We all know that fresh fruits, vegetables and good quality protein are keys to having a healthy body. By buying fresh, real food you won’t find yourself eating “foods” full of chemicals and additives which injure your body – and can make you incur potentially hefty medical expenses at some point. Instead, you will actually be eating food that results in a stronger and healthier you.
One of the most common reasons people give for choosing processed foods over clean eating is that it’s more expensive to buy whole, fresh foods.
While it’s true that you can get many types of packaged and processed foods for very little expense, there are ways to get good quality foods for your family on a tight budget. Here are some helpful tips:
A shopping list is a ‘must’ anytime you go shopping, but especially when you’re switching to clean eating. You’ll only be buying the ingredients for the dishes you are actually planning to cook, eliminating unnecessary purchases. A well thought-out meal plan can help you cut down on expenses when you prioritize the types of fresh produce which are currently lower in price because they are in-season. Include recipes with similar ingredients throughout the week to help ensure none of your fruits and vegetables go to waste. Having zucchini on Monday? Include another zucchini recipe soon after (within the same week) – with different grains, proteins and seasonings – it can be an exciting new dish!
One of the most common items you will be using up fast is grains – so it’s ok to buy your favorites (quinoa, brown rice or oats) in bulk. Healthy oils will most likely be part of your daily cooking routine too, so purchasing a larger bottle (at a lower cost per serving) may be a good idea. Other items you can buy in bulk include beans, nuts and legumes. Items purchased in bulk are usually priced lower from the start – and then later discounted if they remain on the shelves too long. This also applies to certain fresh produce, so if you have a preferred vegetable or fruit, then you might consider purchasing a larger quantity of those. You can also look into buying bulk produce and freezing it.
Sales can include food items like herbs, bottled seasoning like liquid amino or apple cider vinegar – and even kitchen basics like airtight storage containers, jars, muffin tins and freezer bags. Fresh produce goes on sale, too, so be on the lookout for that. You can adjust your weekly meal plan based on the ‘best fresh buys’ you have available at that time and season. Usually, the freshest, in-season produce is marked with reduced prices. Plan your weekly meals around those seasonal ingredients.
Organic produce is usually a little more expensive, but healthier and safer for you to eat. There are, however, a few produce items which are often safe to buy from more conventional sources.
You may have a usual go-to supermarket, and that’s ok, especially if it is conveniently located and has most everything you need. However, if you want to get the freshest, cleanest produce and food items at the prices most friendly to your budget, you may want to check out local farmers’ markets, small business shops, local food stands and farms. In addition, health food chain stores are now making their way to more places – make sure to check frequently to see if you now have any good ones near you.
Do you have friends who have thriving gardens and provide food for their families? Ask them how they got started! Growing your own food does take some work and planning. It also may require some money up front, but the healthy qualities of the resulting crops will be worth it. Check out these tips for gardening on a budget.
Before you head out and pile your cart high with everything that says ‘organic’ or ‘natural,’ do some research on what ‘Clean Eating’ actually entails. Read labels and the ingredient lists, because sometimes words like ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ can be deceiving. For example, if you’re buying ‘natural’ peanut butter, make sure to check what it actually contains – if it has anything other than just nuts and salt (has added processed sugars or a long list of ingredients you don’t even recognize as food), then it’s definitely not ‘natural’ peanut butter.
Being aware of the food items you should add to your pantry helps you stay on the right track for eliminating chemical additives and added/refined sugar. You also won’t find yourself buying expensive items that aren’t really good for you – you know, by accident, on impulse.
Planning for a life of clean eating does take a bit of work at first but, once you make it part of your routine, you’ll see the benefits! For some extra help, download the EWG’s Good Food on a Tight Budget Shopping Guide.