One of the most frustrating things about trying to eat whole foods on a budget is that there are seldom coupons for things like carrots and beets.
Knowing your grocery stores may take a day and a good bit of gas initially, but it's worth it. A couple of years ago, Ray and I went to all our local stores with a list of most used items and a pencil. We spent hours roaming the aisles, writing down the prices and new things we found that we thought we wanted to try. You have to be a little sneaky with this because if you get caught, the staff gets suspicious. They tend to think you are pricing for the "competition," but if you go in with a list, instead of a book, it's a little less suspicious.
In our hometown, we have a few grocery stores, but we have three that we pretty much stick to. They are within about 10 miles of each other. Our primary store is where we get most of our food. We can find uncured ham and bacon, almond butter, coconut milk, coconut flour, almond flour (it's expensive here, but it's the only place in town that carries it), ground turkey, goat cheese, frozen veggies, and most of our produce.
Our secondary grocery store is where we get our chicken. They have really great deals on whole chickens, chicken thighs, and chicken feet, and their chicken products are hormone- and antibiotic-free. It is also where we get our local honey, our eggs, our lemons, our zucchini, and our sweet potatoes.
Our tertiary grocery store is the most expensive store in town, but they have bottles of organic ketchup for $2. They are also the only place that sells dried shiitake mushrooms and pomegranate vinegar.
We also like to go out of town once every month or so to either Montgomery, AL or Dothan, AL because they have things that we don't. We tend to make a day of it. We pack a picnic. Sometimes we got to the park. Sometimes we eat in the car. On those days, we tend to stock up. There's a store in Montgomery that sells bulk almond flour. They also offer pretty good weekly deals and have coupons you can print out. We get our coconut aminos there, as well as our organic spices, gluten-free mustards and uncured hot dogs for our occasional cook-outs. Dothan also carries a few of these things, but we enjoy going there more the non-food stores and because we used to live there, so we get to see some familiar faces now and then.
Getting to know your farmer's market can keep you in fresh, seasonal produce throughout the growing season. Our town does not have a large farmer's market, but when we go, we can usually find some good deals. We once got some patty pan squash $4 for 6 squash and $2 for a large box of blueberries, and we were able to have a delicious meal of stuffed squash for dinner one night with blueberries and coconut cream for dessert.
Since the produce you find here can change, if you employ this option, you should make a menu afterward around what you're able to find. Otherwise, you'll just be wasting money and end up with a fridge full of ruined produce.
Last is knowing who among your friends does some heavy gardening or light farming. They usually have more than they will ever eat in this lifetime and are more than willing to share. If you feel bad about just taking what they offer, you can always pay them back by giving them a can of something you make using their produce that they may not make themselves, like your grandmother's secret spaghetti sauce, or in other ways, like finding out things they need or like.
Now that you are armed with these tools, it's time to go out and employ some modern-day foraging techniques. Happy hunting.