Nutritionist, Joy McCarthy states that “It's not that organic food is more expensive, it's that mass-manufactured, industrial farmed and packaged foods have become so cheap! For example, in 1950 30% of a household’s budget was dedicated towards food vs. only 13% in 2003 - and I can guarantee you it's not because people are eating half the amount of food.” It is encouraged that consumers learn to appreciate the value of their organic dollar and invest in their health. However, here are a few tips on how to make healthy eating a financial reality.
- BUY THE BASICS IN BULK- It has been shown that packaging alone can make up 15-20% of a food’s cost! Stock up on raw, single ingredient, whole foods and take the time to package and prepare them from scratch. Examples include whole grains, beans, nuts, dried fruit and seeds and many can be found in bulk. Be sure to store them appropriately for long-term use. Tip: Find a shopping buddy and split big ticket items with a friend if it’s too much for your family to consume.
- PUT IN THE EFFORT - Avoid convenience foods that are pre- cut and washed. Buy these products in their original forms and clean, slice, grind and prepare at home.
- MEAT SELECTION- Cook a whole chicken and take it apart, using as many parts as possible, including the stock. You can also consider trying less expensive cuts of meat.
- RE-THINK YOUR DRINK - By switching to water, you can save a ton of money on frozen and carbonated beverages, not to mention significantly improve your health. Also, if you are a coffee drinker, brew your own at home. Tip: try making healthier speciality coffee replicas with ingredients like almond milk, honey, coconut cream, matcha, etc.
- DIY - Plant a garden (you can even start in containers or on rooftops, windowsills, etc.) and grow your own herbs, produce and sprouts. Also, you can make your own kombucha, yogurt, kefir, bread and even cheese if you are feeling adventurous! In addition, try creating healthier homemade versions of snacks such as bars, muffins or granola at home.
- GET ORGANIZED - Did you know that the average household wastes 14% of the food they buy? Make a meal plan before grocery shopping and only buy what you need. Plan in a way that will make optimal use of ingredients so extras can be used efficiently in the next meal. Keep your pantry and fridge organized and properly rotated to keep track of food supply and avoid unnecessary purchases. Also, don’t forget…“never shop hungry!”
- KEEP IT SIMPLE - You don’t need fancy ingredients to make a great, healthy meal. Stick to staple items that can be used in a variety of dishes. Make a base list and refill it as needed. Learn to cook great meals with fewer, yet better ingredients.
- QUALITY OVER QUANITY - Note that organic, whole, grass-fed ingredients are richer in nutrients and have less fillers so you can get much more satisfaction out of less food when it is of high quality.
- STAY HOME - Restaurant food can add up quickly and is not necessarily ideal in terms of nutrition. Learn to experiment in the kitchen and try to replicate your favorite dish at home. If you are going out, do so for breakfast or lunch as they are smaller, less expensive meals that usually offer healthier options (ex: oatmeal, soup, etc.)
- THE BEAUTY OF CHEAP PROTEIN- Stretch meals by adding healthy inexpensive ingredients to high quality meats to make them larger and more nutritious. For example, try adding black beans to ground beef tortillas or enjoy chickpeas in chicken stir-fry. Another budget-friendly idea is to try to enjoy a meatless meal at least once a week. Try egg and cheese quiche, lentil burgers, 3-bean chili or quinoa stuffed peppers. Protein powders are also an affordable, simple way to add good nutrition to your diet.
- PRIORITIZE - Learn what is most important to buy organic and when you can afford to choose conventional. For example, choosing quality animal products are of high importance. When it comes to produce, learn the dirty dozen list. These ingredients tend to have the highest concentration of chemical residue so aim to purchase them in organic forms (i.e. apples, celery, blueberries, potatoes, spinach, kale, bell peppers, etc.)
- SIGN UP! - Take advantage of coupons and in-store loyalty points programs whenever possible. While it may be temporarily inconvenient to sign up, it will be worth it in the end.
- CHOOSE LOCAL - Not only are local foods fresher and therefore more nutritious. They are lower in shipping costs, post-harvest preservatives/pesticides and minimize transportation pollutants. Plus, the money spent comes back to you indirectly as profits stay within the community. Local purchases are an investment towards the future.
- SHOP IN SEASON. Organic food in-season can even be cheaper than its conventional counterparts. Buy large amounts and learn to properly prepare them for long-term storage (freezing, canning, dehydrating, etc.). Try to “pick your own” local produce (i.e. strawberries) if possible at peak times and make it a fun family event!
- REMIX LEFTOVERS - Get creative with cooking and learn to use left overs efficiently in order to avoid waste. Create soups, stir-fries, salads and casseroles out of what’s left in the fridge before it spoils. Make friends with your crockpot and cook bigger batches to stretch meals for a few days and/or freeze for future use.
When it comes to eating healthy on a budget remember that choosing higher quality, putting in more effort, some smart planning and good ol’ creativity can go a long way!
-This Column in Sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach-