It is possible to eat healthy & organic food without spending your whole paycheck and not have a garden! I know this sounds rather difficult, but, by shopping at different places (online & brick-and-mortar), we are usually able to enjoy organic food for approximately the same cost or cheaper than conventional food in the grocery store. In this post, I will share with you how we are able to save money on nearly every item we buy.
DISCLOSURE: I will take this opportunity to tell you that I am not a nutrition expert. Every person & family has different dietary needs. As for our family, we try to eat organic produce or low-spray produce as much as seasonal availability & our monthly budget permits. For meat, our first preference is grass-fed beef, vegetarian free-range/cage-free chickens, and wild-caught fish with no or minimal antibiotics & processing. We also try to avoid wheat gluten as much as possible (read the book Wheat Belly by William Davis to find out why).
Why We Do Not Have A Garden?
For the last two years, we have not had a successful garden that we have actually eaten any produce off of. We lived in Kentucky for a year & our soil was nutrient deficient and since we knew we would be moving back to Tennessee in the near future, we didn't invest the time. This year, we started a straw bale garden (something we never tried before) but didn't have much success as we have been somewhat focused on building our house pounding nails instead of using our green thumb. Our summer to-do list includes staking out a plot of our land for a garden & blueberry bushes. We also want to start conditioning our soil so we can plant next Spring!
To be honest, we have been able to enjoy some greens & herbs from the gardens of family & friends, but not enough to stop buying our normal amounts in produce.
How We Eat Healthy Instead?
So we have been living like city slickers as of late when it comes to eating healthy since we buy 99.9% of our food from companies. Although, we don't fit the typical mold by shopping the organic section at Whole Foods, Costco, or the local supermarket. Yes, we do pop into these places on occasion, but here is how we do not pay retail prices.
For organizational purposes, I will break our food sources down into three different categories: Dried Foods, Meat, and Produce. We use all the companies below & are pleased with their services.
We buy most of our dried foods such as flours, rice, coffee, mac & cheese, etc. from two online businesses. I put this section first because dried foods can be purchased nationwide.
Boxed is an online wholesale version of a Sam's Club or Costco, without the annual fee & they will FedEx everything to your door. We buy several food items from Boxed, in addition to other things we need, such as Annie's Mac & Cheese. You need to buy a “value pack” of 12 boxes, but we can get them for about $1 a box. In our local grocery stores, they cost about $2 each.
They do not have a wide product selection compared to similar competitors like Amazon Pantry, but we have been pleased with their service. They also offer same-day delivery of food products in certain cities.
Read my Boxed.com review, to see why we “Love That Bulk.”
#2: Thrive Market
Thrive is a subscription service ($60 per year) that “thrives” on selling organic & non-GMO products for up to 50% below retail price. They have a pretty large selection & carry most of the major healthy labels. Like Boxed, they ship it right to your door.
Another bonus with Thrive is their social mission. For every membership purchased, they will give a free membership to a person in need. Also, they ensure their coconut oil from the Philippines is ethically sourced and the workers receive a fair wage.
#3: Azure Standard
Think of Azure as a “Whole Foods on Wheels.” They sell a little bit of everything from produce, dried grain flours, chips, coffee, sugars, condiments, etc. We use them because of their wide selection & we do not have to drive an hour to the local “healthy” store to get what we need.
With Azure, you need to belong to a drop point. You place your order online each month & go to the drop point on the delivery date where everything is delivered via their semi-truck. The meeting point could be at the parking lot of a gas station, church, or another place of business.
Azure delivers to most of the United States (including Alaska & Hawaii), with the exception of the New England & the mid-Atlantic states of Virginia, Maryland, & Deleware. Their headquarters are in Oregon, so their drops are most concentrated in the western United States. Follow this link to see if a drop point is near you!
Meat & Poultry
I have previously written about buying chicken in bulk. Zaycon works similar to Azure Standard, you can only purchase if there is a drop point near you. They only deliver several times per year, so you might have to plan ahead & only certain products are available to specific drop points. (For example, you might be able to buy chicken or beef, but the closest salmon drop point is 200 miles away).
Zaycon sells beef, chicken, salmon and pork products. We have only purchased their boneless chicken breasts (we do trim them to vacuum seal & freeze) & have been pleased customers for several years now. Zaycon is not organic. The closest equivalent is the “Amish-quality chicken” that you can buy in your local poultry aisle with no additional hormones or antibiotics & fed a grain-based diet. It costs us about half the price to buy through Zaycon than the local grocery store.
We buy free-range, organic chicken when possible, but as you know, it is very expensive. So Zaycon is a cost-effective compromise for us. We get healthier chicken for the price of store-brand poultry!
Local Buying Club
Fresh produce is very difficult to buy from national companies. Azure Standard (recommended earlier for dry goods) sells some seasonal produce.
We belong to an organic buying club for a Florida-based organic produce distribution company that sells it to us at wholesale prices. Like Azure & Zaycon, they deliver by semi-truck and we meet them at a specified drop point once or twice a month. We are one of two buying clubs (a group of several families) on the route and the remaining customers are various produce stores from Florida, western North Carolina, to east Tennessee.
Finding one of these groups is by word-of-mouth (in most instances), and I recommend checking at your local non-chain health food store or ask other Azure drop point participants. In our experience, at least one or two people who participate in programs like Azure or Zaycon might acquire their produce this way too.
Food offerings will vary widely as well depending on the group & geography. Some groups will let you choose from an “a la carte” catalog and you buy the quantities you need. Other groups might charge a flat fee and will give you a mixture of fruits & veggies (even if you detest broccoli). 😉
You Don't Need A Garden To Eat Healthy
I hope this has helped you realize that growing your own produce isn't the only way to save money on healthy food. Yes, a garden is probably the best option as you can control what, if any, fertilizers and/or pesticides you might use. But, having a garden requires real estate & time. And they are seasonal. We eat lettuce, greens, and other fruits year-round and they come from South America during our offseason.
Contrary to popular belief, buying healthy food does not break the bank!
Where do you buy healthy foods from? Have you used any of these companies in the past? What other healthy food buying advice do you have?
Thanks For Reading,
P.S. My wife has written more about how to eat healthy and cheap on her blog.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.