Healthy Eating on a Budget

“Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, do without.”

These were words to live by in the 1930’s when being frugal was all about surviving in troubled economic times.  While things aren’t quite as perilous as they were during the Great Depression, this is good advice for anyone wanting to save a buck.

My grandmother bought flour and sugar in large sacks.  She turned the sacking into functional art, making hand painted tea towels and tablecloths.  Back then, buying in bulk was just what you did, and using up everything, including the packaging, was  part of being a good homemaker.

Now, it’s a smart way to save money.

This was one of the tips given in a class on eating healthy on a budget that I attended last week at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

Buying in bulk.

You definitely get more for your money when you aren’t paying for packaging or advertising.

Many stores now have a bulk bin section.  This allows you to experiment with small quantities of more exotic or unusual foods because you can buy just what you plan to use and no more.  Some items are best purchased in smaller amounts for maximum freshness.  In my experience these include:

  • flours
  • oats
  • shelled nuts
  • cereals
  • soft grains
  • coffee/tea
  • spices

Be sure and compare the bulk item pricing with its packaged counterpart to make sure you’re getting a deal.

bulk bins at Angels Food Market

And keep an eye out for special sales on products you purchase on a regular basis. Some of these can be bought in large quantity or by the case.

  • rice
  • beans
  • pasta
  • canned tomatoes
  • tuna

When you bring it all home, consider storage.   The containers in the picture below are stacked three deep.  I prefer to use old canning jars, most of which I picked up at yard sales.

They have a tight seal to keep out bugs, and it makes it easy to see what I have and when I’ll need more.  I label them with contents and date by sticking a piece of scotch tape on the lid and writing on it with permanent marker.


Finally, consider your family size and how often you eat a particular food before you buy in large quantity.  I once bought a 10 lb. sack of wild rice for a Thanksgiving turkey stuffing.  I don’t even like wild rice.  After 5 years of storage, I finally had to courage to toss it to the birds.