New to our Juicing on a Budget series? Checking out the first two posts here.
At this point, you might be thinking I would love to add more raw fruits & vegetables to my diet, but it’s too expensive! I get it. Remember? That was one of my biggest objections before I got into this whole juicing thing.
So, first, a little background. Right now my grocery budget for our family of four is around $400/month. I typically shop once a week at New Seasons and a couple times a month at another grocery store or produce market. We are trying to eat as many whole foods and as few processed foods as possible.
I have been able to make around 32 ounces of fresh juice 5-7 times a week without blowing our budget. Here are some ideas to make it work (most of these are also applicable to making smoothies or eating more fresh produce in general).
Top 12 Ideas for Juicing on a Budget:
1. View good food choices as investments vs. expenses. While this doesn’t add money to your grocery budget, I think it’s an important place to start.
If you are just counting the expense, making healthy diet changes will never make financial sense. Processed convenience food will be cheaper every time. To stick with it, you have to make the decision that spending more in this area is worth it to you.
2. Cut back on other areas. I think there is some wiggle room in every budget. For example, my family has cut back on meat, sweets, and eating out. I am trying to only prepare meat when we are craving it, serve dessert as an occasional treat vs. a daily habit, and eat out only for special occasions. So far, these changes have all been positive for our family. The added benefit is that they have opened up some breathing room in our food budget.
What would it be for your family? Packing brown bag lunches? Cutting back on pop or coffee? Making more food from scratch? I bet there’s room in there somewhere.
3. Compare produce prices to other whole foods. For instance, before I started juicing I wouldn’t hesitate to pay $2.45 per pound for organic quinoa or $3.26 per pound for whole almonds. So why does 78¢ per pound for organic celery or 99¢ per pound for organic oranges seem so expensive?
$25 worth of produce might not fill your grocery bags like spending that much on a strategic coupon trip to Safeway, but that’s not really a fair comparison. Weighed against other whole foods on your grocery list, produce prices are competitive, if not cheaper.
4. Buy organic when possible, conventional when not. I love supporting small, organic farms. I am willing to pay more for their produce. However, some weeks I have to make a decision between the $2.49/lb. organic apples and the .69/lb. conventional apples.
Sometimes I have to defer to my budget, and other times I can practice my preferences. I just do the best I can and don’t sweat it either way. Do what works best for you. Keeping a small copy of the Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen in my shopping notebook helps, too.
5. Shop local produce markets, farm stands, or delivery services. You can often find great deals at local produce markets, although they don’t have as many organic options. Some sell bins of conventionally-grown juicing apples or pears for a steal at around .39/lb.
I’ve also heard great things about Organics to You, which even offers a weekly Juicer Bin for $33. Local CSA’s, which I will be talking about more next week, are also a good option.
6. Buy produce in bulk. Carrots and beets, for example, can be purchased in large 25-pound bags. New Seasons sells their 25-lb. bags of organic juicing carrots for $19.99. Produce markets, like Nature’s Country Store in Damascus, Oregon, sells 25-lb. bags of conventionally-grown juicing carrots for $9.99, and Grower’s Outlet in the Portland-area sells them for $8.95.
In cool weather, store these big bags outside. In the summer, they could be kept in a cool basement or garage. If that still seems like too much produce for you, consider splitting a bigger purchase with someone else. Also, talk to your produce manager or local farmer about possible discounts for placing larger orders.
7. Juice random pieces of fruits & vegetables that usually get tossed into the compost bin. Asparagus tips, beet greens, celery ends, broccoli stems, carrot peels, pineapple cores, parsley stems, kale ribs, or cabbage pieces produce a surprising amount of juice. Just toss them in a bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to juice!
Note: My Breville juicer is sturdy enough to grind up tough produce pieces. Check your juicer’s instruction manual to see what it can handle!
8. Pick local produce or grow your own garden. Pick your own fruits & berries when they are in season and freeze them for use through the rest of the year. Blueberries, peaches, apples, pears, and strawberries are all easy to pick and delicious in a juice or smoothie.
Having a garden is a great way to supplement your store-bought produce. Even if you are limited to an apartment patio space, you can still grow a few vegetables! Start with greens like parsley, spinach, kale, lettuce or chard. You can pick the leaves throughout the season, stimulating more growth.
Find out how to build a raised garden bed here.
9. Create juices based on what’s in season and on sale. For example, when organic kale is on sale for $1.50/bunch, I buy 4-6 in one trip, and we will drink more green juices that week. Find a good deal on pineapple or spinach or carrots? Let that dictate the types of juices you make instead of using juice recipes to create your grocery lists. Find out how to save money on real food here.
10. Drink fresh juices as meal replacements or supplements. My husband doesn’t like eating breakfast early in the morning so a large juice on the way to work has been the perfect solution for him. It’s a great way to start the day and keeps him going until his morning break. I eat a small lunch with my large juice. Also, fresh juice is my absolute favorite post-workout recovery drink.
Suddenly, juice doesn’t seem like an extra expense. It is a breakfast and sports drink replacement and a lunch supplement in our house. And yes, we still eat lots of “real” food.
11. Find another use for the pulp. We own a centrifugal juicer which grinds up the produce, spins out the juice, and dumps the dry pulp into a container on the side. Currently, we just compost the pulp, but I know several people who use the pulp in things like muffins, meatloaf, or crackers. Or chicken feed!
12. Pick dandelion greens in your backyard. Ok, so I haven’t actually tried this one, but hey nothing says “frugal” like eating weeds out of your lawn! And I wanted to end my list with an even number.
Does juicing add a bunch of new ingredients to your grocery list? Yes. My cart is now piled with bags of fruits & vegetables each week, both for juicing and eating raw. And I love it.
Does juicing add a strain on your food budget? It does cost more, but by putting this list into practice, I can make it work within my normal budget. If your food budget is lower per person, you might have to bump it up a bit.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed, just ease into it with 2-3 juices a week. Once you get into a routine, work your way up to a number that is good for your family and your budget. I am confident you will find that the benefits outweigh the costs.
Find more juicing posts here.
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