Real Food on a Budget: Is Perfection Realistic?

by lydia on November 3, 2012

Eating real food on a tight budget, sure takes a LOT of planning. I had a hard time planning my shopping list and menu for the upcoming week. That happens to me about once a month. (Coincidental? I think so.) I had some extra shopping to do today for other household needs, so I headed to Whole Foods since I was nearby. My shopping this week was fast and furious, and I ended up purchasing what I call ‘real convenience food’. My total spending this week came to right around $120.

What I bought; First I went to Whole Foods Friday afternoon, which is a bit of a hike from my house. I ended up buying a lot of turkey – I guess we’ll be getting some tryptophan this week! 3 pounds ground turkey thigh meat, 1 package of turkey thighs on the bone with skin, 2 packages of Applegate Farms turkey bologna, 5 lbs organic carrots, 2 jars organic peanut butter, 2 bags organic millet flour (they were 2 for $7), 1 bag organic frozen green beans, 1 bag organic snap peas, 1 bottle organic apple cider (to make Hard Cider with water kefir grains from this recipe). 3 1/2 gallons of raw milk and 4 dozen pastured eggs from my milk drop off. The Tropical Traditions coconut oil and coconut cream concentrate were given to me by someone local to me. Bonus!

The second photo was my shopping trip to Trader Joe’s on Friday evening. I didn’t have time to get to the produce market this week. Here’s what I bought:  1 lb of Wild Alaskan cod, 1 bag of frozen wild boreal blueberries, 5 lbs organic potatoes, 1 lemon, 1 bag raw cane sugar (they were out of organic sugar), organic frozen broccoli, 1 package grass fed cheddar, 2 packages of bacon ends (antibiotic and hormone free). I went for simple this time.

My meal plan was inspired as I shopped. I did know in advance what I needed for breakfasts and lunches, but dinners I just looked for what meat I could find and found veggies to pair with it and went from there. It’s going to be simple, simple fare this week, because quite frankly this momma is tired. I’ll get re-inspired as Thanksgiving draws near. My energy in the kitchen goes in spurts, can any of you relate?


I want to take a minute and share some thoughts on this whole ordeal. Since I’ve started this series, I’ve actually encountered some criticism on my food choices. I’ve also received a lot of thanks and encouragement too. I am glad this series is helpful to folks. However, it’s those that criticize that I want to speak to for a minute. It’s true that I am putting myself out there and sharing my life openly – the reason I’m doing so is with the hopes of being completely REAL and showing people that eating real food can be done, despite budgetary restraints. Is every single item I show the most perfect option under the sun each week? Probably not, but that is NOT the point. Of course, I wish I could buy all and only pastured meats. Of course, I know that eating everything fresh and local is ideal, but yet not always feasible for a million and one reasons. Of course, I know that sugar is not optimal in a healthy diet. Perhaps, I buy sugar every week so I can make kombucha and water kefir and have probiotic beverages for my family all week long. I can’t afford to buy expensive probiotics, and my kids won’t eat most of the fermented vegetables I make, (other than pickles and cucumbers aren’t in season right now). I don’t want to waste good money on things they won’t eat to begin with. I guess I’m just a little saddened by the criticisms because my goal is not to be perfect, nor to hold anyone else to perfection. My goal is to eat real food and do the best I can for my family with the means that I have.  I am a single mom of 4 kids, and I don’t have endless energy to always be in the kitchen. However, I am in the kitchen a lot and I do work very hard to feed my family well, I’m also not willing to sacrifice my sanity and stress levels over being petty about whether everything I am doing food wise is absolutely perfect. (Whoever’s definition of perfect we are going by here anyway, I’m really not sure). I don’t like living by a sense of guilt based on not following some kind of set of ‘rules’ anyhow. I do think knowledge is power and it seems more and more we are finding out what is wrong with our food supply. That in itself can be overwhelming – with that information we can make wise choices and work to do the best we can for our own individual situations to eliminate or minimize certain things. I think as long as we are conscientious and not passive about what’s going on with our food system, we can certainly do a lot of good for ourselves and our families, without feeling like we have to worry about every single possible problem with all of our food choices.

I want people that are just starting on their real food journeys not to feel bad that they can’t buy all organic produce, even though they may want to. I want people to be okay with good or better, even when they can’t get the best. I want people to learn how to just buy real food instead of processed food. If that means buying a can of organic pumpkin rather than cutting up a fresh pumpkin and cooking it, yet instead of buying pumpkin pie filling or a store bought pumpkin pie, then kudos to them. They are one step closer to healthier and one step further away from the processed life they used to lead. I may be someone who is supposed to be an example and as a nutritional therapist I certainly should probably be doing everything ‘perfect’. Yet, if that is how things are viewed, I think we are all missing the point. I hope no one will fault me for not living up to their expectations, and I won’t fault you for living up to what you can manage. And I hope that some of you will be relieved to see me buy store bought ice cream once in a blue moon (one container often feeds up to 9 people when I buy it) – it’s one thing I do give in to on occasion. (even though I know homemade from raw cream would be the BEST option).

Fortunately, I do not have any serious health issues, nor do my kids where we need to be super strict or on any strict dietary protocol at this time. (other than gluten). That would certainly make it much more difficult. So, I am thankful we have that flexibility in my home. Right now, it’s about fully bellies on a dime in the best way I can muster for my crew. I hope that others will relate and find the strength to plug away at the goal of sticking to real nourishing foods, even on a tight budget.

Stay tuned for more of my journey on a tight budget – I plan to write more about guilt, real food elitism and being realistic when it comes to healthy eating.

Looking for real, traditional, gluten-free recipes for Thanksgiving? Check out my ‘Thanksgiving Classics’ ebook, available now for just $4.95.

Affiliate links are used where appropriate, which allow me to earn a small commission on your sale. This does not affect your price at all and is a cost of doing business for the affiliate companies. The monies earned from those commissions are like a tip at a restaurant and help support the maintenance of the website and free content. Shop on Amazon?  There’s a handy search box over in the right-hand side bar you can click through to shop on Amazon. You’ll get the very same prices, plus a portion of what you spend will support this site. Thank you!
X is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to (“your website name” (, or,,, or – See more at:
X is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to (“your website name” (, or,,, or – See more at:


X is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to (“your website name” (, or,,, or – See more at:
X is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to (“your website name” (, or,,, or – See more at:

LydiaLydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. Sign up for the Divine Health From The Inside Out newsletter! Pick up a copy of Lydia’s eBook; ‘Divine Dinners: Gluten-Free, Nourishing, Family-Friendly Meals’.

Lydia offers specialized step by step counseling to transform your health. Personalized consultations to suit your specific needs are offered via phone or in person. Lydia offers a variety of packages offered to suit your individual needs. Lydia also offers 3 online course: Heal Your Gut, Get Healthy To Lose Weight and A Calm Mind. Contact Lydia today to get started as well as to learn more about what she has to offer you!



  Subscribe to Divine Health
  From The Inside Out

We hate spam more than you do,
and we don't do it.

Join our weekly newsletter and get
our 52 Healthy Habits to Take Care
of Your Body FREE!



Julie November 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm


I have been following your page for a few months. Please keep on your path and do not become discouraged. There are so many good decisions to be made. I too as an organic farmer can feel the guilt and critical comments if I am not living the pure, grass fed, insert whatever thing you want, food life. Reality happens, especially when the money picture changes. Thank you for the work you do.

lydia November 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

Thanks Julie! I appreciate your comment!

Michelle H November 4, 2012 at 5:59 am

Thank you for sharing. You are inspiring me.

lydia November 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

Glad to hear it Michelle, thanks for your comment!

Steph O. November 4, 2012 at 7:07 am

Well said!! I have been accepting this hard reality myself lately. My stress levels have been way too high and I also have craft hobbies that I enjoy. My energy for the kitchen goes in spurts as well. I decided that I can eat the most ideal diet, but if I am completely stressed out, it won\’t do me any good anyway. I have been trying to balance nutrition and stress. With a strong history of breast cancer in my family I find this particularly important.

And cudos to you raising those 4 boys on your own. My hubby is currently away for 2 whole weeks leaving me at home with 3 kids 5 and under. It really leaves me appreciating what all you single parents manage to do 24/7. Keep up the good work!

lydia November 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks for your encouragement Steph! Stress is a key piece of how our health is managed – we can eat all the healthy food in the world, but if we stress ourselves out even more – it takes a huge enough toll all our efforts can be futile.

Leslie R. November 4, 2012 at 8:01 am

Personally, I am encouraged by this series and how you are sharing ways to get Real Food on a budget. Not everyone can afford a freezer full of grass-fed beef and pastured chicken. Purists can lead the way, but the rest of us need to know that eating packaged frozen green beans from WF isn\’t really a compromise, but a good decision. Moving in the right direction is just as important. To help those on a budget, I\’ve created a post on how to make a Pickl-It.

lydia November 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks for sharing Leslie!

erin @ from city to farm November 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

Amazing post…and honestly, I feel like those that are the most heavy handed with the criticisms probably have the most skeletons in the closet (maybe they are secret kraft mac and cheese addicts, gasp!) and they are working their issues out on you.

One step at a time is how we all got to where we are, and I love that you\’re sharing that message!

PS. Thanks for sharing that hard cider link, that\’s exciting!

lydia November 5, 2012 at 10:54 am

Much appreciated Erin! Yes, I’m excited about the kefir cider – it should be ready tomorrow, can’t wait to try it!

Tina November 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thank you for sharing your life and budget. I’ve been trying to feed my family healthily on a budget for years. Glad I’m not the only one out there. Love your post, don’t let anyone’s comments discourage you, you are doing an awesome job!

Kate November 6, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Love what you\’re doing! Keep it up. You\’re an inspiration!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: