Eating Healthy on a Budget

woman shopping online for healthy fruits beside healthy vegetables bowl broccoli on chopping board on table
by Rebecca Neale

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 of 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 to 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.

5 tips for a Healthier, More Organic Lifestyle:

1. Get Informed

If you can’t buy all organic fruits and vegetables check out what should be a top priority when it comes to organic. The team at the Environmental Working Group has put together a shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. It lists which produce is a top priority when buying organic and which aren’t.

2. Be Careful in Health Food Stores

I’m a sucker for this trap—you go into a health food store and start browsing 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’ve spent the same amount of money you could have spent on meat from the organic butcher or vegetables to make three or four days’ worth of superfood salads.

All those fancy gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, chips, pastries and sweet treats add up. 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 far, why not make your own? Recipes can be found everywhere online that are simple, full of goodness and delicious. Or make your own bliss balls: a big batch of them can be kept in the fridge or freezer and last you weeks.

3. Go to Farmers’ Markets

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

4. Buy in Bulk

Bulk food stores are so exciting! But 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 wandering around and 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, too—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.

I am a sucker for recycling and minimal wastage, so I use mason jars or old cold press juice bottles to store my ingredients. These stores are helpful for those who want to start making more of their own bliss balls or slices and other things at home to save money.

I recommend the Source Bulk food at Miami on the Gold Coast or Helens in James Street, Burleigh—both have a large range of goodies.

5. Learn to Read Labels

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

Just because something says it’s ‘healthy’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘better for you’ does not mean it is! Don’t fall for the fat-free, sugar-free trap either.

Firstly, read the ingredients list. Can you understand it? Are there things on there that you have never even heard of, are they almost in another language or are they just simply numbers and letters that belong in a chemistry textbook? This would tell me they were created in a laboratory and probably far from being real food.

Become aware of greenwashing—false advertising and the food tick. I have lost count of the numerous foods I find with ticks on them that I almost have a mini heart attack over when I realise what they call good for you!

Happiness is your highest form of health ~ The Dali Lama

Just ask yourself, where did this come from? Did it grow in the ground or walk, swim or fly? Mother Nature won’t let you down, I promise.

Your health is your wealth, and I really believe that food is your medicine. As the Dali Lama says, ‘Happiness is your highest form of health’—this couldn’t be closer to the truth. Whatever you do in life make sure it makes you smile.

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