Make Healthy Eating Affordable For You
“But eating healthy is expensive!”
How many times have you heard (or said) this?
A lot of people dismiss the idea of healthy eating as too costly. Instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, they head straight to the packaged goods, thinking this food is better priced. I disagree!
Healthy Eating Saves You Money
I’m a fan of trying new health food products – I think it just comes with the profession! But, if I had to reign in my purchasing habits, I believe our weekly grocery bills would still be considered quite reasonable. My husband and I both like to eat. We work out every day, we maintain an active lifestyle and we do enjoy a few snacks each week too! Our grocery cart is probably a bit fuller than your average couple’s but we’ve figured out how to make healthy eating affordable.
How can you make healthy eating affordable?
Let me first admit that, yes, organic products are significantly more expensive than non-organic products. However, organic products will, in time, reduce your need to purchase a lot of over-the-counter medications and some supplements so I believe it evens out.
I like to tell people their prescription drug use will also be reduced but who actually pays for those themselves? I do know that most prescription drugs are covered by some kind of health plan, though. But if you do pay for your own prescription drugs, this is something to keep in mind.
But healthy eating doesn’t need to be expensive.
Let me go through some of the main food groups we purchase and give you some tips on how to eat clean while keeping your grocery bill as a reasonable amount.
Meat / Animal Protein
In this category, I splurge on organic, free range eggs and poultry. I also like to buy locally sourced, free range ground bison. Wild caught salmon and other fresh seafood are weekly staples in our house, too.
Yes, these foods are expensive, like 3-4 times as much money as non-organic, supermarket brand animal products!
But, we cut back on our meat intake and often share a single chicken breast or salmon fillet. To fill our plates and our bellies, we load up on extra veggies and add significant healthy fat to our meals. My husband is even starting to get a taste for avocado! And, we do aim for one meatless weeknight meal each week to help even out the cost of good-quality food.
I can’t skimp on animal protein because I know how many bad things are in commercially raised products. Extra hormones, antibiotics, traces of GMO crops from the foods the animals were fed, inhuman practices…these are the reasons I do not pick commercially raised animal products. It takes too much effort and money to reverse the effects of these ‘additives’ that it’s just not worth it to me.
Here we pick and choose a few organic options each week and buy non-organic for items we either can’t find or that aren’t as affected by herbicides and other chemicals. (Check out the EWG’s Clean 15 / Dirty 12 to find out when to choose organic produce.)
Because I eat an apple every day, I prefer organic apples and will actively seek these out! I don’t care if they cost me more – I know I’m giving my body a fighting chance when I choose organic apples.
Fruits and vegetables that have a thick skin – bananas, avocados, melons – typically don’t absorb much of the chemicals into the edible parts so these we still buy non-organic.
Fruits and vegetables that are very delicate – berries, lettuce, spinach – absorb a LOT of chemicals and it’s virtually impossible to wash these properly. So, if I can, I choose organic for these foods.
But, if I can wash a fruit or vegetable with a good cleanser or a mixture of vinegar and water, I don’t mind picking up non-organic produce. Plus, I just read that if you add 1 part vinegar to 3-4 parts lukewarm water, you can add your delicate fruits and vegetables, let it soak for 15-20 minutes and then rinse; most of the chemicals will be washed away.
Grains, Breads, Etc.
We rarely buy organic or specialty in this category of foods. I do purchase brown rice pasta for myself because I don’t eat gluten anymore, but otherwise we go for regular whole grain products. I’m a huge fan of the PC Blue Menu line because it’s reasonably priced yet high quality and relatively clean.
And, for brown rice, lentils and other grains, we buy whatever is available. Nothing fancy there!
Dairy / Non-Dairy
I haven’t eaten dairy in years, myself, and Bryan is almost weaned off of skim milk for his cereal. So, we do buy more cartons of unsweetened almond and coconut milk than dairy but I think the prices are comparable. My coconut milk yogurt is probably a bit more expensive than Greek yogurt but not by much. We haven’t noticed a difference in this category.
Pantry Staples and Condiments
Where possible, we buy Blue Menu food items in this category. I will splurge on natural nut butters over those with hydrogenated fats but typically I think our choices are reasonably priced.
Where the cost does increase is when you need to stock up on health food pantry items like raw cacao, hemp seeds and chia seeds. Luckily, these seem to last quite a long time so they are not weekly purchases!
5 Tips to Make Healthy Eating Affordable
Okay, it sounds like we do splurge a bit more than your average person but there are some tricks to keeping your healthy grocery bill reasonable.
Shop at Superstore.
Superstore has a wonderful Natural Foods section plus they have their own PC Blue Menu line that helps make healthy eating affordable. Prices of items in the Natural Foods section are close to 10% less than what you find in a specialty shop. (We went to Planet Organic last weekend and found cacao nibs for over $3.00 a bag more than they were at Superstore.)
Shop for ‘in-season’ produce.
Visit your local Farmer’s Market to pick up any in-season produce. Not only does it taste amazing, but it’s travelled a short distance so you know it’s fresh. And, ask the farmers about organic practices – most are trying to move towards more sustainable, planet-friendly growing practices.
Plant your own garden.
I have two gardens every summer in which I plant beets, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers. I notice a significant decrease in our summer grocery bills because of this (plus, it’s fun!).
Eat less animal protein.
Tell your men that they don’t need meat at every meal, or at least not as much. Moving away from a meat-centric diet to one that’s more plant-based can be tough, but just start taking small steps. Buy a big chicken breast and split it in two. Cook a bit more rice or veggies to make a complete meal. Or, start with an appetizer or salad so that you don’t need as much meat.
Plan your meals ahead of time.
This is probably the biggest time and money-saving advice I can give you. When you only buy food that you need for the week, you can skip a whole bunch of tempting aisles. It will help you cut back on buying too much fruit and vegetables too. Meal planning helps you figure out where you can use leftovers in place of a fresh meal.
Try a Clean Eating Approach to Healthy Eating
Clean eating can make healthy eating affordable in other areas of your life, too. My husband and I rarely get sick and miss work (which is super important to me as I run my own business). We don’t have to give up our vacation or sick days to visit various doctors’ offices.
It’s also a bit more difficult to eat out as most restaurants don’t offer meals that I will eat. Sure, we eat out once or twice a week (we’ve figured out a few ‘hacks’ to meet our clean eating needs) but we don’t eat out nearly as much as we used to. No more side trips to get ice cream, and way fewer trips to the convenience store for chips and chocolate bars.
Processed food is expensive! Have you seen the price of cereal? Processed foods don’t fill you up so you’re hungry again right away; hence, you eat more and your grocery bill is high. With clean eating, you don’t need to eat as much to fill up and your body can actually use the nutrients you’ve given it, signaling to your brain that you’ve had enough for awhile.
See? It all evens out!
Clean eating makes healthy eating affordable!