Eating Healthy on a Budget

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The Author
Rebecca Neale
This verified expert offers personal coaching services
Posted on March 14, 2017

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

How do you afford to eat that way all the time? People are always asking me that... and it’s a fair question as I am a full-time student on a very low income. Organic meat, organic vegetables and fruits, I only eat foods of quality in abundance of variety... but how? 

Well, it's very simple. I see food as an investment, an investment into my health, my future, my one-day-to-be family's future. I could spend my money on other things, sure, but my priority is to sustain the healthy life I have and continue to nourish my mind and body with goodness.

According to stats found in a Forbes Article online: “In the past, feeding our families took a much bigger bite out of American budgets and it hardly ever included dining out. In 1901, according to a 1997 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the average family spent almost half of their budget on food. Just 3% of that went to meals away from home. Today, we only spend an average 13.3% of our budgets on food–but 42% of that money is spent in restaurants”.

Of course, people can’t afford organic meat and veggies if they only allocate approximately 13% of their budget them! If people stopped eating out so much, they would be able to afford to eat well on a regular basis in their homes, leaving dining out as a treat for special occasions or only once every now and then. Quality food should be your number one priority, just think - you will save money on doctors' bills if you eat better, which in turn means more money in the kitty for the weekly shop.

See below my top 5 tips for a healthier, more organic lifestyle:

1.  If you can't buy all organic fruits and vegetables, check out what should be top priority when it comes to organic

The guys at EWG have put together a shoppers' guide to pesticides in produce. Here are lists to check what fruits and vegetables should be your top priority (and what definitely should not be) when buying organic:
  •  The Clean 15
  •  The Dirty Dozen

fresh food

2.  Health food stores

Now I'm a sucker for this trap too – you go into a health food store and you start to browse the isles – up and down. Wow! So many cool and exciting yummy things. You grab a bag of coconut chips, a green juice, a yummy protein bliss ball and before you know it you have spent the same amount of money you could have spent on meat from the organic butcher or on vegetables to make 3 or 4 days worth of super-food salads. All the yummy, fancy gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, chips, pastries and sweet treats all add up fast! And are they really that good for you?

When my clients make the transition to healthy and more organic foods they often do it the wrong way. Pre-packaged foods can come at a high price... so think whole foods. Instead of grabbing a $10 box of granola that won't go too far, why not make your own? Recipes can be found everywhere online. Or make your own bliss balls! A big batch of them can be kept in the fridge or freezer and last you weeks.

3.  Farmers' markets 

On the weekends go for an adventure and head to the farms nearby (if you are lucky enough to live close by to some) or head to your local farmers' markets and get to know your farmers. They are more than happy to share stories and to tell you what chemicals (if any) they use on their produce. Just because they aren’t deemed as ‘certified organic’ doesn’t mean they aren’t organically grown. Some of the farmers just can't afford the hefty price tag that comes with being certified.

farmers markets

4.  Bulk food stores

These places are so exciting! But again you can get so caught up in these places and spend way over your weekly budget. I call these stores Candy Stores for Foodies... I could spend hours on end wondering around grabbing different things to take home and bake with. You only need to open my cupboards to see how much I love them.

But there is a plus side to these stores: most are of high-quality ingredients, and you can buy them in bulk (hence the name). Purchasing in bulk means you will save money in the long run. You also have the ability to see where the ingredients are sourced from (Australian or International). I am a sucker for recycling and minimal wastage, so I use mason jars or old cold press juice bottles to store my ingredients.

5.  Learn to read labels

I don’t recommend eating many packaged foods as most are highly-processed and are not considered whole foods from nature's pure state. However, I do understand there are times when we do need things that come this way, so we must learn how to read labels carefully.

Just because something says it's ‘healthy’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘better for you’ etc., this doesn't necessarily mean that it is! Don’t fall for the fat-free/ sugar-free trap either!

The key is to read the ingredients list and see whether you understand it- are there things on there that you have never even heard of? Are they almost in another language? Do the names consist of numbers and letters? This would tell me they were man-made and created in a laboratory, far from being 'real' food.

Become aware of greenwashing, false advertising and the supposedly approved-as-healthy 'food tick'. Always ask yourself "where did this come from"? Did it simply grow in the ground or walk, swim or fly? Mother nature won't let you down, I promise.


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