Can you afford to eat healthy food? The question should actually be: Can you afford NOT eat healthy food? I absolutely believe that you pay now or you pay later. And quality is everything when it comes to food. I also passionately believe that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. In reality, the healthiest regions of the world (The Blue Zones), typically ate the lowest-priced foods on the planet. Rice, beans, legumes, fruits and veggies are not the most expensive items on your shopping list. Sure organic produce is more expensive, but it all levels out when you eliminate expensive animal products.
Yes Whole Foods Market has been called “Whole Paycheck,” for years now, and if you shop there for speciality items, there’s good reason why it got this moniker. But, how can regular folks afford to eat healthy? Here are some tips that may help.
1. Prioritize: Over the past few years, I have met a number of families who were forced to get healthy. Often prompted by one family member getting sick, the main decision-maker decided to make a radical change and go for only organic and super-healthy food. One mom told me that they made it affordable by changing their priorities: they got a cheaper cable package, canceled a gym membership that she never used, shopped thrift stores for many of their clothes, and stopped eating out, and only stopped at Starbucks for a treat. She said the money they saved made the extra dollars for food available. Sometimes I have to ask myself if a pair of expensive boots or organic whole foods is more important!!!!
2. Less Meat: Cutting back on meat is just about the most positive step you can take in 2018. It will cut your grocery bills by at least a third, help your family to lose weight if they need to, and will just be healthier all the way around. You will also save even more if you cut back on all animal products. Organic meat and dairy is VERY expensive.
3. Less Waste: Americans throw 25% of their food away. Its a horrifying to realize this, but it’s a fact. The key to not wasting food is to plan your meals. Make a list at the beginning of the week for each of your planned meals and stick to it. I always get in trouble if I deviate from the list – I might spot something I’ve always wanted to try or I’ll grab another bag of spinach, thinking I’ll probably use it. The first thing that needs to be thrown out is generally veggies, so if you buy organic, be strict with yourself. The second is dairy – again only get what you know you’ll eat that week. If you buy sliced bread and aren’t sure if you’ll get through all those loaves, freeze half of it.
4. Only buy the items that need to be organic: Not all produce needs to be organic. For example, things like broccoli, bananas, avocados etc don’t have too many pesticides on them, whereas, potatoes, spinach, bell peppers etc do. Check out the latest EWG’s Dirty Dozen list to see which items need to be organic first.
5. Beans & Legumes: One of the most budget-friendly and healthy staples that I recommend adding to your diet are beans and legumes. If you buy dried beans from bulk bins and soak them overnight, they are especially reasonable. Canned beans are easier, but be aware that many brands (Eden Foods excluded,) have can liners, which contain BPA. Lentils are a much overlooked food that are packed with protein and fiber. Try making a veggie chili or bulk out a regular chili, soup or stew with cups of different beans. I make a big pot of lentil soup almost every week.
6. Soups: At the end of every week, I make “Sunday Soup”. This is so satisfying because I clear out my fridge. Last Sunday I made a huge pot of veggie soup which contained carrots, leeks, parsnips, celeriac (celery root) and ginger. All these veggies were on their last legs but boiled up to make a luxuriously satisfying soup. I freeze batches in glass containers for my husband to take to work with him (much healthier than all the to-go food they order up at his office!).
7. Go bulky: Whatever you can buy from bulk bins, do! Whether it’s rice, legumes, cereals or dried fruit, it’ll always be cheaper – so much so, that you should be able to afford organic. I make my weekly batch of granola from the bulk bins. It’s truly more delicious than any granola I could buy in a box and costs half the price (even when it’s 100% organic). Or I make my own from bulk bin dried goods.
8. Store brands: Look for store brands. They often have sales on in-store brands – so keep out a beady eye. I use tons of Virgin Coconut Oil and have found the Whole Foods 365 brand to be really reasonable compared to other brands. Safeway/Vons also have their own organic brands that is nearly always on sale.
9. Imperfect Produce: I love love love (did I say that enough!) Imperfect Produce. They’ll send you a delivery box on a weekly or monthly basis (organic or not) of produce items that might not be perfect in appearance.
10. Keep It Simple: A simple veggie curry, or pasta is not expensive. Last night I made a whole wheat pasta, with olive oil, nutritional yeast, garlic, spinach, and sea salt (oh and I tossed in some red chili pepper flakes). Total cost for the two of us was about two bucks – three tops.
Above all, think of your shopping cart as being preventative health care at it’s best. Fill it choc full of all the wonderful fresh, live foods that give us energy, vitality and that help ward off disease and premature aging.
Make sure you’ve grabbed a copy of my FREE starter guide.