One of the things I hear all the time when I ask people about their greatest struggle in staying healthy is that it’s too expensive to eat healthy. Some weeks are great – there’s plenty of fresh food in the fridge – and other weeks, not so much.
As much as I understand this reasoning, it’s just not true. Truthfully, it’s an excuse. I’m not saying that money doesn’t get tight or that circumstances don’t fluctuate, but I know this: a powerful person doesn’t adapt to their environment, they make it adapt to them. What I mean is that when our intentions are clear (we know we want good health and why) opportunities show up and, overall, things go as planned.
Yes, you will have to get clear on your intentions and develop a plan, but if it’s important to you, it is worth it. You can nourish yourself and your family with the finest foods if you know where to look and what to buy.
I am reminded of a story my friends tell that they use as an example of the manifesting power of clear intentions. They are avid foodies with a strong passion for healthy living. Because they had clear intentions, they always knew how to locate the best bananas – premium, organic and ripened to perfection. It was as if the bananas would come to them. They knew what they wanted and why, had a plan, and things worked out. This is a perfect example of the power of clear intentions.
Myths Of Healthy Eating On A Budget
Perfection is the killer of inspired action. One of the fastest ways to demolish your health goals is to set unrealistic expectations. I do not mean to suggest that you settle for the bottom of the barrel here, but keep a broad view in terms of manifesting your healthy lifestyle.
One of the major myths about healthy eating is that you have to buy all organic produce all the time. This isn’t true, and I’ve seen many people throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one – buying processed junk because they can’t afford organic avocados. I’ll talk more about this later, but as a general rule, do not let the pursuit of perfection destroy the balance of a healthy lifestyle.
Similar to this myth is the idea that you can only shop at high-end grocery stores to make a difference in your lifestyle. I won’t go into too much detail here, but in short, I’ve picked wild berries outside of a Whole Foods that were healthier than any food in their store. I’ll explain how you too can spot some wild foods to add to your diet. Even if you only know of a few, it makes a major difference when you compare the cost of organic blueberries at $4.99 a half pint to “free.99” when sourced straight from Mother Nature.
With a little bit of planning and strategizing, you can save, be healthy and experience the luxury of first-class foods.
Here are some easy tips for sustaining a wholesome diet, no matter what your budget is:
01. Buy In Bulk
You can buy produce and other staples in bulk at stores like Costco, as well as online. This can save you an astonishing amount of money. You can purchase raw nuts, seeds, grains, spices, and even coconut oil at great prices from these kinds of retailers. Costco has a pretty great produce section with big bags of organic spinach and carrots.
If you can set aside one day per week to prep (and in some cases, freeze) your meals, there won’t be a concern of fresh food going bad. You’ll also save time in the long run, considering all the time spent pondering what to eat every time you get hungry.
(Tip: Get your staples – coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, and spices – and refill smaller containers throughout the week to ration them. A simple thing I like to do is buy Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar in a gallon, then refill a smaller bottle.)
One of the best things I decided to do recently was to buy my spring water in bulk. Companies like Absopure and Mountain Valley have great prices on bulk spring water, which saves you time and money. They deliver, and you don’t have the hassle of driving to the store and wasting endless gallons of plastic jugs.
If you’re really up for it, get a couple 5-gallon glass containers and utilize Find A Spring – an online resource for finding FREE wild spring water – and stock up once a month or so. Even if it’s a 2-hour drive, it’s well worth it in the end. Compared to spending 30 dollars a month on store-bought water, you can instead get 30 gallons of the healthiest water ever. Plus, you get a free road trip adventure in nature! If that’s not Paleo, then I don’t know what is.
02. Always Choose Fresh Over Pre-Packaged
Despite the convenience of prepackaged foods, they always cost way more than their fresh counterparts. Keep prepackaged foods to a minimum, or ditch them completely. What you save in convenience you lose in money and experience. Go straight for the fresh, natural ingredients.
Stores like Trader Joe’s and Kroger chains have great deals on basics like lemons, avocados, organic lettuce, and more. At Aldi stores, you can sometimes find produce at a fraction of the cost it would be in other grocery stores. Just keep the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen in mind as you shop (you may want to make a list so you don’t forget what’s on each list!) so you can put more money toward buying organic for the “dirty” produce items, which have more pesticides.
03. The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen
Once upon a time, all food was organic. Sadly, that isn’t true today. Though organic food is obviously the better choice – it’s richer in nutrients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, and it supports a healthier planet – if you can’t go completely organic then there’s a little loophole, The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.
The Clean Fifteen are the select fruits and veggies that stand up to the damage done by pesticides and industrial practices. Because conventional food is obviously cheaper than organic, in order to get the most bang for your buck, you can purchase some conventional foods from the clean fifteen. These include:
- Sweet peas
- Domestic cantaloupe
- Sweet corn
- Sweet potatoes
Keep your organic purchases for the Dirty Dozen list and animal products. It’s best to purchase these foods organic because of the amount of pesticides sprayed on them and their higher susceptibility to the chemicals. Here are the foods you’ll want to buy organic:
- Bell peppers
- Animal products
If you’re on a pretty serious budget and can’t get these organic, then soak your produce in a wash of 1 part water and 1 part raw apple cider vinegar. To buy high-quality cheap animal products, shop around at local farms. Also, eating conventional foods together with fermented foods like sauerkraut is a good idea because the fermented food actually eats up toxins! The fermented food won’t be able to fix any hormonal impact caused by the conventional foods, but it’s a good insurance policy nonetheless.
Another tip for optimizing the dirty dozen foods is to remove the peel and skin from conventional foods. Though you’ll lose some nutritional content, you won’t be consuming hormone-disrupting pesticides.
04. Plan Ahead!
Planning is one of the greatest ways to improve our luck, especially when it comes to getting good deals on food. By planning ahead, you can save money on your groceries in many ways.
First of all, you can plan by making a grocery list. This is a time-tested way to save money on food. Otherwise, when walking into a store with a credit card and an empty stomach, it becomes all too easy to buy what’s most convenient, which usually isn’t the cheapest. Consider the price of a bag of kale chips versus a head of kale, for example.
Second, plan when you’ll shop and where. I’ve noticed some stores have better deals on certain items than others. I can get avocados for legitimately half the price at one store versus another. If I plan ahead well enough, it’s no problem to stop at two different stores, as I eventually pass by both sometime or another.
Being aware of the prices, upcoming sales and farmers markets in your neighborhood can help you decide where you should shop for the greatest savings at that time.
Another way planning helps save money is when we shop for what’s in season. For example, I plan to eat fresh berries during the spring because that’s when they’re in season. They’re cheaper and fresher; it’s a win-win. All it takes is a little planning and patience.
Plus, the added benefit is eating in season is that it actually keeps us healthier, because seasonal foods provide the nutrients our bodies need during that time. It pays to plan!
05. Learn to store Your Food to Last
Produce and fresh food goes bad pretty quickly. Learning a to employ a few techniques to keep your food fresh as long as possible is a smart move. Otherwise, we end up throwing our fresh food out, costing us money in the long run.
Here are a few techniques to keep your food fresh longer:
- Store vegetables like yams, winter squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, and onions in a dark, cool place. A basement or garage is ideal!
- Make your bananas last longer by wrapping the top of the bunch in plastic wrap.
- Peel bananas when ripe and freeze them so that they keep longer. Freezing vegetables and fruits in general is a great way to preserve them.
- Make broths and stocks in bulk then freeze into cubes for later use.
- Keep delicate greens like kale, spinach, cilantro, lettuces and celery in a bag or container in the fridge until it’s time to wash and eat them. These go bad pretty quickly. If they start to get limp, you can actually bring some crispiness back to them by washing them with really cold water!
- Save citrus peels and dry them out for herbal teas!
- Save the bottoms of celery and lettuces then soak in water to regrow them in your own garden. There’s an article on 10 foods that you can eat and regrow forever just like that here.
These tips don’t cut your grocery bill directly, but over time you save money by purchasing less and utilizing more without as much waste. You’d be surprised at how many households lose out by being wasteful. Learning to find as many uses for your food as possible prevents you from needing to return to the store to re-purchase items as often.
06. Recipes For Pennies
A great way to make your food stretch further is to learn to cook. If you can’t cook, you will always be stuck in consumerism and spending way more money on prepackaged foods than you need to.
If you can’t cook, pick up a few cookbooks and learn some basic recipes. Cooking is the first step toward self-reliance in a world of consumerism. If you can cook, then learning to maximize meals is the next step for saving big on your food bill.
Although it’s nice to use premium, high-quality ingredients, learning a few tricks about food alchemy can go a long way. Here are a few cooking and recipe ideas that cost little to nothing to make:
Make your plate 80% vegetables and 20% animal products. Animal products cost way more, and by eating more plant foods and fewer animal foods, we not only improve our health, but we also save money. Animal foods are nutrition-packed, so we only need so much of them to really thrive. I believe it was Jefferson who suggested that animal products should be a side dish.
Add fermented vegetables to your meals. These foods cost pennies to make and they not only provide nutrition, but they also work as digestive aids and a probiotic, all in one. By consuming fermented vegetables with each meal, we improve our metabolic function and better digest the food we eat.
Go Mexican style. A simple guacamole recipe of avocado, some garlic, cilantro, cumin and sea salt is all you need for a delicious, filling and cost-effective side dish. Guacamole is a survival food and gourmet deliciousness all in one. It costs under $5 to make guacamole and it fills you up, nourishes you and actually cleanses the liver too!
07. Favor Plant-Based Foods Over Animal products: 80/20 Rule
I mentioned this one briefly; however, I can’t emphasize this tip enough for helping you to save money and improve your health. I am all for high-quality fish, meat, ghee, eggs and raw fermented dairy. These foods pack a nutritional punch like no other. However, let’s get real – by avoiding them or limiting them you’ll spend less overall because a plant-based diet is so much cheaper than one that features animal protein at every meal.
I was a bodybuilder for two years and ate meat and eggs almost 5 times a day. I spent so much money on food it was ridiculous. The funny thing is, I wasn’t nearly as healthy as I am now. What did I do differently? I did everything I am writing in this article!
I don’t advise completely getting rid of high-quality animal foods for health reasons. However, I will say that by rotating them and making them a smaller portion of your diet with the focus on vegetables, fermented foods and good fats, instead, you will save huge!
See what works for you, but try limiting meat to one meal per day, making it your biggest meal of the day. Add some avocado and coconut oil to each meal to help to fulfill your caloric needs. Sweet potatoes, yams and other starchy carbs make ideal dinners, too! Don’t shy away from these foods because you’re on a Paleo diet. They are rich in nutrients and, if timed properly, (eat them for your last meal) they can actually improve sleep and brain function!
08. Grow Your Own Food
I was surprised by just how easy it is to grow some of my own food. I started off with Mason jar sprouts and wheat grass. These are simple and you can grow them all year-round! After that, I started keeping little pots of herbs in my dorm room.
Try growing your own herbs such as basil, cilantro, and rosemary. You can get organic starter plants at Whole Foods at affordable prices, and maintaining them is simple. Keep them by a window and water them accordingly.
As for more substantial foods like cucumbers, green beans, lettuces and greens – you can easily build a box garden on a small balcony or deck! You can grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, carrots, and more. Some of these you can even grow right in good-sized pots.
There is no food as nutrient-dense as that which is grown and picked right from the soil. It does cost a bit upfront to purchase the growing materials, but as long as you plan ahead and plan on continuing to garden, it only takes one or two harvests to make your money back. If you continue to grow your own food longer, then you really step into the reality of free food!
09. Learn How to Make the Most of Your Produce
I often say there is no problem too great for a creative solution. Growing up without a lot of money had a benefit: I cultivated incredible amounts of creativity. Learning to eat on a budget of $5 a day isn’t easy and not suggested. However, you can get 3 avocados, a gallon of water and a head of organic romaine lettuce for that!
I share this example to show you the possibilities of creativity. Imagine what you could do with a little more money and a lot of creativity? You can invent new ways to use the parts of the plants you might not normally use. For example, instead of throwing away lemon peels, use the zest to add nutrition and flavor to dishes you make.
You can also make herbal extracts with the parts of plants you’d throw away. I even use citrus peels to soak in hot bath water for a therapeutic, detox bath! If a lemon peel bath sounds too weird, then at least save them to make hot lemon tea.
If you juice, then save the pulp for making crackers by mixing it with leftover nuts and seeds. Did you know the leafy green tops of carrots contain more vitamin A than the orange roots? Add these to juices for a nutritional punch.
Here’s another great tip: you know all of those vegetable odds and ends you cut off and throw away? Save them and add them to water with grass-fed bones or carcasses of chickens to make a gut-healing bone broth!
When you use your produce in new ways, you’re less likely to go buy store-bought versions of things you can make at home, such as crackers!
10. CSAs and Farmer’s Markets
One of the best ways to save money is to shop at your local farmer’s markets or look for small home farms from which you can purchase. In my neighborhood there are tons of small families who grow their own food, have fruit trees on their property and raise chickens.
Not all of them market their stuff locally but you’d be surprised how happy some are to sell you their extras. Just ask! In my experience, some of these local families just don’t know how to sell their stuff. Don’t be afraid to ask around!
If you’re new to community-supported farming then you might feel better about signing up for a CSA. You make monthly payments and get boxes of fresh food delivered to you from farms during harvest time. This helps you build a relationship with local farmers around you. It also saves you money and local food is great for inspiring you to be creative when cooking.
Farmer’s markets are another great way to get fresh, local produce that can be less expensive than the store. Some of my favorite sites for finding local and wild foods are EatWild.com and LocalHarvest.org. These sites point you to the better-known local farmers so you don’t have to knock on doors. Not to mention, you get email access to a lot of them so that you can ask questions!
Try these tips to save money – and, on a deeper level, live a more self-empowered life! You deserve it!