I hear this comment ALL THE TIME and for good reason, because it’s true to some extent. Depending on what you’re used to buying, switching to unprocessed foods can be more pricey than simply buying any calories (“food”) that are on sale. Yes, you certainly can get alot of “food” for $20 if you hit all the buy 1 get 2 free sales at Big Y (ever notice it’s almost always processed junk on sale?).
At some point though, you have to take a hard look at what the overall, net cost is to you and your families wellbeing. Are you all healthy? Do you have plenty of energy, sleep well, clear skin, a healthy body composition, good lab values, and a good immune system? These are all signs of good health. If you answered NO to one or many of these, changing your diet to more nutrient dense foods can certainly put you on the right path to healing your body. I want to help you overcome the financial hurdle and make this change do-able!
Here are my top tips and tricks for eating better on a budget, because who doesn’t need that!?
- Buy Frozen
- Retains all the nutrients unlike canned products. Frozen wild caught fish, is one of the best deals out there. It’s about 1/2 the price of fresh! Same for veggies and fruits. This also makes it way more affordable to buy organic. Knowing how to cook foods from frozen will serve you well.
- Freeze Your Own
- During peak season, fruits and veggies become super cheap. Take advantage by picking your own from a local farm (if possible) or buying a bunch and freezing it for later use.
- Eat With the Season
- Not much grows here in Western, MA in the winter, but spring summer and fall bring a boat load of fresh fruits and veggies. Check out you local farmers market or farm stand for some excellent deals. Load up on what’s cheap and in season, because it will be changing soon! Check out your local CSA as well.
- Grow Your Own
- Definitely not for everyone, but if you’re like me, you can pick just a few items at are easy to care for and produce a ton. Most leafy greens are a good bet.
- Consider a BJ’s or Costco Membership
- You can share it with another household, at the same price (so you could split the membership cost). There are some awesome products at great prices, if you know what to look for. I will write a separate post on this one day. Just to name a few favorites- Wholly Guacamole cups, Kerry Gold butter, Applegate brand bacon, deli meat and cheese, organic boxed greens, chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut flour, avocado oil, organic canned tomato products.
- Consider Shopping Online
- Thrive Market has some good deals (does require a membership though). Purchasing oils (coconut and olive oil in particular), can save alot of money in the long run.
- Stock Up on Sale Items
- If they aren’t going to go bad and you have the space, stock up! I keep some random things in the basement.
- Make Your Own
- Cut, chop and prep your own, and you will save a ton! Shred and slice block cheese, buy whole broccoli instead of the tops, buy whole heads of lettuce and whole fruits like pineapple or melon. Also, sprout your own nuts, make your own yogurt (easy!), salad dressing, seasoning mixes, pizza crusts, pizzas, and chicken stock.
- Eggs are Cheap Protein
- and loaded with nutrients! So eat the yolk.
- Focus on Antibiotic and Hormone Free Meats
- As opposed to organic and grass fed, which would be optimal, but hard to find and sometimes unaffordable. Hormone and antibiotic free meat can be found pretty easily (frozen chicken at BJ’s is $3.33 a pound) at most grocery stores. For grass-fed, look for a local farm in your area and buy directly and in bulk if you can (split order with friends and family to get the reduced rate). Buy lean meats, if you are buying conventional meat. The toxins are mostly stored in the fat.
- Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat
- Ground, chuck roast and brisket are some of our favorites to buy from Wheel View Farm. They are the cheapest cuts, and easy to cook in the crock pot.
- Load up on Starchy Veggies
- They are super filling and can cut down on the amount of meat you need at a meal. Look for winter squashes, sweet and regular potatoes.
- Rice and Legumes
- Another super cheap way to supplement your meals and cut cost. Buy dry in bags, and cook your own. Great way to bulk up a chili, soup or casserole.
- Ditch the Junk
- Snacky junk food is expensive for what you get- which is, well, junk. Don’t pay for that! Put your money into some fresh fruit or nuts for snack
- Ditch the Drinks
- They are most likely loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners and chemicals, anyway. Make your own iced tea from tea bags, hot coffee drinks and tea. Drink water. It’s free and it’s always the best choice!
A few more helpful resources:
Environmental Working Group- “EWG’s “Good Food on a Tight Budget” booklet comes with our top tips for healthy eating, quick lists of best foods, tasty recipes and easy tools for tracking food prices and planning your weekly menu (a key step to cutting costs!).”
Environmental Working Group– Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list for choosing produce
What are some of YOUR tips and tricks? We’d love for you to share, below!