If you have read it least a couple of my posts then by now you know I care about obtaining and consuming high quality and nutrient dense food. I wanted to write this post in particular for a few different reasons:
1) Some areas of the country are easier to get high quality food than other areas. I hope by sharing some of the sourcing ideas below you may discover more options for wherever you live.
2) There are ways to source high quality food for a lower costs to save money.
3) If you work full time and/or have other commitments besides getting food on the table then I am guessing you may be as busy as I am. I will talk about different subscription service options that may save you time.
4) Lastly, this post will help to prep and give context for my next post which is all about my methods for meal planning.
What to look for and Where to source it from
- You will want to source your meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.) from a place that has hormone free, anti-biotic free, and organic meats.
Ideally you will get grass-fed and grass-finished for your beef.
- Choose seafood that is wild caught (not farmed) and low in mercury.
- Check if you have any local ranches or co-ops in your area. They usually will provide a higher quality product for lower price.
- Talk to the ranchers and ask them questions about the environment the animals are in, if they give them any antibiotics, any hormones, if they are locked in cages/tight quarters , etc.
- Most ranchers who are practicing organic and sustainable animal and land practices will usually allow you to come visit the land and see where the animals are kept and how they are kept.
- This seems like a lot of work up front, but once you find a place that you know is high quality and if its a good price then you will never have to think about it again (or it least not for a long time)!
- Another huge benefit about seeking out a local rancher is that many times you will get discounted prices by buying in bulk. Many will have a specific price for a cow, half a cow, or quarter of a cow. Doing this will be much cheaper than buying by the individual cut at the market.
- If you are unable to find a local rancher or co-op that meets the high quality standard, that is close enough to where you live. affordable enough, or that has the options of meat you want…then the next best option is subscription services. I will talk about my favorites that we use below.
- If you prefer to not use a subscription service, you will likely be able to find your meat at a local Whole Foods, Natural Groceries or similar type of store. You may be paying a higher premium though, which is why I prefer subscription or local ranchers when possible.
- The main things to look for when sourcing your produce is: 1) organic 2) local 3) in season.
- Purchasing organic is the most important so that you are not adding pesticides into your body that your body will have to work to detox out later.
- If you are able to buy locally and in season that is preferred but don’t sweat it if thats not an option for you!
- Look to see what options you have in your area from local farmers either through farmers markets, co-ops, or farm-to-house delivery services.
- Usually produce from local farms will be more affordable than getting it from the store, but every area is different.
- I personally LOVE getting fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farm that delivers. Not only am I saving money, but I am getting fresh, organic food and also supporting the local community and their sustainable practices.
- There are items I cannot get from my farm box, that I will purchase from the local health store.
- Even if you don’t have a local health store, organic produce is usually fairly easy to find at even a mainstream/big chain store now a days.
- However, if you live in a small, rural town and there is absolutely no organic options, then your best bet will be to look into an organic product delivery subscription. The produce won’t be local, but it will be high quality and conveniently delivered to your door.
- Lastly, check your local wholesale store (Costco, Sams Club, etc.). I have noticed some of them carry more organic produce options lately. The one where we live is hit or miss with their organic choices, so I don’t often buy items from there but I have heard other areas stores can be more consistent.
Sourcing for your pantry (dry goods):
- Try to eat less packaged and processed foods overall.
- For the healthy dry good staples that you need, check the prices at your local stores, markets, and wholesale stores to see who carries the best price and also check if they sell the item in bulk. Usually when you buy in bulk it will be cheaper.
- Always check the ingredient label! I can’t stress this enough. Marketing on the front of the box lies to you and if you cannot pronounce the ingredients and/or don’t know what they are/mean then don’t consume it.
- Avoid items that contain Folic Acid if possible. This is the synthetic version of real Folate (L-Methylfolate) and can cause you to not methylate properly, which partially means you cannot detox properly, especially if you have the MTHFR gene (which a lot of us do).
- Don’t be fooled by dry good items that say the words “organic” and “healthy” on them. These companies make a ton of money from their clever marketing. I have seen “healthy organic gluten free mac & cheese”. Let me tell you, its still mac & cheese. Which means, it’s still junk food.
- I am not trying to say that we should never eat any junk food ever. I am just saying not to be fooled into thinking its anything but junk food.
- For example, once in awhile I will get organic GMO-free popcorn because popcorn is loved in our house. I know its not healthy and its just empty calories with no nutrients that my body needs, but I have decided to have a fun snack and go with the organic, GMO-free version since thats the better choice (but the point here is that I know it’s still junk food).
- Choose healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil. Ideally in dark colored glass bottles which preserves the benefits.
An argument for ‘healthy food is too expensive for me’:
I agree that when you look at apples to apples (literally) it may seem more expensive to eat higher quality foods. However, I have an argument for the statement that its too expensive for a family to afford. Here it is…
- How much do you spend eating out per week? (seriously be honest, include fast food)
- How much do you spend on junk food? (anything packaged: chips, crackers, breakfast bars, fruit bars, cookies, candy, etc.)
- How much do you spend on beverages? (soda/pop, Starbucks/coffee/lattes, etc.)
- Where do you shop? Do you buy in bulk or do you pay high premiums for individual items?
- Are there any other areas of your life where you could cut in order to increase your food budget?
So I realize my argument is just a list of questions to ask yourself, but I think you get my point. For most people, the money spent on junk food and eating out will usually cover the difference in paying more for high quality food since they are no longer buying those items and cooking at home more. Even in the case of my family, when we switched over to healthier options we were not eating very much junk food to offset the cost but we were able to spend less in other areas of our life in order to prioritize healthy eating.
Where I Source Food / Favorite Subscription Services:
This will look different for every family depending on their favorite foods, where they live, and what they can afford. I wanted to preface this with more general tips of things to look for when sourcing food (which is hopefully what I did above). Below is where we source the majority of our food from and the subscription services we use.
The main thing I like about using subscription services is the convenience of it. When we find a product we love, we get the same brand over and over. However, I have a really hard time finding consistency in our local stores and what they carry. One week they will carry a specific item and the next week they won’t. It is hit or miss. I don’t have time driving all around town looking for a specific item.
Knowing I will get the same items I want every time and they will be delivered directly to my house is very comforting. Also, I live in the mountains and already commute to work, so any less driving/commuting/errands means more time with my family and doing things I enjoy.
I do schedule specific times to meal plan, to customize my subscriptions, and to order items online which I will talk about more in upcoming posts on meal planning.
- I get a service called ‘Farm Fresh to You’ which serves the bay area where I live from a local farm a couple hours a way from me. This service allows me to choose from a large list, so I am able to customize my box which is helpful.
- Once in awhile if I need something for a recipe that is not in available in my farm box then I will just add that item on our weekly grocery list and pick it up from the local market.
- I purchase all my frozen berries that we use for smoothies and popsicles from Costco, as that is what I found has the best price for organic frozen fruits.
- I also supplement our product from our backyard garden during the summer months. I am very much a ‘gardener in progress’ always learning and failing most of the time but its fun and I learn more each year.
- I have a goal to grow enough of one type of produce and can it so it lasts us all year. Last year I did enough cucumber plants to make pickles and can them so that we don’t have to buy cucumbers for the year. My next item I want to try is tomatoes and making all my own tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, etc. to can. However, tomatoes are a bit tricky where I live so I need to figure that out first before I go all in.
- Maybe in 10 years after I have learned more, I will be able to get most of our produce from our garden and then only have to supplement from the farm box or store. We will see!
DRY GOODS / PANTRY:
- We order almost all of our pantry items from ‘Thrive Market’ online. There is an annual fee similar to Costco, they deliver free to your house for orders over $50, and the items they carry are very similar to what you would find at Whole Foods but they are discounted.
- There are only a few items we cannot get from Thrive that we get from our local store (like gluten free bread and local honey).
- Once in awhile we will get a couple pantry items from Costco when they carry them and when its a good deal (usually nuts, grain free granola bars, and coconut water).
MEATS / SEAFOOD:
- We use a service called ‘Butcher Box’. Its a monthly subscription and you can customize your box with the different types and cuts of meats.
- We used to get all our beef from a local rancher which I loved! However, the size I needed to get from them in bulk was more than we could eat before the next order came in. I also was not able to customize my cuts. It was also only beef, so I had to get chicken and pork from the store which was more expensive. It was a hard choice for me to switch over to butcherbox from our local rancher because again I just love supporting the local community that has sustainable practices…but this option was just better for our family during this phase of life.
- We get all of our beef, chicken, and pork from butcherbox and I have it pre-planned that we will use all of it in specific recipes…
- I have a meal plan template for the entire month that we re-use over an over. I have one for the Spring & Summer and another for Fall & Winter. I do it in a way that still provides us flexibility to change it up or try a new recipe sometimes, but without the stress of always needing to come up with ‘What is for dinner tonight?’ because it’s already planned and we already have the ingredients. I will share a ton more on this in a future post!
- I do get wild caught Alaskan salmon from Costco, since my local Costco offers this at a good price in their freezer section.
- My husband will fish locally once in awhile. When he does, he usually gets Rock Cod or a similar white fish. We will usually use it for fish tacos that night and then freeze the rest to make for another meal.
I hope this post was helpful to you! I would love to hear about where your favorite places are to source high quality food and any tips you have for keeping the costs down. Share below in the comments!