Saving Money on Real Food besides Produce

Produce is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals. It is most strongly correlated with lower cancer and heart disease rates. It protects you from colds and sickness. It’s easily digested and full of soft, soluble fiber. But it’s not the only thing I eat.

I also eat beans, whole grains, whole wheat flour products, nuts, seeds, maple syrup and honey, dried fruit, soy or nut milks, peanut butter, jelly, olive oil, sunflower oil. How do you save money on this stuff? Produce goes on sale, but maple syrup does not.

Buying delicious, high quality food is a high priority for me, but how do I afford it?

So here’s how I save money on the rest of my bill.

1. Don’t buy processed food.

You knew I was going to say this, right? Boxes of cereal-even the “healthy” brands, are processed and baked to the point where they have very little nutrients left. And the expense! You can eat half a box of cereal, and barely feel full. Trade that cereal for oatmeal or brown rice and you get full with less and boost the nutritional value.

Caleb gets $5 to spend on food for himself at the store, and he usually buys processed food. Tortellinis are his favorite, which are $4 a box (whole wheat Bertollis), but sometimes he buys some type of cereal. You can use coupons to save on cereals, but buying oatmeal or rice is still going to be more healthful, and cheaper.

2. Buy Quality

Buying junk food hurts you two ways: first you pay for the food and then you pay with your health. I’d rather spend 6 times as much to buy real maple syrup with it’s calcium and iron, than use Aunt Jemimah syrup with it’s high fructose corn syrup and preservatives.

You can get white rice cheaper than brown rice, but you are getting less minerals and vitamins with the white rice, so it’s not really a better deal. The same goes for white flour, it’s cheaper, but it’s also nutritionally bankrupt. Save money in the short run, but you’ll pay for it later. The same goes for white sugar-it would be cheaper to sweeten my granola with processed sugar than raw honey, but the honey has vitamins, minerals, pollen, and antioxidants.

3. Buy in Bulk 

The bulk bins at your health food store or grocery store are a good place to start, but online has even better deals sometimes. I can buy organic dates from Nuts.com for $6.99 a pound if I buy a 15 pound case of them.

4. Buy direct

I buy maple syrup direct from the farm via Etsy. I also buy in bulk, 1 gallon at a time. It comes in 2 half gallon jugs-one goes in the fridge, the other on the shelf. I go through about 2 gallons a year. Good honey is also cheaper from the beekeeper, and the more you buy, the better the deal. You can also get this through Etsy. For a while I even had an arrangement to trade toys for honey (which was awesome!).

5. Buy store brand flour.

King Arthur may have better flour, but it’s not that much better. I make yeast bread every week and muffins regularly, and I’ve never had a problem with Kroger flour. There are roughly 18.7 cups of flour in a 5 lb bag. That’s 15 cents a cup for white whole wheat (the most expensive) and about 10 cents for regular whole wheat. I can make a loaf of plain bread for under 50 cents and a loaf of raisin bread for about  a dollar (I put a lot of raisins in it).

6. When it’s on sale, stock up.

I never buy olive oil when it’s not on sale. I like the good stuff, so I wait until it goes on sale to buy a bottle-which usually lasts us several months. Walnuts regularly go on sale at Shop n Save for $5 a pound, so I wait until then to buy walnuts.

I only buy certain vegetarian junk foods when they are on sale- like vegan sour cream (which I’ve actually given up in favor of guacamole), vegan butter, Gardenburgers. I don’t stock up on that stuff, because then I will eat too much of it. I use the high price as a deterrent to enhance my health.

 7. Buy store brand canned beans and use dried beans.
You’ll save 30 cents a can or more over buying Bush’s canned beans. Of course buying dried beans are even cheaper. The only canned beans I buy now are black beans, because I can never get them to be the right texture cooking them myself. And I always eat them alone, not in a chili or another dish. If I am going to make black bean soup or chili, I use dried black beans. I always cook my dried beans in the crock pot too.
8. Bake and cook from scratch. 
This goes hand in hand with not buying processed foods, but it bears repeating. Make your own bread, muffins, pitas, cakes, cookies, and pies. Not only will they be cheaper, but you can make them as healthy as you want. Pies are easily sweetened with maple syrup, honey, or xylitol (xylitol is lousy in baked goods, but fine for pies). Leave out the sugar in muffins. Cut down or eliminate the oil. Reduce or eliminate salt in your homemade soups and chilis.
Canned soup saves you time up front, but then you don’t have all the delicious leftovers for another night-you have to go out and buy more cans.
You can make vegetable stock from the parts of vegetables you would throw away, rather than buying it at $3 a box.
9. Make your own nut butters in the food processor, and nut milks in the blender.
It’s very easy and much cheaper (though not as much for peanut butter), especially if you are interested in raw nut butters and milks. The milk you make might not be as nice as the store bought stuff, so you might want to stick with store brand for cereal or granola and homemade for baking and cooking.
10. Eat sunflower seeds instead of nuts.
I can get a 5 pound bag of sunflower seeds from Nuts.com for $6.25. I get healthy fats for a fraction of the price of almonds or walnuts. Seriously $1.25 per pound, compared to $5-$10 per pound. Seeds in general are cheaper than nuts and higher in nutrients and lower in fat (generally).
11. Gather your own nuts.
Find out where there are nut trees-typically black walnuts around here-and collect them. This is the easy part, cracking them and picking the nuts out is the hard part, and not for the faint of heart.
12. Wait for spices to go on sale, or check out the bulk bins at Whole Foods.
Also utilize the store brand spices or even the dollar store, especially for cinnamon and other very common spices.
13. Limit treats.
We only use maple syrup on Saturday for pancakes. I only eat a small amount of nuts or dates at a time. I only use olive oil to dip bread into. I water-sautee my vegetables, which is cheaper and healthier. I almost never make desserts and other junk food, which add calories without adding nutrients.
These are the ways I save money on the rest of my food budget. You’ll have to look elsewhere for meat and dairy suggestions, because I don’t buy those. Although I occasionally buy cheese or whipping cream for special recipes when they are on sale. Anymore suggestions would be appreciated, because I’m always looking for ways to cut back.
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