A Day in the Life: Diana (Real Food Mama Shopping for the Healthiest Food at the Lowest Prices)

A Day in the Life: Diana (Real Food Mama Shopping for the Healthiest Food at the Lowest Prices)

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I don’t know about you, but these past few years have been the most challenging, economically, for my family.

When my husband and I had our first child six years ago, we made the decision to sacrifice my career in favor of raising our children at home. Three children later, it’s been an up and down struggle, but through every situation God has provided for all of our needs.

What’s been truly amazing is witnessing how our dependance on Him strengthens my family’s love for one another – through every valley we continue to press on.

Rising Cost of Food

One of the ways this economy has challenged my family is in the rising cost of food. Four years ago, I was able to spend $100 a week on our groceries. Today,  I struggle to keep my costs under $140 a week. Without a pay increase over the past four years, you can see how this directly effects our budget.

However, I’m a determined real food mama and one thing I will not sacrifice is the quality of food to nourish my babies.

Follow me along on my normal Saturday routine to shopping for the Healthiest Food at the Lowest Prices.

7am: Farmers Market, Spending Allowance $20

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This year I’ve had so much produce growing at home that I didn’t need to go as often to the farmers market; however when I do go (as I did this past weekend) this is my routine

The best place to save money on vegetables, besides growing your own, is at the farmers market. Not only are you supporting local farmers but you’re getting vegetables with the highest amount of nutrients grown chemical free. It doesn’t get better than that, folks.

So on Saturday mornings, I nurse little mama and head out to arrive at the Des Moines Farmers Market by 7am… on the dot. Like clockwork, I arrive downtown in about 10 minutes, pull out $20 from my bank, park in my usual spot, and head up the street to start my rounds.

This is the street I start on.

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There are a couple of reasons that I intentionally make sure to be there for the opening bell.

1. Des Moines is a multi-cultural city and let me tell you, people of all different ethnicities hit the farmers market at 7am to get the best pick of the day.

Here’s my first stop. Yang’s.

Yang and his family wave me in every Saturday morning when they see me walking up the street and always send me off with something new to try.

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However, this is 7am on the dot. You see what I mean? Now that it’s preserving season, people of all different ethnicities literally leave with bags of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and greens. They walk off with boxes or carrying bags on their heads. It’s really neat to see.

2. At around 8:30am – 9am,  the rest of Des Moines make their way to the market and this is what it looks like.

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This is why I get there early; to avoid the crowd.

The picture below shows you what I purchased this past weekend.

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A box of tomatoes, Fall lettuce mix, sour leaves, green onions, melon, jicama, 3 bags of mini eggplants, cilantro, onions. All for $23. A little over budget but not a big deal since I walked away with a box of tomatoes to preserve.

8am – Head home

I like to be done at the farmers’ market by 8am to avoid the madness as I showed you above. Once home, I nurse little mama and head out to West Des Moines to finish my shopping.

10am – Trader Joes, Spending Allowance $50 – $70

A Day in the Life: Diana (Real Food Mama Shopping for the Healthiest Food at the Lowest Prices)

I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed we are to have a Trader Joes in our area. Their prices can’t be beat and neither can the quality of their products.

I try to keep my budget at $50 for Trader Joes; however, depending on what I’m buying this price can fluctuate. If I need to get organic hot dogs, or chicken legs etc… the price is closer to $70. (Oh yeah, organic Spanish tempranillo wine as well 😉

Items I buy at TJ’s include… bananas, organic potatoes, organic onions, organic garlic, organic spinach, oranges, organic strawberries, organic chicken legs, organic plain whole milk yogurt, butter, grassfed cheese, cheese sticks, organic raisins, raw almonds, organic rolled oats, tortillas, pita bread, Spanish extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, organic peanut butter, organic mac and cheese, organic pasta, organic basmati rice, organic chocolate, organic Spanish wine, nourish shampoo, natural soaps… just to name a few.

10:30am – Costco

I shop at Costco about every two to three weeks. Generally, the food I buy from Costco is pure maple syrup, organic tortilla chips, cheese, organic frozen broccoli, and corn.

11:00am – Walmart, Spending Allowance $40

I know… many of you may not even like to say the word Walmart; however, there are only a few things I pick up from there in order to save money for my family.

Specifically, fruits on the clean 15 list. Currently, avocados and mangos. I also pick up Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes, cottage cheese, and Spanish chorizo sausage. Also, we buy natural cleaners and toiletries from there as well.

As you can tell, what’s missing is our milk and meat.

Milk, Spending Allowance $24.50

A Day in the Life: Diana (Real Food Mama Shopping for the Healthiest Food at the Lowest Prices)

For the past three years we have been purchasing raw milk from a local farmer. This past week; however, we found out that the price per gallon has increased by $2. Our DARNED ECONOMY!! We had to make the difficult decision to stop buying raw, for now. We’ll be buying a local VAT pasteurized milk which will save us money as well. We’ll now be spending $14 per week on milk.


All our meat is also purchased from local farmers. We’ve been blessed to have been able to barter for our meat which has saved my family a considerable amount of money. I wrote about this on a series I had on my website called, A Real Food, Food Budget.

12:00pm – Home from an entire morning of shopping… whew!

All in all, each week, I try to spend $130 – $140 a week on real food for a family of four.

If I have to buy from Costco, I cut my spending at Trader Joes and Walmart.

It’s a lot of work shopping at all of these different places but it’s what I have to do in order to be able to buy the quality of products that I do.

To save further, I  make my own bread and we have our own backyard chickens for eggs. On this budget, I’m still able to be committed to buying local, growing and raising my own, and buying organic.

The economy may have effected my family; but as you can see, God continues to provide daily.

Do you shop at different locations to save money on your groceries? Please feel free to share any tips you may have.

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  1. It’s helpful to know what other “real food” families on a budget spend so I know if we are way off are not. I too shop at several places to get the lowest prices on things. To make life easier, I try to do the bulk of my shopping on a once a month basis. I have a list of how much of everything we need for a month from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and buy it all at the same time. Milk, meat, and produce comes from the farmer’s market is bought weekly. And of course there are those quick runs during the week to grab extra things we need. Our budget is similar to Diana’s, and sometimes we have to ration food.

  2. It”s not only the economy that is rising food prices. The drought this year has affected hay very badly. I believe you will see a increase in milk and meats this year due to that. We farm and are blessed to hav free raw milk, eggs, and meat (save for the half of hog we bought). If you are able to buy big sides of meat, i would look into doing it soon. Not only is it cheaper (esp. When winter hits and there will most likely be a hay shortage and farmers will feel and react to the pinch of haing to pay to supplement their animals), but right now the animals are typically still grazing on fresh grass and are thus more healthy for us to eat! 🙂
    Even with all we raise on the farm, our food budget for a family of 6 is still 600 dollars. Looks like i need to get better at bargaining! Soon the baby will be off of formula so that should help!

    1. Yes, the drought was pretty bad this year. I don’t even want to think about the price increase coming in the new year 🙁

  3. “We’ll be buying a local VAT pasteurized milk which will save us money as well.” I have not heard of this and don’t know what this is. Could you please explain? And how much are you getting for $14? Would love to stop buying store bought milk!! Thank you!

    1. Hi Sue. VAT pasteurized means that the milk is raised to the “minimum” heat required to sell. It’s raised to 180F. This preserves some of the vitamins and nutrients. Also, it’s non-homogenized. Raw is definitely best but VAT pasteurized, in my opinion, comes in second.

  4. It’s good to hear how other mamas shop and how much they spend! I don’t think I am quite as organized as you, but I think I spend about the same per week, give or take. I shop every other week.

    I buy a lot of canned goods, brown rice pasta, cheese, organic butter, natural cleaners, vinegar, paper goods and non-organic produce at WalMart.

    At Hannaford (a regional grocery store which carries a lot of organic) I buy all my organic produce, alternative grains, meat and fresh fish, organic canned foods, natural hot dogs and cold cuts if necessary, nut butters, and organic snacks for the little one.

    We buy raw milk from a farmer, raw goat’s milk at the health food store, and some bulk dried beans, seeds and spices and spices at the health food store also. We buy eggs from a friend.

    I buy my olive oil, maple syrup, a lot of our cheese, dog food, natural ground beef, and a few other things at BJ’s (like Costco or Sams).

    We have chickens and ducks that will be laying soon and a garden that gives us some produce and herbs. I wish I could spend less for the three of us, but I have a lot of special dietary needs (and am pregnant), and don’t want to sacrifice my husband and son’s health either!

  5. I think we do alot of the same things for our families. This is one area that is really painful for us now, because I am trying to stock up for winter months with fruits & vegetables in addition to what I have to spend on items we use on a daily basis. We are in a spot right now due to rising food, utility etc. etc. prices where I HAVE to maintain my portion (the food portion!) of the budget and it is DIFFICULT! We have had to go without certain things we are used to. I WISH we had Trader Joe’s here–the pricing & quality fits right in with my family. We are in Eastern Iowa, so DSM is the nearest TJ’s, about hours… I stock up anytime we are close! Azure Standard is where I do the bulk of my shopping for now-I LOVE the prices & quality, however, most of the items we buy require us to buy 20lbs.+ of something at a time, which is fine especially with things that store well like apples, but it takes bigger chunks out of the budget, and I am having to do most of my monthly shopping at the beginning of the month. With Farmer’s Markets in the summer time, (

    1. Steph, Azure drops in Des Moines as well; unfortunately, it’s been out of our budget most of this year. Hopefully in the next month I can make an order. I’d like to get some organic apples 😉

  6. I bet if you began making your own household cleaners and laundry detergent, you’d save HUGE on your bill. Google recipes for these is so easy. The things you can do with baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, borax and washing soda is amazing! Good luck to you!

    1. Hi Chris, I do make most of my own cleaners. Yup, vinegar and baking soda are huge! I get my laundry detergent (ECO) at Costco. Really great deal and lasts us quite a while ;D

  7. I think we do alot of the same things for our families. This is one area that is really painful for us now, because I am trying to stock up for winter months with fruits & vegetables in addition to what I have to spend on items we use on a daily basis. We are in a spot right now due to rising food, utility etc. etc. prices where I HAVE to maintain my portion (the food portion!) of the budget and it is DIFFICULT! We have had to go without certain things we are used to. I WISH we had Trader Joe’s here–the pricing & quality fits right in with my family. We are in Eastern Iowa, so DSM is the nearest TJ’s, about 2 hours… I stock up anytime we are close! Azure Standard is where I do the bulk of my shopping for now-I LOVE the prices & quality, however, most of the items we buy require us to buy 20lbs.+ of something at a time, which is fine especially with things that store well like apples, but it takes bigger chunks out of the budget, and I am having to do most of my monthly shopping at the beginning of the month. The rest, I get at Farmer’s Markets in the summer time. Taking a huge chunk out of my budget at the beginning of the month has made it REALLY hard for me to keep our budget, in fact I have gone way over lately. We have been buying our meat either whole or 1/2 hog/steer/chickens from a local farm–I am fearful of what their prices will do over the next year–I am hoping I can work something out with them. Milk, cream, butter etc. comes from an Amish farm about an hour away (we are in a group that trades off going, so we go 1x/month.) thankfully my husband gets a vehicle for work & personal use, so fuel isn’t a problem with us. Our milk shares have gone up $2/share as of this month, so ours will increase $10/month-not great, but still doable for us. If it increases anymore we too will have to rethink what we will do. Their raw, grass-fed butter is soooo good, but it is $8/lb and now is a luxury for us, meaning we no longer enjoy that. Kalona Supernatural makes a good alternative-Vat-pasteurized milk, cream, butter etc. but their milk at the store is $4-$5 for a 1/2 gallon—we cannot afford that, so I am praying the Amish family’s prices will not go up anymore…Thanks for sharing about your food choices/budget!

  8. Thanks for this post! I’m trying to improve our family’s dietary habits and am primarily concerned about meat and milk.

    However, I do want to point out that the following statement isn’t true for every farmer’s market:

    “Not only are you supporting local farmers but you’re getting vegetables with the highest amount of nutrients grown chemical free.”

    Our local farmer’s market is a place for farmer’s to sell their produce. Few of them are officially “organic”. Many of the producers use “conventional” methods (pesticides) to grow their produce. You will be getting food picked at it’s nutritional peak, but readers should ask, not assume, that it’s organic.

    I’m really enjoying this series! Thanks for the tips!

    1. Yes, Leah. You are definitely correct. It’s important to “know” your family farmer and their practices. Praise God, we have many in Des Moines 😀

      1. That’s great! 🙂 I checked into our local market and we have one farm who is certified organic. I’m just getting to know the others. I so appreciate your tips!

        1. Leah, one thing as well. Many local farmers do not have the money to be certified as “organic.” However, they still grow without chemicals many even “beyond organic” without certification. Make sure to ask. It’s expensive to be certified but hopefully they’ll be honest if they’re promoting themselves as “chemical free.” 😀

  9. It’s great to read what other families do. We garden and preserve a lot. Right now I’m sitting at the computer trying to get motivated to get out picking raspberries before the next shower. Even so, the food bill continues to climb.

    I need to cut down on expenses and plan to reread Real Foods on a Real Budget, which I actually reviewed in detail a long time ago. ( http://anniekateshomeschoolreviews.com/2010/07/review-real-food-on-a-real-budget/ ) I recall that it was very helpful andexpect to learn a lot from it.

  10. we have similar strategies to feed our family of 7 real food – two resources that have helped me that you didn’t mention are azure standard and our csa box. azure has been great for those bulk non-perishables like beans, rice, oats, sugar… and the csa box gives us tons of local produce at amazing prices. one week we had 7 organic avacado in the box – 7! (not to mention the other bounty of fresh organic produce stuffed in it). i think this was a great post as i am always looking for new ideas of how to save $ on good food and always trying to do the price comparisons between stores and sources to get the very best price we can. one food that i have been disappointed to see rise so much in price recently is canned coconut milk!

    1. Charis, Azure does drop in our town and as much as I LOVE them, I’ve been unable to budget them in this past year. The good thing is I’ve been able to get smaller quantities of what I would normally order through Azure at Trader Joes. Once winter is here, I’ll be buying bulk apples and oranges from them. We love our fresh squeezed orange juice during the winter time 😀

  11. I found this to be a very interesting read! How FUN to have access to such an amazing farmer’s market!! I really need to search one out around here and add that to my routine. To answer your question…yes…I shop at a variety of locations for a variety of things. Currently, I cross the border to the USA (I’m in Canada) and travel 25 minutes down the highway to get to a Costco…what savings!! Cheese, organic eggs, organic butter, organic chickens…etc…what a blessing! One thing about Costco…I have to be very strict with myself and stay focused on the LIST…dear me! It can get out of hand very quickly. 🙂

    Blessings to you!

    1. I’m in Canada too, and I too cross the border to shop, though not as frequently as I’d like! It’s amazing what a difference a few kilometers makes in price and selection. I love Costco’s cheese, organic chicken, Kerrygold butter, organic sugar (for kombucha), and other goodies we can’t get up here! We also go to Trader Joe’s, as their prices are unbeatable, as well as the organic and natural selection. It’s hard buying food up here, especially when you’re on a budget.

  12. I love reading other mamas’ stories of their grocery spending – fun! 🙂 Our nearest Trader Joe’s is slightly over an hour away, so we don’t get there very often. But it is amazing how much food costs in our area in the Pacific NW. We know families who eat like we do, but have lived in Ohio and other states, and their grocery store prices are almost half of what we pay here in our smaller community in western Oregon amidst dairy farmers, produce farmers, and seafood from the ocean only 1 hour away. Our grocery prices are SO high here that people who move here are in shock…and we’re right along a major interstate, so it isn’t transportation costs that are causing the rise in grocery costs. The average 4-person family around here who eats healthy like this usually spends about $700 per month on groceries and toiletries, a lot more than most of you are paying. Our farmers’ market is too expensive for me to consider shopping at; veggies and fruits are priced beyond the grocery stores. We do Bountiful Baskets on Saturday mornings now to save $40 per month on our produce costs, and that is working out really well for us, even better than the CSA we used to do a few years ago.

    For families who are reading this story and are living on the west coast, just keep in mind that our grocery food prices are typically a LOT higher than a lot of the U.S. That will help keep things in perspective.

    1. Yes I agree not because I live on the coast but because I also have higher prices where I live. So I also encourage people that you need to do what you can where YOU live. Its not easy sometimes. When I travel to see family 6-8 hours away I go to the SAME stores and things are often $1-2 cheaper EACH item, it really adds up. Do the best with what God has blessed you with and don’t worry about the rest.

      1. Julienne and Nola, thanks for sharing. I often get taken aback when I hear how some people in the West Coast pay $20 a gallon for raw milk. Wow! It is a blessing to live in the Midwest with lower prices. I wonder how salaries compare across the coasts though? Thanks for sharing!

  13. Thanks for this post! Here are some additional ideas for you:

    1) Asian groceries for rice and produce – I am blessed to have 3 large Asian grocery stores near me & you can get great deals on rice – even organic rice in large bags (I recently bought 25 pounds of jasmine rice for $22. ) The Korean market I go to also has some organic produce that is very affordable (more than Trader Joes).

    2) Indian grocery stores – There is one large near me plus several smaller ones. You can get basmati rice very cheap plus many lentils & legumes. (I do not think they are organic though).

    3) Amazon – I have bought some groceries that way – cases of coconut milk and maple syrup.

    1. Jessie, Oh yes 😀 We do have wonderful cultural markets in town. I shop frequently at our Mexican, Asian, and Indian markets. During persimmon season (coming soon) I buy them at the Asian markets where I can buy them by the pound. Great savings!!

  14. I have even less to spend groceries for our family of four, so I have to buy conventional most of the time. Before my husband ran out of unemployment and before we had our second child, I was able to buy things like organic milk. But now we have to buy regular milk at Costco because it’s a lot cheaper. We are however blessed with an abundance of Asian and Hispanic markets in our area (Los Angeles). That’s where we get most of our conventional produce from, because I figure it’s better to eat some produce than none at all (even if it’s not organic). I am also blessed with a Trader Joe’s near my work; I usually go twice a month during my lunch hour. I love that their organic bagged salad mixes are relatively cheap. These days I can only go to Whole Foods for their cheaper items, like bulk rice and beans. I’m going to start a veggie garden soon for the first time, using the Square Foot Gardening Method. The start-up costs were a bit high, but if it’s fruitful, then I will have plenty of organic produce in my own backyard.

    1. I read your post and had to reply to encourage you. Do the best with what you’ve been given. Be thankful for what God HAS given you and don’t worry about the rest. It sounds like you are focusing on the blessings you have, keep it up! I know its hard. I sometimes read all these types of replies or posts and end up feeling down that I CAN’T do all I want to do for various reasons, budget being one of them. But do your best and leave the rest to God.

      I do SF gardening too and I hope yours does well. When we move soon I am going to do some SF gardens also with the lasagne method from “lasagne” gardening (its a book) Check it out.

      1. Thanks, Nola! I really appreciate the encouragement. God has always been faithful, but sometime I forget. I’m grateful for many things in my life, including a house of my own and a savings account — which we are unfortunately having to use more of lately, but at least I have one! We’ve been giving a lot financially to our church lately (trying to buy a new building) and rather than missing the money we’ve given, we’ve only been miraculously blessed several times over! As an example, we gave an offering of $300 once and a few days later, we learned that we would receive $300 per month of financial assistance for an entire year for preschool! Talk about a miracle! I heard about lasagne gardening; I’ll have to look into it!

        1. Karen, what a blessing! God never returns void, huh?! Just to hear that testimony is a complete blessing to me. It’s easy to think that we don’t have enough to give, yet when we do, God just explodes with blessings. Thank you! I agree with Nora, do the best with what you’ve been given. Thanks for sharing ladies!

  15. I too love reading and seeing how other real food mom’s shop for their families. We get our raw milk, pastured eggs, raw cream, local honey and local maple syrup from a weekly organic delivery service. I truly love this local business, because they travel around to many local farms and deliver to our door!

    We purchase our whole pastured pork, pastured chickens, and 1/4 – 1/2 grass fed beef from a farm 2 hours away, once per year. My husband makes the drive to pick everything up. It is the BEST meat we’ve ever had.

    We shop every 2 – 3 weeks at Trader Joe’s and like everyone else we love the prices and quality. We purchase most of our organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed cheese, wild caught seafood (sockeye salmon, shrimp and scallops), Applegate hot dogs, Kerrygold butter, organic sour cream, and much more at TJ’s.

    We finally got an Azure Standard route near us, and I order from them about every 2 – 3 months. I order organic sucanat and evaporated cane juice, organic beans and oats, organic wheat berries, organic mustard, sesame oil (for mayo), canned tuna and salmon, and some produce.

    I also order a few things online from Tropical Traditions when they have a free shipping day. I order coconut oil and Bionaturae jarred tomatoes and paste.

    One thing I need to work on is a food budget. I really don’t have one, and I know I could greatly cut what I spend if I did. My husband and I agree that the quality of our food is a top priority, so he never questions what I spend. Like most families, we have a lot of goals. They could be realized sooner if I budgeted better.

  16. I am so there with you. We gave up my job and a car for me to stay home and homeschool our children. Car sharing is hard since there is no where to shop I can walk to. I shop at 6 or 7 am to get back before the kids are up and hubby need the car for work! Wish we had a TJ’s here, but there are none in my state. When family visits from CA I give them a wish list from TJ’s! We don’t have a health food store in my new town, just a few grocery stores with health food aisles. One of them will special order items for me! I shop Walmart for hormone free milk, cheese, cream, sour cream and occasionally organic romaine, as well as some paper goods. I also shop other local grocers for organic veggies and fruit in their small organic sections. I watch for coupons and sales to get Muir Glen canned tomatoes. I get most of my toiletry supplies from online vendors like iherb.com or vitacost. I make my own cleaning supplies. Sometimes Amazon has great deals on organic items too. I don’t belong to Costco but go with a family member once a year to buy my vanilla for the year (I bake just about everything from scratch.) Most of my healthy food comes from a food co-op called Azure Standard (azurestandard.com). They are based out of Oregon but deliver to many states. You can organize a food drop in your area and you meet their food truck once a month to pick up your order. The area where I live coordinates home delivery (rare!) which is awesome with only having one car. I buy organic grass fed hamburger from them for $6.25/lb and most all of my dry goods, no sales tax either and I get a 2% discount for paying cash to my local drop coordinator! You can buy small amounts or in bulk. I buy wheat berries and grind my own whole wheat (hard white wheat) for bread and baked goods. My food budget for 4 is about the same as yours, but it’s a constant effort to search for healthy deals. I buy a lot of something when it’s on sale. I hope to garden some this next summer in our new location and see how that goes. We look at healthy food as our health insurance and try to take care of ourselves by eating well and exercising.

    1. Looks like you’re doing great! I’m going to have to check out iherb.com and vitacost for toiletries. Thanks for sharing 😀

  17. Yes we shop at different locations but we don’t have as many options with quality things. However we have a lot more than some other areas I’ve lived in. We shop around at the different places depending on the week and what’s available. If I don’t do this, I end up spending about $40 more per week.

    I think the best advice I was given and try to remember (especially where I live as there aren’t as many great options as some places) is to do the best with what God has provided you with and where he has you. Life is never “perfect” but there are blessings all around if we choose to be thankful. This is something I am really learning at the moment and will be learning more and more.

  18. Sadly, our Farmer’s Market is not that big, so their prices are the same as the produce prices ar our local health foods store. This often means that our local produce is often twice the price as the organic produce at the health foods store. I have decided that I need to buy a Costco membership to try to save in other areas. We do have a local dairy fatm that has horomone/antibiotic free milk, cheese, and butter. They also use glass bottles for their milk, which makes a big difference in the quality of their milk. Feeding a family of 55 is so expensive and time consuming, but I pray for God to give me the strength to continue each day!

  19. Our food budget has barely grown as our three boys have grown. Several years ago, we spent nearly $800-$1000/month for food and toiletries. (In the Midwest). Now we live in north Texas, and with a teen and almost teen, the food quantities have expanded. The budget averages $1000/month. We eat healthier now–more fresh meat, bake my own bread (from fresh ground wheat), fresh/frozen organic produce most of the time. We don’t buy much convenience foods, nor junk foods. They are too expensive! We just moved into a house with enough yard for a large garden, so next season we are counting on reducing the food budget with homegrown produce.

  20. Thanks you so much for sharing how you buy real food on a budget! We are in process of transitioning, and the budget difference is making it a little painful (I agree that it is still worth it though!). Have you ever made yogurt? Organic yogurt is expensive, and making it from organic milk (at Trader Joe’s) is super easy. I use the Keeper of the Home crockpot method. Of course, if you don’t use it very much, it may not be worth it, depends on your family. Thanks again for being so open with your budget!

    1. Hi Tiana, yes I do make my own yogurt. I actually LOVE using Trader Joes Whole Milk plain yogurt as my starter culture. My yogurt turns out nice and THICK!! It’s beautiful 😀

  21. She sounds just like me. I buy almost exactly the same as she does, same stores and everything. (Including Walmart!) But I’m in California and our budget went from $500 per month with no kids (And eating out a lot more) to $900 in the same amount of time as Diana. (And we can’t afford to eat out anymore) I really struggle to keep it under $900…I had a garden for the first time this past summer and it helped a little. We get raw milk too, except it’s $12/gallon and we can only afford one! Our produce availability is huge because of living in California, but I still love the farmers market on Saturday mornings in Davis where I can get pastured pork, artisan bread and lots of organic produce.

  22. I scrolled through to look at the pictures first and thought “Wow that looks just like the farmer’s market we have here in Des Moines!” Then I read it is Des Moines. I agree that Trader Joes’s prices beat our Whole Food and Hy-Vee. I try to shop at Fareway instead of Wal-Mart just because it is local and I felt like Fareway has been trying to add a few more healthy foods. Fun to watch you shop here in town!

    1. Awesome Tara!! It’s so much fun to virtually meet others from the same town. We are so blessed with our market!!

  23. Makes me feel a little better to know I shouldn’t expect to get too much more real food out of our budget of $25-45 per week for a family of 3. We LOVE us some good fruits and veggies, but the bulk of our diet is made up of brown rice & beans. I’ve never been to TJs, mainly b/c having one car and a small baby means I shop only on Saturdays, but we usually have a lot of other things going on, so I get about 1 1/2 hours to do the shopping, which means, I do Wal-Mart (thankful for their ad-match program!!)and a local produce stand close by. But, staying home with our children has top priority right now, so we do the best with what we can. When my husband is out of school (i.e. no school bills to pay with his limited income 🙂 ), perhaps we’ll have a little more to spend on such things. We’re very blessed that I’m able to be home and make all things from scratch!

  24. Diana,
    Thanks for posting this! Before I starting reading I could tell that you must be in Des Moines from the pictures! My husband and I and our 3 kiddos live in DSM as well! It was fun to read about how you buy real food for your fam- we have lots of the same shopping habits/places in common! We buy our meat from local farmers as well. If you get a chance I’d love to hear who you buy from! Thanks!

    1. Melissa, how wonderful! Another person from Des Moines 😀 My pork is from Stamps Family Farm, Beef is either from Ebersole Cattle Company or a local homesteading gal who raises her own grassfed beef, chicken is usually from my own backyard or TJ’s and Costco and my eggs are from my own backyard.

  25. This sounds similar to my shopping trips 🙂 I used to go about 5 stores every time I shopped to get the best “deals”, now I just go to 2 or three with the baby. I would like to set up a more routine meal plan so that I can know exactly how much milk to buy, or how much meat, etc. Next spring I’m hoping to have a garden going to same some $$ and use that to buy some good grass-fed butter!

  26. Wow! I only wish I had that much money to spend on groceries! I guess I’m poor! lol! For our family of 4, I’ve been spending half that(around $60-$70), though each week is a struggle to keep it that low. And no, that is not eating as healthy as all of you. Not much organic, or good meats, etc. We mostly eat basic, whole, foods, as opposed to processed foods. Certainly a step up from the typical American diet, but I don’t think you’d call me a “real food mama”! It’s simply not possible right now. (And, yes, we’ve cut everywhere else, and there’s still no extra. I say that, because most people say cut other expenses and anyone can afford organic food.)
    But anyways, I don’t say that for anyone to feel sorry for me! I know life won’t always be this way. And honestly, I am so blessed….just not with money right now! ; )
    I also shop at different stores to save $ when possible. Typically I go to Sprouts and our local regular grocery store. I am actually quite blessed with tons of different stores to choose from….now there’s even 3 Whole Foods in our city! They’re crazy expensive and a bit out of the way for me, so I don’t frequent it… Sprouts has great sales on produce, bulk items, and meats. I’ve never been to a Trader joes, but I think it’s similiar. I used to go to more stores each week, but now I usually only have a short window of time to shop since we only have 1 car and hubby is usually gone working. But that’s ok…I’m learning to pray and ask the Lord to help me make the most of what time and money I have!

    1. Lyss, I completely understand. Many people often give their advice to cut spending. It’s funny to me because we live off so little already, we really can’t cut anything, lol! I think you’re doing a great job. Beans and rice are definitely a staple in my household and also keep our costs down. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Lyss,
      Kudos to you for working to make your grocery budget stretch on such limited resources! I’ve just been reading over this post tonight and feeling so encouraged: so I’m NOT crazy that I can’t seem to buy groceries for my growing family of 6 on less than $140/week! But I SOOO get the wrestling with guilt we mama’s feel when we can’t provide “organic” everything/anything for our crew. I think you’re right: the key is in seeking the Lord for wisdom and grace to steward well the time and finances and energy we do have, and just do the best we can. I definately have to just focus on “whole foods” too, and rest in the fact that it’s a WHOLE lot better than the mac ‘n cheese in a box that I grew up on! 🙂 Be encouraged, that your love for your family and the journey of faith the Lord has your family on right now will yield abundant fruit – organic or not! 🙂 Blessings!

  27. For those of you around Des Moines you should go to Hillsong Produce Auction in Lamoni Iowa (about 45 min. from Des Moines). It would be well worth the trip. Last week I got butternut squash for .10 each! They have a web site where you can see sale reports.

  28. Thanks for this post! Yes Diana, I really agree about getting “real food” for your family. I admire you because you have time for your family and you always put them first. Was it hard for you to give up your career? I believe that family is always priority.

    1. Hi Dream Maker. At first it was very difficult. I’m a driven person and before I had my first son was pretty active in my community as a young professional. It really took God to make me realize how important it was to be at home with my children and I was just obedient to his voice. I could definitely go on but it’s been the best thing I could have ever of done for my children and especially my husband. It’s made me depend on my hubby and to admire him for all the work he does to keep our family going. I still work part time (I teach one evening web class a week at a community college) but through everything it’s made us depend on God and to really understand the differences between wants and needs. God is good and faithful!

  29. I just wanted to add in that since meat is going up so high there are alot of ways to stretch hamburger. I have recently added oatmeal while browning it and then only putting in half the amount in. Yes, are diet has become alot of rice in beans. In fact, i have been making black bean brownies, white bean cake, and choc. chip cookies with garbonzo beans….haha! Also, along the meat issue, our local processing business sells soup bones from grassfed/ hormone free beef for $1 pound. Therefore, i can still get nice healthy beef stock for soups etc w/o buying alot of meat. We have alot of diet restrictions (GF, DF) and i am learning not to depend on buying special flours or special yogurts. Those items add alot to a budget. Instead, we do without dairy and i use oats/ brown rice to make anything gluten free. Good luck ladies and keep on keeping on! We are the keepers of our homes and it all starts in the kitchen!

  30. I our house we are carnivores. So stretch our meat ( ground meat) I have been adding our abundant supply of zuchhini while it browns. I sliced the zucchini thin and froze it. Then when I need to brown some meat for a meal. I just chop the still frozen zucchini (it kinda of shatters into small pieces) then add to the browning meat. I also add it to any sauce that I can put in the blender. My son is very anti-veggie right now. So when he asked what the yellow stuff was I just said it is flavoring. Thankfully he ask for details.

  31. I really appreciated this post! We too are on a limited budget and rising food prices are making it hard, but I will give up my cell phone which is our home phone right now) before I will compromise on the quality organic food we are eating right now. But its hard! Your post has motivated me to go back to the farmers markets. Unfortunately, organic produce is still hard to find even in the biggest markets. One thing we do to save money is to raise rabbits for meat ( they taste like chicken – lol) and go in with other families for a portion of a grassfed cow.

  32. This series has been such a blessing to me. I, too, am a momma of a fast growing family. Days are packed just like these other women are describing. I try to keep up a blog, but lately, my blogging time has been filled with adoption paperwork.

    I’m just now reading through these “day in the life” posts. We are taking a much needed sabbath and the babes are all resting.

    Thank you for showing me that I’m not crazy (well, maybe a little crazy, but not alone) for having “too many children”, trying to be healthy, and keep up a blog at the same time. 🙂

  33. I also wanted to mention the scratch and dent stores (salvage groceries). You need to check the dates on some things but they have tons of organic canned goods really cheap. Another huge saver for us is the Amish. We buys gallons of maple syrup for $35 a GALLON. No one, not even Costco, can touch that. I also buy their jams by the case as we are moving to acreage (December) but are still building right now. At that point we will also have chickens for eggs and meat when they are done laying.
    My husband loves shooting so he will be getting some wild game once we move as well.

  34. I do the same shop around to find the healthiest things at the best prices. Congrats on having such a great system! Our local clean meat comes from a network of farms and is delivered flash frozen so I only have to make a trip to the basement freezer for the days meat. Very handy but definitely was a splurge.

  35. I LOVE reading how other moms provide food for their families! Thanks for sharing. I really wish I lived in an area where I could have chickens just for the fresh eggs. Our family eats a LOT of eggs. Right now I by the 5 dozen package at costco and it doesn’t last the whole month 🙂

  36. So encouraging to know that accross the nation others are making crazy shopping trips too. We used to have “Farm Day” when we purchased more than half of our weekly groceries directly from local farms. Unfortunately one of my main sources of proteins closed last year. Thanks BIG food. . . As a result I’ve spent a better part of the last year trying to find our new groove. I think I’ve found it. Local deli-market for raw milk, raw cheeses, whole fat yogurt, pasteured pork products and local eggs. ( We are working toward sneeking past township zoning rules for chickens) Weekly CSA for about half our fruit & veggie consumption in the week. Local orchard for the other half of the fruits and honey, maple syrup & locally roasted coffee. Everything else, which is only about $50 worth of my $150 weekly grocery budget is from Aldi or Giant and things like spices, flour, rice etc. It takes intention but so worth it.

  37. I have home schooled for that last 20 years or so and have been at home with all 4 of our kids. It was never an option for the kids to be with any one else but me while they were growing up. I do the same thing, I go from store to store, getting what we need, it is a bit of work, but it works for our budget. We have Aldi’s here, and Walmart, and Publix supermarkets with their Bogo, buy one get one free. Love it.

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