Grass-fed beef. Sustainable seafood. Organic produce. Sounds good, but it’s all too expensive, right? Depending where you shop, you might be right. But eating healthy doesn’t have to cost your whole paycheck.
I get it. With two hungry, growing teenagers, food is one of our highest monthly expenses. Since over 90% of our groceries are organic, non-GMO, and contain no growth hormones and/or synthetic sugars that’s probably not a surprise.
Would it surprise you, though, that I rarely spend over $150 per week on groceries?
Do I spend all week running around to various stores? Not a chance.
If you think you’re saving money shopping one mega-store, though, studies show you’re probably not only spending more money but more time too.
Most larger chain stores carry fewer healthier options with “popular” brands competing for shelf space. With less competition between organic brands, you’re more likely to pay a higher price. But, stores with greater focus on healthier options means more brands, more competition, and usually lower prices.
So where do we find these great deals? Sure, farmers markets and fresh from the water seafood are great, but living in the landlocked Midwest doesn’t offer year-round farm stand options.
And, since we don’t have Sprout’s or Lucky’s Market in Illinois (come on, I have the perfect location for both of you!), and since Peter Rubi is only local to Plainfield, I’m not including those as options.
While I do buy groceries at all 5 of the following stores, I don’t generally shop at more than one of them in any given week. Stocking up on the healthy foods I know are cheapest at a particular store means I’m rarely over paying for last-minute staples, produce, and general necessities.
Are all five stores convenient to my home? Not necessarily. But, I know that one store is down the street from my kids’ hockey practice and another is convenient to work. Because I’m usually strapped for time, I’m more likely to stick to my list and limit unnecessary impulse buys.
If you feel like price is prohibiting you from purchasing healthier foods, save money on groceries at these stores. Non-GMO, organic, and synthetic sugar/color free foods shouldn’t impact your budget…just improve your health.
Trader Joe’s. Since every product with the Trader Joe’s name is already non-GMO, you can save a little time reading packaging. Craving rice crispy treats? The huge (non-GMO) TJ Crisped Rice cereal is only $1.99. In fact, almost all of their cereals (even organic) are under $3.00.
TJ stock up & save items:
- organic/non-GMO cereal
- produce (fresh and/or frozen)
- corn salsa
- dairy (even conventional milk & yogurt is free from growth hormones)
- Organic Valencia peanut butter
- cheese (Brie, goat cheese, Manchengo…you name it. Great prices, no growth hormones)
- Scandinavian Swimmers (for your chewy candy fix- without artificial colors
- frozen side dishes (risotto with asparagus, tomato sauce & mozzarella gnocchi- perfect to keep on hand for busy nights)
- nuts (skip the ready made trail mixes and make your own with individual favorites)
- chocolate chips (because non-GMO)
- mini ice cream cones: chocolate covered vanilla or chocolate (just a little sweet treat)
- condiments: ketchup, mustard, relish (no artificial colors or synthetic sugars)
- spice grinder bottles
- Kerrygold butter
Fresh Thyme. It’s like a compact Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Fruitful Yield all rolled into one compact store. Not necessarily a “health store,” but it’s a great starter spot if you’re just beginning to shop consciously.
Fresh Thyme stock up & save items:
- non-GMO/organic chips: Barbara’s Jalapeno Cheese Puffs, Late July Jalapeno Lime Tortilla chips (you can thank me later)
- dairy/non-dairy: Good selection and prices on organic milk, no growth-hormone dairy, and dairy alternatives
- non-GMO/organic cereal
- non-GMO bread
- produce (organic fresh and/or frozen)
- bulk items: organic steel cut oats, nuts, quinoa
- Greek yogurt: organic and/or growth hormone free
- cleaning supplies: safer laundry detergent, dish soap
- vitamins, shampoo, soap
Costco. Yes, this requires a membership card so you may need to find a friend to share. Costco has definitely upped their game in regards to organic products. Opt for items that are bulk purchases and designate your own portion sizes instead of boxes with a million wasteful individually packaged treats.
Costco stock up & save items:
- antibiotic/hormone-free chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
- grass-fed ground beef
- pure organic maple syrup
- organic milk/cream
- organic eggs
- organic produce (wash, slice, & freeze if too much to use quickly)
- non-GMO bread
- Aspire Sports Drinks: no artificial colors or flavors, synthetic sugars, or caffeine (when water isn’t enough)
- non-GMO Sugar in the Raw
- Steaz organic iced green teas (about $.85/ can here!)
Target. While it isn’t my first choice for grocery shopping, it can be decent in a pinch. The good news is that more non-GMO/organic options are finding their way to their shelves. The better news is that many people haven’t caught on so you can often find great items on sale!
Target stock up & save items:
- Hampton Creek Just Mayo ($2-$3 cheaper than anywhere else, I don’t know why and I don’t question it)
- Organic or no growth hormone Greek yogurt
- Ripple (here are my thoughts on this dairy alternative)
- Organic/non-GMO cereal: definitely one area that has improved on pricing
- Clif Organic Z bars: my kids love them and you can occasionally find the 18-pack cheaper than at Costco
Whole Foods. For the most part, I think many of their products are unnecessarily over-priced…even on sale. But, you can find good pricing on a few items.
Whole Foods stock up & save items:
- organic tampons (this is a non-negotiable for me- and they’re cheapest here)
- organic/no growth hormone milk, yogurt, cream
- sustainable seafood (good deals on fresh if it’s on sale, but their frozen selection isn’t bad)
Healthy eating isn’t all or nothing. You do what you can when you can. Eliminating synthetic sugars, switching to non-GMO, avoiding artificial colors, choosing organic when possible are simply steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
That said, we often spend one of the most important aspects of our wellness on autopilot. We’ve let corporations tell us what’s “natural” and convenient. Empowering yourself and your family to eat consciously is a life skill that will have the greatest impact on your current and future health.
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