Home | the cost of real food + five tips to save more money

the cost of real food + five tips to save more money

by Heather

Does eating real food cost more than the typical standard american diet (SAD)?  The short answer: yes it does.  The long answer you’ll get below: it doesn’t have to.  For me, I definitely have some room for improvement.

Today I’m going to share what our budget for food looks like, plus my goals for where I’m striving to take it along with some real life tips I started using to save money on my groceries.

[want to read more about my real food diet?  READ HERE]


How much do we spend on food each month?

I find this such a fascinating question, because food budgets vary so much from family to family.  I know ours has varied a ton over the years.  When it just Jacob and I and we were not really paying attention to the grocery spending, we easily spent over $1,000 a money.  And on what?!  The money just flew out of our wallets.  It was careless spending and not a smart way to be with our money.

Fast forward a couple years from that and I got really good at keeping our food budget between $300-500 a month.  I couponed and shopped all around town for good deals.  I also didn’t have kids then.

Fast forward to now, and I cringe at multiple grocery store stops.  It’s not even the shopping part (I love grocery shopping), but the in and out of car seats for 3 kids, and making sure everyone has gone potty or has snacks or doesn’t need to nurse at that moment.  It is so much work in itself!

We slowly crept our (my) grocery spending back up to that $1,000 mark, but it was different this time around.  Instead of buying lots of snacky foods like we used to and not sticking to a grocery list, now we were feeding more mouths, and my focus on food quality had really increased.  I don’t buy everything organic, but I do really make an effort to buy my high fat animal products (butter, half and half, meats) organically and/or grass fed.  I don’t really buy organic pantry items (unless they are the same price as conventional, then why not), and rarely organic produce, but we still were spending a lot on groceries.

A note on buying organic  – to eat a real food diet you don’t have to buy anything organic.  It’s a totally personal choice, but not a necessary thing.  Eating real foods means choosing them in their most natural form and cooking at home – buying ingredients, not meals already made.

My personal grocery spending goals

I am good about meal planning, but don’t always look to what I have on hand.  I’ve begun utilizing what I keep on hand a lot more.  My goal is to get our spending down to $800/month for food and toiletries too.  $200 a week is pretty reasonable, especially if I enact this second step – grocery shop at two different stores.

My favorite store I love to shop at is Chuck’s Produce, but the inside aisle items are marked up higher than other stores.  I plan to buy my meats and produce there, because I love the quality of the meats and the produce is typically a great deal especially when I shop off of what is on their ad for the week.  On a different day of the week I’ll buy all the other items to round out our meals – pantry items and bulk bin foods at Winco Foods.  I think that switch will make a big difference, without sacrificing the quality on the items I most care about – meats and produce.


Five tips to save more money on your groceries

Every one of these tips came straight from my grocery shopping trip from last week.  I hope they can help you save some dollars too!

  1. When meat is on sale, fill your freezer (if possible) with enough for the month. I felt so lucky last Friday when I went into Chuck’s Produce in the morning and the meat specials had just been marked down – I picked up 4 whole organic, pasture raised chickens for 50% off!
  2. Buy produce based on what is in season and what is on sale.  When foods are in season, like right now lettuce is booming, the price tend to drop because there is such a large supply.  I’ve been rotating our fruits and veggies around a little more when a certain one is on sale.  Last week broccoli was also on sale, so I doubled up on that and nixed the asparagus I had planned for a meal.
  3. Keep produce prices to $1.50/pound or less.  I made a big effort to do that and it really made me change some produce choices that I was going to purchase, which then impacted my bottom line.
  4. Buy from the bulk bins and only the amount you actually need.  I was out of almond flour, so instead of spending the $9 or so on a bag, I just bought the smaller amount I actually needed for a recipe letting me spend a lot less at the time.
  5. Save your indulgent coffee for the weekends.  We love good coffee in our house, and especially stumptown coffee.  We’re pretty obsessed.  I was buying whole bean stumptown coffee and going through a bag in a little less than a week (we like our coffee strong!).  If stumptown isn’t on sale, it’s $13 a bag – ouch!  That’s a lot, so we decided to switch to whatever local coffee was on sale (there normally is one) for Monday-Friday, then have stumptown on just the weekends.  It’ll make it more special, and we are spending half the amount on our M-F coffee now.

Using these tips I was able to reduce our grocery bill for last week down to $193 between two stores.  The coolest thing is that included 3 extra whole chickens that are now in my freezer!

IMG_3829Bonus tips – don’t go shopping hungry, and especially don’t go to Costco hungry!  Last month fail.

Curious minds want to know, how much do you spend on groceries each month?  Do you have strategies you use to save money?  More tips are welcome!



You may also like


Amanda June 9, 2016 - 11:03 am

Love the post! We are a family of 4, and I’m due with baby 3 in August. We are currently spending about $1,000 a month on groceries. We eat a lot of produce, so that’s a big factor, but we also grow a ton in the summer months and I don’t see our bill dropping significantly. I’d really like to reign it in to $120-150 a week but I feel like I’m always going over. We have chickens for eggs, beef cows for all of our beef and pigs for our pork and I’m not even counting the animal feed costs into our food budget. I know cutting out bars and snack foods would help. I need to get back to homemade bread products and yogurt (we eat 4 Greek yogurts a day and that adds up fast!). Despite that I still feel discouraged… We’re spending a lot of money on food. It’s hard to muster up the energy to prepare all the stuff I know how to from scratch when I’m pregnant (29 weeks and still dealing with morning sickness). So that’s part of it but that excuse is getting old.

Jess D June 10, 2016 - 6:24 am

Very interesting and helpful post! I’m trying to spend around $600 a month for 2 adults and a 3 year old. And really trying to eat real food. I love Costco but I am spending less money there because I’d rather spend as we need it rather than “stock up.” I am already doing tips 1, 2 and 4 but 5 is really smart and can be applied to other “treats” and 3 sounds a little difficult but I think I already try to keep it under $2/pound. The only thing I’d add is that sometimes I feel like it’s okay to spend a little extra at the grocery store if it means we’ll eat “in” instead of “out.” We are still tempted to eat out too often because of the convenience.

Liz June 10, 2016 - 8:20 am

I especially find it helpful to buy meat I can use in more than one meal. And Winco has been much better for organic varieties in there bin area too~ Heather Thanks for share great tips everyone does find themselves spending more than they need to shopping until they start tracking and making a shopping list and sticking to it.

Em @ Love A Latte June 12, 2016 - 4:29 pm

Great post! Some weeks are better than others. I think this weekend we spent well over $200, but we had some big ticket items to stock up on (dog food for example!). Other weeks are cheaper. I would love to keep our budget at $800 and I know we’re closer to $1,000 right now anddd I’m just shopping for my hubby and I and our toddler. Like you, we eat real food though. I will say I buy mostly organic and that adds up. I know I need to do a better job at planning in advance before shopping!

Avery June 15, 2016 - 4:10 am

I love this! 🙂 we just recently cut back our budget and the goal for June was $500 a month for myself, my husband and toddler. That doesn’t include toiletries. But when you’re trying to buy organic meat and mostly organic produce, it’s HARD! So far we’ve (sort of) made it work but by the end of each week we’re definitely itching to fill up the fridge again. I like your tips!! I also love knowing what other healthy eating families spend on groceries because it tells me whether or not I’m being realistic, haha. Thanks for sharing!!

easy weeknight lemon pepper salmon - Fit Mama Real Food September 28, 2016 - 7:40 pm

[…] READ: the cost of real food + 5 tips to save more money […]


Leave a Comment