bit of a strange question to answer, but now that I’ve sat down and thought about it – here are the key things we do to make that happen:
Don’t eat (or drink) out. If you want to – be smart about it. Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t over do it. If we go out to eat, we hit a happy hour, if we go to a coffee shop we get a $2 shot of espresso or an iced tea versus a $4 latte.
Don’t be afraid to own #1 confidently. There is a lot of power and intention behind your words so when friends invite you out for drinks or to a restaurant or to a concert or whatever, refrain from saying, “I can’t afford it”, which has a negative connotation. And it’s not true. You CAN afford it. You are simply choosing to make something else a priority (ie – your travel fund). You'd be surprised how supportive and enthusiastic people will be about alternative solutions. It's not about going out anyway -- it's about spending time together. Have potlucks, game nights, hike together, go to the park, etc.
Think ahead. If you’re going to be out for the day, pack a lunch and bring a water bottle. If you’re going to run a bunch of errands – make sure you’ve eaten before you left or that you bring snacks in case you get hungry.
Meal plan, never shop without a list and never fucking shop while you’re hungry. This is by far the best trick for shopping on a budget. Plan what you’re having for breakfast, lunch and dinner + snacks.
Don’t waste food. Meal planning will help with that a lot. If your bananas are brown, freeze them to make smoothies or banana bread later. Pears looking wonky? Put that shit in your food processor and turn them into pear sauce. Bread stale? Blend it into mother truckin bread crumbs. Tomatoes lookin grody? Freeze em for pasta sauce or chili later. Every time you go to eat or snack, make sure there’s not something on the verge of going bad that needs to be eaten.
Buy in bulk. I buy coffee, butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and other pantry items at Costco. I order sea salt, olive oil, honey, oats, tea and other things like that in bulk online either through Amazon or bulk buy clubs. Keep an eye on grocery store bulk bins for sales on nuts, beans, oats, and baking items. I shop for organic produce at the farmer’s market, and Trader Joe’s for everything else. Search for local bulk buy groups or Azure Standard buying groups in your area.
Pay attention to how much things cost at different stores, then you’ll find the best grocery shopping route that works best for you based on what you’re buying. For instance – at Sprouts the cheapest container of whole milk plain organic yogurt is $5, at Trader Joes it’s $3. At Sprouts a decent loaf of bread will be at least $5. At Whole Foods an organic store brand loaf is $3.50.
Buy produce according to what’s in season. Avocados are often 3 for $1 in the height of the summer season. Winter time - they're $2 a piece. Citrus fruits are dirt cheap in the winter time, and much more expensive in the out-of-season summer time. It doesn't take long to learn the rhythm of this and meal plan + shop accordingly.
Eliminate all of the bullshit fluff. Don’t buy anything that’s “fortified”, “low fat”, “sugar free”, etc. Ditch processed foods as much as you can. Don’t buy prepared food or pre-chopped produce. Read ingredient labels and only buy actual food. If it’s got shit in it you can’t pronounce or don’t know what it is – don’t buy it. Get creative, make your own versions, take control of your food and your health. As your food choices become more conscious, your will find yourself buying and spending less.
Drink water, iced/hot coffee or tea (that you buy in bulk and make at home). Don’t buy juice, soda, milk, ready made tea, etc.
Ditch personal care products and cleaning supplies. We use vinegar for laundry, bentonite clay for toothpaste, water and rags for cleaning (vinegar or baking soda if shit gets crazy), coconut oil for skin. I don’t wear make up or use fancy hair products. Dr. Bronners bar soap for body and hair. I only wash the parts necessary – usually just arm pits and crotch. Water is fine for everything else. We use reusable toilet paper (so not a big deal - cut up an old sheet into squares, do one extra load of laundry a month), I use cloth pads and/or a diva cup, you get the idea.
Make shit yourself. Almond milk, peanut butter, pie crusts, pie in general, spice blends, mayonnaise, pickles, and beans are things that spring to mind that are all stupid easy to make and soooooo much cheaper than buying.
Here are some inexpensive, easy meal ideas (I’m just pulling this from what we’ve been eating the last month or so)
Steel cut oats. I like steel cut because you can make a big batch of them and eat it all week. It retains it’s density and texture and doesn’t get soggy and gross like regular oats. Switch it up by mixing in peanut butter, bananas, nuts, honey, maple syrup, whatever floats your boat.
Eggs, toast, and a piece of fruit.
Pancakes. Another thing you can make a big batch of and eat all week, switching it up by mixing in your favorite healthy toppings - nuts, fruit, etc.
Chia pudding – 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp chia seeds mixed and soaked overnight. In the morning mix in your fave add-ins – fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, honey, etc.
Lunch & Dinner
Quesadillas – fill a tortilla with your home made beans and cheese, fry each side, top with plain yogurt, hot sauce, diced tomatoes, red onion and avocado.
Rice & Bean bowls – just like it sounds. Make some rice, make some beans, top with your favorite shit.
Pasta or rice tossed with stir fried veggies, butter/oil, and cheese.
Tex Mex salad – greens, tomatoes, avocado, home made beans, corn, green onions, bell peppers, some kind of tangy dressing (yogurt and bbq sauce is a good mix) and a crunchy topping (crushed up tortilla chips is yummy)
Soups and chili – search pinterest for good recipes or just make something up
Fruit and homemade granola
Plain kefir with honey and/or fruit or granola mixed in. Avoid store bought kefir. It is pennies on the dollar to make your own and doesn't contain any weird additives.
Chocolate ice cream (a sliced frozen banana, a scoop of peanut butter, a spoon full of cacao powder, spoon full of cinnamon and dash of salt whirred up in a food processor or vita mix) – Its super decadent and completely healthy. We eat this almost every day.
Peanut butter – Never buy peanut butter again. Instead by bulk roasted, salted peanuts. Whip them up in a blender or food processor till its peanut butter. Never use raw peanuts.