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Times are tough. But it doesn’t mean you have to shop lean. Here are my tips for budgeting healthfully. Send in yours!

*Do some research. Look for whatever specials are running and plan weekly meals around that. Don’t go grocery shopping without a plan in mind for what you’ll eat that week. This could include a crock pot meal or some other large meat+veg meal that can be eaten on for a few days. Buy a whole chicken or a roast and eat on it for the week with fresh greens or a quick veggie stir-fry.

*Shop seasonally and locally in the store and shop the perimeter. Some markets display states/cities/countries from which they source their produce. It’s usually cheaper to buy closer to home and to buy what’s in season. Here in California, blueberries from Chile are $5 during the winter. If you want berries in the wintertime, buy frozen and defrost.

*With the above said, shop the farmers’ market. If you’re as fortunate as we are here in California, you may have access to many area markets. Again, do your research. There are some very expensive farmers’ markets and some more reasonable ones. Know which ones fit your budget.

*You needn’t buy everything organic. Generally, buy greens, berries, apples, and fruits with thinner skins organic; buy fruits with peels or rinds conventional. Also, broccoli and cabbage usually contain fewer pesticides and are ok conventional too. Always buy organic meat and dairy.

*Don’t assume that everything is cheaper at the Safeway or Kroger or Costco than it is at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. We have Safeway here in California, and while many of their products are less expensive, Whole Foods will have some way better deals on organic salad greens or produce, for example, than Safeway. Trader Joe’s also has excellent deals on certain organics and staples like whole grains and teas. Shop there for the staples and organic meat or fish and then hit the farmers’ market for fruits and veggies.

*Buy in bulk. Many health food stores have bulk bins. Use them.

*Join a local weekly produce box. Seasonal and local and delivered to you (saving time), and usually organic!

*Check out healthy buyers’ clubs. I like Tropical Traditions. (click link)