Real Food Done Frugally – Getting Started

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The holidays are officially over at our house, so it’s time to get our hands dirty with the Real Food Done Frugally budget. Since my post last week, I’ve gotten plenty of great tips.

Some of my favorite ideas from readers for sticking to a budget:

Soli @I Believe in Butter is planning to make more cultured veggies, rather than buying them.  Simple but smart.  I’m going to do this too.

Steph says she’s “making a lot more soups.”  I usually do one per week, but I bet I can save a bunch on lunches out if I make an extra soup each week.

Avivah @ Oceans of Joy works with a tight budget has some great tips: “Buy in bulk, buy direct from the source, cook everything from scratch, buy only what’s in season, don’t shop with a list but rather stock up on what’s on sale, build your pantry, know where to compromise, and don’t feel guilty when you’re doing the best you can!”  Wow. Wisdom from an expert – Thanks Avivah! I love the idea of stocking up with what’s on sale, and that’s just what I did this week at one of my favorite farm stands.

Jenn says “Meal planning makes a huge difference.”  Check out my first attempt:

Meal Planning – Week of Jan 9th

Aside for sticking with Real, nutrient dense food, we don’t adhere to a specific diet at our house, but we do limit grains because we all seem to feel better this way. Kid Two is currently not eating gluten and cow dairy, and I try to steer clear grains, bean, and white potatoes.

For breakfast we usually eat eggs every morning – approximately 7 per day. Kid One and Daddy have sprouted toast, Kid Two may have avocado, and I will generally eat my eggs with some leftover meat and cultured veggies. Cultured ketchup often guest stars for the other family members.  Occasionally we shake things up and have soaked oatmeal with butter and frozen berries.

Snacks for the kids are usually avocado, farm box fruit or carrots, goat cheese, yogurt, sprouted toast with cashew butter or homemade crackers.

Lunch and dinner tend to meld together on most days – Often we will do a big pot of food – roast chicken, slow cooked meat, or a casserole dish that we eat for lunches and dinners. In the warmer months we eat more salads and steamed veggies and less warming stews. Below is a peek into our plan for a typical winter week.  These will be accompanied by seasonal veggies – the more the merrier – to fill out the meals.

A Typical Week

MONDAY – Roast chicken

TUESDAY – Slow cooked meat (pork, beef, bison, lamb)

WEDNESDAY – Fish with veggies for dinner.

THURSDAY – Pureed soup from Monday’s leftover chicken carcass and farm box veggies + Left overs or an easy tuna veggie melt (sans bread).

FRIDAY – Casserole or slow cooker veggie based meal with plenty of fat and some leftover meat.  This may be a cabbage curry, spaghetti squash bolognese, shepard’s pie (with cauliflower mash), quiche, or whatever I can dream up with what’s left from the farm box.

SATURDAY –  Farm box veg (new delivery arrives on Saturdays) with soaked grains and beans. (I’m at work with packed leftovers or a cheese and meat plate from home).

SUNDAY – Fun Day! – GF pizza, homemade nachos, burgers sans buns with fries, etc.

Do you do meal plans?  This was such an interesting exercise which makes me realize that I usually have Monday through Wednesday covered, and then we typically flail about the rest of the week resulting in several lunches out at restaurants for the grown-ups when we’re at work and quick (read: expensive) trips to the market to buy last minute meals and snacks.

I think meal plans alone may save us quite a bit of cash!


Spending for the Week of Jan 9th

Farm Box (Abundant Harvest Organics) – Base ‘box’ plus add-ons – $76.85

  • 3 dozen pastured eggs ($7 per dozen)
  • 3 half gallons Organic Pastures raw milk ($7.35 each)
  • 1 pint Organic Pastures raw cream ($12 each)
  • Assorted fruit and veg including: 2 pomegranates, 3 pears, beets, potatoes, a small bunch of collard greens, lettuce, 1 acorn squash, lavender, a small bunch of spinach, 1 rutabaga, 1 leek. This was not the most ‘abundant’ of our boxes and I typically order our extra veggies as ‘add ons’ – I just didn’t have a chance this week.

Farmer’s Market trip – $100

I was only stopping by for some fresh veggies, but one of my farmers, Dey Dey’s, had their ground beef/liver mix on sale for $7/pound ($2 off!), so (at the advice of Avivah above) I stocked up and bought 12 pounds totaling $86. I also bought 4 small heads of red cabbage, 2 bunches of kale, and 3 heads of cauliflower – an extra 14 bucks.

Trader Joe’s – $57.19

  • Organic bell peppers (3) – $2.99
  • 4# Organic oranges $3.49
  • 4 pounds raw cashews (for cashew butter for school lunches and snacks) $6.99 each
  • 8 organic avocados ($6.98
  • 6 heads organic garlic $4.47
  • 2# organic pink lady apples $2.49
  • 72% dark chocolate (10oz) $3.58
  • 6 organic bananas (I prefer to buy local, but Kid Two goes absolutely crazy for bananas!) $1.74
  • 6 oz organic blueberries $3.49 (a treat for Kid One for helping mom)

TOTAL before any extras through the week:  $234.04

Since I’ve currently got a budget of approximately $250 per week, I’ve just about broken even – though the week hasn’t even started.  My big beef/liver purchase will mean that I need to put off buying cases of Bionaturae tomato paste and Coconut cream.  (I’m down to my last of each).  I realized the price of raw nuts is simply NUTS – does anyone have a cheaper source?

The good news: We have a plan to feed our family for the whole week, and a fridge and pantry ready to serve it up!  Secretly I’m enjoying the challenge.  Shhhh. Don’t tell my husband.

How’s your new year’s budget coming along?  Any pearls of frugality wisdom you can share?


**By the way, I think it’s important to note that I live in Los Angeles, where the wages, cost of living, and price of food may differ from where you live. My budget may be more or less than yours, but the way I see it, we can all benefit from a collective cyber-community of wisdom when it comes to saving pennies. Thanks for reading!

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  1. says

    I love your advice to stock up on seasonal items. I need to start doing this! I really appreciate you being so open about your spending. It makes me feel less guilty for the money I spend on real food! I have decided to start eating more organ meats. This will be a huge money saver for us at less than 3 dollars for several meals of organ meats! Also, I finally found a source for raw dairy and I am going to start replacing some of the meat in my diet with dairy. This is partially to save money (meat is so much more expensive than milk, which I can turn into any dairy product I want) and partially because I want to get more raw/cultured food in my diet. Also, I am going to start cooking with more soaked beans which are far cheaper than meat. So those are my plans for now! Oh. Frozen wild-caught fish saves a lot of money too 😀

  2. Jennifer says

    I want to start by saying this is a well-written article; there are lots of great tips in here. However, I shudder to think this is “frugally.” We live on one income, and I thought maybe it was going to be beneficial to us. $250 a week for groceries? Frugal? I’m sorry – I mean no disrespect – but that isn’t “frugal” by many American’s standards. I am lucky if I can gather $100 a week for groceries; $7.50 a carton for milk would do our family in. We feed our family of 5, growing to six next summer, on a very strict budget. I think this is admirable, but not “frugal” by most American’s standards.

  3. Linnae says

    I love this post!! I also set my budget to $250 a week and I often wondered if any one else spent that much! Whenever I talk to family and friends- who do not eat REAL food, by the way- they shudder at the amount I spend on food. And I could spend a lot more if I had unlimited funds!! I spend this amount because REALgood food is important to us, its our medicine in a way. I often try to find ways to cut back the amount I spend and when I do we end up compromising and not buying organic produce or free range meats, etc. Its important to me and I make it a priority and thankfully we can manage it but other expenses do get pushed aside. For example I havent bought new clothes in years and I drive an older model car. I would love to find ways to spend less than what we are currently spending to “balance” things out, but right now its such a priority and I jsut don’t know how.

    • Liz says

      Thank goodness. I spend about $200/wk but that doesn’t include bulk meat purchases. So I am also at the $250/week range. I’m just happy I’m not alone…I was feeling guilty about the amount (NOT regretting it,, just felt like maybe I wasn’t being as frugal as I could be)…Awesome!

  4. says

    You’re way out of my budget league as well. LOL My family of eight has to get by on $150/week most weeks but we’re working it the best we can. We can’t afford to buy organic this and pastured that but we make up for it other ways, improving little by little as we can. We increased our flock of hens so that we’ll be supplying all of our own eggs again this year, along with meat. (We recently moved and had to sell our livestock so we’re starting from scratch.) We started bee hives last spring so we could have raw honey. We grow a huge garden each year. This year’s big project is to restart our goat herd for both dairy and meat needs, all pastured. It takes time — and a chunk of cash to get set up — but, if you can do that, scraping and clawing improvements here and there that pay for themselves (and the end result is healthier foods for your family), it eases the financial burden a year or two down the road. Of course, not everyone can have livestock but, for the folks that can do at least a bit, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

  5. dee m says

    We have always been a one income family. My children are grown and moved now. I grocery shopped every two weeks and our average grocery bill was usually $110. This included paper products, laundry, meats that we couldn’t grow ourselves … I never go shopping hungry or without a grocery list, but always kept an eye out for specials, but did not purchase unless I knew this was something I could tie into my meals for those two weeks. Every summer we grow a large garden, about 80×100 ft, we grow as much as possible. I freeze and can as much as I can, while eating fresh from the garden through the growing season, letting kale winter over. I make everything we eat from scratch. That is key to being ahead. Our daughters have all been moved out for several years now, and although produce and grocery prices have increased, our grocery budget is the same. I purchase free range eggs from local farmers for no more then $1.50 dzn. I buy fresh ground cornmeal from nearby organic farms and bulk gluten free flours and needs from a nearby menonite bulk stores. I guess what I want to say is be aware of the local farmers nearby, not all local farmers want high prices because their meat is grass fed or chickens free ranged. Get to know the farmers nearby you, being loyal to them means reasonable prices. Also, check out, they list every orchard, farm, who is selling in the area in which you live.

    Thank you Ricki for opening yourself up to all. I have shared your site with so many happy “gluten free” buddies.. we love your recipes.. feel better sooooooooooooon. :)

  6. Donna C. says

    I am not sure if they are in your area, but Azure Standard might be a good place for you to get produce, some meats, and non perishable food items that are organic (like spices). They have really reasonable prices. Like you posted, buying in bulk helps (such as 1/4 or 1/2 of a pastured cow) and storing in a deep freeze. Making your own mixes of beef and liver might be cheaper if you have a meat grinder. Eating more organ meats (just had heart the other night and couldn’t tell it from steak), since they are cheaper. Using meat a little less, and substituting with things just as nourishing, but less expensive, like bone broth. I would also try doing some freezer cooking. is a great site to look at, and you can make most of the recipes from “real foods”, substituting as you go. That will save you a lot of money over eating out. Could you barter with some of the farmers, in exchange for what you need? I know there is a CSA here that has a work for food program. On the third Saturday of the month, my husband and I can go work for 8 hours and get two weeks of organic veggies for free. Just a few things, besides making your own bread, ferments, etc. that I thought of. Good luck!

  7. Hannah says

    I second Donna C.’s idea of using Azure Standard for bulk purchases. They will ship non-perishable items through UPS; otherwise a truck delivers perishable and non-perishable items once a month. I’ve saved a fair amount of money in the long run buying things like raw nuts, dried fruit, beans, flours, grains, etc. in bulk through their company. I’ve also discovered that has great prices on a number of items (coconut oil, cod liver oil and maple syrup among them). We also bought a steer this year that will make it to our freezer in August. We always have the heart added to the ground meat to make sure we get those nutrients into even the most squeamish family members. If you have to come up with the money all at once, the price of bulk meat is a lot. But if you order in advance you’ll have months to set aside for it. Also, I have NO IDEA what your local laws are but if you’re able to keep even three chickens I’d highly recommend it. I pay $3.50 a dozen for pastured eggs and I thought that was high! Hope this helps! I really enjoy your blog.

  8. Morgan says

    Great ideas! Wishing you lots of luck on your journey to cut down. Like others here my budget doesn’t come even close to yours {our MONTHLY budget is close to your weekly budget} but I think it’s really admirable that you’re trying to make smart shopping choices-especially since by some people’s standards you don’t have to 😉
    Best of luck and looking forward to the updates!

  9. Lidia Seebeck says

    I love what several have said about gardening and raising chickens, goats, etc. Whatever you can do yourself, helps to cut costs. On half a dozen chard seeds, I can grow enough chard to feed my family of three greens at least once, and possibly twice, a week– for months. That’s a good ROI. Yes, $250 a week is steep. She lives in L.A. so cut her a break, okay? Everything is nuts out there. Lived (more like survived) Riverside for eight. I know the location of almost every HFS and more than a few farmer’s markets out there. I don’t have the name of a good egg dealer in greater L.A. but here in Colorado I found one selling pastured for $2 a dozen! Sometimes you can find the most amazing deals by going to the source. Get to know your farmers, sometimes they will cut you breaks. An organic farmer here that I know from when we used to live here gave me a cob bin for free. Dehydrate, freeze, ferment or (if you have to) can stuff in season for the off season. BTW, Trader Joe’s was the best price I knew of for nuts, although I seem to recall Jimbo’s (San Diego greater) sometimes had good nuts too.

  10. Lynne says

    Hi! Love this post. I live in San Diego & use Abundant Harvest CSA too so I relate to your food costs. We spend about the same as you for a family of 5 (3 kids, 7 & under). My one suggestion is for pastured eggs-$7/dozen just seems crazy high to me. I’ve had luck finding small farms or people with backyard chickens selling pastured eggs on Craigslist for $3-$5/dozen. Maybe something to try? : )

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