Conquering Real Food Frustrations- Budgeting

I don’t know about you but one of my first questions when we started changing our diet was, what about the cost? 

We were pregnant with Christopher, and our midwife began teaching us about the importance of enzymes- of eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables.
At that time we ate a fairly whole food diet, but bought canned fruits and only frozen vegetables. Our buying habits changed. And so did our budget. It went from about $200 per month to $450.
While I would not want to spend that much again on just two people that period really taught us something. The concept of quality. Instead of buying cheap canned fruit, we bought it fresh and spent more. The canned stuff had little nutrition, while the fresh was far superior of a product nutritionally, taste wise, texturally, and visually. Canned fruit seemed expensive. Fresh cheap. We could spend money on junk or on quality. 
Over the years our budget has changed pretty drastically. From that $450/mo for just the two of us, to less then $200 for four.
Ready to hear the two biggest things I have learned? Do what you can and get a good bang for your buck.

Do what you can

This will look different based on your priorities, where you live, your income, ect. Below I share with you a basic example of what we do at different budgets. We have spent the various amounts at least at a couple different times in the last few years.

This is by no means an all inclusive list, it is just to show the difference of what we do as we can afford it.

At $200/mo or less we usually:
  • Buy clean foods (i.e. foods with only one or two ingredients) and cook from scratch
  • Don’t buy conventional ground meat- because ground beef can come from many animals, contain pink slime, and has a ton of surface area.
  • Buy the antibiotic free chicken that is not too expensive locally.
  • Don’t buy a lot of dairy as conventional dairy gives Mark’s headaches.
  • Use conventional butter to cook in instead of nasty GMO oils.
  • Avoid GMO ingredients (which is why we buy ‘clean’ foods)
  • Try to eat mostly from the clean 15 list, or wash produce thoroughly.
  • Enjoy a lot of beans.
  • Avoid sugar, but use white sugar and occasionally honey.
  • Buy local eggs when I can get them at $2-$2.25/dozen.
  • We get most grains organic through a co-op.
  • Make almost everything from scratch.
When our budget is about $300 we usually increase it to:
  • Buy local eggs as we can
  • Buy some local raw dairy, but not a lot of cheese
  • Use a combo of coconut oil and conventional butter for our cooking fats, and olive oil for dressings
  • Buy the local chickens we can get for about $3/lb plus the antibiotic free chicken from the store.
  • Try to save up for large purchases of beef (have not perfected this yet!)
  • Try to eat the dirty dozen organic, when I can get them for a good price through a co-op (local organic produce is not really affordable).
  • Eat grass-fed beef, ect. as we can.
  • Buy things such as organic specialty vinegars, oils, soy sauces, ect. when we can through our local discount store.
  • Avoid sugar, but use more honey.
  • Makes almost everything from scratch, but not as much. 
When our budget is around $400 we usually:
  • Buy the dirty dozen organic through a co-op, or wash them really well.
  • Buy a fair amount of raw milk.
  • Save up for large purchases of beef.
  • Eat local chicken.
  • Still eat beans :D
  • Have more honey available, meaning we usually don’t have sugar around, unless sucanat is available.
  • Buy mostly to all local eggs
  • Have a TON of fruit around as my kids and I love it.
  • Might even buy Ezekial bread, but still cooks mostly from scratch.

A good bang for your buck

I do not think is real food as a whole is more expensive then their conventional counterparts. I think it is more valuable. You are paying for quality. Is that true for everything “health food”? Of course not! But, we try to keep to what we feel is more bang for our bucks.

A friend of ours allowed us to help butcher chickens to buy them at the cost of raising them. They gave their chickens pretty good feed, and let them run around. I was surprised to find each chicken cost them $6-$8 dollars. More then buying a whole conventional chicken. All of a sudden spending $10-$12 for a good chicken no longer seemed expensive! Not to say we can always afford that, but we think it is quite reasonable

I love buying things that I feel the cost is reflective of the work that goes into it, more then the name behind it or the health claims on it.

We used to buy almost 100% organic, but slowly became to realize that it was just not worth it. I began realizing I would rather have a local fresh tomato, that had flavor, then one that was certified organic.

Organic, like anything regulated, is a set of rules ones that do not dictate the heart behind the growing of an item. Produce is still picked before it’s peak of freshness to be shipped around the world, organic or not.

I do buy organic when I can to avoid high pesticide foods or avoid GMO’s. It is about avoiding instead of feeling what I get is inherently healthy.

One of my favorite examples of buying something that was quality, rather then claimed to be amazing is with eggs. After a few years of trying to find a good source of local eggs I noticed this brand at the Health Food Store, unlike every other brand it made no health claims the only thing I knew about it was the farm name- typed on a sticker. But the egg spoke for itself. The shell was sturdy and the yolk was golden.

We can not always afford the best quality when it comes to foods, but when we can I think it is beyond worth it. Just like I wish we could have afforded a Vitamix several years ago rather then burning through 6 cheap blenders… *cough* We have not spent MORE then a Blentec or Vitamix would have cost.

I would rather spend my money on quality food then doctor bills. Just the things we have overcome since eating better is amazing- I no longer have chronic knee pain and Mark and I do not have frequent headaches. I still have some annoying health issues, but even those are less when we are eating better.

Cooking healthier is possible on just about any budget, don’t let not being able to do all the “right” things discourage you. If you can change one thing- why not? Go slow. It takes time and learning but mostly don’t stress.

Do what you can and get a good bank for your buck!

Join the other ladies in this series who are also talking about budgeting, and getting started with real foods. 

Justyn, from Creative Christian Mama, shares her real-life examples for finding affordable real food pantry staples by shopping on-line! She did the work for you by linking to each product she buys and doing the math to find the price per unit.

Saving money or time can be a toss up, at More Than Four Walls Danielle shares hows spending one can help you save the other as well as some do’s and don’ts for busting into real food without breaking the bank.

Sara at Your Thriving Family lays out what they did and should have done and the things she’s learned in the past year that doesn’t break the budget.


  1. This is fantastic, Debra!! I love being able to see how it all breaks down on different budgets. Excellent post, sweetie!! :-)

  2. I love that you did the break down of the different budgets! Really helpful.

  3. Ha ha. Justyn said the same thing.

  4. Great post Debra. I’m trying to incorporate more beans in our diet. The Hubs isn’t a huge fan but he’ll eat them if they are mixed in with something. They are definitely a budget saver and they fill you up too.

  5. Thank you for this! I’m getting started and overwhelmed but taking baby steps!!!

  6. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you
    wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could
    do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog.
    A great read. I’ll certainly be back.


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