Keepin’ Those Dollaz in Check; or Healthy Eating on a Budget
by Amanda Hepp Jackson, SHOP blogger
Ok let’s talk about healthy eating and money. Everyone talks about how expensive it is to eat high quality food, and some people complain about it and blah, blah, blah. To be perfectly honest with y’all, this DRIVES ME CRAZY. (I got in a pretty significant argument with my hubster who thought it was “stupid” to pay an extra dollar per pound for grassfed beef–meanwhile he was at the bar paying $60 to join some sort of a “Mug Club” so he could get a “free” t-shirt to add to his collection of roughly 68 “free” t-shirts. If you’re keeping score like I am, you should know that I won this argument.)
I look at the food I consume as an investment in my body–the same way I invest in a good car, or a good CrossFit box, or good workout clothes, I invest in my food because it’s important to me what I put into my body. I accept the reality that I will pay more for higher quality because it costs more to make a higher quality product–as with all things in life.
Yeah, you can go to McDonald’s and get some shit off a Dollar Menu and that’ll be cheaper than making your own food. You’re also eating food that is chemically engineered to make you fat, slow, and unhappy (why on EARTH would you give someone your money for that??)–not to mention how the animals are treated on those giant factory farms and the sloppy mess that goes into creating that burger patty for you–but that’s really a different post altogether.
All that said, people really do have budgets, and there are ways to save money and be budget conscious in the world of healthy eating.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for maintaining a hella good diet and keeping some dollaz on the side for your personal equivalent of the Mug Club.
10. Look at where you put your money. Among the haters, a favorite sobriquet for Whole Foods is “Whole Paycheck.” While this may be kind of clever, it’s also kind of dumb. Consider your personal values before you decide Whole Foods is just too expensive for your wallet. For example, one of the things I find tremendously helpful about Whole Foods is how transparent they are with their meats and how the animals live prior to being in my shopping bag. I actually feel really, really, ridiculously good about paying more for chicken that has a higher Animal Welfare Rating. So yeah, it’s more expensive (duh), and I totally get why and am so on board with paying for it. Now here’s the best news: that’s my choice–it doesn’t have to be yours! You can get less expensive chicken if you want! YOU GUYS!! THIS IS EFFING AMERICA!!
Check out this article for examples on how Whole Foods is only sort of more expensive than other grocery stores. It is not at all scientific, but it speaks to the importance of looking at what you are paying for and then deciding what matters to you. Educate yo’self! http://thebillfold.com/2012/04/is-whole-foods-really-that-more-expensive/
9. NEVER grocery shop when you’re hungry–unless you’re at Costco and you can snack your way through the food aisles. You know how when you shop while hungry, all those packaged things look AMAZING? (Especially those Justin’s Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups to eat on the drive home??) That right there is a significant money suck. So don’t do it.
8. Whenever possible, buy veggies and fruits and nuts that don’t have packaging. You know what costs companies money that they then charge the consumer? Advertising, marketing, and packaging. So don’t pay for it.
7. You know what ELSE costs a shit ton of money?? Eating out at restaurants. Hubby and I easily spend $50-$60 on ONE MEAL. That’s A LOT of homemade meals. I can’t even do that kind of math. So I know you’re all “what about eating out with friends??” GET NEW FRIENDS. Or if you don’t want to take such a drastic step, invite them over to your house instead of going out.
I am so lucky to have good friends here in Pennsylvania who have filled the Skaggs-shaped void in my heart. We LOVE to make uber healthy meals together once a week and watch The Bachelor/ette. And it’s soooooo much better than eating out–it tastes better, it’s better for us, and it saves us money. Not to mention I get to sit on a couch while I eat. You can’t even pay for that at a restaurant.
6. Buy meat or produce that’s about to expire–stores need to get this stuff off of their shelves and they’ll reduce the price to make it happen. Obviously you need to eat it or freeze it quickly, but that ain’t no thang.
5. Choose less expensive produce. Green peppers are less expensive than all the other colors of peppers. Apples are less expensive than every berry ever. Whole pineapples are less expensive than pre-cut pineapples.
4. Stop getting your morning coffee at a coffee shop (I know that’s probably reeaaalllly hard in Corvallis because I bet you have funky coffee shops there and I’m super jealous and maybe you’re actually ok with paying for the experience and I totally get that). BUT if you’re looking for places in your life to make room for investing in better food, brew that coffee at home.
3. Frozen fruits and veggies are less expensive than fresh ones. Obvi fresh produce is preferred, but frozen produce is a solid alternative if it helps you save some needed cash.
2. Buy in bulk. Costco nut butters, oils, spices, seeds, and nuts come in giant containers and the value is fabulous. You can also get frozen meats and veggies in oversized packaging. It’ll cost you a chunk o’ change up front, but it will definitely save you money over time. You can also dig into CSA and animal share programs where you can buy like half a cow. And it’s waaaaaaayyyyy cheaper than buying cows a pound at a time. Ask Drew about what’s available in your ‘hood.
1. Don’t be fooled by junk food that acts like health food. You’ve seen those gluten free chocolate chip cookies with organic sugar? Well they cost A LOT of money and if you’re going to buy pre-packaged cookies, you might as well just buy some Chips Ahoy because the health non-benefits are about the same and you’ll save yourself some money without also tricking yourself into thinking you’re doing “healthy snacking.” (PSA: If you DO want cookies, you can find lots of recipes online with very few ingredients that you can make at home. It’ll be cheaper and without all the processed stuff that ends up in the pre-packaged cookies.)
Now you are armed with lots of good tips for grocery shopping–what you can also do is look at where you spend your money in other areas that could be reconsidered. For me, I had to give up The Honest Company’s adorable patterns of diapers and stop buying new colors of QALO rings. We’ve all got our things.
Oh, and one more thing: be wary of confusing convenience and expense. Many times we take a more convenient option (pre-cut fruit for example) and then complain about how much our food bill was. Pretty lame if you ask me.
Realistically, step #1 is aligning your expenses with your values. The rest will just fall into place once you get your priorities in line with your paycheck.