One way to make sure we eat real food is to find sources for real food at affordable prices. When I was just starting out learning how to eat real food on a budget I was so grateful to find great blogs that pointed me in the right direction for affordable real food. Since I’ve been doing this for a few years now, I want to share my list of resources for buying whole foods at good prices with all of you.
Buying locally is always preferable to buying online. You can save on shipping and support local businesses but, depending on your location, sometimes buying locally means paying twice the price. That’s why It’s important to look around and get a feel for where the best prices for certain things are and either write them in a notebook or keep track in your head. Do this for both local stores and online retailers.
When you have an idea of where the best prices are for the things you buy you can start to plan trips (or orders) around those things.
Where can I find real food at affordable prices?
Besides my local grocery store, these are the places I buy most of my groceries from:
Local farmers markets and farm stands
Since I live in a rural area these are numerous. I buy:
- Grass fed and pastured beef, poultry, and pork
If I could eat it, I would also get:
- Fresh bread on occasion, just because – yum!
I am lucky to have many food co-ops nearby. Honestly, they tend to be expensive but you can find good deals if you keep an eye on prices. The main reason I like food co-ops is that they support local agriculture and they often have specialty items or homeopathic remedies so I don’t always have to buy them online.
Tropical Traditions has really amazing products. If you are able to save up for a large purchase it’s well worth it. If you catch your favorite items on sale you can save quite a bit of money. I like to check out the current sales every so often and build an order around what’s on sale. If you make a purchase through one of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a FREE book on Virgin Coconut Oil (and I’ll receive a discount coupon for referring you, so thanks!)
Amazon can be a really great resource for inexpensive food. When I order groceries from Amazon I set up a subscription and then make sure I order at least five products so I can take advantage of the subscribe and save discount of 15%. I also make sure I only order things that are already a good price (i.e. I can’t find it cheaper locally). It doesn’t make sense to order something that is 15% more expensive on amazon just to get the 15% discount (the math doesn’t quite add up, but you feel me, right?). If I don’t need those products when the subscription is set to renew I either reschedule it or cancel it.
I’m really excited to share this new real food online source with you. It almost replaces all of the others as far as quality and price (though selection is still somewhat small but growing!) It’s sort of like Costco meets Whole Foods meets Amazon. For a yearly membership fee Thrive Market offers wholesale prices on natural and organic food. The great thing is that you don’t have to buy in bulk to get the wholesale prices. There’s also a 30 day free trial, so if you don’t like it, no harm done.
Another really cool thing about Thrive Market is that for every paid membership they give one free membership to a low income american family. So people who would otherwise not be able to can have access to healthy affordable food.
I’ve just started using them but many of the products I normally buy are cheaper at Thrive Market than anywhere else.
Vitacost is a great place to find wholesome foods as well as vitamins and supplements. They offer free shipping on orders over $49 so I will make sure I meet that minimum (of only things I was going to buy anyway). They often have BOGO sales which can be really nice too.
Another source that I haven’t used personally but hear good things about are:
Azure Standard which is available in the US to those who live south or north of Pennsylvania (yes, including Hawaii and Alaska, go figure!)
What do I buy?
Ideally I would buy all organic food. Realistically, I stick to the dirty dozen and anything I’m concerned may be genetically modified, like zucchini and corn. I also stay away from processed food as much as possible and if I do buy it I try to find products with the fewest ingredients.
My local grocery store or a farm stand/local farm. The great thing about farm stands is that everything is fresh and seasonal so you don’t have to think much about whether the apples will be mealy or if the price will be lower in a different season. In the summer months I will usually hit a farmers market before going to the grocery store so I can see what’s available locally first.
Beef, Poultry and Pork I buy either at the grocery store or from local farms. I am trying to develop a taste for fish, but so far no luck ;).
I don’t eat dairy but if I did I would buy it from a local farm. You can find a local grassfed dairy farm here.
We typically have enough eggs from our chickens. If not I will buy from a local farm or buy Pete & Gerry’s eggs at the grocery store because they are from a local farm.
Grains and legumes
Beans and Lentils- I buy these in cans at the grocery store. Someday when I don’t have little kiddos running around I may try to buy dry beans instead.
Quinoa – I get this brand at my grocery store or from Amazon.
Brown rice – My grocery store has a generic organic line so I usually get brown rice there. Since it goes bad relatively quickly I wouldn’t suggest buying brown rice in bulk.
Rice noodles – I get these ones either at my grocery store or from Thrive Market.
Organic Popcorn – My grocery store or Thrive Market.
I use coconut oil and olive oil almost exclusively. I buy this olive oil at my grocery store as it’s the only one that isn’t fake but you can find it at Amazon too. I buy refined coconut oil (tasteless) most of the time and virgin coconut oil (tastes like coconut) once in a while (more on coconut oil below).
I would also use lard from healthy animals. I would prefer to get it locally but if you can’t you can find 100% grass fed animal lard here.
Local raw honey is the best. If I can’t find it I will buy this one from Vitacost.
Local grade B maple syrup is my favorite sweetener for almost everything. If you can’t get it locally you can find it on Amazon.
Nuts and seeds
Walnuts – They are cheapest in my grocery store’s baking aisle.
Almonds – I sometimes buy these almonds through amazon.
Pumpkin seeds – If you want sprouted seeds you can find them here. Otherwise, I usually buy them in bulk at the co-op, grocery store or I save them from our fall pumpkins.
If you’re looking for larger quantities, many people have had good luck buying from nuts.com though I haven’t tried them myself.
Herbs and spices
If I don’t have my own dried from my garden I will buy herbs and spices at my local food co-op or at the grocery store. Once in a while I will buy them online when I find a good deal.
- Sea Salt – This one or this one from Amazon.
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Chili Powder
Since becoming dairy free I have fallen in love with coconut. Along with avocados coconut products have provided me with healthy dairy alternatives that are satisfying. I can’t say enough wonderful things about coconut!
Refined coconut oil – Vitacost or my grocery store.
Virgin coconut oil – Tropical Traditions, Amazon, Vitacost
Coconut creme – Amazon
Typically, I don’t think cereal and packaged snacks are the healthiest choice (they are highly processed after all) but on occasion or in a pinch it’s good to have something on hand when everyone is hungry and there’s no time to cook, or when running out the door, or when you just don’t have time (as is the case for me very often!).
Cereal – Almost every kind that looked good to me was cheaper at Thrive Market than anywhere else.
Rice Cakes – Cheapest at Thrive Market.
Fruit Leather – Way cheaper at Thrive Market!
Crackers – These are the only gluten free and dairy free kind I have ever found and the price is decent.
Lara bars - They have the fewest ingredients of any packaged granola bars.
Personal care products
Where do you find affordable real food? Let us know in the comments!
This post is shared at Wildcrafting Wednesdays