Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Real Food

by Ann Marie Michaels on May 24, 2013

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Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Real Food

Everyone wants to know how to save money on real food — it’s the most common question I get. In fact, one of the biggest objections I hear about eating real food (natural and organic food, traditionally prepared), is that it’s too expensive.

But the truth is, cooking real food really isn’t expensive when you know how to do it. There are so many ways to save!

Here are my top 10 ways to save money on real food. Not all of these tips will work for everyone, but hopefully you will find some things that will be of value to you.

Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Real Food

1. Cook in Big Batches

When you cook dinner, make enough for 2 or even 4 meals. When you make bread, make 4 or 5 loaves instead of just one.

Why? Because it always saves time (which saves money — time is money) to do things in batches. And again, you’re buying in bulk which will save you money.

You can freeze the leftovers and pull them out a week or a month or so later. Nobody will be the wiser! That way they won’t get sick of it eating it night after night.

The Holistic Squid meal plans we use (see #9 below) actually have double-batches built into them so we always have leftovers, which is what we eat for lunch.

2. Start a Vegetable Garden and/or Raise Livestock

You can grow a lot of vegetables in most backyards. I grow everything from lettuce to herbs to potatoes to lemons, tomatoes and zucchini, celery and strawberries.

Don’t have a backyard? Plant in your front yard. (I’m in the process of ripping out my front yard — stay tuned for the blog post.)

Backyard chickens lay eggs that you can eat — and people say they are a lot of fun. (I can’t have any in LA — my yard is just a tad too small.) If you have room, goats, sheep and cows will provide milk which you can use to make yogurt, butter and cheese.

3. Shop with Amazon Prime

I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for years and I love it.

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For $79 per year, you get unlimited FREE two-day shipping. This means Amazon will ship things directly to your door. Also, Amazon Prime items are only $3.99 for overnight shipping. So for those times when you really need something right away and don’t have time to get to the store, Amazon’s got you covered.

$79 is nothing when you think about it. Because it would cost WAY more if you actually had to drive to the store every time you bought something. Your time is worth money.

OK, brace yourself for the Time is Money lecture. :-)

Most of us women (heck, most people, but particularly women) are guilty of not putting a high enough value on our time. And guess what? Shopping takes time. Driving to the store, wandering around the store (especially if you’ve got 3 kids in tow,) schlepping stuff home. All that time wasted — time you can’t be doing something else.

What else would you do? Oh, I don’t know… maybe get a part-time job and make some extra money. Start an Etsy store. Who knows? The point is, it’s non-productive time.

If you really ENJOY shopping, that’s fine. There are some stores I still enjoy going to and browsing around. Like REI, and even Whole Foods. I still go there. And I love going to the farmer’s market.

But stop shopping for stuff like toilet paper that you can have delivered directly to your door. I know it seems weird at first, getting giant boxes of paper towels in the mail. But you will quickly get used to it. And you can use the cardboard boxes to start a Lasagna Garden!

In addition to the free shipping, you get tons of free streaming movies and TV shows plus a huge Kindle lending library — meaning if you are a Prime member, you can borrow Kindle books for free!

Trust me, Amazon Prime will change your life! Click here to learn more about Amazon Prime.

4. Shop with Amazon Subscribe & Save

I’ve been a Prime member for years, but I only recently discovered the awesomeness of Amazon Subscribe & Save. (Thanks to my good friend, Emily Bartlett of Holistic Squid.)

To be honest, I was scared to try Amazon Subscribe & Save because I thought if I subscribed, I’d forget and end up with too much stuff and have boxes everywhere that I had to return. But Amazon makes it really easy to keep track of what you subscribe to, and you can cancel or hold a subscription at any time.

Here’s how it works. Think of an item that you buy over and over again, preferably something that has a long shelf life and you can store in a cupboard or in the garage. Like dog food, paper towels, kitty litter, dishwashing liquid, batteries.

Now, go to Amazon Subscribe & Save and start shopping. The shipping is FREE (you don’t have to be a Prime member). If you have 5 items in your Shop & Save delivery, you save 15%.

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OK, here’s the real secret about why Amazon Subscribe & Save is so fantastic… not only is your TIME worth money but your brain space is equally important!

Everybody is too busy these days and we are all overloaded with too much information. So many things to keep track of! So why clutter your brain space with whether or not you picked up the paper towels at the grocery store? Just set it and forget it. You can schedule your Amazon Subscribe & Save order to come every month, every 2 months, every 3 months, every 4 months or every 6 months. If it’s something like coffee or cat food that you use a lot of, you can get it every month. If it’s a huge bag of kitty litter, maybe you only need it every 4 months. Remember, you can always change or delay your orders.

I know you will love it as much as I do. I don’t know how I ever lived without it (thanks again, Emily Bartlett!)

You’ll thank me later. Click here to learn more about Amazon Subscribe & Save.

5. Shop with Azure Standard

In addition to Amazon Prime and Subscribe & Save., I love Azure Standard. I’m just getting started with it but the savings are fantastic.

Azure Standard is a natural food co-op in Oregon. They deliver orders by truck to drop points ranging from the West Coast to states as far east as Missouri. And they are continuing to expand.

To order, just join an existing drop point. If there is not a drop point near you, you can establish your own drop point if you have enough people to make the $550 order minimum each month. Each person’s order must be at least $50 to avoid a small order fee. (I send my nanny or assistant to pick up Azure orders — see #8 below.)

I’ve done a little calculating and there are some items that are definitely worth ordering via Azure Standard. Not all items, mind you. Some things are actually cheaper via Amazon.

6. Buy in Bulk

Ordering from Amazon Subscribe & Save. and Azure Standard, are great tools to order in bulk. You do end up with huge boxes of toilet paper, big bags of wheat berries and sea salt. But that’s how you save. And most of us have somewhere we can store these things. In the garage, or in a hall closet.

It’s a good idea to buy some storage containers for bulk items. I buy dried beans, wheat berries, rice, and sea salt in bulk and store them in airtight containers. Here’s an article on how to store bulk grains.

Buying big bags of rice and wheat berries will save you a lot instead of buying smaller amounts. I also buy my coconut oil in 5 gallon buckets online (coconut oil has a super long shelf life). Dried beans are a LOT cheaper than canned beans. All you have to do is soak them. And it’s super easy to sprout your own grains and make sprouted flour at home.

I also buy pastured meat in bulk. You can save a ton on grass-fed beef when you order a half or quarter of a cow. You’ll need room in a freezer (see #7) but you could always share a freezer with some friends or a neighbor.

7. Get a Chest Freezer

I have a chest freezer in my garage. It’s one of the best investments I made. It enables you to shop and cook in bulk.

If you don’t have room for a chest freezer, you can also buy an upright freezer — or you can get a smaller chest freezer.

You can often do a layaway plan on a freezer with an appliance store. You can also get them used on Craig’s List.

8. Hire Help

We hired a part-time nanny to pick our daughter up from school every weekday and watch her after school. She also does the grocery shopping and she cooks dinner for us 5 nights a week. It takes me 5 minutes to print out the Holistic Squid meal plans each month (see #9 below) and put them in a binder.

Then the nanny takes the shopping list and gets whatever we need (everything we haven’t already ordered from Amazon and Azure). Then she makes all the meals Monday through Friday. She also does all the dishes each day.

We go out to dinner every Saturday night (date night or a family night out) so I only cook on Sundays. Which I actually enjoy. I love the tradition of a big Sunday dinner.

I know it may seem strange to hire someone to shop and cook for you. Seems like it would cost you more than it would save you. But here we go again, not factoring in the value of our time.

If you earn more than $10 per hour, and you can pay someone $10 per hour to shop and cook for you (could be a college student, a babysitter, or your nanny or housekeeper), then it’s totally worth it to outsource it. Say you get paid $25 per hour. If you pay someone $10 per hour, you should be spending the time working instead.

If you work for yourself, this is a no-brainer. If you don’t work for yourself and have a fixed salary, see if you can get extra hours at your job. Or find some part-time work you can do at the same rate. Or, even better, start that side business you’ve been thinking of launching. There are tons of tax benefits for people who have a small business on the side.

One thing I’ve learned over the years: it’s always better to make more money than to save money. Sure, you can do both, but earning more is always more important. Because if you don’t have any money, you have no leverage. The more money you have, the more leverage you have. So instead of just thinking about how to save money, use your noggin and think up some ways to make more money.

9. Invest in Meal Plans

Meal plans are critical when it comes to saving money. Planning what you’re going to cook and eat each month will save you money because you’ll be (a) more likely to cook in batches and in bulk and (b) you will spend less on last-minute splurges ordering pizza because you didn’t have time to get dinner ready and there’s nothing to eat in the house.

I spend $6/month on the Holistic Squid meal plans. That’s crazy cheap!

Again, let’s go back to what our time is worth. How long would it take you to plan meals each week? Probably an hour each week. Let’s say you get paid $25 per hour. Now it’s costing your $100 per month just to plan meals and make shopping lists.

Even if you only get paid $10 per hour, that’s $40 per month. It costs you 7 times less with the meal plans. In other words, you’re freeing up 4 hours per month that you can get paid more to work.

Holistic Squid meal plans are nutrient-dense, easy to make, family friendly, and the recipes are delicious. I highly recommend them.

10. Get Good Tools

Not having the right tools in the kitchen is not only frustrating, but it wastes time. And what do we always say? Time is money!

For example, say you don’t have a good food processor and you only have a manual handheld cheese grater. It will take you so much longer to grate a block of cheese than if you were to just toss it in the food processor.

I’m going to put together a whole post on my favorite time-saving kitchen gadgets. Stay tuned!

How Do You Save Money on Real Food?

Please share your tips below!

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Aimee May 24, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Azure actually delivers as far as Kentucky! Love all of your suggestions.

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Katie May 24, 2013 at 10:55 AM

While I love all of your ideas I don’t think that hiring help to cook/watch the kids necessarily is a no brainer. There is something about mom that just cannot be replaced and so even if it may bring more money to the family, it may not necessarily be the best decision for everyone. As the saying goes, money doesn’t buy happiness for us or our kids. It is such a personal decision and to each their own.

Thanks for the tips!

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Lynne May 24, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Agreed!! As a professional woman, I earn a nice salary, but reduced my hours to work half time so that I can be there for my kids & husband in the way that feels right to me.. Can’t put a price on that! While I disagree about outsourcing too many duties, I enjoyed the post quite a bit. Some different & interesting ideas. Thanks, Ann-Marie!

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Ann Marie Michaels May 24, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Yes, everyone’s priorities are different. I said at the top that not every tip will be something everyone can use.

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Sarah June 3, 2013 at 7:37 PM

I agree with Katie. I have worked full time+ and had more than enough money for whatever healthy food we could imagine, but we never were able to sit and enjoy it together. When I decided to take a lower paying full time job in an effort to better balance our lives, we weren’t making a big profit after paying the babysitter, having a second car which requires gas and insurance, a work wardrobe etc…. What is the point in working more to earn more, just to pay someone else the difference? We believe in careful budgeting and sacrificing where we can. I can see how this would work for those who already work full time, have a good work/life balance and make an excellent salary, but like you said, everyone’s priorities are different.

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Christa July 24, 2013 at 7:26 AM

I am a law student and besides having to ride out the next three years with truly awful medical insurance, am otherwise fairly comfortable financially. I have made the decision to hire a house cleaning service just because it will lend me MORE time with my kiddos. Long term I will have to work fulltime in order to have decent insurance although I will dearly miss being home with my kiddos- sometimes hiring help can actually mean MORE time spent with your family. I love cooking and find it to be my “zen” time but am thrilled at the idea of having a cleaner house and more time to relax with my kids.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 24, 2013 at 11:46 AM

I said IF you work yourself, it’s a no brainer.

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Teresa June 3, 2013 at 4:47 PM

I love love love cooking, meal planning etc if I was going to pay someone to do chores it would be the one’s I hate like cleaning the shower/toilet etc. But I agree with your theory. I once worked for an Architect and Scientist as their bookkeeper and I asked them why housekeeper/gardener etc were on the payroll and that was their very answer, they could earn more working and paying someone else to do chores. They still had lifestyle/balance just no tedium.

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Tina May 24, 2013 at 11:06 AM

UNFI also has buying clubs. I save a ton by shopping the sales flyer and buying in bulk.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 24, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Good suggestion!

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Rachel May 26, 2013 at 2:24 PM

Tina – how do you buy from UNFI??? From looking at their website it looks like they service stores, etc..? What am I missing? Thanks!

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Carrie May 28, 2013 at 2:01 PM

I found this: http://www.unitedbuyingclubs.com/ when I searched UNFI buying club

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Cyndi May 24, 2013 at 11:38 AM

hmmm, some of these are great suggestions. I have to agree though about hiring people. I am a stay at home mom, by choice. I don’t have an hourly income by any means. I think if you can pay someone to shop for you while you spend time with your family, then that is perhaps a better use of your time! I don’t have that as an option and I am not going to go find a part time job just so I can pay someone to do what I would be doing if i were at home.
What I would be interested in seeing is a list of items that you, or other whole foods people, purchase from AMazon or Costco/Sam’s type places in bulk. It is VERY hard for me to know what to buy. That is what takes me such a long time, trying to figure out what brands to buy and where is the best place to get them.
for instance, what and where do you get your 5 gal of coconut oil?

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Ann Marie Michaels May 24, 2013 at 11:55 AM

@Cyndi If you can afford to be a FT stay-at-home mom, more power to you!

For people who have plenty of money then maybe they don’t need to get a part-time job or start a small business. I’m talking about people who don’t have enough money.

The idea is to do something that pays you *more* than what you could pay someone else to do. You can still spend time with your family — you’re just doing fun things instead of doing dishes. :-) But if you enjoy doing dishes, do them!

That’s a good idea to list things I buy… I ran out of room in the post! I will write another post. How to Buy Food in Bulk. :-)

Oh, and I don’t personally recommend Costco. It’s a time-suck. Much smarter to leverage Amazon and Azure and the like.

The coconut oil I buy is the expeller pressed 5 gallon bucket from Wilderness Family Naturals. Even with their shipping cost, it’s still the cheapest I’ve found (and the best).

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Lydia C May 24, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Hi Ann Marie,

I enjoyed some of these ideas, and I want to look into Amazon for more of my food-needs, as well as Azure Standard.

However, I do think that your comments about staying home or not are not really accurate. “For people who have plenty of money then maybe they don’t need to get a part-time job or start a small business. I’m talking about people who don’t have enough money.” My husband is a PhD student, and he makes very little on a stipend. He will be working crazy hours this summer so we can make ends meet (the job is at a farm, so thankfully we will also have a free CSA). We live in Boston, where things are very expensive. That said, we have determined that it is a top priority for me to stay at home with our children. We have 2, which means we would have to pay more than $10/hour for their care. In fact, I think many babysitters in this area charge $15 or more for just one child. My point is that in some ways we can’t afford for me to stay home, but we have made it a priority because of the things we gain from it: the children are with one parent most of the time, they themselves are involved in the tasks around the house (baking bread, sweeping, etc.), and I have the chance to make many things that most people have to buy (bread, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, etc.) So I think different families will have different priorities, and although I agree that it’s better to try to make more money, some of us are in situations that don’t make that possible. Once my husband is out of school and has a real job, I hope that can be more of an option.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Yes everyone has different priorities.

But I think most anyone can start a part-time home-based business these days.

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EC May 24, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Yes, most people can have a home business. However, hiring someone to watch the kids makes the profit margin potentially slim and possibly nonexistent.
We save money by using Azure (they sell coconut oil too), buying bulk (especially fruit by the lug in season), keeping animals and growing food. I don’t know how much we save keeping our own animals since good feed is expensive but it’s so important for the kids to learn this in order to eat well in the future.
Picking up from Azure is a big time suck as is going to pick up directly from growers, but it’s very worth it.
We also save money by baking bread and now as the kids get older they are taking over those jobs. I am hoping they can sell their eggs, bread, jams, etc., soon, and if not, they will know how to be the next real food generation. I really believe in Joel Salatin’s approach to jobs for the kids!
I guess what I’m saying is many people work part time by using their time to save money. I see what I’m doing as another kind of part time job. I’d also say that there is no job that is *always* fun.

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Miriam May 29, 2013 at 8:21 AM

Yes, I think that “working” doesn’t necessarily mean a 9-5 job out of the home, 5 days a week. For some it might! But think about the productive, money-making endeavors many of us stay-at-home moms could do if we had a nanny, housekeeper, or assistant at times, just for a couple hrs here and there!. Instead of spending 2 hrs. a day vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms, maybe I could sell stuff on ebay. Instead of spending time driving to pick up kids, I could spend an hour on an Etsy project. My point is, it doesn’t have to be all-out one way or another. Figure out the times that you could better spend your energy in a money-making proposition, and focus on those blocks of time. You don’t have to give up being a SAHM, but perhaps hire someone to take a few of your duties.

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EC May 29, 2013 at 10:21 PM

Yes, love the outside the box thinking. I’d have to say, though, that hiring out (in my experience) requires professional level income that is difficult to do in just a few hours a week to make it worth the time to find and train help. I find it more profitable to barter, trade babysitting with friends, cut out the extra expenses and buy in bulk and cook in season. I don’t menu plan because I don’t know what will be available – instead we just keep a lot on hand. And most important – delegate. My husband loves wandering around Costco and the kids clean bathrooms. We do spend a few hours cooking each day, together. I can’t imagine passing this off, it’s such a personal and fun family time.
Most of the people I know that *say* they can’t afford real food just don’t see the value of it – yet. They prioritize other things before quality food; vacations, big homes. The people I know that truly can’t afford real food can’t bulk cook – no extra money. They rely on grocery donations (rarely edible.) There is no extra money for memberships, freezers or meal plans. I know one blogger who donates to a local charity (from the money she earns from Amazon referrals and such.) One friend works on farms for food. There needs to be more of this kind of out of the box help for people who really and truly can’t afford it. :(

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Dora May 25, 2013 at 3:51 AM

Costco has organic cold-pressed coconut oil now. I have even seen the Nutiva brand there. We think Costco is fun…they have more and more organic stuff too, depending on your location.

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Dora May 25, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Ha ha, “afford to be a stay-at-home mom” It’s not so much that we can afford it. We just do it because our children come first. And yes, we homeschool too. We make other sacrifices like not going to movies or eating out and always brown bagging it and vacations are very small and simple. We are financially conservative in just about every way you can imagine. We are living a sort of minimalist lifestyle and are very happy with it.

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Christa July 24, 2013 at 7:41 AM

As a former stay at home mom who went without cable and whose children have never gone on a legit vacation, I am here to tell you that “affording it” is a very real concept. Not eating out and shopping at thrift stores is simply part of our lives. But sometimes getting a job or going back to school so your kids can eat is “putting them first.” Sometimes, as in my case, you need to get a job because your spouse’s has nonexistent insurance. I am really glad that I was actually grateful for the opportunity to be a stay at home mom when I could afford it. Until I am out of school, we will be living a minimalist lifestyle too. But you can bet that on the months when my hubby’s commission checks allow i, I will be hiring a house cleaner before any other expenses so that I can spend quality time with my kids- cable, toys, new clothes, etc. Time is a priority too and unless you don’t drink alcohol, buy any non essential food (including chocolate or any type of treat), don’t ever buy or watch movies, etc- you really have no room to judge how other people might scrape their pennies together. Hey, at least you get to take vacations! More power to you.

Stay at home moms aren’t the only ones who live minimalist lifestyles. I am truly happy for you get that you’re doing that, but there are a number of ways to “put your kids first.”

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Clementine May 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Great tips! I already do several of these things but I think I’ll have to sign up for the Amazon programs and buy Emily’s meal plans. I’m a FT work at home mom to two toddlers and I couldn’t agree with you more: time is money. I’ve spent so much time washing dishes (I don’t have a dishwasher!), doing laundry, etc. and meal planning and grocery shopping to boot that I’ve lost precious time with my family. I come from a very conservative community where hiring help is frowned upon. Because, I mean, why can’t we women do it all? I recently went through a very hard time where I started questioning myself: why can’t I do it all? why am I getting sick and tired and feeling crappy all the time trying to get stuff done? why do I start crying when my husband asks me to pack him a lunch? And most women will be nice and sympathetic but basically tell me to take a quick nap, get organized and get back to work. Well, I’ve decided that I can’t do it all… and that’s okay. Maybe I won’t be able to hire full time help. But if I can cut back on my chores as much as possible and have someone lined up to watch the kids for just a few hours a week so that I can make meals ahead and get caught up on housework… that would be priceless.

Sorry for the long-winded comment. I just wanted to maybe encourage other tired, over-worked mamas that it’s okay to simplify our lives and seek help where we can. Thanks for the post!

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Jessie May 24, 2013 at 6:07 PM

one idea about hiring some help — it is also a help to the person you are hiring. I am in a fairly conservative community, but knowing that you’re helping out someone else who needs to earn some money makes things more acceptable, I think.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 25, 2013 at 6:53 AM

@Jessie Good idea. Yes, it is a much better job for a teen or a college student than going to work at a fast food place! AND they learn how to cook traditional foods.

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Gale August 10, 2013 at 10:34 AM

I love the idea of hiring someone to do household tasks as well as watching the kids as long as I’m working for myself and am working at home for the majority of the time the nanny is watching the kids–that way I can get work done in peace and my kids will benefit from still seeing me enough during the day. However, there’s no way I’d let someone else do the cooking unless they were REALLY good cooks–otherwise my fab cooking skills would go to waste LOL

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Julie May 24, 2013 at 3:18 PM

Very good post. I am passing on to my daughter who is a mom and a professional the info about Amazon prime. I think it could help her save time and money. My son signed up for it when he was a graduate student, which surprised me– he is Mr. Thrifty, but he swears by it.
I think I save money by shopping primarily at Costco. It helps me make the week’s meals predictable, which is what I need right now–we are renovating and as much as I would like to cook up a storm, I am just making very simple yet nourishing meals. I am impressed by Costco’s selection of good, healthy food.

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Julie May 24, 2013 at 3:53 PM

A year and a half ago I lost my job due to complete adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues plus auto-immune disorders and complications. Not one AMA doctor could help me at all and it wasn’t until about 10 months ago that I stumbled onto the idea of going on the GAPS diet. I began to feel better within about 3 months but sometimes have setbacks when I have trouble purchasing my supplements, probiotics and compound pharmaceuticals.
I’ve been a subscriber here since about November and am currently in a setback, but am a positive person and see the light at the end of the tunnel. As a 50 something year old I think I have a long journey back to good health through eating real food and following the GAPS diet. My ONLY concern and surprise here is that you actually said, “awesomeness of Amazon Prime”. Really??? It’s hard for me to think this is truly for real and the right thing. I’ve been a long time buyer of Amazon but I scarcely could read through all the amazon prime ad campaign. I love your blog Anne Marie, yours is one of the first real food blogs I began to follow but I am skeptical. Love your oxtail soup recipe. Thanks.

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Chantel May 29, 2013 at 9:26 AM

I have to vouch for the awesomeness of Amazon Prime and the Subscribe & Save feature. It is definitely a time/money saver for us. For one, it’s cheaper. For two, you don’t have to drive to the store and get the items. You really never have to think about it. What you’ve ordered just shows up on your doorstep. Two day shipping is free. We love it!

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Ivette May 24, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Cyndis suggestion that you Ann Marie give us a list of the things you buy on amazon is GREAT!, i love you AnnMarie and i wanna know what you buy, like for example you wrote before bout R/Os and even thought you now have a berkley i remember way back when you spoke about adding minerals to the R/O water iv been on amazon now for a week reading reviews and trying to find which minerals to purchase at the same time i keep checking into your old post to see which one was it that you had mentioned ugghh so tired and i have 4 little ones.

Six years ago when i started to shop on amazon for diapers if you joined subscribe and save it was always 30% off diapers now its only 15% and you have to pay to become a member where it was never that way i still shop on amazon however i am not a member becuase i cant see how its worth it since i was a free member back when and saved more on diapers, wth!

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Heather May 24, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Costco has more in the way of real food than Sam’s Club stocks…but Sam’s Club has a way to keep it from being a time suck. Maybe, if enough people asked Costco, they would institute something similar to Sam’s Club’s Click-n-Pull/Fax-n-Pull service. You shop online or by fax, set up a pick-up time, and the Sam’s Club people have your loaded cart waiting for you to take through the checkout at the appointed time. It’s an awesome service….but Costco really does have a much better selection. On the other hand, I really don’t go shopping much of anywhere else, and the kids enjoy going through Costco and having samples (some things I say no to, but most I do let them have–it’s a once a month trip, and it’s not like they are getting a lot of anything), so I don’t generally worry much about the time spent–I’d rather spend it in Costco or the farm supply store than a mall, but that’s just how we roll.

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Paula May 24, 2013 at 5:24 PM

I used Costco order service for several years as a cook at a camp . Loved it! Everything was waiting on a pallet to be loaded in our truck. Or for an expeditor to run up to us. I would still put in over 6 hours of driving, but at least I did not have to shop as well, when I needed food to feed 100 people for a weekend!

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Stephanie May 24, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I love to shop and cook and have reduced my hours to 20 hours a week, mostly from home. I am, however, starting to think of creative ways to make more money per hour so that I can afford to hire someone to do some cleaning and give me even more downtime with my family. Your post has given me some great food for thought.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 25, 2013 at 6:54 AM

Good for you!

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Mark May 24, 2013 at 11:23 PM

Starting your own vegetable garden is really a good way to save on food. You’re also sure that you’re eating a very healthy meal by using those vegetable you have planted when you cook. Thanks for sharing this.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 25, 2013 at 6:55 AM

It’s also fun for kids!

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Dora May 25, 2013 at 5:14 AM

Good article, but perhaps it would be better titled How to Save Time and Money. Personally I prefer to take care of my kids and cooking myself. It works out just fine.

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Natasha May 25, 2013 at 6:35 AM

Love the post. I think all the ideas are useful to me. I would love to not work, but needs,must. You mentioned Kate goes to school, I was under the impression you we starting home school. Have things changed on your opinion of homeschooling? Many thanks.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 25, 2013 at 6:55 AM

No we still love homeschooling. The business needs a lot of my time and attention right now (growth phase) so she is currently in Montessori — which we also love!

We’ll get back to homeschooling as soon as we can.

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Julie May 25, 2013 at 7:49 AM

We have a helper because we believe in spending our time in tasks that we cannot pay others to do.

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Rebecca May 25, 2013 at 4:47 PM

I think the hired help for cooking is a great idea! I am homeschooling our 5, plus am a student midwife and need to get my studies in, so if we would have extra money I’d hire that cook!

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Rebecca May 26, 2013 at 11:03 AM

I would also love a list of real food items you purchase Ann-Marie. Thank you for the great post.

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Tiffany May 27, 2013 at 10:36 AM

Doesn’t apply to parents in apartments who pay with food stamps. Also remember that Amazon Prime for students is only $39 a year. You just need an email that ends in .edu.

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Karen May 27, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Love the gardening suggestions. I remember when I thought lasagna gardening meant growing lasagna! LOL I know better now!

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April - ReluctantHealthwife May 27, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Love these suggestions. I just started buying from Azure and it does save time and money. (I’d love their site to be easier to navigate, though.) And Amazon prime is dangerous – I mean so super great! HA!

I am glad you mentioned outsourcing. My kids are 19 (back for the summer), 14 and 7 and I decided to step up their duties a little this summer to allow me more time to get things done (and UN-stress while I’m healing and changing). I may have funds to pay someone and eventually that might be what I do, but for now, our family is a team and having the kids take a turn cooking dinner a couple times a week helps ME and it helps them learn to prepare real food meals instead of opening a can.

Sometimes outsourcing is the difference between chaos (i.e. mess and clutter in my case) and peace.

Again, thanks for the suggestions! I am taking note!

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Jeanmarie May 27, 2013 at 11:01 PM

I wish I could shop through Azure Standard but the truth is they are not available everywhere, even in the states where they deliver. I have spoken to them a couple of times about what it would take to set up a drop spot since I am not on a delivery route, and it would be thousands of dollars in orders because they don’t have a route that goes to the coast (I’m in Mendocino County, CA). So I’d have to get lots of people together, pool orders, and manage the order pick-up locations, etc. etc. It doesn’t sound worth it now. I envy those who are on an Azure route!

I love Costco but only go now and then as I’m not near one. It is easy to waste time there, it’s true. It helps to go with a list and use a little restraint.

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Jeanmarie May 27, 2013 at 11:16 PM

I just followed the link to read about Amazon Subscribe and Save (I’m already a longstanding Amazon Prime member) and found a long list of complaints by people who have had customer service problems or find the prices have gone up considerably. Apparently with new subscriptions the discount is 5% not 15%. It also looks like they promote a lot of packaged consumer products that are wasteful, contain toxic ingredients, and in many cases can be made at home for less. I’ll check to see whether they’d have anything I would ever use. I’d rather by huge bags of baking soda and two-packs of white vinegar for cheap at Costco and make my own toothpaste, for instance.

http://www.amazon.com/forum/subscribe%20and%20save/ref=cm_cd_ecf_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx3TKKBI3EVF2SZ&cdThread=Tx3HCJNXBNPQ698

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Ann Marie Michaels May 28, 2013 at 4:10 PM

@Jeanmarie It’s only 5% IF you have less than 5 things on your list. If you have 5 or more, it’s 15%.

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Ann Marie Michaels May 28, 2013 at 4:10 PM

And people always complain whenever you raise the price on something

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Jeanmarie June 14, 2013 at 9:42 PM

True, true. Great suggestions. I’m still annoyed that I can’t buy from Azure in my location. On the other hand, I like patronizing small local businesses like the feed store because that keeps jobs in my community.

I’m still stocked up on the stuff we get from Costco, but I may look into Subscribe and Save in the future.

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Jamil Avdiyev May 28, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Buy direct and wholesale. It is not hard to get business license and so forth to do this. Saves oodles of money long term.

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Julie May 30, 2013 at 6:40 AM

Great ideas, thank you! Even if they all don’t work for everyone, there are glimmers of wisdom, from experience!, throughout.

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Shelley Alexander June 2, 2013 at 6:45 PM

Thanks for all the great suggestions Ann Marie, I will have to share this wonderful info on my FB page and Pinterest.

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Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots June 3, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Love this list!

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Alicia June 3, 2013 at 7:23 PM

While I agree with you with almost all of your points, 8 sounds a little radical to me. Obviously since I am researching this topic, I would like to save money and keep my family healthy. Hiring help isn’t an option for many of us. I consider myself a stay at home mom, but I work at home part time as well. My husband and I just don’t have the funds is all. So, all I was wondering was, is there any other tips you might like to share? Thanks much, and great article!!

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Valeria June 4, 2013 at 4:10 AM

Thank you so much! This a incredible internet site.

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Alexis @ Covenant Ranch Trucking proudly delivering for Azure Standard June 4, 2013 at 4:58 AM

This is a great list! Not all of them might apply to everyone but just suggesting the option is a great way to get all of us thinking of other options available to save money on real food. If anyone has questions about Azure Standard we’d love to discuss them with you, please visit us on Facebook or online. ~Alexis on behalf of everyone at Covenant Ranch Trucking, proudly delivering for Azure Standard

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Marianna honeybill June 5, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Fair eugh points but none was relevant for me sorry.

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Chris June 7, 2013 at 11:58 PM

‘Shop with Amazon Subscribe & Save’

Why would I want to support a Zionist corporation!

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Julie October 1, 2013 at 6:32 AM

UnDiet, Just curious, did you save seeds from true breeding plants? Plant seeds that come from the various companies owned by Monsanto will maybe have one life or possibly two with aberrations. I only discovered this recently. Now we all have to locate true seeds that haven’t been tampered with by the Franken-Chemical Mon-santo Monster.

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Alex November 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Frankly, I was not left convinced that it is true that “cooking real food really isn’t expensive when you know how to do it”. Perhaps slightly less expensive than one might think, but inexpensive I think not.

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Thanks for the tips. I will have to look into gardening in boxes verses plastic tubs. As a SAHM I totally get what some of the posters have said, but taking offense where none was intended is unfortunate. Way to remain civil. Thanks for all you do!

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I also am going to be joining a CSA in my area. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You pay a lump sum up front to help the farmers with cost of seeds and supplies, and then you get baskets of produce all season long. They are also available for meat and dairy. Here is one resource on how to find a CSA in your area. http://www.localharvest.org/search.jsp?scale=&lat=&lon=&x=100&y=67&ty=6&zip=Zip%2FCity&st=0

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