Proof That Real Food Doesn’t Have to Cost A Bundle, Is Nourishing, And Satisfies!

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Who says eating healthy has to be expensive…or that it’s only for the elite or wealthy? Well, I’m here to report that our family is far from wealthy, but we eat traditionally-prepared foods and whole foods most of the time. In fact, we started a new business last year (solar installation and sales), and we’ve been on a tight budget since May or 2009.  Let’s just say solar sales and installs this time of year are slow. Non-existent, in fact.

For some reason people don’t think about solar in the winter, even though existing solar systems on homes and businesses provide people with plenty of power and savings. But I digress…so, the only things we spend money on are our bills, food, gas, and basic necessities. Nothing else. We have to live within a fixed budget for everything.

Today I was sitting here contemplating all the meals I’ve prepared out of my pasture-raised chicken. The chicken is about 4.5 pounds and cost me just over $21. I was able to make 4 meals out of this chicken by roasting it in the oven, and then using the carcass to make bone broth and eventually add back in chicken, rice, and more vegetables for soup.

The total cost per meal (to feed 3 people each time) was just over $9.00. That includes vegetables, seasonings, butter, salad dressing, rice, and bread. The first night, we had roasted chicken with salad and potatoes with butter. The next three meals we are having chicken soup with vegetables, salad, and bread with butter – or we could stagger our soup and eat it every other meal (for variety), or freeze.

Here’s four meals and the cost analysis for each:

1. Roasted chicken, assorted vegetables, and rice:

  • Pasture-raised chicken, $21.00
  • Four organic carrots,  about .69
  • Three organic celery stalks,  .55
  • One small organic onion, .41
  • One and a half packages of organic frozen vegetables for soup – $3.00
  • 3 small russet potatoes – 1.39
  • 1 1/2 cups of germinated brown rice – .50
  • One head organic green leaf lettuce – $1.99
  • A few big leaves of organic swiss chard – .75
  • Slices organic cucumber for salad – .35
  • Silver Hills organic, sprouted grain bread slices with soup (optional) – .75
  • Organic butter for bread (optional) – .75
  • Homemade salad dressing with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar -.25
  • Seasonings – marginal cost

Total for one person, $3.07;  for three people, $9.23 (per meal, totaling four meals)

2. Scrambled eggs with butter, broccoli, and organic salsa:

  • 2 pasture-raised eggs, $1.20
  • organic butter, .25
  • organic broccoli, .75
  • organic salsa (store bought), .50

Total for one person, $2.90; three people, $8.10.

3. Tacos with ground beef and beans:

  • Organic grass-fed ground beef – $7 /lb, for not quite 2 pounds (this will produce leftovers for another meal)
  • Organic, sprouted corn tortillas – $1.75
  • Shredded raw, organic Monterey Jack Cheese – 1.45
  • Organic leaf lettuce – .75
  • Organic salsa, store-bought – .65
  • Organic pinto beans cooked with bacon drippings – .90

Total for one person $6.25; three people, $18.75, and we will have leftover meat for another meal

4. Glazed pork chops with salad and vegetables:

  • Pasture-raised pork chops (3) – $10.12
  • 1 package organic vegetables for sautee – $2.29
  • Organic salad greens – $1.00
  • Assorted fresh vegetables for salad – cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, celery, bell peppers, celery – $1.50
  • Home-made salad dressing w/olive oil and vinegar – .25
  • Butter for vegetables – .35
  • Maple syrup, mustard, olive oil for glaze – .50
  • Seasonings – marginal cost

Total for one person, $5.33; for all three people, $16.01

Grand total – $79.79 cents for 7 meals, and leftover ground beef for one more meal. Average cost per meal: $11.39 each time three people sit down to eat (per person, $3.79).

Wow, I was stunned with the results! We are officially eating healthy, traditional food for really not much more than it would cost to go to a fast-food restaurant and eat the garbage they sell there. Is that incredibly amazing, or what? So it’s true, it’s not impossible to be on a budget and eat healthy!

Now, of course there would be some differences if you had a larger family, you would certainly spend more. Let’s say you doubled the amount we spent for 7+ meals, you would spend $159.58. But that’s still the same cost per person – so that part hasn’t changed. And everyone has to eat, so it might as well be healthy.

More ideas for eating healthy and saving money?

Saving money on your organic life

Do you have some good ideas for saving money on real food? Please share them!

This article is linked to at Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays carnival. Please visit her site and read all the other great real food posts there.

12 Comments

  • January 8, 2010 - 3:05 PM | Permalink

    What a fun exercise! I haven’t tried to break down the cost per meal before. You’ve inspired me to try it. But, gosh, that would require math skills. hmmm. I think I can do it.

  • January 8, 2010 - 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Millie – yes, as I was doing the calculations for this post, I actually did make some mistakes (a couple of times) and had to go back and redo the math. Although math is not my strong subject, it wasn’t too bad. But it was exciting to find out just what we were spending and that it wasn’t as outlandish as everyone is always saying. It’s frustrating defending my lifestyle habits to people who insist the cost outweighs the benefit of eating real food. The other thing most people forget is the hidden cost of eating industrial food, and that if you don’t factor that in, you really aren’t allowing for the real cost of that food.

  • January 9, 2010 - 12:40 PM | Permalink

    Thank YOU!!! Yes, you can eat REAL AND ORGANIC affordably!! Especially if you purchase directly from a farmer/rancher!

  • Amber
    January 9, 2010 - 9:05 PM | Permalink

    Your prices seem a little low for some things for our area. But I was lucky to find a co-op that allows me to get a huge box of organic mixed produce for $10/$20 dollars, I seriously only need to buy my meat and milk at the farm and a few odds n ends and I can feed 4 for $50-70 a week. Milk makes my yogurt and whey for soaking grains….
    It’s not about ADDING in the cost of organics, it’s about taking OUT the cost of processed foods and snacks.

  • January 9, 2010 - 10:44 PM | Permalink

    I find that good food, in general, is more expensive. However there are always exceptions. Here’s some sample prices in our city for meat – “naturally-raised” meat at the health food store can be purchased for about $4.99 pound and up. This is no hormones/antibiotics, but animals are not 100 percent grass-fed, they are grain finished. Organic, grass-fed meat at the same store is about $7/pound. It’s the same price at the farm where we get our meat. The milk comes with our meat package at no extra cost in exchange for us promoting/selling the farm’s meat to other buyers. I haven’t priced conventional meat in awhile, but I’m thinking you can get it for less than half that price.

    I am just getting into soaking grains, but I’ve been making yogurt for almost a year now with my raw milk. I am astounded that you can feed four people for less than $70/weekly, but that is great. I seem to remember our good friends who eat conventional food telling us they feed their family of 6 for about $80. I can’t feed my family of three for less than about $175 weekly. We are all big meat eaters, though, and eat a lot of cheese and other items that get used up in only a couple of days. I just can’t compromise my family’s health and buy conventional. My health was already in serious trouble about 5 years ago from eating that way, so if I returned to my old habits I’d be in dire straits.

  • January 18, 2010 - 10:18 PM | Permalink

    I had commented on this on Facebook, but I love that you broke it down.

  • January 18, 2010 - 11:43 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Cara! :)

  • April 9, 2010 - 2:25 AM | Permalink

    Growing and consuming organic foods was the normal way of life for our forefathers. Most people are not aware that synthetically packaged foods (made with synthetic ingredients and chemicals to prolong the preservation process) really only came around in the mid 1900s. Today, many smart consumers have returned to this healthier practice of eating fresh and organically grown foods where the production process is devoid of non-organic pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides.

  • September 14, 2010 - 8:14 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for doing the comparisons on food costs. I’ve found that I can feed my family of 5 on around $150-$200 every 2 weeks, if I plan carefully. One of the ways I’ve found to cut costs is to add lentils to things like taco meat. Also, making my own organic spice mixes has cut our costs, as well. The cheapest I’ve found grass fed hamburger is $4.75/lb, and I buy a whole free-range pastured chicken for about $10 for 3 lbs. Some of the other foods you purchased are much less than what we pay, but the meat we buy seems to be cheaper. It’s interesting to see the differences in prices from state to state.

    • October 13, 2010 - 1:21 PM | Permalink

      Hi Ginny – thanks for your comments – yes, the prices certainly do vary from state-to-state, and I always thought we paid the most for our raw milk of anyone else I have ever talked with about that subject. But the more I talk to my farmer about the costs for producing 100 percent grass-fed, organic, raw milk, the more I realize that it’s very possible the other places that sell it are not using the same standard of practices as the farm I buy from. He explained to me that you simply can’t produce that kind of milk for less than about $10 a gallon, and that his family is actually taking a loss on their production. It makes me sad to see a family who takes sustainability so seriously and still loses money on their efforts. They try so hard to deliver a fantastic health product, and still at $10 a gallon they are not making ends meet. I just don’t think many people have an accurate view of what it costs to produce clean, healthy food. They expect food to cost what it does at Walmart, and the reality is, those products are cheap because they are subsidized and don’t contain anything nutritious or safe for people to consume. I think when you consider just how toxic that type of food is consume, it starts to make real food look a lot cheaper. You get what you pay for, and if you don’t take care of your health, you’ll have enormous medical expenses to pay on the other end with doctor visits, drugs, procedures, surgeries, and hospitalization.

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