A lot of people tell me that they can’t afford to eat Real Food. I agree that this way of eating can seem expensive and overwhelming when you first start out, but it is so very worth making the changes for the long term.
I have a family of five – including two teenagers – so we go through a lot of food every week.
I have learnt a few tricks over the years to cut our food costs, but I have also changed my priorities so that we can afford to eat the best food we can.
- We very rarely eat takeaway.
- We live simply – we don’t have the latest and greatest technology, we only have one TV and we only buy new things when we really need them and our family outings are often to free things like the beach or park.
- We always take our own food when we head out to the beach, park, cinema etc.
- We grow some of our own food and we keep chickens!
But as I said – we do eat a lot of food, so here’s a few ways you can reduce the costs of eating Real Food.
1. Join a Co op or CSA
Co ops work a bit like a supermarket, except that they are owned and managed by its members. Most co ops specialise in natural, organic and/or locally grown produce and develop good relationships with local producers to supply their meat, milk, fruit & veg.
A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box schemes help farmers by financing farming operations through upfront payments for produce. This allows farmers to focus their efforts on the quality rather than quantity of food. and works
Many co ops and CSA’s also sell other food items like frozen berries, dried goods (such as nuts & flours) and some sell tinned goods and other grocery items.
Typically, to join a co op or CSA , you pay an annual membership fee, then pay for what you buy each week. You make a commitment to buying each week (or month etc) so they co op can afford to stay running.
All co ops and CSA’s work slightly differently, so it’s a good idea to check out a few and see what works for you.
Here’s a great list of Co ops set up all over Australia that you could join – or you could get some friends together and start your own.
2. Bulk Buying Groups
Bulk buying groups work similarly to co ops, but generally don’t have the added paperwork, reporting or membership restrictions.
I belong to a bulk buying group which was set up buy a group of people in my local area who wanted to avoid buying at the supermarket.
We regularly take turns ordering things like toilet paper, nuts & seeds, local raw honey and meat from local suppliers and because of our numbers, we are also able to hold wholesale accounts with many different suppliers of goods like supplements, hair and body care and household cleaning products.
A bulk buying group could be an option for you if you have a group of friends who all want to buy products and produce cheaper and are prepared to take turns doing the ordering.
3. Buy In Season
Because our supermarkets can store fruit & veg for months at a time, it can seem like all fruit and veg are always available.
Unfortunately, produce that has been stored for long periods or produce that has been imported from other countries has lost a lot of its nutrient value and is sprayed with chemicals such as 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) to keep it from rotting or fumigated with the chemical methyl bromide.
Not only will buying in-season produce mean you will be getting a lot more nutrients for your buck, it is usually cheaper and you will be supporting your local farmers.
Here’s a handy Seasonal Food Guide so you can find out what is growing in season in your area.
4. Buy Meat in Bulk
Eating meat can be expensive – with rump steak costing about $16 per kilo and even mince at $12 per kilo.
These prices can make it a struggle to eat good quality meat.
Buying your meat in bulk from a local butcher can be an expensive outlay, but overall, it is much cheaper.
I buy a 1/4 beef (that’s a quarter of a cow!) and it costs me $8.99 per kilo. That’s $8.99 per kilo for everything from scotch fillet, mince and preservative free beef sausages.
I am also lucky that my local butcher is also the local farmer – so I know where the beef is coming from and what it is fed.
If you are in Perth – you might like to visit my butcher Arthur and his partner Diane at Barleyfield Meats – they are also the farmers! Tell them I sent you!
5. Cook in Big Batches
When you cook dinner, make enough for 2 or even 4 meals. You might like to split these up into serves for 1 (say for you or hubby to take to work) or in family meal sizes. I prefer to do a range of sizes so we are prepared for any situation!
Cooking in big batches always saves time (which saves money — time is money) to do things in batches. And again, you’re buying in bulk which will save you money.
You can freeze the leftovers and pull them out a week or a month or so later. Nobody will be the wiser! That way they won’t get sick of it eating it night after night.
My favourite thing to cook in bulk are curries. I freeze them in plastic take away containers then when we have a few different ones, I pull them all out and it feels like we are having Indian or Thai takeaway – without the takeaway prices (and additives)!
Here is a brilliant website for recipes and ideas on cooking in big batches
Meal planning and making a shopping list really does save time and money.
If you have a meal plan and shop to a list, you will have a pantry, fridge and freezer full of ingredients to make a range of meals. You will be less likely to buy takeaway or junk food and you will always have a meal in the freezer for the days you just can’t be bothered cooking.
For more about meal planning, check out my 10 Easy Steps to Meal Planning.
7. Keep it Simple
And the final tip I have for Real Food on a budget is to keep it simple!!
Transitioning your family into eating more Real Food takes time and patience. It takes time for taste buds to change to learn to appreciate real food, so spending a lot of money on expensive ingredients may end in frustration if your lovely little ones won’t eat it the first time.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with meat and veg! Try cutting up a range of different raw (in-season) veggies and placing them on a platter for the kids to choose what they like. Add some nuts and cheese too and you have a pretty nourishing lunch or dinner!
Not only will this save you money (and tears) but it’s also a good way to introduce kids to Real Food one veggie at a time.
Once they get the hang of these new tastes, you can try making some recipes that mixes a few of these together (like meatballs, curries or shepherds pie).