How We Afford to Eat High Quality Food

When I first started eating a healthier diet I whined and complained about how expensive it was. In fact, my main excuse for not buying organic grass-fed beef was the cost. I knew that it was so much healthier that it was practically a different food altogether, but the fact that I would be paying $4.25  a lb for ground beef was a major sticking point for me. Here’s how we did it (and something I didn’t even consider at the time). By eliminating a TON of other things that we used to purchase!

Things that we no longer buy:

  1. Boxed dinners, helpers, roni’s etc
  2. Pasta (make it myself)
  3. Pasta Sauce (make it myself)
  4. Pizza Sauce (so simple to make)
  5. Tortillas (make them myself corn and flour)
  6. Bread (bake it myself)
  7. Muffins (make them myself)
  8. Crackers (make them myself)
  9. Breakfast cereal (make it myself, recipe coming)
  10. Coffee (We quit caffeine and we feel great!)
  11. Purified water (bought a Berkey and love it!)
  12. Paper towels or napkins (we use cloth napkins)
  13. Pre-made frozen food (pot pies, pizza, burritos etc)
  14. Ice cream (make it myself, recipe coming)
  15. Potato chips (stopped eating them, but I have made them myself once)
  16. Lunches out (we pack our lunches every day)
  17. Trail mix (I soak and dry the nuts first, then make the mix)
  18. Nut butters (very easy to make at home, tutorial coming)
  19. Jams or chutney (make and can)
  20. Yogurt (make it myself from raw milk)
  21. Sour cream, cream cheese, butter, buttermilk (make them from raw milk)
  22. Dry mixes like pancake, brownie, cake etc (make it from scratch)
  23. Cigarettes (yay!)
  24. Condiments (make most from scratch)
  25. Salad dressing (very easy to make)
  26. Soda pop (we drink homemade Kombucha or Ginger Beer)
  27. Canned spaghetti or pizza sauce (make and can)
  28. Salsa (make and can)
  29. Seasoning Salt and other blends (easy to make)
  30. Worcestershire Sauce (yes you can do this yourself)
  31. Cocktail Sauce (very good homemade)
  32. Canned vegetables or fruit (make and can)
  33. Vanilla Extract (very easy to make)
  34. Shaving cream (coconut oil is an excellent shaving cream!)
  35. Shampoo (I use soap nuts liquid)
  36. Conditioner (don’t need it since I started using soap nuts liquid)
  37. Bodywash (make it myself)
  38. Perfume (either don’t use it, or use essential oils)
  39. Windex (so easy to make)
  40. All-purpose cleaners (make it yourself)
  41. Dishwasher Detergent (easy to make)
  42. Scouring Powder (very simple to make)
  43. Orange Cleaner (make it myself)
  44. Facewash (make it myself)
  45. Hand & body lotion (make it myself)
  46. Wrinkle cream (make it myself)
  47. Manicures or pedicures (I keep my nails short and plain)
  48. Pro hair cuts/color/style (I have very long hair and cut it myself)
  49. Toothpaste (make it myself)
  50. Mouthwash (make it myself)
  51. Hairspray (make my own for a penny)
  52. New clothing (we buy 95% used from a few different thrift stores)
  53. Food at restaurants (we eat out maybe once a month)
  54. Movies at the theater (we watch Netflix movies on the computer or read)
  55. Cable TV (we actually don’t own a television)

Things that we buy in bulk

  1. Herbs & spices (once a year from Mt. Rose Herbs, see link in blogroll)
  2. Makeup $35-40 a year (once a year from Everyday Minerals)
  3. Plain un-scented soap (once a year from a local soap/candle store)
  4. Organic vinegar (Sam’s Club 1-2 times a year)
  5. Rice (once a year)
  6. Baking soda (1-2 times a year from Sam’s Club)
  7. Washing soda (1-2 times a year from Sam’s Club)
  8. Borax (1-2 times a year from Sam’s Club)
  9. Toilet paper (2-3 times a year from Sam’s Club)
  10. Coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut cream and dry coconut (once a year from Mt. Rose Herbs see blogroll)
  11. Beans (once a year)
  12. Organic, sprouted flour (often from a local health food store)
  13. Nuts & dry fruit
  14. Raw honey (twice a year from a local beekeeper)
  15. Maple Syrup (once a year from a farm in Northern MI)
  16. Half of a cow. 100% grass-fed and finished. 320 lbs of meat (from a farmer that we know and trust)
  17. Rob is raising heritage breed hogs for us this year and he is growing 30 chickens and 5 turkeys for the freezer. He also has a laying flock of 25 hens that keep us well stocked in fresh eggs. In the future we plan to raise our own beef cow and I would love to have a dairy cow! Mmmmm cheese…..We would also love to buy bulk wheat and oats and grind them ourselves. Someday soon we will have a large vegetable garden. Always more projects on the way!

My point here is not to sound like I am perfect (because I am SO not), but to let everyone know that for me the cost of properly grown, properly prepared, nutrient-dense, real, whole food is worth it! We have sacrificed a lot of convenience and time and effort to make this happen and guess what? We saved $6,000 in insurance premiums last year because we are never sick. I had 2 teeth cavities remineralize themselves. No more expensive dental visits for me! We don’t spend any money on prescription drugs, over the counter drugs or co-pays for doctor visits. By starting with just one thing at a time we have saved ourselves thousands of dollars. We are now spending that money on the highest quality meat, cheese, milk and vegetables that we can find, from local farmers that we know and trust. By really making our health a priority we have been able to slowly make these changes, and have a lot of fun along the way. (It also helps that we both hate to shop! It takes an act of God to get us into the store 🙂

P.S If you’re wondering how we have time for all of this, see #55


  1. realfoodroad said,

    May 7, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    This is a great list. I think there are a lot of people who have no idea how much they can do themselves, for less money and just a little time. The health aspect of local food can’t be ignored. My family so rarely gets sick, my medicinal herbs are getting too old to use, and they are headed for the compost pile!

    • May 7, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      That is so cool. The health factor is a huge money saver. Once you figure in the time off work, the copays, the prescriptions…it can really add up! I have called in sick at work 1 time in 7 years! The average office worker misses 32 days of work a year due to illness or illnes of their children. It is much higher for people in blue collar/physically strenuous jobs. Thats a lot of money!

  2. May 7, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    I love this list! My husband and I have been making a lot of these changes (we’re adding more and more each month, and your list will help), and even though homemade goods take up more time at home, it’s time that we’re spending peacefully as a family, not stressfully driving from store to store. Even with a little baby requiring most of our time, we still much prefer this way of life, and it’s way more fulfilling 🙂

    • May 7, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      I am really surprised by how little time I spend in the kitchen. Looking at that list you would think I’m slaving over a hot stove until midnight 🙂 but really I get home at 6:30 and dinner and breakfast prep and lunches packed for the next day are finished and done by 7:30 or so. On the weekend I dedicate 2 or 3 hours to making food ahead for the week, and for the freezer and thats about all.

      • May 7, 2012 at 2:17 PM

        Yeah, that’s really not bad for time at all 🙂 And with all of the buying in bulk, you probably spend way less time on food and home stuff then most people, considering that you don’t have to go to the store every few days.

      • Cheryl said,

        August 4, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        I would love to see a post about how you accomplish this. You’re right…looking at this list, I thought, how would I ever have the time to do all this? We have four children, we both work full time, and now live in an old three-story home which requires a lot of TLC (not to mention cleaning…lol). I also have fibromyalgia, so trying to find the energy to do all this, even if I thought I had the time, seems nearly impossible. I am sure that these changes would have a positive impact on my health issues, which would be wonderful! We did start a small garden this year, and hopefully will be able to expand on this in the years to come. I am very interested in following a lot of the principles you put forth, so would very much like to do at least some of the above. I’m just having a really hard time trying to balance the time and preparation it takes with everything else going on. It’s hard enough right now for me to manage to get suppers on the table that everyone will eat. I have to admit, I am totally discouraged at this point. Any help you can offer by way of highlighting routines you have made based on your extensive experience would be greatly appreciated 🙂

      • August 22, 2013 at 9:23 AM

        Cheryl, Sorry for the long delay in replying. We are rarely indoors in the summer 🙂 In answer to your question, it isn’t easy. We started one thing at a time. We would have a discussion about GMO’s for instance, and make a plan to slowly start changing the foods we buy and prepare. We are both on board and make it happen together. Don’t try to change too many things at once.
        I also think that one of the reasons Rob and I accomplish so much is because of the things that we DON’T do. We don’t watch TV, we don’t go to bars, we don’t ‘hang out’, etc. Even on our recent vacation we brought home a cord of firewood :). We just aren’t idle unless we’re asleep 🙂

        I also think it’s important to prioritize. Some things are really important to us, like eating farm-fresh grass-fed meat and dairy products, and having a chemical free household, etc.. So we make those things happen. But we might compromise in other areas.

        In my opinion, you should make the changes that would most drastically improve your health condition first. Such as quitting coffee and sugar to support your adrenal glands, and start some major fermenting to add massive amounts of beneficial bacteria to your body. I have a friend who has had major results using probiotics to improve her fibromyalgia. She started with lacto-fermented lemonade (super easy!) and is now a fermenting addict like me. You can find lots of recipes on this blog, and many others.

        Let me know if you have any other questions. I hope this helped a little bit

  3. May 7, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Great post! Your list is extensive – I can see that I have a lot more things that I could be making myself. We’ve been doing a lot of these ourselves too. We never did buy packaged hamburger helper or rice a roni type meals, but we’ve replaced other packaged goods with homemade. I must try soap nuts some time too – I had never heard of them until you mentioned them in an earlier post. I don’t think they are as common where I am, but I’m sure I can find them if I try.

  4. May 7, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Where are you raising your chickens and pigs and things? Do you have to rent space for them?

    • May 8, 2012 at 8:24 AM

      Rob has a 100 year old farmhouse on 5 acres, so for now he’s in charge of raising the livestock, and I’m in charge of cooking it 🙂

  5. ybertaud9 said,

    May 7, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Now this is a real helper Food Lover!!! So sharing to help others save & be healthier making your own. Thanks! 😉

  6. May 7, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    […] How We Afford to Eat High Quality Food ( […]

  7. Wendy C said,

    May 7, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    This is awesome! Thank you

    Here is a link for growing your own grains

  8. Jennirific said,

    May 8, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    lovin this post! it’s crazy once you start elimating things and making them at home how much better it is 🙂 very cool to hear about your journey

  9. sccliving said,

    May 10, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    YAY! Another family like us! Great post. It can certainly be done and is so much more rewarding not to mention yummy!

  10. Reclaim Reconnect Renew LLC said,

    May 14, 2012 at 9:54 PM

    Reblogged this on Reclaim Reconnect Renew LLC and commented:
    Ever wonder how to make the most of your food dollars? This article gives loads of usable ideas. I personally have found that the more you make yourself, the better you feel and the more you enjoy what you are eating! If you start with quality ingredients you don’t have to do anything fancy and food just tastes good.
    Thank you so much for sharing and all your hard work compiling all this great inforamation.

  11. Natural Nutrition Nurse said,

    May 22, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. We are doing a lot of these things and can’t wait to incorporate more and more!

  12. May 24, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    Fabulous post! I wish more people knew how little all those convenience foods really help. Once you get used to cooking real food it’s really not that difficult. It’s more a retraining of your brain that has to take place. Out with the old habits and in with the new. And the health benefits are amazing. I can tell right away if I haven’t been eating right ~ I’ll start feeling run down and tired all the time.

  13. April 7, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    […] How We Afford to Eat High Quality Food […]

  14. Regan said,

    June 2, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    I have really grown to love this site and visit frequently before shopping/meal planning.
    I think it is so interesting, informative and eye opening. I especially like the information about soy and soy products, a conversation i find my self in with some of my “health nut friends” ie- always eating tofu and soy based everything. She will never understand the taste of raw cow milk.
    Self sustainability, supporting local co ops and farmers is so helpful and beneficial to everyone.
    Its not about being perfect, its about making progress.

    ( i always think its odd that “progression”, to me, is really going back to a simpler way of life… or the past?)

    • June 9, 2013 at 6:54 PM

      Regan, thank you for your comment. I am always glad to find new friends who have the same passion for the true meaning of health. Keep reading!

  15. September 10, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Pretty! Thhis has been a reawlly wonderful post. Many thanks for providing tis information.

  16. TJ said,

    November 1, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    This is the epitome of conscious living. I can’t wait to read through all of the interesting items here. I feel so fortunate to have stumbled upon your page.

  17. Alison said,

    December 14, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    Great post! Where do you buy your rice? I am trying to find a middle ground between premium organic rice and the “regular” rice grown in India or China – where I have heard there are seriously questionable farming practices. As it is a staple for us, I don’t feel like I can shell out the big bucks for organic, and I would be happy with technically non-organic rice if I knew it wasn’t grown in industrial waste water.

  18. Cinthya colindrez said,

    December 15, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    Woow !! Amazing , congratulation I am trying to make some change in my life and family ! You blog is wonderful !!! I love it !! Thanks for everything !!!

  19. Henry said,

    September 30, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    What States is this possible in? I live in Ohio, where raw milk, for the most part, is illegal, which is an example of how I can’t exactly do everything you are doing at the moment. Some years later when I have the proper income (I will be starting college soon) I want to be healthy and take care of myself properly like you. So where can I move to once I am in the position to do what you are doing?

    • Henry said,

      September 30, 2014 at 6:14 PM

      P.S: I am living off of food stamps and medical insurance provided by the government, but I would sincerely love to start eating healthily now, if I could.

  20. April 5, 2015 at 12:55 AM

    […] How We Afford to Eat High Quality Food […]

  21. April 28, 2015 at 6:58 PM

    All this sounds awesome, I just have one problem. All those things you say you make yourself, 1/2 of them I don’t use at all (hairspray, face wash, makeup) and the other half I am already making myself. I don’t buy packaged stuff besides pasta and I work. I barely have time to make my laundry soap, granola, yogurt and protein bars! How in the heck do you find the time? I have 4 kids and my budget is super tight. We have a garden and I am trying to get some chickens in the next year or so. I hate to complain, but I get really tired of hearing how easy it is to eat so healthfully and cheaply. It’s just not as cheap. I know the trade off is way better health (haven’t been to the doctor for over a year, with four kids, I call that divine intervention!). I love all your advice and resources, but please stop saying how simple and cheap it can be. I spend hours when I make my own stuff and it’s time away from family and chores in my house.

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