I will keep this simple, because it really isn’t hard, but I hear the same thing all the time: “Eating healthy is expensive”. Although eating healthy is not that expensive, I guess my first answer to this comment would be “compared to what?” and my second answer would be “is there anything in life more important than our health (and family’s health)?”
Most people around the world spend about 20% of their income on food for their family, however, in North America, since the beginning of processed food, that percentage has been reduced to 10% because junk is so cheap due to a few factors, like the fact that corn is subsidized by the government in order to keep it so cheap. So, basically, the price of cheap food is not the real price.
But, I realize that we all need to follow a budget, sadly, and unless you’re ultra rich, I haven’t met anyone yet who can buy without a limit. So, here are my 7 tips to help you make the right choices for your health and your wallet.
1. Set your priorities straight. If eating healthy is a priority, then you might need to change some of your habits. I strongly believe that one of the biggest habit people can change to help their health AND save money is by paying attention to what they drink (soda, coffee/tea, commercial juices, alcohol, etc.). So much junk is guzzled down every day, and that stuff is not cheap! They cost a lot of money and add a lot of unnecessary empty calories (no nutrition) to your daily diet. So, by reducing and gradually eliminating this bad habit, you’ll have more money to spend on healthy organic food, and your health and waistline will be better too.
2. Buy in bulk. You might need to do some research to find an organic store in your area that sells some bulk organic products, but it’ll be worth the time. Sometimes it’s not really “in bulk”, but you can buy bigger quantities of it, and that’ll save you a lot of money in the long run. It involves a little bit more planning, but worth it. I recently bought a 2.5 kg bag of organic old-fashioned oat flakes for $8.49! Do you know how much food can be created out of it? Think of the homemade granola bars for snacks, added fibres in muffins, warm porridge for breakfast, homemade crunchy granola cereal for a fast breakfast… 2.5 kg goes a loooooong way! I also got a 1 kg bag of organic flaxseeds for $3.29. Same thing with this, I can add it for extra nutrition in so many baked goods (muffins, pancakes, quick loaf, breads, etc.), as well as use it as a wholefood egg-replacement in vegan baking. I can add it to soups and salads. Anyway, those are just 2 examples of ways to save by buying in larger quantities and stretching these items for weeks/months.
3. Buy basic ingredients (i.e., real food) and cook/bake more. This is truly where eating healthy makes a big difference in your wallet. As Michael Pollan says “You can eat whatever you want, as long as you make it yourself”. If you feel like eating some cake or cookies, that’s fine, but make it yourself, using healthy ingredients. You’ll appreciate it more, eat less, and won’t be tempted to eat some whenever you feel like it. Junk and processed foods are too easily accessible. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you can make pretty much anything. By making it yourself, you not only save money, but you will eat healthier because you can control what ingredients go into the recipe (you can put a lot less sugar and butter, or even replace the white sugar with whole sugar or maple syrup, you can replace some or all of the butter with olive oil, you can use wholegrain flour instead of white, you can use different grains instead of same ol’ boring wheat). If you start with high quality, healthy, wholefood, organic ingredients, the result can only be healthy. If you start with cheap and nutrition-deficient ingredients, you can NEVER have a healthy product in the end. You can’t get a greater result than the sum of the parts you used. 😉
4. Don’t waste your money on kitchen gadgets. Real food taste delicious without all that glamour stuff. Basic knives will go a long way. Most of my recipes only require a sharp knife and a cutting board. On occasion, I use a mini food-processor (I don’t even have a full size one), mostly for things like hummus or powerballs. The only ‘gadgets’ I own would be my juicer, but that’s kind of hard to do without, and I do have a stand mixer, but to be honest, I almost never use it. haha
5. Buy as much organic as you can (it should be a lot more than you think). Don’t just assume that organic is more expensive than ‘conventional’. You’ll be surprised that most stores always have specials on organic foods, and sometimes it’s the same price as conventional or cheaper! Shop around, get to know the prices. And keep the whole picture in mind. Even if you end-up spending $10-20 more on your groceries, will it make that big of a difference? And remember, you don’t need all that processed/prepared junk. Just because its organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy, and it doesn’t mean you should buy it. Organic simply means that there aren’t added pesticides/herbicides/insecticides, chemical fertilizers, no GMO. But, you can find organic junk food on the market. You can find organic processed food too. That doesn’t mean you should buy it. Always buy organic, but still read the labels. In fact, try to buy food that doesn’t have a label, that should reduce your spending by a lot! Buy basic pantry products that are organic AND healthy. Go for whole sugar and maple syrup, get a few varieties of whole grain flours like spelt, rye and buckwheat. Buy whole grain pasta and brown and wild rices. Did you know you can find organic brown basmati rice? yes! it’s delicious, but adds extra fibres and nutrients. Buy raw unsalted nuts, unsweetened raisins and dried cranberries. Dried organic lentils of various kinds are not only very inexpensive but super nutritious (you can use it as a meat substitute. Create your own lentil hamburger patties or meatballs).
6. Eat less, but better meat and animal products. Quality, not quantity! Buy grass-fed (sometimes called pastured. Not to be confused with pasteurized), free-range, organic meats, dairy products and eggs. Eat less of it, enjoy it more. Chew each bite properly. Stretch it. For example, I recently cooked 1lb of extra-lean ground beef (grass-fed). I used it combined with a ton of veggies, and made a big batch of chili (about 10 servings) and 2 lasagnas (10-12 servings) with it. It’s all about adding extra veggies. I don’t have a problem eating some grass-fed/organic meat, but not on a daily basis. Gradually reduce your meat consumption and switch over to buying grass-fed/organic meats and dairy, and free-range/organic eggs. Better quality meat is better for you, better for the treatment of animals and a whole lot less pollution in the environment. I recommend doing a little bit of research online and maybe go for a drive outside of town, to find a local organic farm where you can buy your meat. By visiting the farm yourself and talking to the farmers, you’ll feel a lot better about knowing exactly where your food comes from. Or you can go vegan completely and skip this step entirely. haha
7. Drink clean, fresh water. Since you’ll gradually eliminate your consumption of all the junk, you want to make sure you drink plenty of fresh water. Ideally spring water that you get from the spring, or that you buy in large reusable bottles (less plastic), or as a last resort, filtered. Never drink tap water, since it is filled with chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals and various toxic chemicals and leftover medications. I have been bottling my own pure clean spring water for 13 years. I reuse those big water bottle jugs and fill them up directly at the spring. The taste is unbelievable, and most of the time, it’s completely free! You’ll need to do a bit of research and talk to people in the country to find a spring close to you, but there is a website that was brought to my attention very recently that can be a huge help to you! www.findaspring.com An amazing resource to help you find a spring anywhere in the world! What’s the difference between unprocessed spring water and the stuff you find at the store? Well, the majority of spring water has been treated with a chemical called ozone. The issue is that, well, that’s one more chemical I’d like to stay out of my body, and also, guess what? I read that ozone makes you thirsty! So, I’m thinking this is yet another scheme to make more money. When you drink fresh, unprocessed, spring water, you feel refreshed and it quenches your thirst (although when you first start drinking it, don’t be alarmed if your body needs quite a bit. It did it to me and everyone I know when they first started drinking real water. Even my cat!) The spring where I get my water is located on someone’s property, where the owners graciously added a duct to get the water to the edge of the road, where people fill up their bottles. They get their water tested regularly since they use it themselves, so I know it’s fine to drink (you want to be careful, especially if you’re close to conventional agriculture fields that could’ve contaminated the spring with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, etc.). The spring where I go is fairly popular, there’s always a line-up when I go! haha The secret is out! Fresh clean water is better for you and free!
My husband and I eat 100% organic at home, and our weekly food spending is an average of $150-200/week. That includes all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, since we rarely eat out. Oh, and I forgot, we make 2 big glasses of fresh veggie juice every morning, which uses a lot of our produce. We pretty much eat like kings. We could easily feed a 3rd person on this budget. So, let’s see. That would be 14-21 breakfasts, 14-21 lunches, 14-21 snacks/desserts, 14-21 dinners, and 14-21 glasses of fresh veggie juice. 100% organic. I think it is very reasonable. Most people spend more than that and they eat junk.
Anyway, I hope that this gives you inspiration and motivation to know that it IS possible to eat healthy without spending a fortune. Make 2014 your healthiest year yet, and make the decision to make your health and your family’s health a priority 🙂
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Great post! I love how you respond with ‘compared to what?’. Totally stealing that one 🙂
haha no problem! I have a tendency to be sarcastic and straight-to-the-point. Not always well received, but at least I’m honest. 🙂
Excellent, comprehensive and inspiring article. ” You can’t get a greater result than the sum of the parts you used.” — so true!
Leah Gahagan says
I love, love, love this blog. So happy to have discovered something that is right in line with my eating principles and I can’t wait to try the recipes! Do you have any recommendations for organic bulk buying online (I’m California based) ?
Thank you, and welcome! 🙂
Unfortunately, I don’t have any recommendations for you as I am in eastern Canada, but perhaps look it up online? I know there are a lot of organizations out there, maybe a local farmers’ association or co-op might be able to help you? I’m sorry I’m not super helpful. I’ll see if I can find more info for you, and if I do, I’ll share 🙂
Leah Gahagan says
Thanks and yes, I did some checking online but wanted to see if you might have favorites. Thanks again!
A-freaking-men! It is so doable to eat organic, well, and delicious cheaply.
The kitchen gadget thing is hilarious because it’s so true — I have been given, and not used, more kitchen gadgets and utensils than I care to remember. The one I do use is my distiller, and I also have a juicer that I’m glad I own. A small, manually operated French press for guests. Everything else? Not so much. Most of my cooking is done in one pot.
The only thing I would add is that if buying spring water, glass bottles are so much better than plastic ones!
For Leah, you may want to try looking through Local Harvest for a source of local produce: http://www.localharvest.org/
Two Peas & A Wad says
This is me in a nutshell! My blog is all about eating organically on a budget, and we have a lot of the same tips! I look forward to reading more from you- feel free to check mine out anytime, it looks like we share the same vision!
Great post, ECP. Informative and praticle 🙂
Thank you! Hopefully you took away a few great tips to help you add more organic in your life 🙂
Great post!!! I love all the tips. We should collaborate on an organic living post sometime. I checked where my nearest spring is and it’s only about 45 min away…not too bad! Thanks for the tip on that 🙂
Wonderful! And yes, that would be fun!