You Really Can Eat Healthy on a Budget!

pink hair healthy eaterIt seems like the healthier we try to eat, the more expensive it gets!

That’s probably one of the biggest reasons so many Americans fall into the overweight or obese category.  The food that fills our grocery stores these days is filled with unhealthy garbage.

We hear so many things about what to eat and what not to eat that it starts to get a bit overwhelming!

Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you get on the right path to eating healthier on a budget.

First off, the most important thing to remember is to eat as close to a raw, natural & organic food diet as possible. Try to think about the food items that would be available to us in nature on plants or in the ground.  Another good trick is to check the ingredients, the fewer the better.

Also, remember to eat in season. If you can grow it in June, eat it in June. If you really want to get into what’s good and what’s not, here’s a good Raw Food Diet Conversion Chart.

Basically, you want to stay away from pesticides, added hormones, chemicals, processed meats, etc. The list is long, which is why it’s so hard to handle.  It’s not easy to get away from all of the unhealthy food since we are surrounded by it.  Sometimes it can even be deceiving.

Take a tomato for example…

During the fall and winter months, most tomatoes you eat are coming from Florida where they are grown in sand and treated with an abundance of pesticides.

Then unripened tomatoes are given gas treatment to turn them red.  In his book Tomatoland, author Barry Estabrook reveals how industrial farming has destroyed this tasty fruit.

“Fields are sprayed with more than 100 different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but produces fruits with a fraction of the calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, and 14 times as much sodium as the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States.”

So just when we think we’re eating healthy, we’re still actually putting unhealthy things into our bodies.  This is why it is so important to eat raw, natural and organic food.

Three Ways to Eat Healthy When Money is Tight

1) Grow your own garden

Obviously, there are a ton of fruits and veggies that can be grown in the spring and summer. But many people can also grow their own food in the fall and winter months!

Gardening is fun and gratifying. It’s a good way to spend time as a family outdoors, and it can be good exercise too. Best of all, it’s inexpensive and you will harvest delicious rewards!

If you live somewhere cold and/or snowy that doesn’t mean you have to pack up the garden. There are plenty of cold weather crops to get you through the fall and winter.  An article from TLC called, Winter Gardening: Crops You Can Grow in Cold Weather does a good job of pointing out the cold weather crops.

There are also a variety of fruits and veggies that can be grown indoors in containers.  It’s such a satisfying feeling to grow your own healthy food at a fraction of the cost, especially because you know where it’s coming from and how it was taken care of. If you’re not interested in winter gardening, but you still want to eat crops that are not in season, learn how to can your fruits and veggies.

2) Buy local and in bulk

If you’re going to eat meat and dairy, the best thing to do is get it from a family farm where the animals are grass-fed. This is usually less expensive than going to a whole foods store.  Also, taking a stroll through your local farmers market is a smart and enjoyable idea. Most of the time you will be able to find a nearby winter farmers market too!

Buying directly from a local farmer can help you save money on organically grown items because you’re cutting costs connected to shipping the food and running a grocery store, where it gets marked up even more.

Check out LocalHarvest.org to find the best organic food that’s grown closest to you.  You should be able to find a family farm using this site where you can start getting your meat.

Money-saving tip: Go in with a couple of people to buy a quarter or half a cow and you could get your meat for as little as $2 and change per pound.

3) Eat less Food

Let’s face it, we love to eat!  It’s hard to have the “eat to live not live to eat” philosophy when there are so many yummy manufactured and processed foods out there, right?

Well, what if everyone just ate 10% less?  If you cut your daily calories by 10%, you’d also be cutting 10% off your grocery food bill and probably even 10% off your weight.  It’s a win-win situation.  A practitioner of a calorie restriction diet, Dean Pomerleau, explains in an article, Eat Less, Live Longer? :

“Based on data from the animal studies, every calorie you avoid is worth about 30 seconds of extra life.  I’m more than willing to give up a piece of pizza to live another three hours.”

Studies from the same article mention that  people who eat less have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke or getting diabetes. And the money-saver: If your weekly grocery bill is typically $150 and you cut your calories by 10%, you’ll save $60 a month!.  In addition to the health benefits you will gain, just imagine the extra pounds you might lose!

So, if you’re really in a hurry and end up at the grocery store anyway, there are some things that are safer than others.  The Environmental Working Group put out a shopper’s guide that labels the Dirty Dozen™ and the Clean Fifteen™. Here you will find a list of produce that you should buy organic no matter what and what are lowest in pesticides.

Either way you look at it, the most cost-effective things to do is keep yourself and your family as healthy as possible, because hospital bills or diabetic supplies aren’t cheap either.  Along with eating natural and organic, it’s also a good idea to supplement your diet with fish oil, a multivitamin, probiotics, and vitamin D among other things.

Image Credit: Jessica Mullen

This is a guest post from Ashley Steinbrinck, a health and nutrition blogger for the Natural Healthy Concepts Blog, which covers a variety of health topics. Natural Healthy Concepts also offers vitamins, nutrition supplements, herbs and homeopathic remedies which are derived from the highest quality ingredients.

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