Eating can be pretty expensive – but not always.
Your food choices affect everything from your health to your positive outlook on life. They can dictate your mood, make or break your relationship and play a rather large part in your lifestyle. While eating more healthy can seem like sticker shock at first, it really can be affordable – if you know how to look in the right places.
Just remember though that the cost of eating not-so-healthy can also be quite high – if you haven’t walked around Costco and noticed the shopping carts of others, you may realize that the overflow of processed foods and frozen convenience items can be just as expensive.
While those foods might seem cheaper, long term they can be much more damaging for your health and pocketbook – they contain artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, are over-processed, and in many cases, contain genetically modified ingredients that can wreck havoc on your thyroid and hormones.
It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to eating better – agree? Thankfully there are several ways to save that are affordable for any family. Here are 5 ways to afford healthy food options without resorting to clipping coupons and scouring sales.
In a nutshell, here’s our guide – we’ll expand on them below:
#1: Join a CSA for a weekly produce share
#2: Avoid the grocery store (you CAN do it!)
#3: Stock up on pantry staples from an online retailer
#4: Find a local farmer for pastured meat and dairy
#5: Learn to cook from scratch
So where does one begin? Scratch everything you know and here’s your opportunity to start from scratch:
Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
Focus your meals around vegetables by finding a local CSA. Our CSA allows us to get a bag of local, organic produce each week from farmers that grow without pesticides or herbicides. We learn what we will be receiving the Friday before the week arrives, and we have the option of substituting two items or, creating a custom bag.
The produce comes from local farms that don’t use pesticides or herbicides – the prices are amazing, and in most cases less than what you would pay at the grocery store. Not to mention the produce is local, so it stays fresher, longer.
Our CSA allows you to pay by the week instead of signing up for a contract, and our bag determines our meals for the week. Find a CSA near to you.
Avoid the Supermarket
Avoiding the supermarket might seem like a stretch for most, but it’s totally possible and can be a great way to save. Base your meals on vegetables that you pick up from your CSA, and supplement with pantry staples that you pick up from organic online shops, or from Amazon.
Organic products are typically more expensive at the grocery store – fruit and vegetables may not always be local (the definition of local can vary widely by store) – and you’ll typically pay much more for healthier food than purchasing from your local CSA.
Shop in Bulk for Pantry Staples
Use online sources to help you shop in bulk for pantry staples – everything from lentils to balsamic vinegar, coconut products, herbs, spices, beans and more. There are many online natural stores available that can cater to the needs of your family while offering free shipping with a threshold purchase.
A few of our favorites include:
- Vitacost – shipping is free on orders over $49. They do offer their own brand, and they frequently send out email offers for 10-20% off. New members can get $10 off $30 if they register here.
- Thrive Market – wholesale prices and healthy options at up to 50% off retail. Shipping is free on $49 and while there is a membership fee, you can reap back the savings on future orders. You can sign up for Thrive and get 15% OFF your 1st order, too.
- Azure Standard offers healthy, non-GMO and organic food plus earth-friendly products. No membership fee, with direct delivery to your community – you can find everything from food to supplements, and items for home and personal use. Find a drop in your local area or host your own.
- Amazon: Amazon can be an incredible place to find organic products in bulk – from corn meal to steel cut oats, as well as skin products like shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax. Items are delivered free with Prime.
Find a Local Farmer for Pastured Meat & Dairy
One of the best ways to save is to simply incorporate more vegetables and lessen your consumption of meat. Skip the unhealthy, factory farmed meat that you find in grocery stores (and yes, even organic meat can be factory farmed), and find a local farmer who raises pastured beef, pork or poultry that you can rely upon. Likewise, if you consume traditional dairy, move in the direction of raw dairy from a local farmer in your area that offers raw milk.
Do note though that not all states permit the sale of raw milk so check your local state on RealMilk.com.
You can still include meat in your diet, but by focusing your meals around vegetables, you can lessen the amount of meat you are using and provide a better quality for your family. Perhaps drop to 1-2 meat-based meals each week instead of including meat every night. Those who are lactose intolerant can typically enjoy raw milk as the milk contains the lactase enzyme in full form, which allows the milk to be easily digested.
Raw milk is a wonderful source of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals that your body needs – and provided the cows are pastured, it is a terrific source of conjugated linoleic acid, too.
Use Eat Wild to find a pastured meat or a raw dairy farm near you that can offer you the opportunity to visit and know your farmer directly.
Learn how to Cook
Eating healthy foods doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require work and knowledge to cook from scratch. Some people don’t know how to cook, some think they are too busy, and some are too lazy to cook.
Cooking from scratch at home is doable for everyone – regardless of skill level. There are many resources available to help one learn – from Pinterest to food blogs. Focus on learning how to prepare the foods in your weekly CSA share and move on to learn to prepare more advanced foods such as kefir, kombucha and even fermented vegetables.
Some of these may sound extreme – or, you might just say that some of these aren’t really things you would do – but why not try?
Making changes can often times be daunting or discouraging. The good part though is that they can be as easy or difficult as you make them to be.
Picking your food wisely is the best form of preventive medicine you could ever invest in – so next time something seems costlier than what you would normally pay, remember that the cost of an unhealthy lifestyle can in fact be quite a bit more expensive later on as time progresses.