Before Spark People, I had the convicted belief that it was impossible to eat healthy and save money. Now, after having been doing this "Healthy Eating Thing" now for 5 months, I've come to a new realization. It is impossible to eat healthy and spend less unless you are willing to let go of that belief. Without the proper education, motivation, experience and exerted effort, nothing is possible. But if you decide to take steps in the direction you want to go, anything is possible.
I used to eat more food (quantities & types) and rarely ate fresh foods. Most of what I ate was processed, prepackaged and mostly prepared by someone else. I went out-to-eat and ate foods that someone else prepared. The foods I ate at home were prepackaged meals that required me to heat them up before serving them or required me to add meat or some fresh ingredients to produce a predetermined meal product. I rarely if ever made bulk portions and when I made more than I needed, I was motivated to eat all of the leftovers before it spoiled. I was taught to clean my plate because there were starving children around the world and I should eat because I had food. My taste buds were my master. If it tasted good, it was what I needed and the longer I could feed that "Flavor High," the better. It was an entirely unhealthy addiction that I really didn't want to control because it was sooooo goooood! Of course the negative affects of such an unhealthy lifestyle had it's eventual and long term negative side affects. And when I was seeking to eat healthy (before the real healthy eating learning curve) I would eat turkey, chicken or fruit and veggie meals but without any conscious awareness of the other ingredients or the total calorie counts. So coming to the realization of the down side to these mentalities and accepting that I was responsible for my own problems has allowed and brought about a desire for change and motivated a dislike for my bad mindsets and finally came to make the acknowledgments that actually led to my healthy changes. It was like I had to get to the bottom of the pit before I determined that I was headed in the wrong direction and needed to turn around to find my way out. Yes, I cooked foods from time to time but it was according to the instructions on the package. I rarely made anything from scratch apart from grilling or frying meat, or microwaving a potato. I needed to commit myself to learning and changing my ways to enact a literal physical turn around which were based on my attitude and actions.
Now, most everything I eat is made from scratch. And the recipes I follow are not on a package but require the use of mostly fresh ingredients. The ingredients that aren't are like canned/dried beans, frozen/canned veggies like tomatoes, corn, mixed veggies or fruit! They are the stored versions of the fresh ingredients! The only processed food I eat now are bread, yogurt and cheeses but that is because there is no such thing as naturally occurring forms of these healthy foods. Maybe one day I'll venture into learning how to make them from scratch. But I don't believe I'd get the same results or convenient varieties! So now I feel like I'm eating gourmet meals that only rich people would eat. And what is more amazing is that I am making them.
So how can eating healthy be less expensive?
1) When foods are processed and provided already made, there is a cost associated with that preparation and the quantities are typically sized for a single meal for 2 people. So a single person is typically left with leftovers if they comply with the suggested serving sizes. Saving the rest become a hassle. For me, I would just have eaten the full amount! Now when I prepare things from scratch, storage becomes an expected part of the process and serving sizes are immediately apparent because it is a standard concern. So bulk foods cost less and proper serving sizes help to extend the amounts! Preparing multiple servings and storing them for quick access provides convenience and easy preparation during the week.
There is also the lowered cost that can be associated with smart shopping. Smart shopping, for me at least, not only means buying foods that are fresh and healthy for you but means paying less for the same products others pay more for. This can be accomplished in many different ways.
2) Next, one of the most apparent cost saving tactic is using coupons. There's a lot of help online to guide you to where to find coupons beyond the typical store mailers or newspapers and this can help you save money on things you know you will be buying.
3) Then there are the store discounts that are marked down on products for various reasons. Discontinued products, foods nearing there expiration, overstocked items. These will have special pricing labels with include manager specials, value packs and closeouts.
Then there are the standard sales the stores have as an ongoing incentive to shopping at their store or for being a card carrying member.
Many of the sales are not apparent until you walk the isles of the store and physically make the conscious effort to see the specially marked prices on the products.
Some stores have special added discounts for digital-online-coupons that are loaded onto your membership card via your computer at home that are then automatically deducted at checkout. These savings are found at the grocer's web-site.
Also many grocery stores have a special discount shelving unit that has specially discounted items on it. A quick glance over these items while you are in their store, might allow you to find a great deal.
4) Of course there is the option of buying the cheapest brand. Many foods are sold by more than one provider and completion allows for lower prices for brands that are store brands, generic brands or products sold by companies whose focus is providing foods for less.
5) Shopping around allows you to locate where a particular food costs less. The "99 Cent Only Store" carries dried beans and other bulk foods at a lower price than the regular grocery stores. Big Lots and The Dollar Store just to name a few may have lower prices for foods that you buy all the time so a simple visit might unveil an option that you were unaware of.
Weekly Store Ads are available online and are sometimes mailed to nearby residences where you can quickly look through them to find the lowest prices for that week. If you want, you can just wait until you get to your store and get an ad that is typically available near the door or at the customer service desk as well as posted somewhere in the store. This doesn't give you the option to compare to other stores but it will let you know what is on sale that day. What I do is take all of the local mailers, compare all of the prices on similar products and then find the lowest price on foods that I need. I also like to find particular meats like pork, turkey, ham and chicken and then buy bulk quantities, then divide them into single servings and put them in the freezer. Buying a whole pork tenderloin on sale for $1.49/lb. and then cutting it up into 3 oz. sizes gives me 25 -30 steaks!
Now-a-days, cellular smart phones have apps that can scan a bar code and let you know which local store has the lowest price on a vary specific item. You scan the bar code of the desired product and the app lets you know where it is sold and at what price. This lets you compare prices with a lot less work.
6) Search out and find the alternate or additional sources for buying fresh foods. I participate in a local program called the 3000 Club AKA Market on the Move (MOM) which is a food rescue program. Fresh produce that would typically be thrown away because it has no buyer in a given week, is trucked to a local distribution point where participants get up 60lbs. of fresh produce for $10.00. The variety is what it is each week and changes according to availability and growing seasons. They include fruit and vegetables.
Then there is a food co-op that I participate in as well. This is called Bountiful Baskets. Buyers commit to picking up food at a specific location, day and time and payment is made before that day online. It works very similar to the previous program but the quality is higher while the volume is lower. They have the choice of organic fruits and vegetables and also have breads, granolas, special bulk options like crates of oranges, strawberries, cherries or apples. There are many standard choices and then there are seasonal options. The standard Bountiful Basket is $15.00 for a basket of fruit and a basket of Veggies. Again the choices are not predetermined and you take what you get according to what they have. A lot of the foods have the labels on them that are the same as what is found in the stores. Mangos, Pineapples, Bananas, Lettuce, Kale, Corn, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Squashes, Ginger, Peppers, Apples, Melons, Oranges and much more are among the many different varieties that I have received and the value/quantity is great.
Farmers Markets are another choice. I haven't had much luck with them but it is said that you can find fresh produce at prices lower than what you can find in the local markets. It is worth the effort to check them out.
7) Local growers typically have the option to pick your own produce or they will have pre-picked produce available for easy purchase. These are actually located at the place where the produce is grown. Sometimes it costs more but typically it costs less than produce you can buy at the local market. If it is worth the drive and the time, it could be something to consider. For freshness, there is nothing better unless you grow it yourself.
8) Partner with friends or family to buy the extra large bulk products quantities like dried beans, rice, flour, sugar, oats, grains and other items that give a price break for buying bulk. Bulk products require less packaging per quantity and therefore producers save and are happy to pass those savings on to customers. Buying with friends and family will give you the savings while reducing the need for adequate storage space.
9) Choose and develop a routine to include as many of these choices as you determine as being most helpful to you and your family and you can see a big reduction in costs while increasing the healthy fresh choices to your weekly menu. As your routine becomes a standard part of living, it becomes quick and simple. While the hassles associated with changing your current routine may sound like justification not to put forth the effort, you are choosing to deprive yourself of options that can make what sounds like it is impossible, quite possible!.
10) The greatest factor which can lower your overall cost associated with food purchases which is most often missed is the cost associated with not eating healthy! Doctor's bills, having to buy new clothes because your entire wardrobe is too small because you've become too big to fit in them! The cost associated to lost opportunities that are the result of social image biases. Lost job opportunities because you don't fit the company image. There are costs that are not associated with money that can sway a person to decide that it is better to spend more at the front end of their health investment as opposed to paying more for their back-end results!
Whatever any individual decides to do, there will be a cost. There is cost associated with taking the easy way out and there is the cost to putting forth good effort. But with good effort comes the rewards. My cost which was accumulated due to self-neglect and an addiction to eating unhealthy foods because I let my taste buds control my choices, along with the lack of controlled portions has produced the price that I am paying for now and have been paying for from the onset. The price to change is the effort, motivation and dedication that I have come to be more than willing to spend on this venture and journey to good health and fitness. I am convinced that the rewards will far outweigh the negative costs. As a matter of fact, for me, not changing and failing to put forth the effort has become the greater cost that I am not willing to accept. There is something known as a good and bad investment. Knowing the difference is priceless!