I do, however, have some money-saving tips to share. If you live in the Austin area, where natural foods stores have begun running rampant, these tips are for you. But that's not to say you can't adapt them for your area; the basic tenants are to identify what you like to eat, where you can get it, and then begin the search for the best prices and deals. And don't be afraid of clipping coupons!
In the last year, we've shifted all of our food-buying to follow strict guidelines. We no longer put anything that doesn't meet at least one, if not all of these requirements into our shopping basket.
We shop for SOLE foods:
First of all, we ask if we can get the food locally. We get food from my mom's garden when possible, and shop at the farmers' market when we can. But most of our weekly shopping is done at the grocery store, so we follow these ground rules.
1. If local produce is available (local onions, mushrooms, and citrus are widely available at supermarkets), that takes precedence over organic. The environmental impact of getting local food (grown within 150 miles) trumps that of buying organic, ever so slightly.
2. If no local option is available, buy organic. This goes even for things you can peel (i.e., bananas) and especially for leafy greens, etc. Check out this "Dirty Dozen" list for absolute MUST organics if you can't afford to buy all your produce organically.
3. Every product must be sustainable. This means cutting out excessive packaging (individually wrapped things), forgetting all processed items, and generally avoiding buying things you can make at home (bread, tortillas, etc.).
4. Ethical means that the product has been produced in such a way that it considers the environment: we count this as everything from biodegradable shampoo to cage-free eggs.
You may think that our grocery bills would be astronomical by eating this way, but that's where frugality and reality meet, shake hands, and decide to get along.
First of all, determine which stores are most convenient for you. There are five places I like to shop: my neighborhood HEB, Central Market, Sun Harvest, Wheatsville, and Whole Foods. In the last week, a Sprouts has opened in our 'hood, too. We have myriad options for buying all-natural products and foods.
All of the stores now offer bulk selections, and most of them have weekly coupon deals. Here's what I have learned:
• HEB has the best prices on things we still buy in a package, like Kashi brand cereals or crackers. They also carry a selection (albeit small) of locally-grown mushrooms, tomatoes, and grapefruit, and Texas-grown rice. They also carry the Central Market Organics brand, which is by far the best-priced (and best-tasting) organic brand we like for pastas, sauces, beans, milk, butter, and cage-free eggs. The CMO brand ranks high on the World Society for the Protection of Animals' list of "better" food products. Look for coupons throughout the store, and also check the coupons you're handed with your receipt: they're tailored to fit what you bought. Recently, we've been saving about $10 with each trip from HEB coupons alone.
• Sun Harvest offers unbeatable weekly deals on a lot of things, including organic produce, but the selection can be quite limited. Go on Wednesdays for double-coupon days. And the wine! Oh my gosh, the wine. There is always something on a 3 for $10 sale. They also carry a selection of natural herbs, vitamins, and alternative medicines.
• Central Market carries the widest bulk bin selection, including organics. We head there for our bread-baking needs, as well as coffee and trail mixes. Sign up for their e-mail list to get special deals on seafood, fresh meats, and more (often a great deal where you can save up to 20%)!