Before I really knew much about nutrition, nutritional value and the happenings of our modern day food industry, price was always one of the first things I’d look at when it came to choosing what I put into my shopping cart. Taste was not far behind and I’d choose organic when I could. It’s likely that at one point or another we’ve all been on budgets and had to decide where to cut corners when it comes to purchasing what our bodies depend on for nourishment.
That being said, it’s totally possible to eat clean and be well and nourished on a budget. Here are a few tips I find helpful to make it work.
1. Eat seasonally and locally. This is probably one of the best things you can do not only for your wallet but for your health and the environment.
Forget your imported strawberries in the winter. Switch to root veggies & squash!
This is a huge topic on it’s own, but to briefly sum it up, mama nature is a clever lady. Your body will respond positively when you choose produce that is aligned with the seasons. Doing so will provide you with the nutrients you need that correspond to the climate you’re in. You just might notice yourself feeling more vibrant and energized!
Not to mention, the closer a food is to the soil it’s been grown in (once picked) the more nutrient dense it will be. Imported produce endure uncertain travel conditions and a higher amount of pesticides. Often imported produce is picked before it’s ripened on it’s own, so ethylene gas is sprayed to artificially ripen it. Not so delicious.
And for the wallet, buying what is in season will be cost efficient and less expensive.
Visit eatlocal.org to find a farmers market near you.
2. Follow the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen guidelines when purchasing produce (if buying conventional or non organic produce). I recommend copying these lists in to your phone so you’ve got them at your fingertips when you need them. Organic is always best, but being on a budget can make it difficult to purchase everything organically even if you intend to. If you can’t get the items on the dirty dozen list organic, skip those and go for the clean.
(The Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen can be found here: http://foodmatters.tv/
3. This is where you’re involvement really comes in and pays off..
Ask questions and get super curious about where your food is coming from!
Ideally, we would always be doing this for many, many reasons. But from a budget standpoint, this can be a money saver because a) you may actually find that the produce you’re inquiring about is in fact grown organically but without the organic labelling due to costs, etc. and b) If you start sourcing out some of the items you buy, especially produce, you will be able to find different price comparisons and evaluate which choice is the best value for your dollar (and your health.)
4. Sign up for weekly newsletters from health-food stores so you don’t miss a sale.
Whole Foods and Choices often have great variety with their sales and support local farms. Visit their websites or their stores to view their flyers. If you subscribe via email, the weekly deals will go straight to your inbox so you’re sure not to miss a sale. If you don’t frequently visit Whole Foods or Choices, check into your local produce markets. Sometimes their prices can be a little less than that of larger grocery stores.
5. Eat simply.
Your liver loves a nice simple meal and it’s less energy and work for your body to digest and assimilate the nutrients. Simple, whole ingredients are key =)
6. Always make enough for leftovers and freeze them for quick homemade lunches or dinners on-the-go. It will save you time and money, while also helping you to eat clean. It will also be beneficial on those lazy nights when you feel like ordering take out or going out for a meal.
7. Buy only what you need. Buying your produce daily will prevent waste and taste fresh. If this is not always possible, just try purchasing perishable items for what you will use for up to the next three days.
8. If you are a meat eater, limiting meat to a few times per week and sticking to a vegetarian diet can also be a money saver and beneficial for your health. There are great plant based sources of protein such as hemp seeds, quinoa, chia seeds, nuts, etc.
9. Keep healthy snacks readily available. A little preparation and planning ahead can go a long way. It’s the difference between being hungry mid-afternoon and having a hard-boiled egg and some homemade trail mix or a sugary snack and latte from a coffee shop. Cost and health efficient!
10. Putting things into perspective can sometimes help when trying to make decisions around grocery shopping too. Your health is important, and is a long term investment. What you eat now will directly impact your future. It’s worth it to eat clean!