In the last several weeks we’ve served up budget tips (and you’ve shared great suggestions and discussion) all in the interest of making the PB diet more affordable. It’s tough times out there (still), but it shouldn’t keep us from living the healthiest life possible. Actually, tightening the grocery belt might even have its benefits .
It pays to prioritize. The budget possibilities run the gamut: shopping warehouse stores judiciously, joining CSAs, deep freezing/canning for winter months, growing your own, foraging at farmer’s markets, experimenting with “thrift cuts,” paring food purchases down to the healthiest and most essential, etc.
As the economic concerns in the country grow, this topic isn’t going anywhere soon. We’re in or approaching the best, cheapest part of the agricultural year, and we thought we’d throw out a few additions and reminders that can help you get the most for your food dollars now and in the coming months.
We’ll say it again: CSAs
The media has been all over this subject lately, and time may be of the essence. The New York Times ran yet another article  this week on highlighting the cost savings of farm shares. Though summer shares are likely sold out (we suggest still trying), it’s the perfect time to sign up for fall and early winter shares. Many farms have separate “peak season” and “fall/early winter” contracts. Also, many farms are starting to take orders for late summer and fall meat shares. Once fall hits, people start thinking stock-up. It’s best to beat the crowd. With all the publicity, shares will likely go more quickly than normal.
Don’t overlook frozen veggies
It’s the peak of summer, and you’d expect fresh to be cheaper than frozen at this time of year. Not necessarily so. With higher gas (transport) prices, a late spring in the Midwest, and regional floods and fires, frozen fare may be the way to go. You may also find great sales on frozen veggies as stores attempt to move the products while most consumers look for fresh this time of year. It’s a great time to stockpile for fall and winter.
Do organics judiciously
We know, we suggest and harp on organic options a lot – and for good reason. But in this economy, some organics count more than others in terms of your personal health. (Sure, we understand and support “organic” as a socially conscious consumer commitment, but not everybody can make that choice all the time.) Meats and high fat dairy, eggs, and soft skinned fruits and veggies are organic priorities. Other items not so much. In terms of personal health, a tomato should be organic (or at least hydroponic – which uses less pesticides), an avocado doesn’t matter as much. As for nut butters: buy raw if you can but forgo organic (except peanut butter) to save a few dollars. Or, buy an organic version for the kids and conventional for the adults in the house. And skip organic for items you use only occasionally like condiments.
Cut back on “indulgences”
Yes, this can seem like a harsh one. As much as we love our wine, our dark chocolate, our artisan cheeses, etc., they add a fair amount to the bottom line of the grocery receipt. If you’re on the PB challenge for the month, hey, you’re probably saving already! If not, see if you can choose one thing to do without. As for healthy but expensive items like berries, only buy them on sale or find other substitutes.
Master the game of coupons
We mentioned a while back that it pays to call companies outright and request coupons for their products. They tend to be more “generous” coupons than those you find in the Sunday paper. Likewise, you don’t have to sift through 15 pages of coupons for Lunchables, Fruit Roll-ups, and Teddygrams (or Tyson Frozen Ready to Eat Chicken like those above).
Nonetheless, those customer service folks will eventually become hip to your game. A call or two can yield good results, that 7th or 8th attempt not so much. What’s your plan then?
Target your coupon search by seeking out “special interest” publications. “Natural health” magazines and other “crunchy” or alternative publications generally pique the interest of those who would buy healthy and organic. As a result, the ads and coupons will be geared toward this kind of audience. Oftentimes, the coupons are for $1.00 or more. A subscription might be worth it just for yourself, or consider sharing one with a friend.
More and more upper end grocery stores now publish their own seasonal magazines featuring new product lines and customer programs (catering, etc.). To garner interest, they often include coupons in their publications. Some stores even publish a separate natural or organic magazine. The best part: the coupons are often manufacturer-based, meaning you can use them anywhere and not just in their store.
Another option is the online coupon realm . Yes, it’s subject to the same junk food focus as those Sunday ads, but you can sometimes do searches for specific products or categories like organic. A few tips for those online sites: don’t necessarily scan just for pictures. We found a Cascadian Farms coupon that showed a box of cereal, but the coupon could be applied to any of the company’s products, which includes frozen veggies.
Even if your coupon search doesn’t turn up servings for many healthy items, you’ll likely find a few coupons for household or personal products you can use. Saving a few bucks there can mean adding a few bucks to the food shopping for the week. Hmmm. Maybe go for those blackberries after all….
Any coupon kings/queens out there? Other tips or suggestions to share? What other tricks do you use to trim the budget these days?
To round out this post we thought we’d link to some of our previous budget friendly posts as well as a few of the best from around the net.
Oh, and check back later for budget-friendly recipe ideas!
Health Eating on a Budget Round-Up:
Affording Organics 
Urban Gardening