I’m sure by now, you’ve seen Cassie’s Twin Cities Live segment explaining how to eat real PFC meals on less than a couple bucks per serving. As we were shopping and researching for the segment, I got inspired to see just how much it would cost to make those same meals a few different ways: from the standard supermarket, from Trader Joe’s, at a high end natural foods store, and by combing these options and getting a little creative (ie. shopping around and making some of the items from scratch). We always encourage our clients and class attendees to simply start where they are right now. No need to go all out and get organic, local, natural, grass fed, cage free, etc. right away! If you’ve been eating cereal or toast for breakfast, just switching to eggs and butter is going to do wonders for your blood sugar, keep your energy up throughout the morning, and result in you feeling awesome and wanting more! Many of our clients have experienced this firsthand and know that the more you eat this way, the better you feel, and the more interested you become in buying and consuming the highest quality ingredients. However, if you aren’t careful, your grocery bill could skyrocket and that’s where we come in with this cost comparison blog post! For the segment, we were simply trying to show that you can make balanced meals on pennies. The frustration I had while shopping for these super cheap ingredients though was the amount of junk in the cheap food. For example, a can of chicken from the conventional supermarket was indeed cheaper than the ones I found in the other stores, however, it came in a smaller can (so the $$/oz was actually higher!) and was floating in a broth of soy with trans fats and refined oils. The canned chicken I found at Trader Joe’s is simply: chicken, broth, salt. While it may not have been organic, it was free from the inflammatory bad fats, came in a larger container, and was less $$/oz. I had the same experience with the tuna. There were MANY options for tuna at all three grocers, but ALL of the supermarket tuna were either packed in refined oils, or water with soy and a preservative. The Trader Joe’s tuna was packed in just water or in olive oil and salt. The natural foods store was of similar quality to the TJ’s stuff but was over a dollar more in price. Also note, most of the tuna at the supermarket came in 3oz cans while the other two stores came in 5oz cans. Again the $$/oz was cheapest at TJ’s with less junk. I’m sure you noticed the highest price tag came from the natural foods store. This is why I choose to shop around. Now, I understand that there are some nights that call for the convenience of a one-stop shop, and I also understand that I’m going to pay for it in one way or another; I’ll be compromising either money or quality, there is no way around it. So, now that I’ve got several years of shopping this way under my belt, when I notice that I’m running low on olive and/or coconut oil, I make a mental note that I need to stop by either Costco or Trader Joe’s to stock up sometime soon. I know that I’ll get the best quality AND prices by shopping at the farmers market, so I swing by there when it’s convenient and stock up on produce for the week. I buy the highest quality meats (not just the canned stuff used in this exercise) I can find and afford, so if the natural foods store has free range chicken on sale, you can be sure I’ll be buying more than a few pounds of it at a time and storing it in my freezer. By keeping your eyes open while you’re out and about, and buying higher quality things when the price is right, rather than when you’re in a pinch and you need to get dinner on the table, you’ll be setting yourself up for successful grocery budgeting. This ‘preventative care’ model of food shopping will help keep you on track by increasing your mindfulness about where your food comes from, what kinds of ingredients you have on hand all the time, how much things cost, where to get the best price, and what you need to have stocked in your pantry, fridge, and freezer, to make sure you can toss together a balanced meal in just a few minutes. Happy shopping!