1.Buy in Bulk:
The basis for your everyday meals shall be found in the bulk section of your health food store. If your store does not have one – switch stores! You’ll be amazed – alternately buy online. If you have the inclination and the space to store, 25 pound bags of your staples you can save an extra bundle.This is one online source Bobsredmill.com but there are many others.
2. Organic or not organic - that is the question.
You shall shop organic only what you must and can. It’s easy to get caught up in the organic black hole – financially speaking – but if you avoid – the dirty dozen as they are often called – you’ll lower your pesticide exposure by about 90% – that’s already pretty good. Check out this handy Wallet Guide.
3. The four Seasons:
What’s in season – when produce is out of season prices can quadruple – why go there – who needs asparagus in November?
4. You are the Boss!
You shall enjoy the freedom of changing recipes at will – Rachel Ray, Emeril or the Naked Chef can all go jump in a lake – you are in charge – and you can make changes! I know this sounds obvious but a lot of people fret over one ingredient and spend way too much money on one miniscule speck of an ingredient that barely registers on the palate – instead of seeing the big picture. This somewhat excludes spices because…
5. Learn your Spices
You shall learn your spices, spice-mixes and how to use salt. The reason why restaurant meals are so “wow” sometimes is that professional chefs (who are by the way constantly on a budget) – really know seasoning. I would recommend organic spices because they are usually inexpensive anyway – wrong place to save – and they are not irradiated. A little spice goes a long way – and salt has had a bad wrap – it is vital to survival and as long as we cook fresh and add salt ourselves there is almost no way to really go overboard. The “bad” salt is the one hidden in canned and over processed food that needs all the salt it can hide in order to taste like anything at all.
6. Come on go ahead and give it a try!
You shall give store brands a fair try out – that goes hand in hand with buying in bulk – since store brands are just that – the big chain supermarket bought something in bulk sometimes from the very manufacturer of the name brand – and markets it to the customer directly. Not particularly everybody’s first choice - but let’s get real here! For the frugal vegetarian products of note are – store brand soy milk, store brand tofu and some store brand cereals. Give it a try, you might like it. Also you will reinforce the impression of the big chain that there is a market for healthier foods, encouraging them to do more. A special mention to Whole Foods who although they don’t have a bulk section – shame – their own brand 365º features a lot of organic products that are quite good.
7. Point in Case
Look for case discounts – often 10-20% – if you know you’ll need 10 packages of soy milk every week to feed your family’s ferocious appetite for milk – buy by the case – also eliminates schlepping every week. Sometimes you have to outright ask for the case discount – stores don’t always promote this service.
8.Set your inner Farmer free!
You shall try to join a local CSA or Food Co-op – Lots of like-minded people – local produce in abundance – work exchange – need I say more. Go to localharvest.org. to search for a local CSA.
9. Substitutions will be extra!
You shall be wary of too many meat or cheese replacement products – they are usually quite pricey and zap up your budget quickly. Nutritionally, many of these products are suspicious and over-processed.
10. Snacks anyone?
You shall watch out for snacks that may be zapping up your $$$. All these meal replacement bars some of which run up to $4 or more seem very little food for a lot of money. Think about it – $4 buys you almost 3 pounds of rice – that could be your rice budget for the whole week! Three meals based on rice for a family of four --> about 3 pounds!