5 Tips for Whole Foods on a Budget


It seems as though there is a common perception that  whole foods are too expensive if you are on a budget.

While organic foods do cost more, that does not mean that you it is all or none. Today I wanted to share a few tips with you about how I try to maximize those precious budget dollars to get the best nutrition with what we have to spend.

1.  Buy a Whole Chicken instead of Boneless/Skinless Breasts

Buying a whole chicken is much more economical when you consider the price per pound. I normally try to buy pasture raised chickens from a local farmer, but when I can’t get those, I buy the antibiotic/hormone free chickens from the local supermarket for less than 2 dollars a pound (a mere fraction of the cost of boneless breast meat)!

The last chicken I bought cost about 7 dollars. First, I cooked the chicken on low in the slow cooker for about 4-6 hours, then I got all the meat off the bones. Next I put the bones in a stock pot, added some water, onions, celery and carrots, boiled it and voila- homemade stock! (Did you know that an ancient proverb says that good stock can resurrect the dead?)

I was able to use half of the meat for one meal and use the other half, along with some of the stock, to make a delicious soup that my family loved! We love making easy chicken bites, simple baked chicken and all sorts of yummy soups.

2. Know When To Splurge on Organic

Every year the environmental working group puts out a list of the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. By simply avoiding the dirty dozen you can avoid about 80 percent of pesticides!

At our house, since we are on a budget, I buy conventional produce for everything except for the dirty dozen and make sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and veggies for at least 30 seconds.

3. Save Big by Making your Own

Some items are easy to make and can help you save a lot of money. I make my own yogurt and save 75% by making it!

A quart of conventional yogurt costs $3. A conventional gallon of milk costs about $3.50 (and it yields 4 quarts of yogurt!). So, if you go through one quart of yogurt per week and make your own yogurt for a whole year you will save over $100!!

That might not seem like a lot by itself, but every little homemade item adds up and together they can equal big savings.

Here are just a few items that we make ourselves:

4. Start the Day with a Wholesome BreakfastBreakfast cereal is very expensive and not nearly as nutritious as oatmeal or eggs! So many of the cereals marketed as healthy are actually chock full of sugarand some even have more sugar than a twinkie or a serving of chocolate chip cookies.

Plus, oatmeal is a definite money saver when you compare it to cereal. The average box of cereal costs about $3 and supposedly yields 16 servings, which equates to 19 cents per serving (but I bet that if you actually measured out the cereal you would discover you’re eating a lot more than what is stated to be a serving).

A container of oatmeal with 30 servings costs $3.25, which works out to be about 11 cents per serving. And don’t worry about getting bored having the same old oatmeal over and over. Check out the 40 fun and healthy oatmeal toppings. You could have oatmeal for a month without serving the same flavor twice (not that I’m advocating that).

And, there are plenty of other yummy and healthy options for breakfast other than just oatmeal and eggs.

5. Supplement Meat with More Vegetables, Beans and Whole Grains

Bulk up your recipes by adding in some properly prepared beans or grains such as quinoa or brown rice to make your meal stretch a little farther.

When we’re having taco salad, we can easily stretch out the amount of meat by adding in some pinto beans. Or, if you’re serving a casserole, you can cut back on the amount of meat without it being too noticeable. We also have a few nights per month that are meatless (and my husband, who is a classic steak and potatoes guy) is good with it!I guess I could go on and on, but I’ll stop at those 5 suggestions on how to maximize your money buying healthy, whole foods.

What are you best secrets for eating healthy on a budget?

33 comments to 5 Tips for Whole Foods on a Budget

  • I love all your tips here Katie. Eating whole foods doesn't have to be more expensive but it can be! Great tips.

  • These are truly wonderful tips, Katie! Especially about knowing when to buy organic and buying whole chickens. Thanks for sharing! Love your new blog design, too. Very crisp and clean!

  • Lisa Moser

    Great tips! But I'd definitely add organic milk to your list of things to buy organic. It's $7 a gallon at Whole Foods (Also, not all organic milk is created equal…stay away from Horizon and Target!)

    I heart Whole Foods!

  • Katie

    One thing I think is important when buying organic milk is to make sure that it is not ultra high temperature pasteurized. If it is then everything has been cooked out of it and it is pretty much shelf stable and they are just refrigerating it to make us feel good from what I understand.

    I heart whole foods too :) Thanks for your tip, Lisa.


  • Katie

    Thanks, Georgia! I'm glad the tips are helpful and hope things are well with you.


  • Katie

    Thanks, France. I am all about trying to think of ways to make it easier for anyone, regardless of their budget :)


  • One thing you really didn't get deeply into is tapping into local sources for food. When you buy local, you know where it comes from, you can ask the farmer about their practices, etc. We have some local food producers who are working towards organic certification, but still have time to wait before it can happen, so they charge lower prices but are using organic practices. We also have an AWESOME local food delivery service here that is consistently cheaper than Whole Foods and they deliver it to your door! They source all their food from as local as possible (they try to stick to a 100 mile radius) and they try to get as much organic or sustainably farmed as possible. If you are in the Midwest check them out- greenbeandelivery.com. It saves money because unlike a co-op, there is no weekly requirement. You order it only on the weeks you need it!
    If you have a local dairy you can get organic, low-temp pasteurized milk cheaper. I agree with the previous poster- I don't allow non-organic dairy in my house, it is freaky. No non-organic meat as well. Getting my meat from a local organic food supplier gives me peace of mind! To make it more affordable, we simply eat vegetarian a couple of nights a week and don't have gigantic portions.
    I applaud you for pointing out that it doesn't have to be all or nothing! I do count myself as very fortunate that we can afford to buy the quality of food we choose- but I would gladly sacrifice fashion, entertainment, etc. if we couldn't to make it happen. I mean, you ingest food into your body, it's what is making your kids grow….why would you want to ever cut corners!!!

  • Katie

    Those are some great points, Catherine. The 5 tips I gave are just the tip of the iceberg with whole food on a budget.
    We try to buy as much as possible locally and currently get our eggs, milk, meat and various produce locally. It is nice to support local farmers and try to get a better quality.


  • I laughed when you talked about making stock with bones — and then commented that some said good stock can raise the dead. The refrain from Them Bones Gonna Rise Again popped into my head!! (Maybe I survived too many campfire singalongs!) Great article and spot on! I would love it if you would link up with Busy Monday at A Pinch of Joy, a linky party for ideas that make life better.

  • Great tips. One of the best ways we save money is by buying in bulk. Since we are dedicated to eating a grain-free, low legume, mostly local, mostly organic and pasture raised diet – and we've got two growing tweens – bulk buying is really important to our budget! We recently calculated the savings we got by buying a whole beef. Even with the added cost of buying another freezer and running it, we came out WAY ahead! It takes some doing to get the cash flow figured out so that bulk purchases will be possible, but it's well worth it!

  • Katie

    :) Thanks, Charlene. I'll try to stop by when I'm at my computer.


  • Katie

    I'd love to get a freezer to be able to buy a side of beef! I also want to get a grain mill. We shall see what happens…

  • Grow a garden, grow a garden, grow a garden and then…grow a garden! Even if it's just posts on a windowsill, it's local, you learn so much, and you can't get any fresher!

  • Wonderful tips! I love that you kept it simple. I'm going to add this to the thrifty links on my blog.

    One huge thing that helps our budget is cutting down on waste. It was shocking how much we were wasting. When I started to pay attention to that it really helped.

  • Katie

    That is so true. Being conscientious of waste is really important. Even now, when I try to pay close attention, I know that there is still room for improvement.


  • Katie

    That is definitely a good one to add!


  • Good tips; thanks! Whole/organic foods are definitely affordable — just stop buying the processed junk food to free up money for clean ingredients. We waste far less when we buy whole/organic foods as well –when I used to buy conventional apples for .50/lb I'd toss one out if a kid took one bite and it turned brown. Now I pay $1.67/lb for organic apples; I slice the apples, the kids eat as many slices as they want, and I can use the leftovers in a smoothie.

  • Rebekah

    Oops – most of your recipe links go to the same recipe! I'd love to check the others out. Thanks.

  • Katie

    Thanks for letting me know, Rebekah. I will have to check into that issue!


  • Katie

    That is a great point. It does make us more conscientious of our waste when we're buying organic. I've never tried using apples in smoothies, but that sounds tasty!

  • Katie

    I've got that fixed now :) I really appreciate you letting me know. Thank you!

  • I think comparing the cost to other foods reminds us how cheap good food is too. Carrots = $2 a kilo. Mars bars = $30 a kilo.

  • Katie

    That is a VERY good point!


  • Thanks, It's always good to find extra ways we real foodies can save money!

  • Katie

    I think so too :) you're welcome!


  • These are all great. I would add finding inexpensive cuts of grassfed meat that you can eat off of for multiple meals. i.e. – roast, hash, broth, etc.

  • Katie, I would like to feature this practical and very helpful post this Wednesday on "EOA'. I think this will help a lot of gals to understand this topic better!! Love your blog, friend!

  • Katie

    Thank you, Jacqueline. You are always so positive and uplifting. Your blog is such a pleasure to visit.


  • Wonderful post. I buy all of our fruits and veggies organic…and it is soo painful. I hadn’t ever heard of the Dirty verses clean list. I will find that! Thanks for the tips.

  • Wonderful list of tips! I’m always on the lookout for healthy alternatives to add into our diet and it’s always nice to discover new ways of saving money while doing it!

  • That’s a great list, and that’s the mentality I use for most of my cooking now. I’m sure that there’s a lot I can improve on, but I’ve about halfed my grocery budget from what it was 18 months ago, and my food quality has skyrocketed- pretty much by shopping by that.

    If you can’t get local chickens (I can’t, at least not at a price point I can afford anyway) oddly Target of all places has the best price on clean/clean-er whole chickens that I’ve found.

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