Oftentimes cost is a big deterrent when it comes to healthy eating. And, I’m not gonna lie, shopping at health food stores can be VERY expensive, but if you’re smart about the way you shop, eating a whole food plant-based diet can actually be the healthiest & most affordable diet on earth.
Meat and fish is very expensive. If you are purchasing certified organic, humanely-reared meat (and I recommend that you do if you don’t want to eat low quality meat from disgusting factory farms), it gets pretty pricey. When I used to eat meat, I was so concerned about the cost. It’s barely affordable for anyone. And in many ways this isn’t a bad thing. When we look at the healthiest regions in world (aka The Blue Zones), meat/fish make up about 1% of their diet. So, if you do eat meat, the healthiest way to consume it is as a condiment or for special occasions. My suggestion is try to go 80/20 to begin with, then taper down to 90/10. Or you could try to go without completely because truth be told, it’s better for your health, better for your wallet, and better for the planet.
Beans & Legumes are very inexpensive. Unlike meat, beans and legumes provide disease-fighting protein. Total win/win. Moreover, Blue Zone populations all consume a ton of beans. Eating beans might well increase your lifespan.
But the most enticing thing about including beans and legumes in your diet is that they are affordable for absolutely everyone. If you buy them dry, soak them and then cook them, you might well have the least expensive and healthiest food on earth at your fingertips. But, even if you can’t be bothered to soak and cook them, you can grab a box or can of garbanzo beans and whip up a tasty hummus in your blender. Remember 1/2 cup of beans a day can dramatically increase your lifespan.
Organic dairy products are double the price of their non-organic counterparts. Have you compared the price of organic milk/butter/cream to conventional lately? It’s at least double the price. Since giving up dairy might be the key to many of your health issues (bloating, digestive distress, allergies, etc), going dairy-free will save you a ton of money. I recommend finding a good bulk bin store to to stock up on nuts such as cashews and almonds because you might want to start making your own almond milk. But even if you don’t want to make your own, Organic Almond Milk from Thrive Market is $2.95 for a 32 ounce carton, or from Costco about $2.50 for 32 ounces. Organic cow’s milk ranges from $4.99 – $6.50 for 64 ounces, and it’s recently been discovered that your “organic” cow milk may not be truly organic.
Healthy green veggies can by dirt cheap! Greens like collards, bok choy, chard, and kale can be super inexpensive. I grab mine at my locals farmers market and save a ton of money this way. You don’t need to buy designer micro-greens to get your fill of these powerful disease-fighting compounds.
Buy Ugly Produce! You can save quite a lot by purchasing your produce from Imperfect Produce. It’s a delivery service. I took them on the TV show that I’m on (Home & Family), and now many of the cast members get their weekly deliveries.
Eat the rinds and stalks! We often peel or chop and toss the healthiest part of the fruit of veggies. Learn about the parts of the veggie where most of the nutrients reside.
You don’t need to buy everything organic. If you’re on a tight budget, be picky about the items you buy that need to be organic. My must-buy organics are: Berries, apples, peaches, nectarines, spinach, green beans, rice, tofu, corn, cherries, and potatoes. This is because these tend to be either the most pesticided or GMO crops.
Cook from scratch! This will save you money every time. But there is a big caveat: make sure you only buy what you need. I love to cook from scratch, but can end up wasting a bit of food, especially when I make recipes with all kinds of exotic ingredients. This is why I like Green Chef. At first blush it seems pretty pricey, but when I factor in that I use every grain of every spice that they provide, I realize that it can actually be cost-effective. It’s a fun way to treat yourself or a friend when in a bind or a pinch – everything gets delivered to your doorstep, with every ingredient pre-measured out. Plus they have a full vegan menu, which basically will teach you how to cook plant-based.
Always buy in season. When I was growing up in the UK, it was unheard of to eat berries in the Winter, and I kind of still wish it were this way (although I do love my frozen blueberries year around), but at least BUY in season. I am buying up every organic berry I can right now and freezing them for the minute the prices go back up again.
Eating out: When you do eat out, you’ll find that the veggie/vegan option on the menu is usually the least expensive. And if you find yourself at a restaurant that is heavy on the meat and dairy, order some veggie sides, and you’ll see a huge difference in the bill.
I always say that you pay now or you pay later in terms of health. But if you shop smart, you’ll actually end up paying less NOW. Win Win my friends!