Eat Well, Spend Less.
Angela Braden has researched and reported on wellness and lifestyle for a decade. She has been published hundreds of times in national and international magazines. Angela serves as a speaker for Alive! Expo (health convention) and as the Editor and Founder of www.angelicindulgence.com web magazine, where you’ll find more indulgent health tips and articles updated monthly.
Eat Well, Spend Less. The Economics of Whole Food
There’s no doubt that diet is a pillar of achieving and maintaining health, but some get discouraged by the price sometimes attached to the healthy version of their favorite foods. “I can’t afford to eat ‘healthy’” is a common complaint. But let’s take a closer look at what it really costs to eat with nutrition and balance in mind.
Fresh vs. packaged, processed foods
Packaged food is where many a budget-conscious shopper goes awry. When comparing a week of meals from pre-packaged, frozen and canned foods, those prepared with fresh, even mostly organic, ingredients actually costs slightly less, when leftovers are utilized. This is because cooking whole foods produces more food and therefore more leftovers than pre-packaged. Spending a little time learning how to prepare delicious dishes from fresh, whole foods (produce, beans, grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs, organic yogurt) can translate into spending less in the grocery aisles.
A costly practice too, can be seeking out healthy, packaged versions of typically not-so-healthy foods, such as chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, cookies or cake. It’s a wonderful treat to find these items available in the natural foods store, using organic ingredients, natural sweeteners, and whole grains, but they can cost three or four times as much as the conventional version, because they are expensive for the natural foods manufacturer to produce and package.
The good news? You can learn to cook your own healthy versions without the cost of packaging or formulating for shelf life without harmful preservatives (also a costly endeavor for manufacturers since live food expires quickly). Find a recipe of something you love then substitute healthy ingredients. For example, chocolate chip cookies can be made of whole-grain pastry flour, raw cane sugar or dried honey (for healthy sweeteners), naturally sweetened, dark chocolate chips, and organic butter and eggs. These quality ingredients will cost more than their cheap counterparts (refined white flour and sugar), but you can make a ton of cookies and freeze some. In this way, you’ll actually come out ahead, price-wise, compared to purchasing the unhealthy (those with hydrogenated oil, shortening, and refined sugar) packaged cookies. And you’ll be making a long-term, yummy investment in your well-being.
Another healthy and indulgent option is to adopt the practice of considering fruit as your dessert or snack. The price of a serving of fresh, high-quality, organic fruit is comparable to a serving of ice cream or other store-bought dessert. The idea takes some getting used to, but the deliciousness of the fruit will win you over before you know it and your body will thank you—many fruits are anti-aging and protect against cancer and many ailments like arthritis.
Organic Vs. Conventional
True, organic produce usually has a higher price than its conventional counterpart. However, there’s more to the story. Organic fruits and vegetables have been shown to consistently contain more nutrients and more/better flavor than conventional produce. For these two reasons, you may need to purchases less of a good thing. You get more enjoyment out of the food because of the superior flavor and texture and may find more satisfaction with less food. Likewise, higher nutrition density packs more nutrition into less food, so you meet your daily requirements with less cost!
Buying locally-grown food from farmers markets is a cost-effective option as well. Local farmers often use some of the same quality methods as organic, but just don’t take the time and money to become certified organic. Getting to know your community farmers can be a fulfilling and interesting experience. Make an afternoon of browsing and asking questions, like if pesticides are used and how the land is cultivated. You’ll make friends and great food find for bargain prices.
It may be a time to tighten the budget, but not to sacrifice your health or enjoyment of quality food. For more tips on living (and eating) well, please visit my online magazine.
- Dried beans – A little go a long way; high in fiber and many nutrients
- Broccoli – inexpensive and power packed with nutrition and anti-cancer properties
- Whole organic chickens and make broth with the leftover bones – Traditionally celebrated as health tonics these “stocks” create the foundation to stretch into more healthy meals and are full of essential minerals.
- Sweet potatoes, carrots and squash are crowd pleasers, inexpensive, and packed with vitamins. Simply bake, salt, and drizzle with olive oil or organic butter.
- Soda is a drain on your vitality and your budget
- Individually wrapped anything is going to cost you more
- Frozen dinners – not a good value for the weight of food
- Packaged cookies and other desserts – it’s worth it to D.I.Y.!
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*Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer