Our Real Food Priorities

To buy, or not to buy? That might be A question, but for me “To buy the best source or the cheap source?” is a much harder question. I would that I could buy EVERYTHING from the ABSOLUTELY best source possible, but we have this silly little thing we decided to bring into our marriage a few days INTO the marriage.  Debt. Blah. First major decision we made as a couple- let’s buy a $20,000 car. Not smart. Oh, did I mention Mark had JUST graduated debt free a few weeks before that decision? I would not change the lesson we have learned through that for anything, but boy was it stupid! We are working on eradicating the debt from that decision, and Mark’s Masters degree, now. Which means a budget!

For the most part I do not think quality, unprepared, foods are expensive, I think cheap foods are CHEAP. Even so, I have a budget I need to keep to, and it just decreased by 25%. That is where priorities come in handy. What is VERY important? What is SOMEWHAT important? And what is only MILDLY important?  Here is my take on it! Your priorities may look different, and that is fine. Chances are you look different then me too. Probably because we are different people! But I do advise establishing food priorities you can meet within your budget.

These are the ones I try to meet on my budget of $300. When my budget was a little higher I could afford to be more picky and when it was tighter ($200/month for Mark, preggo me, and a little boy who out ate both of us sometimes!) my priorities were “cook from scratch” “keep away from the least clean pieces of meat” (conventional ground meat and ground meat products) and “eat fresh produce”.


Quality Meats – The biggest deal for me to get super high quality is my meats. Pastured locally raised beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Not antibiotics, manure, e. coli, meat glue, or bits and pieces from up to 500 cows. Think I’m over reacting? Watch Food, Inc. I dare you!

It is not really a priority for me to have expensive cuts of meat. When I can buy half a cow I assure you I will ENJOY steaks. I’m a steak and sweet potato kind of gal. Until then, stew meat and ground beef are fine with me. And also my husband since he wants to get rid of that lovely debt too.


img by Alex27

My next priority to get quality would have to be all other animal products. 

It is not a priority for me to have lots of milk to drink. I actually don’t care for the thought of drinking milk. I prefer cultured dairy products as I consider them healthier and much more traditional of a food.

It is not a priority for me to buy cheese. I love cheese. Mark loves cheese. Quality cheese hates our budget. I plan on making limited amounts of homemade cheese, but won’t really be buying cheese.

Butter. I would love to have raw, cultured, pastured butter. I love raw, cultured, pastured butter. It is a superfood that helps you do amazing thing like absorb all those vitamins from your vegetables. Plus it tastes AMAZING! It is also about $14/lb homemade. That is a lot. So, I hope to have it occasionally as my budget can afford it, but I will probably be using Kerrygold (grass-fed, not raw) butter for the most part.

Also as I can afford it I hope to have homemade raw creme fraiche (European style sour cream)! Super tasty! When I can’t afford it, yogurt or kefir will do. In a pinch, I will also probably use organic sour cream. Don’t be fooled though, organic milk is just a step above conventional milk while being 10 leaps forward in price. It is something I don’t like to buy often, but consider it worth the price occasionally.

As far as eggs go, I plan on buying them from a local farmer as soon as I can find a source I like. I can usually get them for $2-$3 dozen this way. The chickens might not get the best feed out there (GMO feed probably) but, I’m fine with that as long as they got to run around! Getting eggs from the store with “health claims” is usually not worth the premium price the chickens were probably still raised in terrible conditions and did not get to walk around and have access to bugs, even if they’re “free range”. Here is how you know the egg is good, the shell is stout and the yolk is a dark yellow to orange color.


Quality fats. And lots of them. I’m one of those weird people who doesn’t think healthy fats makes you fat. Something about there not being scientific evidence behind it. Nothing big. Oh, and since all the studies that “prove” that saturated fat is bad for you did not distinguish between TRANS fat and SATURATED fat,  I say bring on the saturated fat. It’s the best!

I like this post about fat if you’d like to read about them.

The fats I like to use are:

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive oil is one of those things that if you don’t buy quality don’t buy it, it is possibly hazelnut oil and/or rancid. If you put your “olive oil” in the fridge and it does not become nearly solid (think softened butter) and is a creamy color, you do not have olive oil. If it is bitter, you have rancid olive oil. Good olive oil has a fruity sweet taste. I did not realize that for a LONG time. I love Napa Valley Olive Oil. 

But, don’t saute with olive oil. The smoke point is very low and when heated olive oil changes structure so that it is not only no longer good for you, but it becomes actually detrimental to your health.

Organic Extra Virgin Expeller Pressed (Or Cold Processed) Coconut Oil – Long enough of a name? I prefer it organic because chemicals can became fairly concentrated in oils. You want it cold processed or expeller pressed to make sure no chemicals were used in producing in and that it was not heated to the point of not being as healthy. Extra virgin means that it is not very refined, meaning it has all it’s lovely health benefits! I usually buy mine from amazon using subscribe and save, but I have also gotten it straight from Nutiva because you get a coupon when liking their facebook page.

Coconut oil has a higher smoke point (when the oil breaks down and becomes unhealthy) so it is fine for sauteing and I love it for baking as it is cheaper then good quality butter.

Butter But, I already talked about that.

Lard and tallow from foraged/pastured animals- This is the cheapest fat to fry stuff in, and is quite healthy. I have not used it as I have not found a source, but I need to. Coconut oil is TOO expensive for frying!


Quality produce- My FAVORITE source of produce is the local farmer’s market, but during the winter I try to buy the produce from the dirty dozen list organic. I slide on everything else though. I used to buy everything organic, but hey somethings got to go!

Here is the produce I try to buy organic when I can. They are the “Dirty Dozen”.

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

Getting lots of fruits and vegetables is the more important then not though! 


Of course there are also things that are NOT a priority for my budget, but I might get as they are affordable.
  • expensive cuts of meat
  • store bought cleaners (vinegar and baking soda will take you far)
  • boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • convenience foods
  • sweets (I do buy raw unfiltered honey, but try to stretch it) 
  • organic produce that is not on the dirty dozen list
  • “health” foods 
  • organic grains as long as they are non-gmo
  • exotic produce
  • eggs to put into baked goods (flax seed is cheaper!)
  • quality dairy to put into baked goods
  • baked goods in general, other then basic bread
  • eating 100% whole grains. I’m fine with limited amounts of white rice and white flour, and would rather cheap white flour to other more “pure” starches such as arrowroot for some things. 

Here are a links to a couple other “priorities on a budget” type posts. 

What are some of your food priorities?

Frugal Friday @ Life as Mom
day2day joys


  1. It seems we have similar priorities. Thanks for linking me. :-)

    • Yep! It seems that a “clean” source of meat is usually a high priority.

      You’re welcome I really appreciate that post, especially when I read it right before I knew our budget was being reduced fairly drastically.

  2. I love reading how other people prioritize their grocery budget (I’m actually writing an e-book on healthy groceries on a budget). For me, I buy as much “clean” meat as I can, but since the cost of clean meat is SO much higher than conventional, and because meat doesn’t go very far, it’s difficult to do on an extremely limited budget ($210/month for 4 people). I also believe the healthy fats are more important, so I spend the money on those. Following that is the healthiest milk I can buy (organic, non-homogenized, low-temp pasteurized) from which I make yogurt, sour cream, and other dairy products. I also buy the healthiest possible sweeteners, and only whole grains (organic when possible).

  3. Your grocery priorities are very close to mine. Once we stopped buying convenience foods and started making as much as we could from scratch, our food budget freed up for things like grassfed beef. I would rather eat NO meat than factory farmed meat. We eat meat or chicken three or four times a week at most and have learned to make bone broth for an extra ‘meat’ meal every month. Seriously, price should not entice someone to buy mystery rolls of ground beef, battery-caged eggs or crated pork. Buying eggs for a buck a dozen from a guy down the road who keeps chickens in the yard is a no-brainer.

    *sigh* Raw milk is illegal in Iowa. So is taking a hidden camera into a factory farm.

    • I hate when Raw milk is illegal. The farmer I just started buying milk from was actually spied on by the springfield police department. Seriously?

      We have in the past not eaten a lot of meat because I did not think it was healthy, but I’ve learned a bit since then. :D We are working on slowly getting it in our diet more and more.

  4. Great list Debra! We have a similar list! Another good healthy fat is grapeseed oil! One day I’d love to buy a share of a cow and share it with family, I’ve heard it’s much cheaper that way! And thank you so much for linking up at Healthy 2day Wednesdays!

  5. Great post, Debra!Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday! Hope to see you back tomorrow! :)