I think the most important thing when trying to eat healthy, whole foods while on a budget is planning. If you can plan ahead, you can buy wonderful healthy foods that are not expensive, they might just take a little longer to prepare than convention stuff.
Check out the bulk bins for dried beans, whole grains, rice, lentils, nuts, etc. Even in my area (I live in an expensive area in the Northeast) at Whole Foods, you can get organic rolled oats for $1.50 a pound. That is cheaper than the big containers of Quaker Oats and they are organic! Organic dried beans range from $1-2.50 per pound. They take longer to prepare but are really good for you.
With produce, don't be afraid to buy frozen and stock up when it's on sale. Hit the farmer's market for inexpensive veggies and if you can't eat it all, chop and freeze for another time. See what is on sale that week and make a weekly meal plan based around the cheapest produce you can find. Think of it like your own person Iron Chef challenge ;)
I think that good veggie prep is key to getting everything eaten while it is still fresh. Wash and spin lettuce and greens so they are ready to be made into a salad at any meal. Peel and chop cucumbers and carrots so they are easy to add to a meal. Wash, destem, and chop spinach, kale, swiss chard, collards, etc. so you can quickly sauté them for a dinner side or add them to an omelet for breakfast. Roast beets on a Sunday, chop, and store in the fridge for use during the week. If you make a big pot of beans on a weekend, you can eat them all week or freeze with their liquids for later. Cook up some chickpeas and blend them into hummus (use the cooking water to cut way down on the oil). Then you can eat that hummus with your carrots and cucumbers all week long for snacks. When tomatoes are in season, buy a half bushel of canning tomatoes from a local farmer or grocery store (I got 20 lbs for $10 last summer). Commit to spending the weekend chopping and freezing tomatoes into 14 oz packages. Then you have packages of frozen tomatoes equal to a 14 ounce can to use all fall and winter long.
My family does this sort of stuff all the time so I have tons more tips if you would like them!
Just do the best with what you have and don't feel guilty if you can't afford organic. Feeding your family more fruits and veggies is what is important. Look for sales and plan your meals around them. Google what fruits and veggies are in season for your state and get those. I agree that you shouldn't shy away from frozen veg/fruits. I love to add frozen berries to yogurt and toss in a bag of frozen veg (usually broccoli or cauliflower) with whatever meat I am roasting in the oven. Dried beans are super cheap, and although they take a while to cook, it is not labor intensive (I use my crockpot).
Eating healthy can be expensive - if you are still buying all the processed stuff along with it. If you replace empty calories with the good stuff, you can actually spend the same if not less than usual (unless you go organic). My budget makes me choose between a bag of candy and a bag of spinach - I don't have room for both so I tell myself "I can't afford to eat junk anymore" not the other way around.
Fitness Minutes: (845)
7/2/12 10:12 A
Have you tried to check out farmers market or farmers stores ? I am from a different country but I often pay less buying directly from the farmer at the market stalls or on a farm shop than I do oay in the cheaper grocery stores. That is only for feuit and veggies in season and stuff that can be stored longer (some sorts of apples can make it through the whole winter if stored right - I still grew up with great-grandma storing both apples and potatoes in the basement for winter - and I am not 30 yet)
The stuff you get is cheaper because there is no grocery chain taking a cut and no or little transport to pay for. They can keep the costs low that way.
Edited by: DAWNLADY at: 7/2/2012 (10:14)
Fitness Minutes: (7,426)
754 7/2/12 10:05 A
I second the poster that said to check out food co-ops. I've been with Bountiful Baskets too for about a year. This week in my baskets I got the following for $15....2 butternut squash, 4 onions, 4 bell peppers, 1 head romaine lettuce, 1 bunch celery, 1 pint grape tomatoes, 1 cantaloupe, bunch bananas, 4 mangoes, 1 pack green grapes, 1 pack cherries. I'm sure at the grocery store this would cost $25-30. The cherries alone probably go for $5-6.
With Bountiful Baskets, I'm challenged each week to try out new recipes with produce I wouldn't normally buy. For example, yesterday I made baked squash chips in the oven...SO GOOD! My kids loved them :)
Edited by: BUBRA007 at: 7/2/2012 (10:06)
Fitness Minutes: (15,393)
7/2/12 9:56 A
NIRERIN: I wish I could shop at Target... the nearest one is 100 miles away. I have Super Walmart and Dillons (Kroger) in my town; the tiny towns surrounding us have IGA or Food Pride stores. Sometimes Kroger comes out with store coupons for produce and such, but they seem to be rare... Couponing and purchasing healthy items and staying in budget can be a challenge at times; but there's always something on sale that we can make due with.
pandas10 you should start shopping at target. i have a card and at least every other time they send out coupons, there is one for fresh produce. the last one was $1 off two fresh produce items, the one before that was $1.50 off a $5 produce purchase, and the one before that was for $1 off broccoli or cauliflower. and they almost always have $1 off fresh berries. sometimes you'll see them on the website, but not for very long.
Fitness Minutes: (0)
7/1/12 4:09 P
Good luck - I know it's hard sometimes to figure out how to make your funds go further. If there's a farmer's market - you might get some bargains there. Frozen is a good way to go to make your buck go further that way you'd only be buying lettuce, tomatoes, cuckes, etc - salad type foods perhaps. IF you have an Aldi in your town OR even nearby, it's worth a trip for sure!
Hang in there - you can do it, don't give up!
Fitness Minutes: (14,921)
9,705 7/1/12 3:47 P
It may seem like healthy food is more expensive, but it's really not. I used to think the same thing! you don't have to buy high-dollar organics and fresh veggies to be healthy! Buy only what you'll eat quickly, and don't be afraid of frozen! You can get fresh frozen veggies for a dollar or less for a bag. Lean meats can be more expensive, but if you wait until they're on sale, you can seriously rack up! Never pay full price for anything.
Eating healthy is about making healthier choices; not eliminating everything that's completely unhealthy. Organic isn't necessarily healthy; it has the same nutritional content as the other stuff. It's just a more responsibly made product. Sometimes.
Actually, frozen are usually more nutritious than fresh. As the PP pointed out, they're snap-frozen immediately after harvest. The 'fresh' vegetables that you buy - how many days ago were they harvested? Frozens often have MORE nutrition than fresh!
And skip organic. Organic is a planet-friendly choice, but not a diet-friendly nor budget-friendly one. Organic foods are NO better for you than non-organic, provided you wash your vegies before eating. They are no more nutritious. So since they're so expensive, instead of buying organic when you can, buy bulk and have more food for the family for the same price.
Shop around - where do you get your meat? The supermarket? There may be a speciality butcher, or even a discount meat warehouse, near enough to you that offers better value. Buy bulk on special and freeze for later.
Fitness Minutes: (15,393)
7/1/12 3:35 P
Don't forget that frozen veggies and fruits can be a good idea if you are worried about them going bad. I understand being on a budget - am a couponer, and they don't make coupons for fresh fruits and veggies... so these are somewhat rare in my house.
Have you taken an inventory of which foods are most commonly consumed in house? Are you buying foods for convenience sake? Are you trying to swap unhealthy choices with better ones; or just add in more healthy food with your current grocery list?
I think if you take the time to really look at your family's overall food consumption, you will get a good place to start.... Instead of trying to revamp everything and get your family to eat healthier all of a sudden, look at what the most unhealthiest foods are in your home and start there. Swap a few of those out each week for a better alternative and look for items that are in season or on sale to make that switch with. Making these changes over time will give your budget room to adjust and allow your family to make gradual changes they are more likely to stick with.
Check into whether you have a food co-op in your area. I use Bountiful Baskets, which are available in about a dozen states. For $15, I get two big baskets each week, one filled with fruits and one filled with veggies. When I know I can use them, I get the veggie add-on basket for another $8, and it is a challenge to get through all of it, even though we eat about 10 servings fruits/veggies per day.
Some other tips are to reduce your meat intake and experiment with alternative proteins, like beans, eggs and tofu, all of which are very cheap and fit well into a healthy diet. Canned beans are cheap, but dried beans are even cheaper, and better for you as they don't have all the sodium. When you do use meat, try to stretch it out by using a smaller amount in a casserole, soup or stirfry, instead of serving a meat-based entree. If you buy bottled beverages, stop buying them and put the saved money towards good food. Water is healthier anyway, and you can make iced tea if you want something flavored.
If it is looking like your veggies are going to go bad, try blanching them and sticking them in the freezer. This will work for things like cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, carrots, asparagus and peppers. You can also do this if you find a great sale on these veggies and purchase extra.
Also, don't discount frozen veggies. They are inexpensive, and will keep until you need them. They retain most of the nutrition of fresh veggies because they are frozen immediately after harvest.
If you have a little bit of time, learn to make no-knead bread. Then you can have gourmet, whole-grain fresh bread for less than the cost of cheap white bread.
Fitness Minutes: (4,362)
7/1/12 2:57 P
I can't afford organic.
But I still eat a lot of veggies and I am trying to get my daily fruit servings.
Buy produce that lasts longer like apples, bananas, avocado, oranges, cabbage, peppers, onions.
I also buy most of my veggies frozen: spinach, broccoli, and a mixed veggies bag. Frozen fruit is a little more expensive so I stick to fresh.
7/1/12 2:50 P
I don't buy too much in terms of organic as I'd rather spend my money on fresh produce or veggies. Buying produce in season is cheaper as well as buying based on the store's weekly ads.
I'd also look at how much produce you're buying. If it's going bad, are you buying too much? It may be a good idea to buy produce more often, say once a week so you can properly gauge how much you'll need.
7/1/12 2:36 P
Can someone tell me? How can I get me and my family to eat healthy foods when they cost so much? I try so hard to get fresh produce, organic food, and anything that's healthy. The only thing about it. I can't afford it all the time and the fresh produce doesn't last until the next paycheck. It either gets eat or it goes bad. Any advice or tips for someone that's on a budget?
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