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5 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

kale shopping

One of the most common complaints I get from clients trying to switch to a more natural and organic diet is that it costs too much money. When you go from eating Doritos to organic carrots the price difference is substantial and it can be a bit of a shock to your pocket book. Those who are serious about their health or a very sick seem more apt to justifying the cost of their food. Other clients, however, are more resistant.

In this article, I want to explore some simple ways you can effectively improve your health without sacrificing all of your extra income.

 

#1 Buy simple ingredients, not products.

When you are trying to save money, it’s much more affordable to buy raw ingredients instead of packaged meals or snacks. These products can be tempting, especially when you are just starting out on your path to eating healthy, but they will cost you! A bag of dried beans and brown rice will feed you for several substantial meals for only about $5.00 and the same $5.00 will probably only buy you 4 Larabars or a bag of kale chips.  Shop the perimeter of your grocery store and buy the stuff direct from mother earth first, then choose a few convenience items to help you get through.

#2 Use a meal plan that helps you save money and minimize food waste!

My favorite is The Fresh 20. For only about $65/year you will get weekly meal plans sent to your inbox that utilize 20 fresh and seasonal ingredients. Shopping lists, recipes and nutrition facts are provided and the aim of the program is to save you time and money. You can opt for the classic plan (which is Mediterranean style eating) or get a Paleo, Gluten-free or Vegetarian plan as well! They even have meal plans for one, which gives you flexibility and a choice as to how you you want to eat. I can personally vouch for this meal program as I have been using it for over 2 years now and love it!

#3 Buy in bulk!

Getting a membership to Costco or utilizing online resources like Thrive Market or Vitacost are all great places to save money. For a very reasonable membership fee, these stores can save you between 25-50% off retail which definitely adds up! Shipping is also free when you spend over $49. Sure you can get some odds and ends at stores like Down to Earth or Whole Foods Market, but these grocers are hike up prices so they can keep their store front so you will end up paying for it.

#4 Choose you battles.

As wonderful as it would be to eat everything organic, GMO-free, and local, the reality is that it would take a lot of time and, you guessed it, money. Using tools like those provided by the Environmental Working Group, Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen, you can better choose produce to minimize your exposure to pesticides without going all organic in the produce section. A basic rule of thumb to follow is,  “if you can eat the peel, buy it organic”. Apples, strawberries, and grapes would fall into this ‘eat organic’ category but oranges, bananas, pineapples and avocados would not.

The same might be true for animal products. Eating mostly organic, grass-fed or pastured meat, fish, poultry and fish is ideal but you are probably okay eating a little that is not. Shoot for 50% of your animals products from sustainable sources and you will be doing yourself a favor. Eating smaller portions (4-5 oz at a meal) and filling up the plate with veggies is another way to save yourself some change.

Overall I tell clients that I would rather see them filling up on conventional veggies and pastured chicken, rather than a huge bowl of organic pasta. In other words, it’s better to fill up at least half of your plate with veggies (organic or not) and the other half split between protein and whole food starches like sweet potatoes, white potatoes or quinoa.

#5 Get down to basics and learn how to cook.

Stocking your pantry with foods and spices that are versatile and can be used in multiple dishes will benefit you tremendously. When you have the basics for cooking a meal at home, it can be less tempting to go out to eat. Keep your cupboards stocked with basic and inexpensive spices like sea salt, black pepper, garlic and onion powder, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika just to name a few. Keep olive oil, coconut oil and butter on hand to be used in almost any dish. Buy and keep some frozen veggies. They are just as nutritious as fresh and maybe even more so depending on where they are sourced! Potatoes, white and sweet, are also very affordable and should be kept on hand as should brown rice and quinoa.

Using tools like The Fresh 20 or taking a cooking class may benefit you more than you think if you are trying to learn how to cook and save money. Cooking can also be a great source of joy and is quite rewarding when you make something from scratch for the first time.

 

I like to think of food as one of the cheapest forms of health insurance. Sure, it may cost a little more in the beginning but the amount of money you will save on health care costs down the road could be substantial. Following some of these tips I have outlined will help too.

With the dramatic price rises seen in the health care industry over the past decade, there is no better time to invest a little now to save you money down the road.

What other things do you do to eat well and save money?

In Health and Vitality,

~Beth