Nourishing Food Panel: Healthy & Frugal Tips


Today our panelists will be sharing their frugal tips for eating nourishing food on a budget. Tomorrow it’s your turn! Check out my announcement post for the Nourishing Frugal Recipes Carnival for more information. Hope to see you then!

How one can afford high quality food on a tight budget is a common question. Do I think it possible? YES! With a little ingenuity, a little prudence, a little self-sacrifice, and a little time you can certainly create nourishing meals for less. Today our panelists give their tips for frugal healthy cooking answering the question, “Do you have any money saving tips for those with a lower food budget?”

This is the last part of our panel series. I greatly appreciate all of the time and effort these ladies have put into sharing with us! Thank you ladies! It has been a pleasure having you here at The Nourishing Gourmet.

Part One: Where did your interest start? Part two; How did you get started? Part Three: What were the results? Part Four: Tips for Newbies

Let’s start with some excellent advice from Kimberly.

Kimberly from Hartke is Online

Bone Broth and dishes made from it are very economical to make

  • Use veggies that are going soft to make a vegetable stock or add them to your bone broth stock pot so they don’t go to waste.
  • Use leftover bone broth from a meat stew to make a vegetable soup the next day.

Don’t eat out

  • Freeze leftovers in single serving containers for lunches
  • Take your own snacks whenever you leave the house to avoid resorting to fast food.
  • Pack food for trips. We always take a cooler and have lunch on a picnic table on the road. We also take our meat, milk and cheese on vacation with us, we save tons of money by eating in, while vacationing (we obviously stay in a place with a full kitchen).

I believe processed food is more expensive than whole food

  • Buying produce at the Farmers market produce also is very affordable, and it lasts longer since it is fresher, I find there is not as much going to waste.

Remember Grass-fed meats are nutrient dense

  • We find we eat much smaller portions than when we were eating conventional meats. We eat healthier portions of vegetables to fill up the plate.

Vitamins are expensive

  • If you work on finding better local sources of food, you will get the nutrients you need that way. We no longer take supplements.

Don’t count the cost

  • When you are worried about the cost of healthy food, ask yourself “How expensive is chemo?” I happen to know it is around $20,000 a dose! Good food is a whole lot cheaper!

Switch to Health Savings Plan

  • We saved money by getting rid of our health insurance, and switching to a Major Medical policy for half the cost plus a health savings plan. We are so healthy now, it makes more sense to have a policy that covers a major illness, accident or major surgery. We don’t use prescription drugs so it made no sense to have prescription coverage. We put extra money each month into a health savings account, that way we have a debit card and can use that to pay for alternative health and wellness programs or doctor’s visits.

Amy, real life friend

  • Attempt to use food in its original form as much as possible. For instance, use wheat berries instead of flour. Think through everything in your cupboard and take note of those items that have been through one or more steps of processing. Make your own nut butters, noodles, and spaghetti sauce using raw nuts, wheat berries, and fresh tomatoes. Use dried beans instead of canned. The more processed something is, usually the more money it will cost (and of course, it will be less healthy!). I for sure haven’t achieved all of this yet, but it’s what I am always working towards.
  • Garden, if at all possible! Very affordable, local produce. 🙂 Even people with limited space can grow vegetables and herbs in containers.
  • Search for local CSAs (arrangements in which you buy produce from a local farm for the summer) and co-ops to join.
  • Spending a huge amount of money on 1/4 of a cow in the summer can be difficult when on a monthly budget! The first summer I purchased chickens, beef, and fruit in the summer, I recorded the total amount of money I spent on “summer food”. I then added it up, and divided it by the amount of months I had before summer came again. Each month during the year I would set aside some cash to save up for summer. This helped tremendously, not only to have money on hand when summer came, but to be able to more effectively keep to a budget even with irregular large purchases.

Sono, my sweet mother in law

I do not think I can really improve on Sally Fallon’s section in the back of Nourishing Traditions, Appendix A, Limited-Time, Limited-Budget Guidelines. Her advice there has helped me. [Kimi notes: So true! Everyone should check it out!]

The only additions I would make are:

  • 1. a small garden can save you dollars at the farmers’ market or grocery store (garlic, fresh herbs like dill, parsley, cilantro, mesclun mix and other salad greens, tomatoes, zucchini & other squashes are all relatively, easy crops)
  • 2. look around for less expensive sources for the things you need: organic produce coops, health food distributors, local farmers, etc.
  • And remember, savings on the cost of what you may be eliminating from your grocery bill (boxed cereals, snacks fried in rancid oils, fruit juices, bottled salad dressings, processed foods, soft drinks, etc.) and not eating out at fast food restaurants will offset what you may spend on higher quality food items.
  • It’s also important to consider the fact that many people throughout history spent the bulk of their income on the necessities of shelter and food. Many Americans will save money on their food expenses and yet spend that saved amount on another article of clothing they don’t need. Sometimes it’s a priority thing not a real nickel and dime problem.

At other times, there really isn’t enough to go around. That’s why I appreciate the fact that the Nourishing Gourmet is a consistent source of money-saving tips! It does a great job of giving us recipes for reasonably priced meals and dishes while always maintaining the goal of healthy foods. You also do a lot of work for us by pointing us to the least expensive source for important items for our pantry. Thanks, Kimi!

Stephanie from Keeper of the Home

Here are a few of the ways that I make our lower grocery budget work, as I attempt to buy as much high quality food as possible:

  • Although we eat meat about 5 days a week, it definitely doesn’t take a starring role in our diet. In order to afford the grass-fed, free-range meats that I am committed to, I stick to utilitarian cuts, like ground meat, roasts and whole chickens, stew meat, etc. I also buy boxes of chicken breasts sometimes, but only use 1 or 2 at a time and cut them up. I make a lot of dishes like casseroles, stews, stir-fries, meat salads, meatloaf (bulked up with veggies) and anything else that allows me to make a hearty dish (usually based more on grains, vegetables and sometimes beans) with a smaller amount of meat or poultry. I also make a point of including 1-2 vegetarian meals, using beans, legumes, etc. each week (our favorite way to include this is with mexican food!).
  • I buy my meat from a small store out in the country that is not officially certified organic, which means they can keep their costs down (even though the quality is high). I buy my beef in large amounts (enough for 6 months at a time), because it makes it much more affordable when you consider price per lb.
  • We eat a lot of eggs, since they are cheaper but excellent protein. I get my organic, free-range eggs from a local farmer who sells me his seconds (the ones that aren’t perfect looking) for a very good deal.
  • I make a lot of bone broth, with the carcasses of my whole chickens and beef bones I get cheap and by the bagful from my meat store. Broth has a protein sparing effect, so it helps our bodies to better use the protein we do eat. This helps us to get away with the fact that we eat less meat and can’t afford as much high quality dairy as we’d like.
  • Since the cost of our raw milk is crazy (seriously, we pay almost $18 a gallon!), we buy only 3 litres (quarts) a week, and use it pretty strictly for drinking raw. Quite frankly, my kids get most of it, but it’s so important for them that my husband and I don’t mind too much. I buy organic but pasteurized milk whenever it goes on 1/2 price at my local grocery store, and then immediately freeze it. I simply thaw this and use it for making all of my kefir and yogurt. It’s not the most ideal, but at least it is organic and allows us to get in a good amount of cultured dairy for the beneficial bacteria and for my grain soaking purposes.
  • I buy all of my organic grains in large bulk quantities. Since I grind my own grain, I can store it in a cool, dry place for a long time with no worries, though I find we go through it pretty fast anyways. I buy 25 lb bags of organic steel cut and rolled oats, kamut grain, spelt grain and rye grain from my food co-op, Azure Standard. I also buy 5 lb bags of millet, quinoa, buckwheat and popcorn. I buy 10 lb bags of non-GMO, brown rice from Costco, as it is the best deal that I’ve found for rice.
  • We don’t eat as many nuts as I wish we did, but when I do buy them, I always buy them in large, bulk amounts and store them in my freezer or fridge.
  • I do almost all of my own baking. Yes, it can be time consuming, but I’ve decided that the health and cost benefits are well worth it. I try to make bread in large batches, so that I can freeze the extra loaf rather than have to bake every couple of days. I use Sue Gregg’s blender batter method for most of my muffins, quick breads, etc. since this takes me only 5 minutes at night, then 5 minutes in the morning, to get something new in the oven, and keeps the mess very minimal. I make soaked tortillas in big batches and freeze the extras. Every time I make waffles and pancakes, I double my batch and freeze extras for later breakfasts.
  • I buy my coconut oil together with my MIL and SIL, in 5 gallon tubs from Mountain Rose Herbs. We get a much better deal, and just split it up into our own glass jars. I buy my extra virgin olive oil in 3 L tins, store it in a cool place, and simply refill a small bottle once a week to use in my cooking. My butter is currently the Costco organic brand, which is still not ideal, but it’s quite affordable. I supplement this butter with as much Kerrygold pastured butter as I can afford, and also with a jar of Activator X grass-fed butter oil from my raw cow share each spring and fall (when the grass is growing rapidly).
  • I purchase my produce from a local farmers market, and practically never from a grocery store. I am able to get very reasonably priced produce, much of it unsprayed or organic, and it is well worth the little bit of a drive from my house. I go every two weeks, and in the first week use up everything that will go bad quickly, and in the second week use up everything that’s left. This also helps me to make really good use of what I have and not allow anything to go to waste, because every little bit counts!
  • Lastly (who knew I had so many tips to share?), I garden! I highly recommend starting a garden to anyone, whether you have an apartment balcony or a large yard or acreage. In my suburban backyard, I was able to grow more than half of our vegetables last spring, summer and fall, and was also able to freeze, can and dry quite a bit for the winter as well. This freed up my budget to by as many unsprayed berries and fruits as possible during the summer season, and I absolutely packed out my freezer with all that sweet goodness! Now I am heading into my third year gardening, and I anticipate being able to produce most of the vegetables my family eats for at least 6 months of the year!

Share your thoughts! Have these same tips worked for your family? Do you have tips not yet mentioned?

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. says

    This is such a small world! When I read the part in your post from your mother in law Sono Harris ,I was so surprised! I’m a second generation homeschooler, so growing up we heard from the Harris family all the time– through conferences and books. They were and are a household name around here! How cool!

  2. Sharon says

    When I was at Sam’s Club, I bought a big container of Organic Brown Basmati Rice. When I cook it according to the directions on the container, I have a wet, sticky mess. Can you tell me how to cook it? I bought it to try to get my diabetic husband to eat something other than white rice.
    Thanks, Sharon

  3. says


    It is a small world, isn’t it! Welcome to my site. 🙂

    We like to cook our brown rice with a 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice. We also cook for about 45 minutes. Some directions have more water than that, or have you cook it for less time. Hope that helps!

  4. says

    I do my brown rice in the oven. Recipe is from veggie venture. It’s easy and turns out every time.

    It seems like a no brainer, but eating seasonally is more affordable too. Even if you are getting produce at the grocery store, seasonal produce is more affordable than what has traveled great distances to make it to that store.

  5. Geraldine says

    One tip I have is to save all leftover bits of veggies, meats, gravies, sauces, rice, anything. I dump it all in one pan, which often looks gross at first, but then I heat it up, add some salt and Mrs.Dash and often some tomato sauce, and the resulting soups are always delicious.

  6. says

    Sharon, I’ve been using brown basmati lately as well. Like Kimi, I also use a 2:1 ratio for water. If I do it on the stove, I bring it to a boil, then let it simmer without ever lifting the lid for about 45 minutes, then turn it off and just let it sit till we’re ready to use it.

    However, my preferred method is the same 2:1 ratio, but in a rice cooker. I bought mine from a thrift store, for less than $5 if I remember correctly. It is so foolproof, I love it. You just measure your water and rice, pop it in, and turn it on. Most rice cookers adjust the cooking time to keep going until the water has been absorbed, so they will work equally well for both brown and white. I would really recommend looking for one, at a thrift store or garage sale or on Craigslist!

    Noelle, I totally agree about eating seasonally. Not only is it more affordable, I think it suits our bodies needs better, as it is what is naturally available (makes more sense to eat root veggies in warm stews in the winter, and nice, crisp cucumbers and juicy tomatoes in the summer, doesn’t it?). Also, I find things that are seasonal are much nicer quality, because they didn’t have to travel and weren’t picked before they were ripe, and they last much longer before going bad.

    Kimi, thanks for such a great series! It was a privelege to be a part of it! 🙂

  7. Anali says

    All of these tips are great. Thanks so much for your wonderful site, and thanks to all the people who contribute to it. I pass the link on to anyone I can.

  8. Shari Firestone says

    Definitely go to the farmer’s market in your area. I get my cabbages and lettuce there and you’ll find each is about $1. I shred the cabbage and stir fry it with eggwhites ($2.19 each carton from Trader Joes) and add salsa when I’m done cooking. Then for dinner I’ll have some cut up romaine lettuce, persian cucumbers, red peppers, squash, and add some beans and hot red pepper flakes or jalapenos and add some scooped out avocado (all from the farmer’s market except the beans). Canned beans at Trader Joes are around .89 but the bagged, dried beans are a better deal if you time to cook them.

  9. issey says

    your blogging is an inspiration. more people need to have your attittude and enlightenment. We are living in the nutritional equivalent of the dark ages. I am motivated and inspired. Thanks.


  1. […] Before we get to the guidelines, I’ll just point out a few resources on this blog . On the left hand side you will see “categories”, click on Nourishing Frugal Tips or Nourishing Frugal Recipes for some ideas. Also, check out the first nourishing frugal food carnival I did almost a year ago.  12 Tips for Squeezing the most Nutrient Dense Food out of Your Budget is another post with some ideas for you. Finally, check out some excellent, sage advice from our last panel as they give frugal tips. […]

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