I am often asked how individuals and their families can eat healthy on a budget, especially when a container of organic lettuce costs 3 times as much as an easy pop-me-in-the-microwave dinner, it is often much more convenient (and cheaper) to go for the latter than the former.
However, once you begin to realize how much you might be spending on food items outside of the foods you buy at a grocery store (say, a lunch bought at work, or going out to eat a couple times a week for dinner) you start to realize that you could be saving pocketfuls of cash.
When I switched my diet, I actually managed to save money because I stopped eating out, I gave up alcohol, I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I live a simplistic life with minimal materialistic possessions. Even choosing organic foods didn’t budge the bills – I came to realize that much of the organic produce was similarly priced as the non-organic produce, and that shopping around was my best bet to getting good deals.
Here are some tips and tricks so that you can work toward consuming a healthy, high raw and organic lifestyle on a budget!
Farmer’s markets are one of the best ways to get the most for your money. The produce is fresh, local, and instead of supporting corporate giants, you are supporting individuals in your community which leaves a sense of fulfillment and gratitude. If you are concerned about pesticides and herbicides, you can often find vendors which are certified organic, or, you can simply ask the farmers if they spray their farms. You can make the decision as to whether you trust their sincerity, I often take their word (and individuals who cannot afford certified organic labelling, but do not spray, usually have cheaper produce too!).
Shopping between stores for the best deal is a must for helping save money. I often find that the same produce distributors at one store might be 2-3 dollars cheaper at another (which can save a lot of money, especially if you are buying per pound or kilogram). Getting to know stores and which are more pricey than others is also useful in ensuring your money isn’t spent ruthlessly.
For example, I often shop between a few different stores in my area. There is Organic Planet, Organza, Vita Health, Superstore, Safeway, Mondragon, and of course farmer’s markets in summer. The prices between these places vary, and so I shop between them weekly to find the best deal on organic produce.
Sprouting is incredibly easy, and they are packed with a variety of nutrients. Eating nutrient rich foods help satiate the hunger signals in your brain, and also help mineralize your body (meaning that you don’t need to eat as much food and thus save money). If you are fond of sprouts but can’t afford them, sprouting is also an excellent way to save money.
Buying bulk sprouting seeds and sprouting them in an old jar with a sprouting lid (or even a rubber band and some clean pantyhose) is inexpensive and one of the best ways for introducing organic micro-greens into your diet. My favourites to sprout are sunflower seeds and broccoli seeds (all organic of course!).
Buying in bulk is an excellent way to save money, especially if you want to go in on it with a couple other friends or households nearby. You can also ask your local health food store if they sell items in bulk, and if so, if you can get a discount (for example, an organic grocer in my city gives a 10% discount on items when you buy in bulk).
Going to your local health food store and buying your nuts, seeds, legumes, dried fruit or grains (if you consume grains) from bulk bins is a sure way to save money on the same product that might be in a fancy package but priced at double the cost.
On Sale Produce
A lot of stores have discounted produce shelves where they put produce out that can no longer be sold because they are not in perfect condition. Usually this means that all of the ripe, ready to eat fruit will be in these discounted sections, which is great because that is the condition we should be eating our fruit in – RIPE!
Wholesalers are also a great way to save money on produce, although finding organic wholesalers is a little more difficult (especially where I live). Whenever I buy produce, if I find some fruit or vegetable that looks a little bruised or battered up, I will ask the produce people or someone up front if I can get it for a discount price. More often than not, their answer is yes, and I end up getting a 50% discount on my produce!
Eat at Home
Preparing food and eating at home is one of the most important lifestyle changes to help save money. Eating out is expensive, no matter what way you look at it. I can stay at home and make the most delicious, satiating, massive salad for under $7, OR, I could go out and get a bland, boring salad which is 1/8th of the size of the ones I make at home for $10. It only makes sense not to eat out when you can.
Seasonal eating is another great money saver. Seasonal produce is much cheaper, because it is much more abundant and readily-available (opposed to something being grown under less-than-optimal conditions during a time when nature did not intend for it to be grown). Eating seasonally is also much healthier too! In-season produce is more nutrient dense, and also more flavourful. This also works out well for people who do not want to eat vegetables or fruit, because in-season produce that tastes better will be eaten more often.
Ditch Supplements (& other non-necessary expensives)
If you are consuming vitamin and mineral rich fruit and vegetables, supplements are not really necessary. Protein powders and daily vitamins are taken to supplement an already deficient diet. If you are eating healthy, and consuming adequate quantities of fresh, organic, mostly local produce then your body doesn’t need supplementation. The same goes for superfood blends which can be bought for so much cheaper in bulk at health food stores, separately, and mixed yourself.
Supplements are a $25-billion-a-year industry, because so many people think they need supplements to have a balanced body chemistry. Nutritionists and medical professionals argue that supplements are necessary because most people don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables and rely more on processed foods which lack essential nutrients. When I went raw vegan I removed all supplements from my diet and my blood work still comes out great every year (and I have been raw for 3.5 years!).
It might also be the case that the soil in which our food is grown is depleted and thus lacks essential minerals. If you have reason to believe that your food may not be mineral rich, then look into buying a quality mineral supplement such as those provided by Mother Earth Minerals.