Real Food on a Real Budget

Shopping for a family can be a challenge, especially when you want to buy real, healthy foods on a real, average budget. If you think you can’t afford to buy organic or make healthy choices because you can’t shop every week at Whole Foods, you are wrong! If you are willing to put in a little more effort and search for the organic quinoa in the haystack, you can eat incredibly well and stay within your means. The secret to real food on a real budget is where you shop. Here are three discount stores that you need to check out. 


Walmart

Walmart has a reputation for having low prices, however, it also has a reputation for carrying not so healthy foods. True, you can buy a lot of junk in this store, but that is the case with most grocery stores. However, it is not true that you cannot buy healthy and whole foods at Walmart. Not only can you buy healthy food at Walmart, but you get that food at Walmart prices.

To find all the good stuff at Walmart, you have to get to know the store and roam the aisles. A walk down the aisle with the beans will lead you to lots of healthy dried beans and lentils. Beans and lentils are a low cost way to bulk up recipes such as soups. There are a lot of recipes that can be made healthier and with less money by cutting the amount of meat you use in half and substituting that half with beans or lentils. For example, add black beans to ground turkey when making tacos or add lentils to ground beef when making homemade sloppy joes.

The baking aisle has lots of sugar alternatives. Have you tried organic unrefined coconut sugar? It tastes amazing in homemade teriyaki sauce, and you can use it anywhere you would normally use sugar. Walmart also carries several varieties of coconut oil, along with flax and chia seeds. You can buy organic milk here, and they also have a large selection of non-dairy milks. Gluten-free options are also on Walmart shelves. 

If you are looking for organic jarred or canned foods, Wild Oats is a great brand stocked at Walmart. They make a yummy spicy salsa. Just make sure to read the label because not all of the Wild Oats products are organic. You can also find products from Annie’s Homegrown and Newman’s Own.

So pick up some yummy real food to feed your family, get your kids some socks, grab a new stick of deodorant, and craft supplies for that school project your daughter forgot is due tomorrow. Real food and your other shopping done all at once? Score!


Aldi

Aldi is not as well known as Walmart but it should be! Owned by the same German company that owns Trader Joe’s, Aldi is a small discount grocery store that carries great store brand products allowing you to save a ton of money.

You can find a wide selection of nuts for healthy snacking on the go as well as flax and chia seeds. If you avoid gluten, you need to shop at Aldi. Their “LiveGFree” line is amazing for people who cannot eat gluten or avoid gluten, and the prices are so low.

For packing school lunches, Aldi carries a line of preservative free lunch meats called “Never Any.” The “Never Any” line also includes sausages and bacon. Nitrates are yucky and you can avoid them while keeping within your budget by shopping at Aldi.

The produce selection is smaller at Aldi than other stores but it is always fresh and still worth shopping. They do carry some organic produce. We also recommend their non-organic produce for fruits and veggies that are generally considered safe even when grown conventionally such as avocados and onions.

If your family likes to eat quinoa, Aldi carries organic quinoa as part of their organic line called “Simply Nature.” Make a quinoa chicken bowl for dinner by cooking your quinoa with some organic chicken broth (also from Aldi). Mix in some shredded chicken and your vegetable of choice. If you want, you can throw in a little shredded cheese. That meal should keep everyone full and happy. 

The Simply Nature line also includes:

  • broths and soups
  • canned fruits and veggies
  • fresh produce such as pre-washed spring mix
  • milks and juices
  • pastas and pasta sauces
  • pantry staples such as cereal and almond butter

Finally, you can let your kids snack guilt free on Simply Nature snacks such as sweet potato chips or popcorn that are all organic and natural. If you have a baby or toddler who likes applesauce or fruit purees from pouches, Aldi also has organic pouches for prices much lower than you will find anywhere else. For packing a healthy lunch for school or for organic snacks to grab on the go, you can not beat the prices at Aldi. It is a mom’s dream come true.

ALDI TIPS:

Aldi isn’t in every U.S. market but they have stores in about half the country and are expanding. Shopping at Aldi is a little different for a couple of reasons.

  • First, be sure you have cash or a debit card with you before you even walk in the store. They do not take credit cards. One of the ways Aldi keeps prices so low is by not paying credit card fees themselves.
  • Second, you need a quarter to get a shopping cart. Don’t worry, you get it back. The carts are locked together and you stick a quarter in the slot on the cart to unlock it. When you are finished with the cart, simply lock it back in and you get your quarter back. This is another way Aldi saves money. They don’t have to pay someone to bring carts in and out all day. Often, you will run into someone in the parking lot when you are finished unloading your groceries that is on their way in and they will just give you a quarter and take the cart for you. The quarter in the cart is also fun for toddlers who like to help and put the quarter in and take it out.
  • Finally, if you don’t already use reusable grocery bags, now is the time to start. Aldi charges for plastic or paper bags. Many cities, including Washington DC charge a bag tax to get disposable bags anywhere. You also have to buy your bags in Europe. Aldi is a European store so this only makes sense and it saves so much plastic from rotting in landfills. Save money and save the planet in one shopping trip at Aldi! 

Costco

Costco, like Walmart, is one of the biggest retailers in the United States. Costco is a membership big box store where you can get everything from socks to tool boxes to steaks. Membership costs around $50 a year and it is well worth it. Don’t believe it? Well, if you are trying to shop healthier or already shop for organic food at more expensive stores like Whole Foods or Fresh Market, you need to give Costco a try.

Costco is now the largest seller of organic products in the United States. They will sell almost half a billion dollars more in organic products than Whole Foods this year. That’s a lot of organic food! Costco has a wide variety of organic produce for unbeatable prices. They carry a lot of organic meat as well. Their organic chicken comes in freezer ready packages. For example, their boneless skinless chicken breasts are individually sealed, 2 per pack and you buy 6 packs at a time. The organic ground beef also comes packaged ready to go in the freezer.  

If you don’t think you can finish all the produce you want to buy at Costco, get a friend to split it with you. Buy the giant bag of organic carrots and when you get home split them up and split the cost. You both get the healthiest food possible to feed your families while paying the bulk price.

Like Aldi, Costco is great for snacks to pack in lunches or to grab on the go. You will also find lots of brands trusted and loved by moms and kids such as Annie’s and Honest Kids. Grab a 12 pack of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese and have them on hand for a quick meal for your toddler. Honest Kids juice boxes will be a special treat in a lunch box or after soccer practice. Their healthy snack selection includes stuff parents will enjoy as well such as Larabars and multigrain chips and crackers. You can buy large bags of chia seeds, hemp hearts and other super foods. Honestly, Costco seems to have more healthy choices than unhealthy ones.


One concern that comes up a lot with shopping to save money is that it can require a trip to more than one store. Many families find that it is well worth their time to shop around to get quality at the lowest price possible. You have to decide that based on your budget and schedule. You can be sure that your grocery budget will shrink if you start shopping at Walmart, Aldi and Costco for groceries but you won’t have to sacrifice on quality. You can get real food on a real budget! Change the way you shop to meet your budget; don’t change the way you eat.

Still unsure about how to buy organic food without going broke? Here are tips for Eating Organic on a Budget. Once you are finished shopping, try these ideas for Meal Planning.

Photo Credits: St. John PhotographyKristen Lee Douglas

Source: Largest Organic Grocer Now Costco, Analysts say

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Kristen

Kristen lives in Alabama with her handsome hubby and sweet son. Happily, she left behind the life of a Washington D.C. attorney to be a stay at home mama in the south. Her days are filled with writing, photography, and dance parties with her son. On a mission to use her life to love God and love others, you will also find her fiercely working on the many causes near and dear to her heart. She gets it all done thanks to Jesus, chai tea, dark chocolate, and wine.

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