I have a passion for keeping track of income and expenses. Nutrient dense, organic, whole foods do cost more than conventional foods, but there is always a way to budget for this if you want to make nutrition a priority in your life.
Eating organic, grass fed, pasture raised, wild caught whole foods does not have to happen overnight. You can transition to this way of eating at your pace.
Steps to Budgeting Nutrition
1. Know what your income and expenses are.
If you don't know how much you spend on food you eat each month, this can be a good starting point. Keep all of your receipts for all of your expenses - food, toiletries, utilities, clothes, books, restaurants, monthly savings, misc items, etc for at least one month.
Then using either Quickbooks, if you already have this tool, or my nutrition budget tracking template, see below, put in your income and all your expenses for the month. This will help get an idea of what your fixed expenses are, what else you are spending your money on, monthly savings, and where you can spend less so you can purchase the nutritional foods you want.
2. Determine what you would like to add or change for food purchasing for a month and figure out how much this will cost now. You may need to plan out a weeks worth of meals or look at your grocery receipts to see what foods you will be swapping and how much more that will cost.
You can go to the grocery store to get prices or some stores have their food items on their website with the price. Do not put a sale price down because you can't count on that being a consistent cost and always round up if unsure just to be safe. It is better to have change than go in debt.
3. Then see if you have the money to spend on your new groceries and if you don't see what you expense or expenses you want to cut back on or eliminate to make room for your nutrition priority.
4. Double check your math.
5. Save up the money for your new grocery plan first, then buy a couple days worth or weeks worth if the food will store up to a week or you have time to make meals and eat them and freeze them.
6. Evaluate how one week went to see if things are on track with budgeting, having enough food, etc.
7. Readjust budgeting if needed and try another week.
8. Continue step 7 for the month.
9. Re-evalutate how things are going. See if you want to add or change your food purchases or if you want to continue with this for another month.
10. Continue to evaluate, budget, and add in the nutritious foods you would like to have for your long term nutritional goals. Making nutrition a priority can be so rewarding and enjoyable!
Many Seattle farmers markets and other local farmers markets offer a way for people to use their EBT/SNAP dollars to help make their food more affordable. There are some regulations and budgeting ahead of time can be helpful.
More information on Fresh Bucks Match and Fresh Bucks Vouchers to use at farmers markets, Safeway and neighborhood grocer and farm stands.
Safeway stores in WA State, except for Seattle stores, offer coupons for EBT/SNAP users on produce. Seattle has another program called Fresh Bucks.
Alison with Food by Mars shares some good tips to help make your dollars be sustainable for healthy eating, from using leftovers or freezing them for future use, and which nutrient dense foods are more cost effective.
Meghan Telpher with Academy of Culinary Nutrition shares her list of budget friendly nutritious foods, some money saving tips and a few recipes.
Kumiko in her "The Budget Mom" blog breaks down all of her favorite fruits and vegetables in a month-by-month guide based on season for best prices. She also keeps this guide on her fridge as a reference.
While they wait for government programs like SNAP to catch up, if you meet the income qualifications for SNAP, you are eligible for Imperfect Food's Reduced Cost Box Program, which takes 30% off the cost of your order, every time you order. This works out to buying produce for less than half what it would cost at the grocery store. Click the 'Find Out More' button below for more information. They are based out of San Francisco, CA.