How I get Healthful Groceries on a Budget

Hi All,

I'm sorry I haven't had any new recipes for you lately.  Kevin and I have been busy with a few of our goals for the year, including saving money for a house, reading, and being more active and eating better.  All goals of which I am happy to report that we are making great progress on.  (I'm currently reading through Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World, which is super interesting how industries are built around food systems.)

Because we have been eating more homemade meals (saving money AND being healthier, YEAH!), I have been spending a bit more on groceries.  This balances out to save more money overall, considering that it costs us anywhere from $20 to $40 when we eat out once, compared to $60-$80 for a week of meals on groceries.  Not bad at all I think! :)

In the fall and summer months I had been getting most of my produce from a produce stand on my way home from work, where I would get in-season produce for SUPER cheap!  2 for $1 kale and collard bunches, 69 cent per pound apples, $1 per pound sweet potatoes, etc.  After December 23rd, that produce stand has closed for the winter months and won't open until April 1st.  So, I have a little over 2 more months to live without my regular inexpensive produce source!

My solution: 
  • get produce mostly from Costco, 
  • buy smaller/unique produce items from my local grocery
  • stock up on staples from Winco on a bi-monthly trip, and
  • get hard-to-find items from Vitacost 2-3 times a year

I love Costco.  I remember going there as a kid after church some Sundays and getting to snack on their samples.  I live in Washington, where Costco's headquarters are in Kirkland, an hour or so north of where I now live, so I like the idea of supporting an in-state business.  Costco has awesome deals on produce items compared to other grocery stores.  Here is my weekly/bi-weekly Costco grocery list as of late:
  • Bi-weekly items:
    • 2 cartons of apples
    • 1 box oranges
    • 1 bag bananas
    • 1 bag of 6 assorted bell peppers
    • 1 carton baby bella mushrooms
    • Occasional items:
      • 1 bag russet potatoes (for Kevin)
      • 1 bag sweet potatoes (my Costco has organic, so I can eat the peels, YAY!)
      • 1 bag yellow onions
      • 1 bag organic frozen white corn
      • 1 bag raw almonds
      • 1 large container chili powder
      • 2-pack natural peanut butter

    • Weekly items:
      • 1 carton blueberries
      • 1 carton blackberries
      • 1 carton raspberries
      • 1 bag Power Greens (contains baby kale, arugula, spinach, and baby red chard)
      • 2 3-packs english cucumbers
      • 1 bag sugar snap peas (my absolute favorite veggie to munch!)
      • 1 bag cookable green vegetable (I rotate through broccoli, stir fry mix with cabbage, green beans, and Brussels sprouts)
    Local Grocery
    The closest grocery to us happens to be a Safeway.  From here I get smaller produce items and a few things for Kevin when we need them.
    • red onions
    • green onions
    • carrots
    • celery
    • garlic cloves
    • fresh herbs - basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives
    • Tofu and meat replacement products (very rarely do I get these)
    • Yogurt (for Kevin)
    • Milk (for Kevin)
    • Plant milk (usually I make my own)
    I'm not sure how widespread Winco is throughout the U.S., but I really like this store.  It has a Costco feel in pricing, but with grocery store sizes.  The best thing about Winco is that they have an extensive bulk bin section.  This is where I get all of my items like beans/legumes, flours, grains, nuts/seeds, and spices.  I haven't gone to Winco in some time because I have been trying to use up what I have by way of beans and grains, but a trip is due soon because I have run out of smoked paprika and cumin seeds (Gasp! I know!).  Here is a list of a few items I like to have in my pantry and I get at Winco every other month or so when I run out.
    • Dried Beans/Legumes
      • black beans, white beans, pinto beans, small red beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans/chickpeas
      • brown lentils, small green french lentils, red lentils, green split peas, yellow split peas, mung beans
    • Whole grains/flours
      • old fashioned rolled oats
      • steel cut oats
      • wheatberries
      • quinoa - red and white
      • rice - long grain brown, short grain brown, jasmine brown, basmati brown, wild black, wild rice mix, Aroborio (risotto rice)
      • flours - white (for Kevin), whole wheat, rye, almond, chickpea
    • Nuts/Seeds/dried fruits
      • sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds
      • raw cashews, walnuts, pecans, unsalted peanuts, hazelnuts
      • dried cranberries, raisins, dates, currants
    • Spices
      • dried parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, Italian seasoning
      • ground cumin, corriander, smoked paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, tumeric
      • onion powder, garlic powder, dried mustard, dried powdered ginger
    • Other grocery items
      • tahini
      • almond butter
      • jarred ginger
      • jarred minced garlic
      • frozen mixed vegetables
    Have you heard of Vitacost?  It is a food, beauty, and supplement ordering website that has tons hard to find health/natural products at discounted prices.  I like that they have search filters that help you find products that are vegan, organic, non-GMO, etc.  If you use THIS LINK, you will get $10 off your first purchase of $30 or more.  Here are a few of the items I like to get from Vitacost a few times a year:
    • Cartons of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce (no BPA-lined cans for me!)
    • Arrowhead Mills millet and amaranth grains (I can't seem to find these anywhere!)
    • Boxes of tea
    • Organic ground flaxseeds and chia seeds
    • Natural beauty and cleaning products
    Making Lists
    In the end, almost nobody I know likes grocery shopping, and grocery shopping on a budget can prove to be a big challenge.  With a bit of planning and being creative, you can keep your grocery receipts trim, while the healthful groceries will help you do the same!  By shopping at different stores during different intervals of time, I'm able to get the things I need at the best price.  One of the apps that helps me keep track of 3-4 grocery lists is called Buy Me a Pie.  I've had this app for a while and have come to depend on it to stay organized at each store buying my groceries (and to avoid impulse buying).

    I'd love to hear some of your grocery shopping budget-managing tips.... :)

    Health and Happiness,


    1 comment:

    1. I've been eating and shopping this way for years. Even before I was a vegan, I bought grains and beans in bulk. Raising several children, we couldn't afford cold cereals or microwave junk on our budget. We ate lots of muffins, waffles with applesauce, hot cereal, and muesli. Not only were these meals more nutritious than a bowl of processed cereal, they were more filling and tasty. I cooked beans, brown rice, whole grain pasta, pizza, and potatoes in rotation with animal items playing a very small part in our diet; I have oodles of recipes for these. My children all complained, but this has changed. One son is a personal trainer, who prefers healthy eating. One daughter is a total vegan like me now. My out-of-town son is working tax season with us this year. Since hours are very long leaving him no time to cook, he asked me to send along green smoothies, oatmeal, beans and rice, potato soup, or whatever else I make for his dad to eat. He has no interest in eating out for health and money reasons; he also says he doesn't like the bland taste of restaurant food. Pretty good!