Last month my firstborn turned five. Five! So I did what every mom does: pulled out his baby pictures and home videos and cried into a glass of wine. But seriously, you guys, I couldn’t believe how much he’d changed. He’d gone from being my little butterball (picture deliciously bitable Michelin Man arms) to this handsome, funny, smart, lanky kid. Late last year there were a few incidents where I caught him sneaking snacks from the pantry. This wouldn’t be a huge issue except it coincided with a sudden decrease in his appetite. He’d taken to stuffing himself with junk (dessert/snack foods) which made mealtime a nightmare. Even when I prepared his old favorites, he took issue with how they were cooked or the seasonings used. I mean, really? So picky! After several months of this, I decided something needed to change. I made it our family’s goal for 2014 to eat clean—as natural and unprocessed as possible. But my main concern was one I’ve often heard debated: could we eat that healthy on a budget? Could I still coupon and offer my one-income family the best savings possible? I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge. Thinking of making similar changes for your family? Here are a few things I’ve learned thus far that might help:

Don’t go cold turkey

Kids resist change. Heck, humans resist change. A sudden food overhaul will only shut them down to trying new things. So find comparable items. In our case, my boy loves fruit snacks, but they can often be full of artificial flavors and synthetic coloring agents. We found some delicious organic fruit strips by Simply Balanced, a re-brand of their Archer Farms line, focused on wholesome natural foods (often certified organic) at Target. We bought them in strawberry (his favorite) and so far they’ve been a huge hit! Bonus? Target’s Cartwheel program has had coupons for many of their products over the last few months! I’ve seen them go as high as 15% off, but they can often be found at a steady 5% and can be used for four of the same item per transaction!

Be willing to compromise

While I won’t be stocking my pantry with Oreos and Nutter Butters anymore (sad face), I can still use coupons to find healthier alternatives that he enjoys. For instance, Angry Birds are big in my house right now, so I use Nabisco coupons to stack up on Angry Bird graham crackers. I also grabbed a few bags of Archer Farms trail mix—the one with the M&M’s for when that chocolate craving kicks in. That’s another item that’s always on Cartwheel!

Find something they can get excited about

Boy and I have been watching Sesame Street since he was one. Imagine my surprise when he recognized Earth’s Best‘s logo, having seen them listed in the sponsors. He found a bag of all-natural ravioli with Grover’s face on it and asked if he could have it. We walked away with the pasta and some blueberry waffles! And of course, I signed up for Earth’s Best Rewards program which offers coupons for their products—Score!

Shop the sales and circulars

I won’t tell you how much money I spent on our first “healthy” shopping trip. I get chest pains just thinking about it. I got overzealous—so focused on the items and getting the list just right that I failed to compare prices. I paid double what I should have and it’s haunting me! Take it slow. Make the transition shop by shop. And take advantage of fresh produce coupons whenever they’re available! SavingStar has a new “Healthy Offer” feature on one fresh produce item a week. This week, it’s loose tomatoes, but it changes, so download the app and keep tabs. So far, I’ve scored money back for buying bananas and navel oranges. Stack that with a good sale price and you’ve got a great deal!

Keep those coupons close for non-food items

Yes, you’ll be buying more fresh produce. Yes, organic foods can sometimes be expensive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get those rock-bottom prices on toiletries, cleaning supplies or paper goods. Using the coupon skills you’ve learned at places like KCL, you can make sure you’re saving on those everyday items, so when there’s no coupon or special price-cut, you can still feel good about having a little something extra to spend—should you need to.

This is a guest post by Selena from Hamden, CT.


For more money-saving tips, check out:

The Amazon App: The Secret to Price Matching at Target

Earn Cash Back on Groceries with Checkout 51

How to Set Up a Couponing Spreadsheet

Where to Take Your Kids to Eat Free

How to Help Your Child Transition from Packaged to All-Natural Foods on a Budget