Changing from the standard American diet of processed and chemical laden foods to a diet filled with nutritious, real and healthy foods can be overwhelming. Not only does it require a new mindset when it comes to preparing and eating, but it can be a hardship in the area of finances as well. Let’s face it. Organic foods, fresh produce and wholesome brands are often on the higher end of the price range of groceries. All of this can deter many people right from the start.
But there are some simple, small steps that anyone can make. And the best thing is that these won’t break the bank! In fact, most of them won’t add any extra to your grocery bill and some can even save you money. Score!
Tips for Affording Healthy Foods
1-Drink More Water
Now this may sound pretty basic, but it’s often something that gets overlooked. Most of us don’t consume near enough water anyway. Yes, we drink, but we don’t actually hydrate ourselves. Sugary coke and sodas, teas, coffee and alcohol are often the drinks of choice. Since most of these are caffeinated they can actually pull water from our bodies leaving us more thirsty than before consuming them. Not to mention the sugar and chemicals in most of them. These don’t properly hydrate our bodies.
Instead opt for water. You don’t have to stock up on pallets of bottled water either. A good filtered water is best. Even for the top of the line Berkey filters, you still save money by drinking water over other options, but if that’s not in the budget that’s ok. A smaller more economic water filter works too.
Does that mean that we always drink water? Nope. But it is what we drink most of the time. I have my coffee in the morning and may splurge on tea if we eat out, but otherwise we drink water (or our homemade water kefir) at meals. I prefer mine with a splash of lemon. You could add lime, cucumber, fruit. The possibilities are endless. (This is a great pitcher for infusing water with fruit.) And even if adding these, you’re still drinking healthy and saving money.
2-Swap Table Salt for Sea Salt
Table salt comes from land mines and requires harvesting, which often includes injecting it with water to form a brine. This brine is then taken to a factory where it is stripped of minerals, boiled and evaporated. The salt left behind is finally dried and refined and ends up as table salt, sometimes having iodine and anti-clumping agents added to it.
Sea salt on the other hand is harvested from sea water through solar evaporation. After harvesting, it is usually washed, dried, cleaned and sometimes refined. This is the purest form of salt and can still contain all the natural minerals, which are actually beneficial to our bodies. Did you know that sea salt can actually help balance blood pressure?
While there are some exotic and quite expensive brands and kinds of sea salt, there are also many that are quite affordable. And most of us probably only buy salt a few times a year, making it an item that won’t break the budget. Search the spice section of your grocery store next time you shop. You will probably find an affordable option that is also healthy.
3-Salt Your Own Butter
I have to admit, I didn’t come up with this tip on my own. My friend Julie over at HallwayInitiative mentioned it once and it’s pretty ingenious. Let’s face it, real grass-fed butter can be expensive. And while I do feel like it’s worth the cost, it was something we had to work up to. So if you’ve made the switch to real butter, but maybe not grass-fed, and you want to bump it up a notch, salt it yourself.
Most store bought butter is salted with regular table salt. Even some of the higher end butter isn’t salted with sea salt. By buying unsalted butter and salting it yourself, you get the assurance that it’s a bit healthier. And you get more control over your salt intake as well.
4-It Doesn’t All Have to Be Organic
While most people would agree that organic food should be better for you, there are times that organic isn’t necessary. Gasp! It’s true. Some produce like avocados, pineapples, and grapefruit are safe to buy non-organic. You can snag a free copy of the top foods you want to buy organic and the ones you can skip organic labels on here.
The Environmental Working Group test produce each year and puts out a report of the cleanest and not so clean produce. Once you know the top “clean foods” you can skip organic and not sweat it. You’ll rest assured that your food is green and clean while still being budget friendly.
5-Eat In Season
Eating in season was once the norm. It’s how people survived. They knew what foods were in season during which times of the year and prepared their meals around what was available. Yes, there have always been storing and preserving foods, but not to the extent we have now.
In our modern, global world, we have access to fresh produce like berries year round. While that’s great when your hankering for some blueberries, there are some downsides. One of which is cost. Those blueberries you bought mid-January in Kentucky were shipped from across country or even out of the country. If they were grown in the States, it was probably in a greenhouse with artificial heat and light. And regardless of whether grown in the States or not, those berries have traveled. All of this adds to the cost of the blueberries which is passed along to you.
Instead of eating the same foods and meals year-round, try a more seasoned approach. By eating seasonal food, you can buy local which is not only cheaper, but healthier. The less a food has to travel before it reaches you, the more nutrition it will still contain. Even if you don’t have a local, year-round farmer’s market, eating seasonal can still work. Many grocery stores offer local to your county, state or at least region items. These will be much cheaper than produce shipped across the country. Just take a few minutes and check the labels.
Knowing which produce is in season, allows you to customize your meals around those specific fruits and veggies. Unfortunately the hardest part of eating seasonal is knowing what is in season. But I’ve got you covered. Here is a list of fruits and veggies by season. Now you’ve got no excuse. 😉
Ok, you’ve heard me talk about this before if you’ve been around for awhile. And hopefully, you’ve grabbed up my meal plan system and it’s helping you if you didn’t already have a plan. Either way, meal planning doesn’t just save you time and sanity, it also saves money.
By knowing and prepping meals ahead of time, you are less likely to eat out. Eating home cooked meals is healthier and cheaper than eating out. Also, by having your meals planned you only buy what you need and are more likely to stick to your budget since you actually know what you need.
By meal planning you will also waste less food. Have you ever bought some fennel just to find it two weeks later stuck in the back of your fridge? And it wasn’t looking so great, because you forgot about it and didn’t remember why you even bought it? Meal planning solves this. Less waste equals money saved.
7-Opt For Frozen Produce
This one may not sound healthy, but frozen produce is actually a great option. It’s picked at the height of the season and quickly frozen preserving vital nutrients. While canned veggies are cooked in the canning process which kills enzyme and can affect other nutrients, frozen veggies aren’t affected by this. While fresh, local in season produce is best, this is the second best option. And if you buy groceries for two weeks or longer, this may even be the best option as the produce will last.
Most frozen produce is cost efficient and can often even be bought already chopped saving you not only money but time. Buying frozen, chopped acorn squash is my favorite. Since I know it’s precut and I won’t have to spend time chopping, I’m more likely to eat it. Home-cooked meals just got easier and quicker.
8-Make It (Mostly) Yourself
Most of the time if you can make something yourself you’ll save money. That’s pretty much universally known. But sometimes the time and effort to DIY costs us more than the financial burden caused by just spending the money and buying the item. The solution is to weigh ALL the costs-financial as well as time and effort and only make it yourself if it will truly help save money and is worth the time and effort.
The good news is that there are MANY areas where this is true. Here is my list of top items to DIY that really does save money and is worth the time and effort. Many of these actually require very little effort.
- Yogurt –Make it yourself or at least buy the large container and flavor it yourself.
- Sour Cream -As easy to make as yogurt and full of probiotics as well. How to make it here.
- Kefir – Watch here to see how easy it is to make your own as well as recipe ideas.
- Kombucha- Watch here for a complete breakdown on making kombucha.
- Broth- Super cheap and easy to make and it makes meals more flavorful and go farther.
- Coffee- Even if you opt for the more expensive organic brand, making it at home still saves money and makes buying organic affordable-which I do recommend for coffee.
- Herbal extracts and tinctures- Not really a food, but still an area that can save you tons if you DIY-read all about them and how to here
- Breakfast- Most boxed cereals and pastries are not very economical and full of sugar and refined grains so opt for homemade granola, over night oats (try my baked oatmeal), or an egg meal.
Other things to watch out for when trying to make it yourself are bagged or frozen items (think veggies, sides and even pastas) with ready made sauces. Not only is it often cheaper to buy the veggies or pasta and make your own sauce, but it’s also healthier. Most pre-made sauces have preservatives, refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup, or even MSG (monosodium glutamate). None of these items deserve a place in the herb it up girl’s pantry or freezer.
9-It Doesn’t Have To Be All or None
This last item could be the most important. Don’t get overwhelmed when trying to eat healthy. Whether you’re a newbie to eating healthy and are trying to wade through all the news, labels and latest fads or whether you’re just taking it to the next health level, we can all get overwhelmed at times. Typically this happens when we think it has to be all or none.
We often think we have to buy all organic, make everything ourselves and eat only grass fed meats and we won’t accept anything less. While all of these are great goals to strive for, trying to do them all at once will give you quite the sticker shock! The stress at checkout from the bill will be worse for your health than if you had chosen just a few items to start.
The other idea that often pervades our thinking is that we must include EVERY healthy thing in our diet and cut out ALL the bad-immediately. We get so gung ho on trying to better our health that we jump in head first. We try to make yogurt, kombucha, kefir, water kefir, sourdough, fermented veggies and sourkraut and we stress ourselves out trying to balance life and actually living. Again, all of these things are great, but not necessarily all at once.
Regardless of what level of health your eating habits are at, start slow. Prioritize. What is the most important thing to start adding or cutting out of your diet. Start with that. If it’s something simple, like drinking more water, then choose another high priority item and just focus on those two things. But if it’s actually adding in more fermented foods that you make yourself, just choose one thing, yes one thing! And just get the hang and routine of adding that to your life. Once you get into a good routine with that, add something else.
And another tip to help you out. Let your kiddos help. Teach them and allow them to learn with you. Kids are smart. They will begin learning what healthy eating is all about, but then they will begin to feel what healthy eating feels like. And as they learn, you can begin passing on to them the responsibility of making some of the healthy ferments. Teach yourself out of a job, mama! You’ll have more time to add even more healthy items to your life. 😉
And it’s as simple as that. So no excuses and no overwhelm. Just step by step into the world of healthy eats. Before you know it, you’ll be rocking healthy meals like it was second nature. You got this girl!