How to Save Money on Healthy Food – Dairy

This is part of our 5-part series on how to save money on healthy food. Hope you enjoy, and be sure to share how you save money in the comments below!

Making the transition from conventional dairy to organic, grass-fed, or raw can give you major sticker shock. It’s important to realize that healthy food can cost more, but you can still find creative ways to save money on healthy food.

In this post, I’ll share how to save money on healthy food, as it pertains to dairy.

Want to spend less on dairy? Consume less dairy.

Fact is, you may need to reduce your consumption of grass-fed, organic, or raw dairy to keep your budget intact. Luckily it’s not that difficult.

  • Become the family dairy gatekeeper. Make it your job to add sour cream to tacos, or cheese to pizza. Your family won’t notice a difference, and you will use less.
  • Add flavor without adding dairy to your favorite meals. Make spices a staple in your pantry. Cook rice and quinoa in broth instead of adding cheese or butter. Use coconut oil, coconut milk (here’s how to make your own), and coconut cream as dairy alternatives. Nut and seed butters like almond, cashew, and tahini are other options. You can also make your own rice milk.
  • Explore different ethnic foods. Many cultures use little or no dairy in their food. Try Thai, Indian, Jamaican, Japanese, Korean, or Mexican. Though some of these recipes will traditionally include some dairy, you can easily cut back or eliminate it and still have a tasty dish.

Buy your dairy directly from the farm

Cutting out the middle man (i.e. grocery stores) is a great way to save money, and can be very beneficial for farmers and their families. You can find local farms and farmers markets on sites like localharvest.com, eatwild.com, buylocalfood.org, eatlocalgrown.com, farmerspal.com, farmmatch.com, localdirt.com, realmilk.com, and homegrown.org.

It can be easier to find local sources for raw and/or organic dairy if the farm has a web presence, however, marketing creates an overhead cost that may be reflected in the price of their dairy. If you are able to find a smaller farm (that’s still clean and reputable), you may get an even better price. The best way to do this is to ask around. Crowdsource your social media connections for their favorite local dairy farm.

Raise your own dairy machine

Choosing to own your own dairy animal is an especially great option for folks living in states where the sale of raw milk is forbidden. It’s legal to drink raw milk from your own animal.

If you are lucky enough to have the space and resources, buying a dairy cow may be a good solution for your family. A single milk cow can produce around 7 gallons of milk each day, so you could possibly sell your excess milk to help cover the cost of the cow.

If you have some space, but not enough for a cow, goats may be a possibility. They are cheaper and easier to raise, and can be pastured in a smaller space than a cow (they eat a wider variety of forage).

If housing your own dairy animal is not an option, you may be able to arrange a cowshare or goatshare with a local farm. Since you “own” your cow or goat, you are not “buying” the milk, just paying for a farmer to board and care for your animal. Check the websites listed above to find a local herdshare.

Make your own dairy products (this is a big money saver)

You can save significant amounts of money by using your raw or high-quality milk and making your own yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and other dairy treats. For example, I have a friend who buys raw milk for $7 a half gallon, whereas raw yogurt is $14 for the same size. She cultures her own yogurt using the raw milk and saves nearly 50% (the price of active cultures is nominal).

If you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of making all of these yourself, get a group of friends to help. Each person can choose one dairy product that they will make for the whole group. That way you don’t have to make all of the different dairy products, just a large amount of one.

If you are a beginner, homemade yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk is a great place to start. They are fairly simple, making them the best bang for your buck.

Buy healthy dairy in bulk

When buying large amounts of milk or other dairy directly from the farmer, you may be able to get a discount. There’s no harm in asking. Just be aware that raw milk has a much shorter shelf life than pasteurized, so be sure to have a plan for all that extra milk Some people freeze excess milk. You could also make yogurt, which lasts longer since it’s a fermented product. Homemade cheese and ice cream are other options.

Take advantage of sales and stock up. Buyer’s club stores tend to have good prices on organic cheese. Buy bulk bars of cheese and quarts of yogurt and package your own cheese sticks, individual yogurt cups, and shredded cheese.

Stock up on grass-fed butter in the summer when it’s cheaper and more readily available. Butter freezes very well!

Don’t waste sour milk

If your raw milk sours before you use it, you don’t have to throw it away. As long as it smells and tastes ok (just slightly tangy), you can use sour milk in baking, cream sauces, pudding, and to make cottage cheese.

Find the best prices on dairy

Keep a list in your purse or phone of dairy prices at various places you shop. You will start to notice which stores have the best prices on organic and/or raw dairy. That doesn’t mean you have to travel around town to each store every week though. Rather, you can stock up on a few weeks worth of groceries that you prefer to buy at one store. Then the next week you can stock up on the products you like to buy at another store.

On top of keeping track of dairy prices, adding coupons can save you even more. Many company websites offer coupons for organic dairy. Check Organic Valley and Whole Foods.

How about you?

How do you save money buying dairy? Share with us your ideas on how to save money on healthy food in the comments below so we can learn from each other.

8 Comments

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  1. I’m so excited to have found a farm 30 minutes from me where I can buy raw milk, eggs, beef, pork etc all for really decent prices! (The milk is only $3 a gallon!!) My question is can I drink raw milk while pregnant? I’ve read conflicting things on it and I’ll be so bummed if I can’t but I’ll still get it for my kids and hubby. Thanks for any info you have!

    • Vanessa- I realize it’s been some time since you asked your question, but I once read how another family handled this and I thought it was a great suggestion. Because the mom was pregnant, and they had little ones in the house as well, they made the dad (or the mom, if she’s not expecting) drink some of the milk BEFORE anyone else did to make sure the milk was okay. Pregnant moms and little kids have a more difficult time fighting off the the effects of e-coli or listeria poisoning, so having another adult try it first can be a great safety feature.

  2. No wonder I scored “newbie” on the Crunchy test – if I want to save money and eat healthy I have to buy a cow and start hunting my meat! Lol.. Phooey to whoever says otherwise, but it does take work trying to eat healthy on a budget. But I do appreciate these tips and tricks 🙂

  3. My local grocery store sells their own brand of organic milk, which is only a little bit more than regular milk, plus it lasts much longer! This is huge for us since I don’t drink much milk, just my husband (I get dairy via yogurt and cheese). We need to start buying organic yogurt. Our store only offers regular (European) yogurt organic, not Greek yogurt, and I prefer the Greek for the extra protein.

    • You can make your own Greek yogurt by just straining the European yogurt overnight 🙂

  4. I love your website. thanks so much for all you do.
    I am slowly deleting dairy from my diet, personal reasons of my own.
    Still can’t shake the half and half in my morning java though..:)
    Always smile….

  5. We pay a local farm $75/mth for raw milk (2 gallons/wk) and cancelled our cable. Give and take. We pay the same farm an additional $30-$40 per week for 3 dozen eggs, and raw cheese. We’ve drastically cut out a lot from the grocery store – like wine/beer. We were spending about $30/wk on wine. There’s always something that you can do without.

    • Love your perspective, Angela. It’s all about priorities 🙂

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