The Nitty-Gritty on The Real Food I Buy and Where I Buy It, Part 2 1

The Nitty-Gritty on The Real Food I Buy and Where I Buy It, Part 2

peas in baskets

Yesterday I began by sharing about where I buy our meat, fish, eggs, dairy and fats. Today I’ll continue on, sharing the particulars of what I buy where.

The goal isn’t to tell you that you should buy your foods just as I do, but rather to give you a detailed, inside look at how it works for one family, and to help inspire you as you seek out affordable sources of real food for your own family!

Organic Grains and Flours

At this point, I am buying these exclusively from Azure Standard. I buy the whole grains (like Kamut or rye berries, rather than flour) in 25 lb bags, because these are cheap, easy to store and I want the nutritional benefits of freshly ground flour. You can’t beat buying whole grains in bulk!

In this kind of bulk, the price becomes very affordable. I pay just under $20 for 25 lbs of Kamut, under $12 for 25 lbs of rye berries, and $18.50 for 25 lbs rolled oats (all organic). I also purchase my barley, steel cut oats, quinoa, popcorn, millet, etc. from Azure, but usually in 5 lb bags (except for the oats). The only other grain that I buy is brown rice, which I get from Costco. It’s 2.2 kg which is about 5 lbs, for $9.

We are also using almond flour and coconut flour to do some grain-free baking. I have bought the Bob’s Red Mill almond flour in a case of 4 packages from Amazon (use Subscribe & Save for 15% off). Another option that is slightly cheaper is the 5 lb bag fromHoneyville Food Products. You can often find coupon codes if you search online, or get them sent to you if you sign up for their emails and their shipping is only $4.49 in the US. For coconut flour, Tropical Traditions sells a great product and it’s most economical to buy two 2.2 lb bags at once, and try to do it on a Monday when they have a coupon code or free shipping available. Other than that, Azure Standard or Amazon both sell the Bob’s Red Mill brand by the case for a reasonable price.

bowl with gingersnap dough
Gingersnap dough (yummy)

Vegetables and Fruits

I have been faithfully shopping at the same produce market, 2 EE’s, for 6 years. In season, they grow as much of their own organic or unsprayed produce as possible, and they try to bring in a lot of local as well. They also sell by the case, which is particularly cost-effective for preserving season. Shopping according to what’s seasonal, on-sale and discounted definitely helps me to stretch my produce dollars as far as they can do.

We do have a Farmer’s Market near us, which opened 2 years ago, I believe. I go there occasionally, but it’s still quite small and usually between my favorite market and my own garden, I don’t really have a need to. In the late spring, summer and fall, my vegetable garden provides us with the majority of what we need. Want to learn more about growing your own food? Make sure you read the Gardening 101 series!

I should mention that during the cooler months, we don’t buy a lot of fresh fruit. We do tend to buy organic apples (which are mostly from local areas and stored for the winter), some citrus in winter (which is when it’s seasonal), and bananas (which I try to only buy when I find them discounted), but that’s about it.

Other than that, we buy tons of fresh fruit in the summer, while it’s local, seasonal and inexpensive. We enjoy plenty of it fresh, and then I preserve like a mad woman from July-September, churning out strawberry jam, apple jelly, canned pears and peaches, canned applesauce, sweet and sour plums, mincemeat, and frozen blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and peaches.

soaked almonds for dehydrator

Spices and Herbs, Nuts and Seeds, Dried Fruit

For me, these items are best purchased in bulk through a natural food co-op. I use one called Azure Standard. I buy spices and herbs in 1 lb bags from Oregon Spice Company, and I find them quite fresh and they carry many that are organic as well.

My nuts and seeds are mostly from my co-op as well, in 5 lb bags because they’re cheaper that way. I store the more volatile ones (like walnuts and sesame seeds) in the fridge or freezer for freshness. The other place that I will buy nuts is Costco, because I find theirs to be quite fresh and the price per lb breakdown is about the same as Azure, generally. I buy most of my unsulphured dried fruits from Azure as well (mostly dates and raisins and occasionally apricots, because I make my own apple and banana chips and fruit leathers), and these are also cheapest in 5 lbs bags. If stored well, they last just fine for a couple months.

Other Grocery Items

I have one local store that I shop in, Extra Foods (or Superstore, it’s sister store). They put out 15% off $100 coupons at the beginning of each month, so I try to take advantage of these and stock up on my toilet paper, canned or frozen fish, teas or condiments or rice pasta from the organic aisle, some organic produce and a few other basics. I also use coupons when possible(yes, there are sometimes coupons for decent foods, just not many), as well as the coupons that we get for buying our gas from the Extra Food’s gas station. We also get free grocery dollars for using our business credit card that is connected to this grocery chain as well. It all adds up, and helps to save more room for the rest of the real food we buy from other sources!

Lastly, I shop at Costco about once every two months. Fresh salmon, canned tomato paste, organic corn chips, brown rice, organic butter, frozen organic corn and peas and green beans, almonds or walnuts, etc. On some items, their prices are worthwhile and they are slowly carrying more “real food” options.

good frugal food book cover 22And This Was The Condensed Version

Think these posts were long? You should see my book, Real Food on a Real Budget: How to Eat Healthy for Less! 280 pages of straight talk on how I find great deals on real foods and keep my budget low, without compromising on what I feed my growing family.

Available in both eBook and paperback formats, it’s sort of like sitting down at my kitchen table and picking my brain about the best ways to save money on healthy, wholesome foods and all the little tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years of working with a tight budget.

I would love to hear any other specific grocery or budget questions that you have for me.

Better yet, I would love to hear from YOU, with some of the specifics of what you buy where and how you find find great deals on real foods!

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  1. This mini-series has been very helpful; thanks so much!

    When you buy whole grains in 25 lb bags, where do you store it at home?

  2. I am slowly learning to eat and prepare real food for my family. Just when I became really into it, we moved to Germany. I know there are some great options in Europe, particulary meat, but I don’t know where to start! I’m hoping for some tips from you or other readers that may be in the same boat!

    1. @Robyn,

      Hi Robyn,

      I was pretty much in the same boat as you. I was learning all about whole foods on these lovely ladies blogs but being in Ireland, I had no clue where to start. My first piece of advice would be to find a farmer’s market locally. Try and find the best fruit & veggies & meat that you can there. Get to know the producers and you never know what you might find. For example, I got talking to a local cheese producer and found out that she sells raw milk from her farm.

      As for bulk produce such as grains and nuts, have a look on-line. It took 2 or 3 searches for me & I found an English web based company similar to Azure standard. Unfortunately they only ship to GB and Ireland though.


  3. We have a great local co-op in our city that has excellent bulk organic grains, beans, legumes, ect.ect. and a really good selection of Gluten Free. We’re also blessed to have 5 farmer’s markets around town, CSAs all over, and even community gardens (run by a non-profit) that are turning our empty lots into purposeful places to plant! Because our city (although 250,000) is in the middle of the Midwest, we are surrounded by farmland and in the summer it is so common to see pick-up trucks pull up anywhere in town, and sell their DELICIOUS and CHEAP goods! We also have many ‘you-pick’ options on the edges of town in about any direction, our most famous is a strawberry farm…I can’t even look at a grocery store strawberry anymore! They just don’t do it justice like those farm berries straight off the vine ! 🙂

    My family gardens a little, shares a CSA box, go to the Farmers’ Markets, and we pick at different farms ourselves…a little bit of everything. It’s a goal this year to learn how to can from a friend’s mom, I am excited to do that!

    Sarah M

  4. What is your monthly grocery budget (averaged)? Maybe include the cost of any gardening supplies. How many people are you feeding?

    I pay less than you do for meat, but for the rest of the products you named yesterday, I pay way more. I also don’t have the extra funds to save up to buy in bulk (nor the room for a freezer at the moment), but I’m working on it.


  5. I try to buy locally as much as possible, either from a farmer’s market or a physical store. I have found that one of my local natural foods store will order those 25 lb bags of spelt, etc., for me and I save a bundle!

  6. I try to buy healthy food as much as possible, and even though I live in a tiny apartment, I even raise a few veggies and herbs on pots and on balcony and by the windows and pretty much werever I can place them.
    I try to preserve whatever I can, bring fresh fruit and veggies from my parent’s farm when I visit them… you know, that sort of thing.

    Problem is, I live alone, and cook for 2 persons, tops.
    There aren’t many options in terms of accessible healthy food choices in my city, and buying in bulk is something I am uncomfortable with (I want good food to eat, not to spoil in my pantry).

    So, any of you have the same difficulties?
    How do you manage to get arount them?

    1. @Annie,

      Hi! I’m in the same boat & still trying to figure it all out myself…sry I’m no help
      Question for u tho…what do you plant on your balcony? & do you have any resources on how to get started? Thank u!!

  7. I’m curious if you or any readers have tips or advice for eating whole foods while living in Europe. I am sort of at a loss on where to start here! (Germany)

  8. Trader Joe’s is excellent for me. I can get 3 lbs. of brown rice for just over $3. A lot of fresh produce (bananas, $0.19 each; carrots, $0.89/lb.; apples, etc.) comes from there. They also have almond meal for $4/lb. which is unheard of anywhere else I’ve looked, so I buy there (it’s not blanched nor very finely ground but has always worked for me). I don’t buy nuts or seeds very often because they are expensive. Every now and then if there’s a sale on bulk nuts locally I’ll buy almonds or walnuts.

    I also have a local food coop where I get grains for $0.89/lb., so I usually buy there. Oats are $0.99/lb. We don’t use enough of either of these to make it worth it to me to buy in large quantities. (We are still trying to go “low grain” so 3 lbs. of brown rice, 4 – 5 lbs. of wheat berries, and maybe 1 lb. oats will last us a month or so.)

    In the summer I will head to the farmer’s markets. I get certain things, especially fresh spices, very cheaply there. I tend to buy produce not on the “dirty dozen” list from Walmart these days, to keep costs extra low. I will also be doing a TON of preserving this year (again). We have some local sources where I can get tomatoes, peaches, etc. for $1/lb. or less. Still sourcing blueberries and strawberries, but I did plant 60 organic strawberry plants that seem to be doing reasonably well, so I’m hoping I’ll get 25 – 30% of what I need from there! We’re growing a few other things too.

    We’ll see how it goes! This is our first time doing MASSIVE preserving (about three times what we did last year at least) and hoping it saves us a lot! (Though honestly even without preserving or bulk buying we are spending about $300 – $350 per month on groceries, we just have limited options.)

  9. Does anyone have any suggestions on an affordable method/product to grind your whole grains?

  10. I’ve found Trader Joe’s to be a great place to shop as well, but I do have to be careful not to get carried away with the fresh foods! I have a farmer I get meat and eggs from every other month, and I just found another person who sells cheese from grass-fed cows. I’m still looking for a good co-op to get things like nuts and grains in bulk. For some reason my internet searches aren’t coming up with much! I’d be curious to hear from any other midwesterners (I’m in Illinois) what co-ops they use. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

  11. Did you mention where you buy your sweeteners, or did I miss that. Also, what brand of cheese do you buy from azure? Thanks.

    1. @Lanise, I get my Sucanat in 50 lb bags from Azure, and that’s where I buy my raw honey from as well (1 gallon tubs).
      I sometimes buy the Brunkow brand, and used to buy the Rumiano but that seems to not be carried anymore. In recent months, they’ve had one that doesn’t have a distinct brand name- perhaps it’s made by the Azure farm? I’m not sure.

  12. I also love Trader Joe’s! Moving to California certainly gave me a lot more options when it comes to food.

    We have a store here called Grocery Outlet. It sells all kinds of products that are either close to expiring or just overstocks. I can get some of my extra items there. Sometimes they have my favorite expensive yogurt for 30 cents!

    Azure is also a life saver for me. I buy a lot through them, and also through Amazon. I like the prices, but I also love the fact that I don’t have to leave the house!

  13. I buy most of my food from Azure Standard, as well. If you have any readers in Southern Oregon, I have a drop here that is open to anyone who would like to join.

    For produce, I grow or buy from our local famers or I find it at our outdoor market on Saturdays, which is also from local farmers.

    We also do shop at a local store which carries real food and once in a while, I get to go to a food co-op about an hour away to buy grass fed meats and sustainable seafood.

  14. I buy most of my food from Azure Standard, as well. If you have any readers in Southern Oregon, I have a drop here that is open to anyone who would like to join.

    For produce, I grow or buy from our local famers or I find it at our outdoor market on Saturdays, which is also from local farmers.

    We also do shop at a local store which carries real food and once in a while, I get to go to a food co-op about an hour away to buy grass fed meats and sustainable seafood.

    I use as well with the subscribe and save option for our maple syrup and a few other items that come up that Azure might beout of.

  15. Thank you for this fabulous series Stephanie!! I really do appreciate it.

    Many blessings,

  16. I too shop at two EE’s. Just went this their anything more beautiful then the fuschia coloured stemmed swiss chard right from their garden? (I keep staring at it and thanking God for beautiful, affordable, nutritious food). I was wondering if you could share were you buy berries in the summer. I would like to stock up but I am not sure where to go for affordable no spray strawberries in particular. Thanks so much!

    1. @Amber, For unsprayed blueberries, I really like Wagner Hills in Langley/Aldergrove. It’s a home for recovering addicts, and they maintain these great big blueberry bushes without sprays. Picked is around $1.50 or $2 per lb (maybe it was $1.75 last summer?) and u-pick is only $1 per lb, unless they’ve raised the price. Only thing is they often sell out of the picked ones and you have to put your name on a list early in the season to ensure that you get the amount you want.

      I’ve also gone on Craigslist when I couldn’t get enough at Wagner, and found small, local farms that don’t spray or use more ecological methods, for similar prices. Lots of good ones in Aldergrove/Abbotsford.

      Raspberries we often pick at Krause Berry Farms. They aren’t completely unsprayed, but they do use mostly ecological methods and it’s a nice place for picking with the whole family.

      I haven’t found any good places that have affordable unsprayed strawberries. Sometimes I just buy the local conventional ones and wash them like crazy. Other times I buy the ones that are frozen and unsprayed from Azure Standard.

      Blackberries are just free for the picking everywhere, of course! We do lots of blackberries, too.

  17. I’d love to know what you use to grind your whole grains! Do you have any product recommendations?
    Thanks for these great posts! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

    1. @Ashleigh, We use a nutrimill and I’ve found it to be fine, but I’ve never seen or used anything else. My husband did the research and decided on it. I mainly grind spelt, wheat, and kamut in it. I have done a few others too. When we researched it was between the nutrimill, k-tech and whisper mill. I don’t remember specifically why he chose that one but its worked well for us.

  18. We’ve been living in an 800 sq. ft. apartment (with 5 people) for the entirety of the that I’ve been getting serious about eating real food (2 years). We have no storage outside of the apartment, and no outdoor space, so it has been impossible for me to take advantage of some of the bulk-buying opportunities you’ve mentioned. However, we’re moving to a house with a yard and garage in about 6 weeks, and I’m absolutely counting down the days and researching CSA and co-op options in our new city. My budget has also been extremely limited, as my husband is a full time student.

    The ways that I’ve managed to buy real food these last couple of years are to use Amazon (maple syrup, coconut oil, some teas), Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts. At Trader Joe’s, I buy raw and grass-fed cheeses that are delicious and very affordable (I think about $4 a pound). I also buy nuts, some dried fruits, a few produce items (organic carrots and bananas, as well as a few other items), and organic eggs of good quality ($4 a dozen). Sprouts has double-ad Wednesdays, when sales from two weeks are good. I go every Wednesday, and I buy raw milk ($16 a gallon–ouch. I buy one gallon a week, and when it is gone, it is gone), pastured butter ($4 a pound on sale), and just this last week I bought about 12 pounds of grass-fed organic ground beef for $4 a pound.

    I also am part of a local CSA for produce. I pay $20 a box for organic veggies (I split with a friend because it always has tons dark leafy greens that go bad quickly–so $10 each). It is a good price for local, organic veggies, and I like supporting a local farm.

  19. Organic fruit and veggies are the hardest thing for me to find. I can get organic potatoes, carrots, bananas, apples, pears and cherry tomatoes locally and that’s it. I can travel to a farmer’s market 20miles away, in the city, where there is an organic fruit/veg guy who imports alot in but his prices are really expensive. Add the price of gas and I really can’t afford it. I have started my own small gaden this year but I really don’t know what I am doing. I’m really only growing tomatoes to preserve. Can anyone tell me a good number of tomato plants to sow in order to have a good amount to preserve? I have only bought 3 plants so far & I know that isn’t enough.

    For grains, salt, nuts, rapadura etc, I recently found a great site called that delievers to U.K & Ireland so I am really delighted with that.

    1. @Nicola, 3 plants will probably give you enough for fresh eating, but not much more. This year I have 12 plants going (including 2 cherry) and I expect that I will be able to do most of the preserving that I want to do, but I might still need to buy an extra box or two at the market. I like to can enough diced tomatoes to last us the entire year, as well as dehydrate tomatoes and freeze some whole. Even with the amount that I grow, I don’t make much in the way of sauce (last year I made 8 jars of sauce) and I don’t make any paste because it requires so many tomatoes.

      I guess it just really depends on how big your family is and how much you want to preserve. I would say anything over 6 plants will give you something to preserve, but you likely need more like 8-20 (20 being for the larger family or someone who wants to do ALL their own tomato products and that might even be a low estimate– I think that Barbara Kingsolver who wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle plants about 50!).

      1. @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home,

        Thanks Stephanie. There is only 4 of us for now, youngest coming up to 2. Will get some more plants. Everything is just so new to me this year that I’ll keep it at around 8 & see how I go. If I get even one delish tomato this year, I’ll be happy with that (obviously I’m hoping for a lot more though)

    2. @Nicola, For preserving tomatoes it does also depend on your climate for how much you want to preserve. I am zone 3 bordering on 2b. For me, I usually try to start around 40-50 seedlings, so that I end up with about 25-40 since some die and I give some away if I have a surplus. This year I think I started 40. However in my climate its cool and a short season. I can’t put tomatoes out until early June and I get first frost early to mid September. Around 40 plants doesn’t leave me enough for the whole year for preserving because I don’t have a long season nor do I find my plants grow big or produce amazingly. Last year I did dry a few bags full and froze about 15 cans worth. But that only lasts me a few months not the whole year. I know that in hotter climates having that many plants would be overwhelmingly too much for some people to keep on top of. So in a nutshell- it depends how many people you are preserving for, what your climate is like, and how often you eat tomatoes. I would say if you’ve never done it start small and see how it goes. Do maybe 10 or 15 at the most and see what happens. Record what you get and then try more next year.

      1. @Nola, I would guess that for you, 40 tomato plants is more like 10-20 in a warmer climate with a longer summer, right?

        I hadn’t really thought about the climate aspect, but you’re totally right that it makes a huge difference!

      2. @Nola,

        Ooops!! Didn’t see this. Thanks Nola for the advice. I live in Ireland so mostly a colder damper climate. We had lovely weather last week. It was up in the early 70’s which is the hottest we get at all. This week is miserable & very windy. It’s in the early 50’s. I put out my 3 little tomato plants last week & wondering if I shouldn’t have now.

  20. What a good post! I know when we initially changed our diet the biggest barrier was knowing the specifics of where to purchase items without breaking the budget. I don’t know if it has been mentioned but I would highly recommend looking into a food buying club – either joining or starting one. It can be as big or small as you want but it is basically a group of people living in the same geographical area who split large quantities of products. You get the price of a five gallon bucket of coconut oil but can buy just a half gallon! We also have a few farmers living in rural areas that can deliver to the club in the city as they have a guarantee of their products being purchased. We live in Portland, OR, and there are many great food buying clubs throughout the city.

    I’ve recently started my own blog talking about prices and sources of organic and sustainable foods in our area. I want people to know that they can afford real food, that Whole Foods isn’t the only option. Many sources are very affordable but it takes some digging to find them.

  21. Just curious where you store your bulk foods from Azure. I’ve considered ordering from them because they have great prices, but I haven’t figured out where to store that much grain without it getting bugs. Do you use food storage buckets?

  22. Thank you for the wealth of information! book mark as favorite. I am looking to purchase cashews, almonds, in bulk as well. However, due to allergies, I need to be sure the nuts aren’t processedin a facility with wheat, soy. Mainly wheat is what you find on the package. Would you know if Azure has any processed in a facility without wheat? I tried researching, however, couldn’t find a description.
    Thanks so much, will use your information regularly.

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