HMN Advisory Board Member

by Peggy O’Mara, Editor and Publisher of Longtime natural living advocate, award-winning writer, and independent thinker. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please check out her email newsletter with free tips on parenting, activism, and healthy living.

When it comes to groceries, there are ways to be frugal without sacrificing quality. Food is one of the top items in our budgets and it’s easy to spend too much. As a new mom, I lived in the country and went grocery shopping only once a week, a habit I’ve continued to this day. I believe that shopping less frequently helps to save money.


I prepare for shopping by looking at what I have in the refrigerator and in the cupboards and making a brief list of these items. Then I sit down and write a list of five to seven main meal menus. I review my meals to make sure that the meals I’ve planned will not exceed my weekly budget. I sometimes take a calculator to the store to add up how much I sm spending to stay on budget. From these menus I make a list of items I need for the meals I’ve planned. I also add some items for breakfast and lunch but try to plan meals like soup, beans and chicken that can be used for lunch as well.

I make the list by looking through cookbooks or food magazines for ideas or thinking of dishes I’ve had at restaurants. Sometimes I use categories of meals to help inspire me:

  • soup or stew
  • braise
  • stir fry
  • pasta
  • casserole
  • quiche or pie
  • beans
  • skillet
  • meal in a salad
  • hodgepodge

I try to use as many items I already have on hand as possible and to plan my meals according to the season. Planning menus for the week also helps me during each day because I know in the morning what I am having for dinner that night and this saves me from trying to figure that out at the end of the day when I’m tired and everyone’s hungry.


I take the list to the store where I hope to go quickly through the aisle. I read somewhere that the more time you spend in the store, the more money you spend. I find that when I run into people I know in the store and stop to chat, I tend to lose focus and buy something impulsively. So, it’s important not to dawdle at the store, to get what’s on the list and get out. Easier said than done.

I try to be careful about venturing into the center aisles of the stores, where the more expensive packaged items are. I save money and eat better when I buy mostly from the outer aisles where the fresh produce, dairy and perishable foods are.


Buying things in their most natural state, that is their least processed state, is a good way to eat healthy and save money. And, it’s more healthy and less expensive to eat locally produced food. Interestingly enough, the definition of local varies. I understand that Whole Foods considers anything grown within 800 miles to be local. Our food co-op defines local as anything that is grown within 400 miles. I tend to think local is somewhere I can drive to and back in the same day. It makes sense that food will be fresher if it doesn’t spend a lot of time in a truck and be less expensive the closer your access is to the farmer.

Keep Reading for more, including a menu for your family…