There seems a constant struggle in our home, and in many homes: juggling the expense of wholesome, natural and organic foods. My husband and I try our best not to compromise on the quality of foods we purchase for ourselves and our growing son, managing the ever-increasing costs of food is at the forefront of our minds each month while we filter through our budget.
So while I do what I can to manage my kitchen with intent, using every scrap so nothing goes to waste (even if that means making a single chicken stretch into 4 meals and a week’s worth of broth), I also try to stretch our food dollars further by simply spending less without compromising on quality. For us, this often means ordering items online for less than I would purchase them in the health food store, taking advantage of CSAs and farm shares as well as purchasing in bulk directly from local and regional farms.
Vitacost acts as an online health food store offering steep discounts on natural body care items, vitamins and supplements, as well as a natural and organic dried goods, pantry items and snacks. In addition to lower costs across the board, Vitacost also offers further sales and discounts from time to time. You can also search for brands and products that might not be carried by your local health food store, and, you can search for products by price as well. We save about 30-50% over what we pay at the local health food store, and shipping is free for orders over $49.
In addition to the low costs, you can also sign up for Set and Save which allows you to prepare a list of foods and other products you know you’ll need at regular intervals whether that’s once a month, once every two months or more. The Set and Save program gives you an additional 10% off the already discounted prices. Set and Save keeps things easier and less expensive for us, as I know the basics will arrive each month, and I spend less on last-minute items from the health food store.
Amazon Prime and Amazon Subscribe and Save.
While Vitacost tends to have the low overall prices, there’s a handful of items I purchase through Amazon each month. We have a subscription to Amazon Prime which provides free 2-day shipping on most of the items on the site. We also use Amazon’s subscribe and save feature which, like Vitacost’s Set and Save program, allows you to place a handful of items on an automatic subscription program to be sent to you each month at up to a 15% discount. Not only does the feature save us money through the 15% discount, but it also save us time since we have to shop less often for basic items we need like toiletries, and the handful of snacks and other food items we don’t purchase through Vitacost.
Mountain Rose Herbs.
I use herbs and spices for both culinary and medicinal purposes in my kitchen, and I tend to favor unusual varieties not easily found in grocery stores, especially in rural areas. I also prefer to use high quality, organic and wild-crafted herbs which can be both difficult to find locally, and expensive. For this reason, I purchase herbs and spices in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs every few months. These include herbs for my Homemade Root Beer and other homemade sodas, dried nettle leaf for nettle infusions, as well as cinnamon, clove, cumin and other culinary spices. Discounts from Mountain Rose Herbs vary depending on how much you purchase, and can be as steep as 25% which is why I purchase less frequently but in larger amounts. Mountain Rose Herbs also has excellent prices on culinary salts and coconut oil.
Bountiful Baskets is a program that operates as a cooperative or a buying club; that is, a collective of organizers, managers and volunteers place a bulk order from fruit and vegetable suppliers which allows them to offer the food at steeply discounted rates to members. Each box of organic fruits and vegetables costs $25. While I haven’t participated in Bountiful Baskets, a friend of mine who does estimates that she saves about $15 on each box of food she receives. Come winter time, when our CSA stops running, I anticipate signing up to receive the boxes. You can check out Bountiful Baskets here to see if there’s a drop-off site near you. The challenge with this program is that you are not in control of what you receive; rather, it functions as a CSA in that you receive a box of what is available.
Azure Standard, like Bountiful Baskets, operates by allowing members to purchase at bulk rates – essentially receiving roughly the same wholesale price as health food stores do. This allows you to purchase in bulk at discounted rates, while Azure doesn’t ship the items directly to your door like Vitacost does, you simply order online, and then pick up your order at the nearest drop-off point.
We also purchase a number of our foods directly from local and regional family farms. Working directly with the farmers ensures the prices are fair, and that the family responsible for growing and producing your food receives much-deserved income that is not reduced through distribution channels. To further reduce costs, we often purchase our foods in bulk from farms or we participate in farm share and CSA programs. For example, when a local farmer is processing chickens, we order a dozen or more and store them in the freezer, using one a week until it is time for the farmer to process birds again. We order whole lambs, and take advantage of cost savings of purchasing in bulk. We also purchase the bulk of our fruits and vegetables through a CSA program, which averages about $35/week – or a very affordable rate for the cooler’s (or two!) worth of vegetables and fruits we receive each week.
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