The two most common excuses I hear why people cannot change their diet to a real food diet is because it is to expensive and because it is too much of a hassle. I will address the latter in my next post, but today we are going to address the money part.
I am going to start off by saying eating real food can be more expensive, but that does not mean it has to be. Based on what we spend a month for our family, a family of four can afford to never be hungry and eat healthy for about $140 a month per person, so in four weeks a family of four should be able to live off of $140 a week.
What will I get for $140
For $140/person per month what will you be eating? Let me give you an idea by looking at my food today which was a very typical day.
I started out with a frittata with peppers, onion, spices and ham with some cheese on top. On the side, I had two strips of bacon, a half grapefruit and 2 strawberries. I had two cups of coffee with coconut milk for my morning caffeine boost.
Apple with 100% peanut butter
I had a salad with romaine lettuce, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes with some chicken on top and olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a dressing.
For dinner, I had chicken with homemade tomato sauce, roasted veggies and some sweet potato fries sliced and cooked on a cookie sheet in the oven.
Also along the way I drank about 3/4 of a gallon of water, which I measure by carrying around a 1/2 gallon bottle which I refill during the day, and some iced green tea I made.
There you go, those are the types of foods in a typical day. The fruit takes care of the sweet tooth, I get plenty of veggies and some good protein.
So how is it that I can buy all this food and eat this well every day on $140/person?
Buy smart. What we do not do is look recopies and write our grocery list. We look at what food we have, what food is on sale, and then we decide what types of meals we will make. Most of the time we do not have a set meal plan, but we have the basics of chicken, pork, hamburger a variety of veggies, and we come up with different varieties.
Sales, sales, sales
It is very rare, very rare indeed, that we buy food that is not on sale. Does that mean that we may go a few weeks without our favorites? Yes, but it is worth it.
Here are some magic numbers we look for. For our fruits and veggies we almost never spend above $1.00/lb. The exception may be with berries, but those we also only buy when they are deeply discounted. When peppers are 3/$1, we stock up. When bananas are .39/lb buy in bulk. When peppers are $1/each or apples are $1.49/pound you can be assured they are not making their way into our grocery cart.
When it comes to meat my limits have always been $1.99/lb. Recently that number has become $2.50/lb, but only when needed. I cannot remember the last time I spent more than $2.50/lb for a piece of meat in the grocery store. Does that mean I don’t each much Filet Mignon? Yup, but I can cook chicken at least 3,663 different ways.
To shop like this you really need to know your prices. If I walk into a store and see a green bell pepper for .88/ea it may look like a great deal, but I know from experience that at that price, it is no bargain. After a while, you will get to know what the prices are and what is a good bargain.
When I say buy on sale, I really mean just about everything. Eggs, milk, cheese, meats, all are purchased when it is on sale, not at its normal price. Yes it sounds limiting, but if you dedicate yourself to it, you will never be wanting.
Know when the sales end
Another trick is to know when the sales end. Say eggs are on sale for .99/dozen, but you are only allowed to buy two at a time. You may make a couple of trips to the store during the week to stock up. If the sale ends on Tuesday, and the new sale starts Wednesday, you can check the new add before the current sale ends. So if you notice the egg sale is being carried over for another week then there is no reason to go overboard stocking up, but if the sale ends and there are no eggs on sale in the coming week you may want to make a few trips to the store in the last day or two.
Your area may vary, but around here I can go to a Sprouts, a farmers market, Walmart and three different groceries stores. Even if you don’t have that many locations, there is a good chance you have at least a few options. Get to know each store and what their prices are. I know the best place to get chicken breast is Walmart, so even when chicken goes on sale at my local Safeway I can see if it is better than Walmart’s price.
Buy in bulk, but beware
Buying in bulk can save you money, but beware, bulk does not always mean savings. That 25 pound bag of carrots looks like a great price, but figure out what you are really paying per pound. From my experience, it is rare that even buying bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club is ever better than buying when things are on sale.
Check around for other options in your area. Around here we a place that buys items that are close to the expiration date and sells them dirt cheap. If you hit them on the right day you can get some good meals for the next day or two. We also have a place that sells in bulk to restaurants, but anyone with a business can shop there. Sure, we need to get our skinless boneless chicken breast at 40 pounds at a time, but at $1.19/lb we make room in the freezer.
Invest to save money
We eat a lot of meat, and when it comes to lunch meat it can get expensive. If you head on over to the deli and buy some ham or turkey, you are going to be spending somewhere in the area of $6 to $9 per pound most likely. One way I used to save some money is by going to buy the small boneless turkey’s or the small 3 pound hams you can find in the meat section. Then i would take them to the deli and ask them to cut them up, this was half the price of buying from the deli.
Then I found an even better way.
Towards the end of last year I purchased this bad boy.
Now this is not the greatest meat slicer in the world, but it does the job and I use it every week. Now I can buy my own stock of ham or turnkey or cheese just like the deli section has, but I can purchase it for around $2.00-$2.50/lb. Now we are talking real savings. Yes, I had the initial investment of $80, but after less than three months the thing has paid for itself.
Always look for other ways
I was recently talking to a Las Vegas personal trainer Luke Ciciliano about this post, Luke had another great idea. Luke does not buy shredded cheese, why pay for someone else to shred it for you? Buy your cheese in bulk, when it is on sale of course, and shred it yourself.
Always be on the lookout for other ways to save some money. Are almonds on sale at Sprouts? Buy 5 pounds and make your own almond butter. Fresh broccoli on sale? Buy a bunch and freeze some.
If you make the commitment to only buying when on sale and being creative you will be able to feed your family for $140/person per month. I know, because I do it.
I would love to hear your tips on saving money on real food.