The saying goes, “Pay the farmer, or pay the doctor.” The more fresh, healthy, organic foods we eat, the healthier we are, and the less we have to deal with chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. And while many of us can justify paying more for a nice salad than we pay for drive-thru dollar menu fare, we just can’t afford to shop exclusively at the health food store. If you’re one of the many people who want to eat healthier, but don’t think you can afford it, here are some tips to get you on the right track.
- Get back in the kitchen. You’ll almost always pay more to eat out than you would to eat a home-cooked meal. Utilize larger cuts of meat, like a slow-cooked brisket, or a roasted whole chicken, and keep the leftovers to use in several meals throughout the week. Once a week, you can slow cook dried beans for an extra inexpensive source of protein. Use the cooked beans as a main dish, or to bulk up your meals to stretch your meat out even further.
- Plan ahead. You get busy working, or driving kids to soccer practice, or going to church, or …all of the above. Planning for these “food emergencies” can eliminate the need for fast food. Keep some raw nuts, protein bars, and packages of nut butter in your purse, in your car, and at your office. If your desk or break room at work has some extra room, you can store some canned tuna, or other easy meals that can be made in a pinch. If you plan ahead for these times that you will inevitably need food on short notice, you’ll make sure your healthy eating stays on track without breaking the bank.
- Shop the “clean fifteen,” and avoid the “dirty dozen.” There are certain foods that absorb more pesticides because of their thin skin. These foods, including strawberries and celery, are worth the extra money to buy organic, or you should skip them altogether. The “clean fifteen,” on the other hand, refers to produce that either does not require many pesticides, or has a thick skin that does not absorb many pesticides. These foods, like bananas and avocadoes, you can save money on by buying traditional rather than organic. The full list, updated yearly, can be found at ewg.org.
- Buy local and in-season. Local foods are not only better for the environment, but they are often less expensive, as you’re not paying for shipping or freight costs. It is also cheaper to buy produce that’s in-season. Tomatoes, watermelon, and strawberries have to be brought in from other countries during the winter, driving up the price. You can insure that you’re buying local and in-season by shopping your farmers market, or ordering from fieldtomeal.com.
- Make (and grow) your own. There are many healthy foods that are quite expensive in the grocery store, but can be easily made at home. There are numerous recipes online for almond milk, nut butter, and yogurt. These recipes are not only easy, but the ingredients are usually a fraction of the cost of the finished product. And of course, if you have the room, a small herb or vegetable garden can save tons of money over buying produce at the store.