There’s no question that eating well can be more expensive than eating poorly. It makes no sense that real, whole, unadulterated food costs more than fake, processed, chemical-laden, genetically engineered food, but to some degree it can and it does. My clients often ask how they can eat well without breaking the piggy bank, and there are a number of things we can do to offset our food costs.
Join a food coop, which gives members discounted access to whole foods. In exchange for a couple of hours each month, your membership provides you with the opportunity to buy organically and sustainably grown products, often in bulk.
Plant a “kitchen garden”. In World War I and II even the most prosperous households had a “Victory Garden”, and there is no reason why we can’t continue the practice of planting in our back yards. Few things are as pleasurable as picking a vegetable and eating it on the spot or a few hours later, while it is still full of its vital energy. In New York City we see container gardens, roof top gardens and community gardens springing up everywhere, as people empower themselves by creating their own food supply. Communities across the country are organizing to help one another with the process; in Laguna Beach, CA we have Transition Laguna. Team members help one another by reconditioning the soil, educating participants and planting gardens, so no one is left behind. Elders and people with disabilities are welcomed in food coops and organizations like Transition Laguna; so don’t think that being differently abled counts you out of the loop. Church groups also offer community assistance, and you can ask for help in planting and maintaining a garden even if you don’t have an existing organization in your town. Who knows, you might start a movement!
Buy from your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or farmer’s market. At the end of the day, farmers will often offer deep discounts on produce. They don’t want to take it home, and after sitting outside all day some of the green vegetables may look a bit worse for wear. They are no less nutritious.
Shop smart: you can buy organic pantry items from stores like Trader Joes’s and Costco. If you shop selectively you can save a bundle, and buy other items like fruits and veggies from fresher sources. Check The Dirty Dozen and the Fresh Fifteen for a list of produce that you should always buy organic as well as fruits and veggies that are minimally sprayed and therefore safe to buy from conventional growers.
Think creatively. A Perfect Roast Chicken can be transformed into Ginger Chicken Soup by simply using the bones and leftover meat. A pot of Italian Stewed Lentils can be served over rice one night, tossed with spaghetti for Pasta with Lentils, Spinach and Roasted Tomatoes and then turned into a Mixed Vegetable or Minestrone Soup. In general, soups and stews are a great way to use up odds and ends of vegetables, beans and grains for a nourishing and satisfying meal.
Think ahead. Soaking and cooking your own beans saves money. So does eating a vegetarian dinner a few times a week. A bit of menu planning can go a long way towards making a healthy diet attainable on a tight budget.