IF YOU THINK OF NUTRITIONISTS AS LIVING IN A WORLD OF QUINOA, ALMOND FLOUR, ORGANIC PRODUCE AND MEATS then you are right...
well, to some extent. 🙂
As much as I support movement of raising farm animals humanely and conscious meat production and I believe in supporting local, sustainable farming practices the reality is we all have to feed our families within limits of our earnings while keeping banks happy to have roofs over our heads and... pay for hockey. 🙂
So no, I don't only eat organic, free range, this-free or that-free, even though I do believe that it is a better choice, for the most part. I admit, some of my grocery bills could make some of your heads spin, but for the most part I am aiming for just the right balance between limiting our exposure to toxins and not breaking the bank. Life is a balancing act and I figured I'd share the rules I go by when shopping for food to help you feed your family healthy on a budget.
Don't want you to feel guilty. Let establish something here. Yes, I believe that there are always better choices to make when it comes to purchase decisions and health. But the question you must ask yourself is how does it fit into MY life? Last thing I want you to do is to live your life constantly walking on eggshells around every purchase you make.
10 TIPS TO EAT HEALTHY ON A BUDGET:
1. Focus on the foods that matter. It’s important to spend your money where it matters most such as pasture-raised, hormone/antibiotic free meats and dairy products. For fruits and veggies, the Environmental Working Group has a great resource – The Shopper Guide to Pesticides in Produce (Fruits & Veggies):
- Dirty Dozen List (if you can, buy organic): Click here to view the list.
- Clean Fifteen List (save your money – no need to buy organic): Click here to view the list.
And I cannot stress this enough- if you cannot afford organic, the benefits of eating fresh food including fruits and veggies outweigh any harm of pesticides. Also, remember that if you can’t afford organic, pasture raised meat, don’t feel guilty about eating the other stuff from time to time. If your meal is surrounded by whole foods then it most likely is the healthiest version that fits into your life. For a much cheaper meal plan, try meatless meals 1-2x a week, and avoid red meat as much as you can. This helps the planet, and your health in the long run.
2. Healthiest produce? Local and in season! Foods that are in season locally are generally cheaper than the foods that have to be shipped across continents. They are better for the planet too! Also, it’s a nice feeling to meet and support your local farmers, and buy directly from the source. I honestly typically choose local whenever I can (even if it’s not organic). You can check the seasonal and local foods by in Canada under this link *Freeze: you can buy a ton of fresh berries, veggies in the summer and freeze them using them later on in smoothies, casseroles, stews or even baked goods.
3. Head over to frozen section. With fruits and veggies, especially when out of season, prices can be much higher. You can buy them frozen. Frozen produce is picked and packed right away so all the nutrients are still there and it’s a great way to save money. *Word of caution: Make sure that the frozen fruits and vegetables you buy do not contain additives. You can see an example of a product to avoid here.
4. Buy in bulk. If you can, purchase larger quantities, freeze and store the extra. This is great for grains, beans and legumes as they last a long time…but I also apply this principle when shopping for meats and fish. Nothing beats organic chicken on special for me! 🙂 I usually grab entire stock, portion them up and freeze individual pieces in ziplock bags. Also, bigger packs cost less per unit, so it is usually much more financially efficient to buy larger packs and simply portion them out at home.
5. Go meatless for a few meals each week. I know this may be like stepping on some toes, but nutritionally speaking, we eat too much animal protein as a society, which causes most of systemic health issues we struggle with. You can start by eliminating meat from a few meals a week. Beans are cheaper than beef! You can also introduce themed days (hello, Mexican bean dishes, meatless Monday creations or vegetable curries!) I am not trying to turn you into instant vegetarian, just to be clear. I do advise my clients to eat every food group and I do so myself, but cutting back on meat consumption and including more vegetables in your diet is probably the best thing you can do to eat better and save money.
6. Make it at home, learn to use leftovers and cook in large batches. Cooking at home saves money over eating out any day. You can even make your own sides, mixes and condiments. This will not only save you money but you’ll also know exactly what’s in the food you’re eating. Try mastering one new dish a week, I dare you! If you are making dishes that require some cooking and prepping, try doubling your recipe and freezing whatever you don’t eat, or eat it again a couple days down the road. If it’s delicious enough you’ll want to repeat the meal over and over. Also, leftovers are great for getting creative. Cooking extra chicken can get you a chicken salad for lunch the next day, or cooking large batch veggie chili can create loaded sweet potato fries for dinner. Pinterest is our best friend for utilizing leftovers.
7. Deals, deals. Sometimes, you can find a deal or get a coupon on healthy snacks and some of those great, organic convenience foods. I personally use Flipp app on my phone, which makes it easier to look for deals and match prices.
8. Generic brands sometimes offer good quality too. Many stores offer generic brands for products, and they are usually much cheaper than known brands. As with everything else, just make sure to read the ingredient list for unnecessary food additives or strange ingredients that you cannot pronounce.
9. Plan your meals and shop with a list. It’s always a good idea to have some sort of a plan around what you’ll be eating for the coming week. You’ll save money by knowing what you need and save time by making less trips to the store. Plus, when you plan you know exactly what you are going to use, so you won’t end up wasting anything away.
10. Think where else you can save. Many of us don’t think twice about paying $5 for a coffee, or spending hundreds of dollars on branded clothes, phones, cars, gadgets…etc. But when it comes to food, the essence of what keeps us alive, we sometimes take it for granted. The reality is that good quality food, fair treated labor and ethically treated and raised animals do cost a little more than what the industrialized mass produced food has gotten us used to paying. So, look at other areas where you can save, and invest a little bit more into your food, your health and your well-being.
But another thing I can’t stress enough is don’t beat yourself up! I can tell you that unless you have a whole lot of discretionary income, changing over your eating and shopping habits doesn’t happen overnight, and you shouldn’t feel bad about not being able to purchase all organic ingredients. Make small changes and keep looking for ways to eat healthy on your budget. It’s an investment, but I can tell you that it is one worth striving for, for yourself and your family.