Today I’m introducing a new series of posts I intend to make about finding ways to live great on a budget! I’m calling this series HappyLiving.

Eight Foods to Buy Well

As we go about the business of tightening our budgets in these tough economic times it is good to keep in mind that while you should save money wherever you can, when it comes to what you eat there are at least eight foods you should never cut corners on. These staples are pretty much the ‘staff of life’ ingredients and for a whole bunch of reasons you would do well to buy these at the very highest quality you can afford.

These are ingredient foods so anything you prepare using them is going to be high quality!

  • Flour
  • Rice
  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Pasta
  • Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional: Meat



Make it whole wheat or half whole wheat/half white (or make your own blends). Buy organic. Yes, I know the price may be double over conventional – but this is what you’re going to be baking bread with ,making pizza dough, cookies and pancakes with. When you parse it out the cost of five pounds of high quality flour is going to give your menu probably 5+ different items at about $1 worth of flour each. Not bad.


Choose brown – it’s way healthier than white. Go organic when you can. Because this is such a high value food item the extra cost gets spread out quickly.


Like flour, sugar is something that helps make other things – if you’ve started with a high quality organic sugar – you’re way ahead of the game and may even be able to feel pretty good about that cookie you just shoveled in!


Ok, for starters, why are you even looking at margarine? I know why. Someone told you – or more likely advertising informed you – it’s healthier than butter. Really? Even with it’s saturated fats butter is the better choice. For one thing it’s natural, for another it tastes great! As for it being the healthier choice – google it up and see what the latest research has shown. Where they used to tell us the new unsaturated fats in highly processed margarines could prove to be a healthier option that reality seems to be coming full circle on that. I use butter in all my baking now.


With all the hormones our country’s dairy cows are given to help them maximize their yields what’s happening is we’re all getting way too much of what they’re getting when we drink their milk. Better to choose as pure as you can if you drink or use a lot of milk. Go organic whenever you can, especially if you have kids.


On a budget pasta is an awesome choice! It’s tasty and filling and helps stretch costlier ingredients. But not all pasta is equal. Choose multi or whole grain pastas over regular white or semolina flour based ones. When you splugre you can choose something imported straight from Italy – but that’s a splurge. The other ones are healthier. Go organic when you can. Look for sales and stock up! Pasta keeps!


Because of the plight of chickens kept in ultra inhumane conditions I go for as high quality, free range, organic as I can get. When I’m super lucky I get eggs from my neighbors. When I’m not I go for the best, even paying $5 a dozen – because even at that price ounce for ounce an egg is a high value deal.

Olive Oil

Go for first cold press extra virgin. This is the healthiest and the tastiest. There are other oils you can choose for cooking with – this is a great choice for salads and baking uses. I don’t mean in sugar cookie – but casseroles and stuff.

Optional: Meat

Meat in American groceries is usually priced way too low for a whole variety of reasons. So now you may be saying to yourself: “Oh Marti’s nuts, meat is expensive!”. I say it’s too cheap because we’re not paying for it to be produced healthfully. When animals are prepped for meat consumption humanely – the costs go up. So when you see an organic free range whole chicken priced at, like, $12 and think “Zounds! Too Spendy!”, in fact that is what a healthy formerly happy chicken should cost. It does take good food and space to grow a healthy chicken. A conscientious meat eater should take this into consideration. When you start thinking of meat more as a condiment rather than a main dish then being able to afford the more humanely raised choices starts to make sense. We’ll talk more about that later.

The Typical Grocery Bill for These Choices

  • Flour – $5.00
  • Rice – $4.00
  • Sugar – $4.00
  • Butter – $4.00
  • Milk – $6.50
  • Pasta – $1.50 – 2.00/each (~$5/week)
  • Eggs – $4.00 – 5.00
  • Olive Oil – $10.00/ 16 oz.
  • Optional: Meat – $10.00/pound

The total for these high quality items per week for 2 people is about: ~$50 – 60