How do you afford to eat healthy whole food?

Being the new year people have decided to make changes in their diet. I do not believe in trendy diets or fads. They may help you lose weight but they usually do not help you get healthy.

About three years ago I was told that I could not get pregnant because I had PCOS and endometriosis and some other problems. I was told by one doctor that I needed to go on a crash diet consisting of 500 calories a day and nutrient shots so I could lose a lot of weight fast and get “healthy”. Thankfully I did some research and decided this was not a good idea.

Instead I decided to make a change and eat only whole foods. No processed crap. Along with eating whole foods I decided it would be best for my health if the meat we ate was hormone and antibiotic free. I buy free range organic as often as I can but let’s be honest, we have a budget.

After about eight months of eating whole foods I got pregnant. Surprise!

So people ask how we can afford to eat healthy. Fresh whole food is not cheap nor is it subsidized by government or big business. I was emailing a friend about this the other day and there are a few things we do to make eating whole foods most affordable. I figured I would share these tips with you too.

1. Buy produce on sale at your local “natural” grocery store. We have sprouts and sunflower farmers market here. They usually have a bigger selection of organic produce (I make sure to buy the top 10 worst foods organic), but their regular produce is usually more local (even in the winter it is from Cali not south america), and usually from smaller local farms especially in the summer.

If you can’t afford organic produce there are great produce washes to get all the chemicals off. My favorite is the bio-kleen produce wash http://www.amazon.com/Biokleen-Produce-Wash—-16/dp/B001OI13VW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1326152316&sr=8-3. It is plant-based and works very well. You can make your own but it takes too much time and effort for me.

Sprouts has good natural (hormone/antibiotic free) meat for the same price as most grocery stores have regular meat. Bonus.

If you search the sales every week you will usually find sales for items in bulk, the replacement milk you like, and canned goods. Sprouts has bulk  sales pretty often, this is when I stock up on oatmeal (we eat a lot of oatmeal), flowers, nuts, seeds, beans, dried fruit, and all that stuff. We save a lot buying in bulk anyway, but 25% off is an awesome deal. When i want chocolate I buy it from the bulk section too, you just get what you want instead of the whole big bag/bar/whatever and you save money there too 

2. In a lot of recipes you are going to find ingredients like almond, cashew, or oat flour. Do not buy the bags of pre made flour. You will pay WAY too much. Here is how to make flower with those… you get the almonds/oats/whatever… put it in the food processor (the blender will turn nuts into butter not flower if you aren’t careful so food processor is better), run in bursts until it is the flowery consistency. The end.

You can also make your own nut milk (like almond milk) but if you drink a lot of almond milk I wouldn’t because almonds have a toxin in it that they filter out in manufactured milk that we can’t take out at home.

3. When it is the season, buy food at the farmers market. Most small farms use limited or no pesticides but cant get the organic certification because it costs a lot of money that small farmers can not afford. You can usually get great prices on produce, fresh herbs, baked goods (yes most farmers markets have gluten-free/raw booths with food too yum), potted plants, and natural body care (home-made soap) stuff too.

A Saturday trip to the farmers market is a fun thing to do with the family. We usually get up early and go to the farmers market, get coffee and breakfast there off of whatever we scrounge up. It is awesome.

You can usually find local farmers who sell good meat at the farmers market. This is great because you can buy some of the meat and try it, see how it is. Ask the farmer how they raise their food, what they feed them, how they get exercise etc. From this you can usually find someone to buy a big chunk of cow from (1/4. 1/2 or even whole cow) and you will end up paying about $4-5 lb for some prime tasty meat. Totally worth it if you have room in a big freezer. You save a lot of money buying beef and pork in bulk. You can even ask for the bones for the dog and the fat to render your own lard if you are really hard-core. My friend The Spiteful Chef (http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com/)  did that and the lard she rendered makes tasty delicious food.

Also, I found farmers markets in smaller active communities have a more diverse selection and lower prices than the huge farmers markets in big cities.

4. Join a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture. They all work slightly differently but the gist is you pay $x weekly and you get a basket of fresh produce you pick up every week. We do bountiful baskets (www.bountifulbaskets.org) and get the organic basket, which is smaller than the regular basket, but has all organic produce. It is $25 a week for the organic basket, $15 for the regular and I don’t usually have to buy a whole lot more fruits and veggies for the week. To be fair Ellie and I snack on fruits and veggies during the day but Mike does not. Your family might need more than one.

Some CSA’s you get a choice of what you get in your basket for the week but with bountiful baskets you don’t, you just get what you get. SO if we get a TON of apples or bananas I usually dehydrate them for snacks for the rest of the year. Other produce you get a lot of in the summer, like squash, you can cut up and freeze for later.

I found a trick for the veggies that people don’t usually enjoy eating (like lettuce in this house, or kale) are great in green smoothies or the juicer. Just mix with your favorite fruit and you get all the nutrients without having to eat a salad. AND it doesn’t sit in the refrigerator for a week then go all nasty.

Check out http://www.localharvest.org/ to find farmers markets and CSA’s in your area as well as local farms that have activities for families like apple and pumpkin picking and all sorts of other seasonal stuff.

5. Grow your own food. Yes even if you live in a small apartment like we do right now there are some great easy foods you can grow right on your back porch. Seeds and soil are cheap and it is a great easy way for you to guarantee healthy organic produce for your family.

Well that is all I can think of right now. Let me know if you have any questions or any ways to eat whole food and save that I didn’t mention. Food is by far our biggest household expense but we save A LOT on medical bills and we feel much healthier and happier as a whole so it is very much worth it.

How do you afford to eat whole foods?

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5 responses to “How do you afford to eat healthy whole food?

  1. I think this is a great post and such an important message for the world to hear. Last year, our family took the food stamp challenge and ate on that allocation for a week. I used our CSA as the centerpiece of our meals and was able to put together wholesome meals without any processed yuck. I wish there was a way to get this message out to more people.

    • This is a great csiteroavnon you’ve started, thank you!I’m going to stand corrected on the farmers market point — just because it’s my experience that farmers markets are usually more expensive doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s experience.But it does actually emphasize another point that I made at BlogHer, that we actually have to carefully know/watch prices (and quality too, that point can’t be missed), no matter where, to know if something is a “good deal” or not. And when we choose to pay a premium for quality or freshness or for the “social good” or whatever we choose? Great.My own example from last weekend is that I bypassed some packets of fresh herbs from the farmers market, grown organically, $2.50 a packet. I knew I was headed to Wal-Mart and that their herb boxes are $2. Well — turns out, Wal-Mart has switched vendors and now only stocks a larger container and a disposable one too, for $3. Guess what I’ll be buying tomorrow, and where.Your blog is lovely, I think we’re much sympatico food- and other-wise.

      • I agree farmers markets can be more expensive. I find if I avoid the larger city farmers markets (like Boulder) with all the fancy gourmet stuff, and instead go to a smaller farmers market which mainly emphasizes small local producers I can get better prices on the seasonal produce.

  2. As alywas, interesting and thought provoking topic. I have to agree with the other city dwellers and say that the farmers markets here (in Seattle) are generally more expensive than the grocery store. I remember the first time I went, I few years back, and I was really excited to buy reasonably priced fresh produce. I came home empty handed because there was no way I could afford to pay 5 dollars a pound for tomatoes. A farmers market that I LOVE is the one on the other side of the mountains in rural Yakima. The produce is super cheap there and we alywas walk away with many many bags of fruits and vegetables that last for weeks. Of course, Yakima doesn’t have the amazing cheese or the gimongous pet rabbit that we have at our farmer’s market so clearly there are trade-offs…

    • I just mentioned to another commentor that I find also find the smaller city farmers markets to have better prices over all than the large city. I lived in Spokane for a few years and the farmers market there usually was well priced. Here in Colorado the Boulder farmers market has all the haughty gourmet fancy stuff and is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. There are other farmers markets in the smaller suburbs with mainly small local farmers that have much more reasonable prices. As with everything it is a hunt for the good prices, but once you find a good, local producer with fair costs stick to them like glue! They will treat you right.

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