7 Ways to Save Money on Real Food

Save Money on Real Food

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.

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.

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.

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.

Farm-direct.

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.

This post contains affiliate links.  When you make a purchase from Vitacost, Amazon, Mountain Rose Herbs, Nourished Kitchen will earn a small commission or referral.  Thank you for supporting Nourished Kitchen in this way.

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What people are saying

  1. kate says

    I have been slowly collecting up herbs to make root beer (I have some nice shops that stock herbs in my area) but I have not been able to find winter green leaf. Mountain rose herbs does not appear to sell it either. Where do you get yours?

  2. Katherine says

    When I was younger, I would go to the farmer’s markets or wholesale produce markets towards the end when they were packing up. They’re willing to give you deals then. Worth a try!

  3. Andrea says

    I used Bountiful Baskets for the first time this past Saturday. My box had 13lbs of organic produce. On Sunday I went to our local grocery co-op for milk and eggs and priced what was in my BB order while I was there.

    With fees and gas BB was $3 More expensive than all organic ath the co-op I walk to for my shopping. And about half the produce I could have bought at the co-op was locally grown.

    For us, at least, BB isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you buy more than one basket and some of the add-ons it might drive the price per pound down enough to make it a good deal, but you will still be buying non-local food and taking your money out of your local economy.

    • says

      I was hooked on BB initially, but that is when we were relocating and I didn’t know anyone in our new area and did not have my own garden. Then I noticed the quality went downhill in the winter. I’m not sure if it was the distance to travel to our northern state, but the bananas were often frozen/mushy, and lettuces were brown, and etc.. So I was disappointed, and while it was exciting to get a box with who knows what in it, I realized we were wasting a lot of the food, or having to freeze it because no one in my family wanted to eat grapes and lettuce all day long. It has its pluses and minuses I guess. I have also heard from friends/farmers that it takes away from people buying locally.

  4. says

    I love Vitacost. If you are going to use it, why not sign up with Ebates. I shop Vitacost through ebates and can earn a rebate of 3-6% of my cost which you can receive by check, or I get my rebate in the form of Amazon gift cards. Just another way to save…

      • Lisa says

        Ebates.com is a website that refunds a percentage of your purchases . The %’s are different for every store. They run specials where they will increase a stores % back for a period of time. There are a LOT of stores that participate. I always check before I make any online purchase. They send out quarterly checks for any discounts you have accumulated. If you make a lot of on-line purchases you should really try it. I go through ebates every time I order from Vitacost. Right now the % is 3%. Doesn’t sound like much but it all adds up! :)

  5. Deborah Meade says

    A great way to save is to cut down on personal product use. If one showers daily, it may not be necessary to use a deodorant. This will not work for everyone, but it costs nothing to experiment. Daily hair washing may also be cut back. Simply wet the hair on alternate days. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap is great for both hair and body. A very little goes a long way. Alternatively, there are good recipes online for personal care products on line that cost far less to make than buy. I use only baking soda to brush my teeth.
    Buy the large box. It lasts; it’s cheap!

  6. Shelley says

    I have been buying from our Azure buying club, Vitacost, Mountain Rose Herbs and Amazon also. We get produce, milk and meat from local farmers, and we have a UNFI buying club. We order from Country Life Natural Foods too. To save on shipping fees (Country Life has free delivery if you have a $400 or more order) we put a large order together with a few friends and relatives.

  7. Erin says

    I am completely fed up with Green Polka Dot Box. I joined several months ago and was so excited – their prices were fantastic and they carried a bunch of items that are staples in my kitchen. But since about mid-August, almost everything I buy has been out of stock. I can no longer get dish soap, dishwasher detergent, raw almonds, or coconut milk, and I just went on the site today and sure enough, now three more items I use regularly are out of stock. I don’t buy processed foods, even when they’re organic, and that seems to be mostly what GPDB has in stock on a regular basis. I literally can’t put together a $75 order and it’s been two months since I ordered last. I now feel like the $50 I spent on a yearly membership was a total waste of money because it looks like I won’t even be able to break even. I’ve contacted customer service three times now to inquire as to whether the items I need will be back in stock any time soon – so far I’ve been told that they were “working their inventory count for the quarter” and wouldn’t be adding any items until that process was finished (September); that they were renegotiating their arrangements with many of their vendors (early October), and I believe the most recent response was that they were moving their operation to a new warehouse. Regardless, as great as their prices are, it does me no good when there are only two items I want in stock and a $35 minimum order. It’s a great concept and I wish it worked better but I’d strongly suggest tracking the items you buy most over a month or two before investing in a membership. Or, snatch up 10 of something every time it’s actually available, I guess. Products go out of stock ALL THE TIME and apparently many of them simply disappear altogether. Trying to get an order together before the stuff I want disappears from stock wastes a lot of time and effort I don’t have to spare. Very frustrating.

  8. nancy johnson says

    Have you seen the new batter powered Oxygenators? The Berry Breeze sits in the refrigerator and keeps food fresher longer! I have had mine for 1 month and it has already paid for itself. I got mine from Green Smoothie Girl.com

  9. Deb says

    I’ve been with a Frontier Coop Buyer’s Club for a few years. We get wholesale pricing, and if the group order is big enough ($250+), then shipping is free. It’s not just spices. They offer eo’s, personal care items, toiletries, paper goods, accessories, etc. Check in to starting a club yourself. You need 5 families to start , a SSN for the “owner”, and $10. No monthly requirements. They have a monthly sales flyer too. Google them, or should I say, Swagbucks them (Earn points w/searches, polls, shopping, etc through them. Redeem for Amazon gift cards, or others.). I think you’ll be delighted.

    • Kara says

      We love Frontier too! We belong to a small local co-op that orders from both Frontier and UNFI. It’s only about 10 families, so if you know like minded people in your area, it’s worth looking into setting one up. I’m always shocked at how much we save off of the cost of even simple like fluoride-free toothpaste or a gallon of Sals Suds. And the herbs…..I feel like we get 5x the amount for the same price as the grocery store.

  10. june says

    I love Vitacost , Mountain Rose, my local farmers market and my wonderful CSA! Thank you for the additional sites to try. I will always try the local health stores before on line ordering and have lately found quite a bit to be as good a value when on sale. Gotta support local if you can :) I have the great privilege of living 30 minutes from Country Life’s warehouse/store and my daughter and I split 30 to 50 pound bags of grain, beans, and such.
    It IS a lot of work researching, evaluating, ordering, driving, splitting and storing healthy, organic food…but it is well worth it. Blogs like yours are educational as well as encouraging(entertaining too). Keep up the great work Jenny!

  11. Liz says

    Anyone in and around TN can buy from BulkNaturalFoods.com. They deliver fresh fruit (organic and minimally sprayed) directly from orchards, and it is way better than anything I can buy at the grocery store. My kids won’t eat store-bought produce anymore. About a week ago, I got the most amazing Cameo and Jonathan apples for a little over $.50 a pound. (they were minimally sprayed, not organic)

    Bulk Natural Foods also has local honey, nuts, dried fruits, and stuff like that. I like their glass gallon jars and organic raisins. Good prices and you can pick up almost anywhere in TN. Anyway, I’m happy with it!

  12. june says

    .Let’s not forget foraging. Ferrell apples, pears, wild grapes, blueberries and cherries. Dandelions greens, pine needle or rose hip tea(for vitamins c) mushrooms and even acorns for flour(a lot of work to remove the tannins). Always ask first, positively identify and be sure nothing has been treated for the last five years.
    Free food. You can’t beat that!

  13. ilene says

    I use Vitacost too for luxury items like organic lotions and vitamins I cannot find locally. But I will not use Amazon unless there is no other place to get the product. I worry that online purchases will cost us more in the long run. It is the presence of the stores in the neighborhood that make it desirable. People work in these stores and live near by. Amazon is helping to lower wages and bust unions, as is Walmart. I am lucky to have had a union job and have a retirement that allows me to shop at the local health food store. I will support others to make a living wage for as long as I can afford to.

  14. DebbieM says

    Frontier Natural Products Co-op (we have a local buying club) and azurestandard co-op are two sources we really appreciate…

  15. says

    I’ve seen a lot of people use Amazon to buy their regular household items. The issue with my family using Amazon is that every time we looked to compare prices we just found WalMart cheaper. Since we go to town regularly we really had no need to use Amazon to have stuffs delivered.

  16. Wendy says

    I haven’t tried Vitacost, but have found iHerb on line which gives great prices on personal items as well as vitamins, pantry items etc. the larger your order, the bigger the discount is (ie. up to 12%). They have free 1-3 day shipping on orders over $40.

  17. David Livingston says

    I have three comments
    Firstly if you want to save money on real food grow your own . Its really quite easy even with a window box for herbs
    Secondly buy off someone who grows their own
    Thirdly grow too much and trade barter or swap for stuff you have not got

    Works for me and you help save the planet . You cannot beat that saving :-)

    David

    • Marisa says

      Great ideas! (This method will also keep your money in your community and support small, local, family-run operations… rather than, say, Amazon. A healthy community is just as important as healthy food.)

  18. jacquelynn says

    I’d love, love, love to hear of any similar websites or sources in western canada – if any other readers have experience and can share!

    amazon canada has such a slim selection compared to amazon (us) – and it costs more for shipping for most of these sites mentioned than the price of the actual product :(

    • Amanda says

      I second that, Jacquelynn! I am in Alberta and the cost of shipping items up from the States negates any savings to be had, and as you’ve pointed out, Amazon.ca has slim pickings compared to Amazon.com. I have found using I-herb to be fairly cost-effective if you have a large enough order, as they have worked out a deal with DHL for shipping. You can also try well.ca.

      And of course, as has already been mentioned, purchasing in bulk cuts down on costs considerably. I buy my meat in bulk directly from the farmer once or twice a year. I grow a garden in the summer and preserve what I can for winter, shop at local farmers’ markets, and purchase honey from local apiaries. You can usually purchase bags of organic grain and pulses in bulk direct from farmers too.

  19. Barbara Smith says

    I have been using Dr. Bronner’s Organic liquid soap. If you have an old FOAM dispenser around…you only fill it about 1/8-1/4 of a cup …then add water (Peppermint & Almond are my favorites) Each bottle is 3-4x’s concentrated so put a little in a honey bear bottle and add filtered water to the top to use as a SHOWER Body wash. :)
    If you use a drop or two of their BABY Liquid Castile Organic soap to a little olive oil and filtered water you can use as a makeup remover. You can use Dr. Bronners mixed with water in a squirt bottle to use as Dish Soap! The possibilities are endless when you can use ONE thing to subsitute for many. Dr. Bronners 32 oz can be found on Azure Standard, Amazon, Vita Cost or even some Super Targets in their beauty aisle. A 32 oz bottle runs approx 12.95-15.95…but can be used for Soooooo many things, Plus it IS concentrated from the 4 oz to the 32 oz. Dr. Bronners also has a 101 uses for their liquid soap if you go to their online site. The best thing is it is all ORGANIC! (not to be confused with ‘other’ lonline iquid-castile-soaps).

  20. Stephanie says

    Hi Jenny,

    It looks like a lot of your links aren’t working at the moment. Getting a 404 error for Vitacost, Azure and Green Polka Dot Box. Looks like it’s pointing to your internal website rather than an external link. Hope this helps and happy to support the site through affiliate links, particularly if I can find some good discounts!

  21. Emma says

    I’ve used Bountaful Baskets in the past but recently their produce has gone down in quality. The last basket I got had peaches that were already moldy. When I reached out to the owners, Tonya and Sally, I got absolutely no response. Unhelpful.

  22. says

    Can you tell me how you got connected with local farmers for buying directly from them?
    The few meat-providing folks at farmer’s markets charge a steep price for their goods, so I’d be aiming for smaller, more local and unknown folks (ideally, who farm for sustainability, not profit, so they’d be potentially more open to bartering/goods trade).
    I have no idea how to find these folks, or get in touch with them. :/
    Help?

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