A recurring concern among my clients (and my friends... and even myself...) is that eating healthy can be SO EXPENSIVE.
Mortgage, gym membership, bills... Everyone is vying for your hard-earned dime. Some will even go so far as to tell you to prioritize your budget towards their product, because "its worth it for you in the long run... and if you just clearly can't afford it, you obviously don't care about your health" (Say what???)
Life is already expensive enough and now you want me to spend $9.99/lb on grassfed ground beef?
Well I am not here to tell you you can have it all for nothing ( I wish. Sorry!) or that I think you should go broke by only purchasing grass-fed, organic, free-range, pastured nutrition advice.
Let's find the middle ground shall we?
Here are ten tips for eating healthy on a budget without sacrificing your health.
1. Eat seasonal and locally Grown Food
Seasonal and local produce is much less expensive due to the abundance of crop and low- shipping costs. Food also tastes SO much better when its harvested in season, down the road.
Compare the tomatoes of December and tomatoes of July... In December, there are fewer varieties, generally they are shipped in from Mexico or Chile, and really don't taste like much. Sounds great right? All yours for $4.99/lb! Say what? Flavorless produce for that price? No thanks.
Not sure what's in season? Ask your produce clerk! Look at the label to see where it came from!
Eating local can be made extra simple by visiting your local farmers market!
2.Follow the clean FifTeen and dirty dozen
To buy organic or not? That is the question!
It'd be great to buy organic all the time, but that just isn't feasible for many folks. So when is it worth it or absolutely necessary?
First of all stick with our local/seasonal rule! If money is tight, don't spend your precious buck on organic mangos from Chile.
Then turn to the Environmental Working Group's Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen consumer guides. These lists rank produce based on detectable pesticides and the number of pesticides found on the produce. They are also updated each year, so you are always in the know.
For those fruits and veggies listed on the dirty dozen, buy organic versions whenever possible to limit your exposure to nasty pesticides and support sustainable agriculture. When shopping for fruits and veggies listed on the clean fifteen, feel free to purchase conventionally grown produce.
3. Be Offal-ly adventurous!
Offal, better known as organ meat, is a nutrient dense powerhouse for your plate and a great way to incorporate grassfed meats for a fraction of the cost of more traditional cuts. Hesitant about eating offal? Start with chicken liver-- its mild in flavor and can be easily incorporated into meatballs or meatloaf! Check out my post on the benefits of eating offal and be sure to try this fabulous meatball recipe :)
4. Buy Bulk
Buying in bulk requires more cash up front, but can save you big moolah in the long run! Grassfed beef or pastured pork can cost as little as $4.50/lb when you buy in bulk. .
Don't have the freezer space for bulk meat? Split a share with a friend!
Costco, Amazon and Thrive Market are other great ways to stock your pantry with bulk items for a fraction of the cost.
5. Put that freezer to work!
Are you overrun with tomatoes? Zucchini? Is chicken on sale? Did you make a big batch of bone broth?
Take advantage of the abundance and put that freezer to work! Spend an afternoon prepping meals featuring those ingredients, divide them into smaller portions and pop them in the freezer. Freeze broth in an ice cube tray and then store the frozen cubes in a large freezer bag.
Now when you have a busy week at work and don't have time to cook, your freezer is stocked with easy meals, saving you time and money.
6. Grow your own
If you really want to save money on produce, try growing your own! You don't need a yard or a ton of space. Tomatoes, lettuce, greens, pole beans and herbs are easy to grow in pots on your patio or porch.
7. Simple ingredients
Be smart with your meal prepping! Its definitely fun to try new recipes, but if you're budget conscious, look for recipes with simple ingredients. Don't bust your budget buying expensive ingredients you'll use only for that dish.
8. Dine at Restaurant Chez Vous
Translation: cook at home!
Processed and fast food tends to be high in calories, made with poor quality ingredients, low in actual nutritional value and surprisingly expensive.
Craving a burger and fries? Skip the drive-thru and fire up the grill.
Got a hankering for a nice steak and a glass of red wine? Make a reservation at your dining room table.
Going out to eat is lots of fun, but by cooking at home you control the budget and ingredient quality.
9. Avoid the urge to Paleo-ize.
Or veganize or vegetize or gluten-free-itize...
Paleo versions of our favorite treats often call for special ingredients like expensive flours or sugars. While these versions may be more nutrient-dense than the original, they will bust your budget SO FAST and probably aren't doing much FOR your health.
The same goes for pre-packaged foods. It's AWESOME how readily available gluten-free, paleo, etc etc foods are becoming. They are awesome treats! Everyone needs a gluten-free oreo every now and again (At least I know I do!)
But again, they are expensive, unnecessary, and often just as sugar-laden as their gluten-filled counterparts. Remember just because it says "gluten-free," "natural," "no-added sugar" or a host of other labels, does not mean it's healthy.
10. Use your scraps!
Foily onion wrappers? Carrot tops? Potato peels? Bones from the rotisserie chicken or ham? Don't throw them away! Use them for bone broth!
We keep a tupperware in the freezer with usable veggie scraps. When its time to make a batch of broth, we add the veggies to the pot to make the broth tastier and healthier! Wahbam.
Some of the our favorite veggie scraps to save include: onion wrappers, carrot peels and tops, potato peels, parsnip peels and ginger. Avoid bitter veggies like greens.
Chicken bones are also a great base for broth! Save the carcass from your next rotisserie chicken and make a batch of bone broth!
These are some of the cost-saving measures we take in our home and hopefully they will inspire you!
Feel free to share your own tips in the comments below!