Real Food on a Budget: Enjoy Your Food

by lydia on December 15, 2013

Are you someone who is trying to buy healthy real food items for your family while on a budget? Perhaps you are one of those people who say it’s too expensive to eat real food, including grass fed meats and raw milk. Either way, I’m here to share a series of posts with you to show you how I manage to feed my family of 5 healthy, gluten-free food on a budget all year long.


This week my challenge is to stay on budget, but I also really want to enjoy my food. (Don’t you?) I only have around $600 to work with this month. I’m slowly depleting my stockpile and seeing items I need to replace. For now, I’m keeping a running list of items to replace. In the meantime, it’s time for me to get creative with what I do have on hand. Just to give you and idea of what I have on hand for meat; 1 whole chicken, 2 pork shoulders, 3 lbs. of beef cubes, 1 brisket, 1 ribeye roast, 1 pork jowl, oxtail, ham hocks, 4 cans of crab, 4 cans tuna and plenty of organ meats. I also have an entire batch of pate in the freezer, and a few quarts of various soups. After that I’m out of my stocked up meat supply and won’t have anymore until early January when I get my 1/4 cow (which at this time, I have no idea how I will afford). Meat is THE MOST expensive part of my budget. I’m trying to make what I have really stretch this month, it will definitely be a challenge.

What I Bought


I was able to get to the store on Friday (December 6th), as well as have my milk, eggs, cheese and cream delivered (read more about my raw milk cooperative here). Each gallon of milk is $3.50, the cream is $8 per quart, the eggs are $3 per dozen, the gelatin was $45 (I used a gift card), the coffee was $15, Mama’s coconut blend was $21.39 (I used a gift card) and all the produce was $27. The grand total =$137 – $66.39 from the Amazon gift card, bringing the total to= $70.61. Then I made a super quick trip to Trader Joe’s Friday evening for 2 things, peanut butter and bacon and spent $8. I got snowed in on Sunday and couldn’t shop as planned, then we had yucky weather Monday morning and delayed school opening. I had to wait until Tuesday (the 10th) afternoon after the snow stopped to hit Trader Joe’s again. This time I knew my menu plan and had a full list with only $80 left to spend (see what I bought below).


Trader Joe’s trip: 1 bag organic Russet potatoes, 1 – 2 lb bag organic rainbow carrots, 1 -1lb bag organic carrots, 1 bag Organic Romaine lettuce (for the guinea pig), bag of jasmine rice, organic brown rice pasta, 2 cans organic tomato paste, 1 bottle organic grape juice, 1 jar organic strawberry jam, 1 bag uncrystallized candied ginger, 1 hunk Kerry Gold butter, 3 Larabars, 2 bags chocolate chips, 1 bag frozen mango chunks, 1 bag frozen wild blueberries, 1 bottle Ginger Brew (I really just wanted the bottle), a bag of salami and 3 packages bacon (not pictured). I spent $61. About halfway through the week I did a quick Trader Joe’s run (no picture), because cooking school lunches from scratch was killing me. I spent just about $22,  bringing my December spending to $153.61. We also received a case of Florida oranges from my aunt for Christmas, they arrived on Tuesday during a snowstorm. That was a nice bonus -since fresh fruit is hard to keep on hand around here.

By the end of the week almost everything in the second photo was used up. I had 1/3 bag of pasta left, hadn’t even opened the rice as that was a stockpile item. 1 bag of chocolate chips, 1/3 bag of mango and a tiny bit of jam were also leftover, along with 1 can of tomato paste. What was left from the first photo; all the cranberries (as I froze those, stockpile item), most of the gelatin, 1 quart cream, 1 bag of flour, a couple onions, the inside of the celery (which I placed in my freezer bag of veggie scraps for stock making),  1 1/2 heads garlic and about 1/3 of the coffee. On my next shopping trip I plan to stock up on meat a bit. I think I have enough filler items to get by eating out of the pantry another week later on this month or in early January if need be.

Enjoy Your Food

This week, instead of listing all our meals and prep, I just want to focus on one thought – enjoying your food.  If you’ve spent any time scouring the internet for articles on food budget, you’ll likely find a lot of the same pinch-your-pennies types of advice. You may also find meal plans with a lot of starches and really boring meals. Maybe you’ve even read, ‘The Tightwad Gazette‘(<–amazon affiliate link, but also look for a copy at your local library). There is something entirely intriguing about the discipline of figuring out how to make it all work on a dime, I’ll admit. However, it almost feels like a death sentence to live on a tight food budget when you read some of the stuff out there (like this for example). I’m not willing to sacrifice so much that I won’t enjoy or look forward to my food. Sure, I could have oatmeal every day for breakfast, lentil soup for lunch and Fried rice for dinner -but would I be satisfied? For me, that would be a big resounding NO.

I’m not tightening up my food budget because I want to cut corners somewhere else in my budget, I’m doing it because I have no choice. When I have more money, I WILL increase my food budget no doubt about that. I don’t know when that will happen as my income fluctuates and is VERY unstable. For this very reason, I try very hard to stock up when I can so I can be more flexible when the belt gets tightened. I also want to avoid being bored with my food, and forcing myself to eat vegetarian meals or too many carbs. I hope to share more of how I do this with you in the New Year. It’s almost like playing a game of chess, with all the waiting and strategy involved, and never knowing what move will come at you next.

As you can see, there are a few not so thrifty items I purchased this past week (coffee, raw cream, special Ginger beverage). Perhaps you could say the chocolate chips are not necessary, but necessary is not what I’m going for here. My goal with my food budget is to still truly enjoy our food. Could I enjoy living on rice and beans? No! Could I survive on rice and beans if I had to? Well, yes I suppose I could though I doubt I would feel very good from doing so. The reality is, food is meant to be nourishing, fill our bellies and to be satisfying as well as something we look forward to. I believe it’s just as important to enjoy our food -after all, we work so hard to put it on the table, why not enjoy it to the fullest?

Is part of your food budget goal to enjoy your food rather than just ‘get by’? If so, share in the comments how you include fun and pleasure into your food budgets. Check out these tasty recipes I tried this past week too…….


New Recipes We Tried This Week

This meal was A M A Z I N G! I highly recommend trying this recipe the next time you have a whole chicken. I happened upon the recipe rather luckily and had all the ingredients on hand (well mostly). This made one awesome dinner, I then made stock out of the bones and shredded up the rest of the meat and made chicken noodle soup (4 quarts), which made one dinner for all of us and two lunches for me. I also enjoyed leftover veggies from this dinner for 3 more meals for just me.

These were so easy and I actually had the ingredients – I subbed millet flour for the sorghum flour and they turned out great! My boys LOVED them, probably in part because I never really serve bread. We had a couple leftover and I used them to make breakfast sandwiches for my teenager the next day. These rolls are great for someone with an egg allergy or if you are entertaining a vegan.

  • Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I rarely make chocolate chips cookies anymore. My kids have sort of pathetically reminded me of this fact, trying to make me feel sorry for them (like I’m somehow ruining their childhood because I’m not the kind of mom who always has milk and cookies waiting for them when they arrive home from school). I guess it sometimes takes pinching your pennies and trying to make everything for school lunches from scratch to force a momma to bake more. I’ll be sharing my recipe with you on the blog soon!

  • Pressure Cooker Curry Beef

I have a pressure cooker, but I hardly use it. I think I’m still mentally challenged by it (I’m working on getting over that). I had part of my Ribeye roast left at the end of the week and another small round steak in the freezer that I decided to try in the pressure cooker. At the end of a long day of shopping with my boyfriend and driving through the snow, I threw a bunch of veggies and my meat into the cooker and whipped us up an awesome dinner in 30 minutes. I don’t have a recipe for this exactly. I shared it to encourage the use of a pressure cooker if you have one -because honestly, sometimes time is money. I just started a board on Pinterest this weekend with loads of pressure cooker ideas – you can check out my board HERE.


If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, please comment below. I want to hear from you if this series is beneficial to you in some small way. What other types of posts would you like to see related to real food on a budget? Share below…….




More Real Food on a Budget Posts

Two more blogs to check out that share about real food on a budget are; Economies of Kale and Frugal Paleo.

Also, check out this post from Simply Foody about how she purchases food on a budget through Amazon. She does a lot of gluten free baking (something I’m trying to do more of) and has some great tips!

Have you learned to work within a budget and still manage to consume healthy real food year round? I want to hear from you. What tips and tricks have you learned along the way? Please share in the comments.


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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 courses: Heal Your Gut, Revitalize Your Health and A Calm Mind. Contact Lydia today to get started as well as to learn more about what she has to offer you!



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{ 1 comment }

Debra E May 9, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Share your chocolate chip cookie recipe on the blog soon!

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