I received a great question last week from a reader, and wanted to share it with you all (and ask for suggestions!) Here's the question:
Eating organic is very important to us but our grocery budget is so high. It's been about $350 a week for a while now, even with that we still feel that we don't end up with a lot of food for the week. We shop at Earth Fare. Not everything we buy is organic but our meats and dairy have to come from the right farms and we don't do preservatives, food dyes, corn syrup etc… Also my husband is a celiac so he has some dietary needs as well. We are going to try to do this because we know we can at least save on toilet paper and paper towels, razors etc… I was just wondering if you had any advice as far as couponing goes in regards to the natural and organic food brands.
One of the biggest complaints I hear when teaching coupon classes is that coupon deals are only available for processed foods. While I agree that there are loads of processed food coupons out there, there are also deals to be had on healthier, non-processed foods (you just have to work a little harder for the deals!) Here are a few suggestions:
- Shop for everything other than food using coupons: for example toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper products, etc. Once you get really good at couponing, even try out drug store shopping to get many of those items for free. While you're probably not going to cut your grocery budget as far as you'd like through that alone, you will see substantial savings on a portion of your grocery bill.
- Be mindful of the best prices for your meat – whether you choose organic or non-organic. When you see meat on sale at your target prices, stock up!!! Also, consider checking out meat markdowns: recently I purchased organic whole chickens at Publix for $.79/lb. because they were nearing their expiration date, so I ran home and cooked them right up! (Right now Publix has whole chickens on sale for $1.09/lb. and Organic Whole Chickens for $1.99/lb., which is probably a reasonable price for organic whole chicken.)
- Eat fruits and veggies according to what's in season. You'll find drastic savings on produce when you purchase it during it's peak season. For the past month canteloupe has frequently on sale for $1.50, so our family will be eating canteloupe until the next fruit goes on sale! And, if you're up for it, plant a garden! My husband has a tiny garden in our back yard, and with just that little garden we hardly ever have to purchase store bought spaghetti sauces, or even items like green peppers or beans because we grow them in the summertime and freeze them for the winter.
- Make the most of Earthfare, Whole Foods, or other specialty grocers if you have them in your town. Here in our area Earthfare has quite a few deals, and offers outstanding customer service. Most Wednesdays Earthfare offers a coupon for a free item with purchase in addition to their store coupons, and you can even get a full complete meal (including whole chicken, veggies, and potatoes), when you sign up for their e-club!) I'm not as familiar with Whole Foods, so if you anyone has more experience there, please chime in!
- Amazon is a wonderful resource, especially for gluten free and organic foods. I'm amazed at all the food items available from Amazon, and if you get start using Swagbucks, you can use your “Swag money” to get Amazon items for free! (It does get a little more difficult, but lately I've purchased all my peanut butter from Amazon using free gift cards from Swagbucks, and it's been shipped right to my door with free shipping and no tax!) Check out this deal on Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour when you choose “subscribe and save”. Get rice flour for just $2.22 per pouch!
- Consider your dietary needs as you plan your budget. My mother-in-law eats a gluten-free diet, and I'm often shocked at the price of her groceries. So, recognizing that your budget may be different than someone else's, determine a realistic goal for your family. Start by cutting out just $10-$20 a week, and slowly inch your way towards your larger savings. (Remember, changing your grocery budget won't happen over night, but it can happen . . . I promise!)
- Check out these blogs that focus on saving with organic deals:
In our home we do try to limit the number of processed foods we eat, however I personally do not purchase organic foods. (I have bought quite a few gluten-free-dairy-free-casein-free products for my mother-in-law though!) I typically spend the bulk of my grocery money on meat and fresh produce, aiming to save on just about everything else. Hopefully through saving on other purchases as well as the way you grocery shop, you'll free up a little cash to use towards the more expensive necessities on your list.
What other suggestions do you have for purchasing organic items or food for special dietary needs? I know several people give up on couponing over this issue alone, but I believe there are still deals to be had . . . you just may need to look a little harder to find them!
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