One other tip about the markets: while the early bird catches first pick, going at the end of the day can save you a bundle. Most farmers would rather sell their goods than put them back on the truck, and will cut a deal at the end of the day. The more delicate veggies like greens may look a bit worse for sitting out all morning, but you can generally freshen them up by soaking in cool water for 10-15 minutes, then wrapping them in paper or clean cloth towels and refrigerating.
A few years ago I made a commitment to cook and eat at home more. Eating out is one of the ways I spend money that can be put to better use. And with the exception of a very few restaurants, I feel better when I eat my own cooking. I know what's in it, I know it's made with care, and it allows me to monitor what’s going into my own body.
One of the advantages of eating a whole foods or macrobiotic diet is that it's cost effective. Fresh vegetables are relatively inexpensive. Herbs, seasonings, ethnic spices, and traditional macrobiotic condiments can be pricey, but a little goes a long way. Grains and legumes are available in bulk at food co-ops and many health food stores. Joining a food cooperative can save us a lot of money (anywhere from 10-50% less than retail), and also allow us to grow our sense of community. Does buying organic and local food cost more? Yes it does. But the larger picture is that it actually costs less: for our bodies, and for our planet.
Here's another tip: try going food shopping and only buy "real food" (nothing ready-to-eat in boxes, bags, or the frozen food section). Compare your bill to what you would spend in the same store including boxed, bagged, frozen and prepared foods in your shopping trip. It may be an eye-opening moment.
When we eat a whole food diet, our health invariably improves. We need fewer trips to the doctor, fewer sick days, and our long-term health projection becomes far more optimistic.
For more information about how co-ops work, and a national, state by state list of food co-ops, see The Co-op Directory Service.For a national guide to whole food resources, see my article on The Mobile Guide to Healthy Eats.