1. I shop wholesale (Costco)
I buy a lot of our organic produce at Costco, and because of our family size we definitely use it! 1 lb organic spinach in large container ($4), 5 lbs of organic baby carrots ($5), 5 lbs frozen organic broccoli ($6), Large container of pesticide-free cherry tomatoes ($6), 2 lbs 4oz bag of asparagus ($6), 3 lb bag of fresh broccoli florets($4), 2 lb bag of fresh sweet peas ($5), 2 lb bag of organic cilantro ($3) and organic red delicious apples for $.89/lb)
We also regularly buy 2 dozen organic eggs for $6, 26 oz jar of almond butter ($8), (2) 28 oz jars of organic peanut butter ($8), 2 lb bag organic coffee ($13), and 3 lbs raw almonds ($10).
Costco also has a decent sized selection of gluten-free foods, such as very large bag of Food Should Taste Good Multi-grain Chips for right around $7, a 3 lb bag of organic quinoa for $10, Mrs. May's Nut Clusters 32 oz/$9, and one of my favorites is (6!!!!!) boxes of Pacific Coast Organic Red Pepper soup for $10.
The toilet paper savings alone might be worth it in our house. :)
2. I shop what is on sale.
What I don't buy at Costco I buy at my new favorite butcher's, farmer's markets, Sprouts, or Whole Foods; however, I buy what's on sale and plan menus around that. Our meat budget stretches when I buy what is on sale, and the farmer's markets help to support local farmers while we eat local in-season produce.
3. I shop online.
I order many vitamins/supplements, hygiene, coconut oil and grocery items from Vitacost. We can get whole food supplements, and non-toxic home and body care products cheaper on Vitacost than I can many conventional things in Target or Walmart. It takes some planning to know what I need, but with $5 flat-rate shipping it's worth it.
4. We rarely eat processed foods.
Which means I cook. A lot. It's not that I love to cook, but rather I love knowing that the sacrifice means my family eats well. This doesn't mean I spend all day in the kitchen though. While our family was still eating plenty of grains I would make a VERY large batch of steel cut oats, and an "egg bake" on the weekends. Every couple of weeks I would also make a large batch of pancakes, cook them, and then freeze them. When the time came to use them I popped them in the toaster - just like Eggos. Now things have changed a bit. I still make an "egg bake" nearly every weekend, and now make breakfast meatballs/patties, Paleo-style granola, and hard boil at least 18 eggs. Lunches are simple. We eat homemade (walnut or bean) hummus, fruit, veggie sticks, homemade yogurt or raw milk, or left overs. Then dinner which is where most of my daily cooking is done.
By not eating processed foods we save a ton of money, and end up eating much healthier. Snacks are nuts, fruit, veggies, yogurt or "treat" I make. The exception to this is the Food Should Taste So Good chips for the kids and husband - they enjoy them and a bag lasts a long while.
5. I plan.
I plan my menus each week so no food goes to waste. One of the worst feelings I get are the times when I'm cleaning out my produce drawers and have to throw things away. There isn't a time I do it where I do not feel like I just took for granted the blessing of abundance we have compared to many people with hungry bellies around the world. Not only that, the reality of how hard my husband works to make money, and how hard I work to shop for good deals, and then prepare food, makes me despise throwing away leftovers or other food. So, I create a menu plan that lists all of the ingredients out that I have in my fridge, and what I need to do each night in preparation for the next day.
6. I get creative.
I am learning to stretch meals. Recently, I discovered by adding a few handfuls of finely diced carrots to ground beef tacos not only gives us more veggies, but gives us plenty of meat for lunches the next day. Carrots are obviously far cheaper than beef. Our kids now think it's fun to eat "sandwiches" and tacos in romaine lettuce wraps. A huge bag of organic romaine lettuce costs a little over $3 at Costco, and can be used to make salads. Lunch doesn't have to look "normal" either. I have lunch ideas under tip #4, but my kids also love smoothies, and smoothies are great to hide things in - like spinach (a.k.a. Super Hero Juice around here). Hard boiled eggs, almond butter, carrot sticks and yogurt or milk have plenty of protein, good fats, and are fun for kids to eat.
7. We rarely eat out.
We usually only eat out when we are meeting up with friends, and try not to let it be because I failed to do #5. There aren't too many places that we really desire to go at this point, because we know we can make a healthier version at home.
8. I sweat.
Well, in the Texas heat I sweat, but most days I just glow. ;) On days that the weather permits I hang dry our clothes. I have a strange dish-washing technique to save water while washing dishes so I don't have to run my dishwasher all the time. We wash our cars in our drive-way. We scrub our own bathrooms. We don't have cable. What am I trying to get at? We find other ways to save money to give a little wiggle room in our grocery budget, and we move our bodies a little more doing these things.
9. I am getting over what people think.
Whether it's turning someone down for a meal out we can't afford, or being the "weird" family at the gathering eating hard boiled eggs and homemade granola, I am making the decision I think is best for our family. At one point, not only did I care of what people thought of us, but I also cared how I made them feel. I still want to guard myself against self-righteousness, but I can't hide the decisions we have made out of fear of making someone feel bad. If people are curious, I figure they will ask, and if not I understand. This journey has been a long and HARD process for me, one I thought I didn't have time nor money for, and I pray that I stay humble enough to remember how overwhelming this alternative lifestyle seemed.
10. I breathe.
If I try to be perfect in every area I fail. Miserably. Realistically I cannot keep my home perfect, cook three meals-a-day, homeschool, be involved with our church, have friends, and lovingly engage my husband and children beyond my "tasks." So I have had to learn that some days the laundry doesn't get put away, my house is a disaster, sometimes dinner is thrown together, some days we ditch bookwork to study nature on a long walk, and I must be okay with it. If not I get overwhelmed (easily), and I find myself slipping back into old patterns.