I hear it all the time: “ It costs so much more to eat healthy!” Thats what the majority of people think, UNTIL you break it down and check the facts.
I will put in an exception here: If you live far away from major towns or cities, it may be more expensive to eat real food. But if that is your case, then you probably have a least a small plot of land where you can grow a percentage of your own food. So this exception isn't quite valid anymore, is it?
So I will go on to say that you can feed yourself and your family real, unprocessed food without spending hundreds of dollars a week and it will provide far better value than its processed counterpart. Let’s give it a look:
Nature Valley Crunchy Bars $6.80/lb. vs. Stoneyfield Organic Yogurt $2.00/lb.
Quaker Oats Cinnamon Swirl Oatmeal $5.06/lb. vs. Organic Eggs $4-5/dozen
Doritos Nacho Cheese Chips $6.24/lb. vs. EarthBound Farm Organic Apples $2.33/lb.
How does that sound? Processed foods aren’t as cheap as they seem now that we looked at it more closely.
Even though I'm pointing this out, I do not blame anyone of thinking the opposite. You see, marketers have perfected the art of playing with our minds so we buy whatever they are offering while thinking we are getting a great deal.
Here’s an example: $5 meals at the nearest fast-food restaurant. $5 is a good deal, right? Maybe, not so much. For a family of 4, that's $20 for the meal. That’s a lot of money to spend on a ‘cheap’ meal! A home cooked meal can easily be under $10. I can make my family an exquisite feast for $20.
Exquisite Feasts aside, Here are 7 tips on how to eat affordable unprocessed foods
Plan a Menu Based Upon What is In Season and On Sale
This is two-fold: a) Meal Plans and b) In Season/Sales.
a) Making a meal plan will help you shop wisely and have everything you need so you never again will need to rush last-minute to the store to buy just an item or two to make your dinner, often paying full price. You know very well that you do not want to do that! (check #2 and #6 below to avoid that.)
b) When foods are in season, they are in abundance but still have a limited storage life. Hence, grocers and farmers will want to sell as much as possible before the foods go bad.This is a simple principle of supply and demand. The rarer the item, the more expensive it is. The more in abundance an item, usually the lower its price tag; not to mention that it will be fresher and more full of flavor! It is that simple. Use this to your advantage and plan yummy meals.
2. Stock Up!
When you find real unprocessed food on sale or at a low price, do your wallet a favor and stock up! Just get in the habit of buying a lot of the foods you and your family normally eat when you come across a good deal! You can freeze any surplus for a later date, do some canning (salsa, pesto) or even make fermented foods (sauerkraut).
3. Plant a Garden (or find a friend who does!)
It will cost you pennies per item to supplement with a garden of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from your backyard. Growing herbs is by far the easiest and quickest way of starting off your garden. And then depending on your available space to plant, your willingness to get your hands dirty and what grows well where you live: You can just add a tomato plant or two and call that your garden, or you can go all out and plant all the different varieties of vegetables that your family eats and really make a dent in your grocery budget. There is the added value that you can freeze or can the extras. However; if this whole gardening thing isn't for you, find a friend who does have a garden and trade services (babysitting, car maintenance, running errands, cleaning, etc.) with them in exchange for their garden surplus. Imagine the fresh organic food you will bring into your kitchen.
4. Stick with Simple Meals Using Inexpensive Ingredients
When you plan out your meals, keep in mind the cost of the meals you choose. This doesn't need to be done down to the penny, but just ball park it so you are aware of more affordable food items versus more expensive ones. Mostly opt for the affordable meals and keep the more expensive ones for special occasions. My oldest daughter once said something very profound. "Food doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be fabulous".
5. Serve Meat as a Condiment
Basically, the message here is stretch out your meat. Instead of serving a steak or a sirloin which will only make one meal, make a soup with it, or a homemade pizza, or learn how to make 6 meals with only one chicken.
6. Bulk Buying all the way
Cut out the middle man and save at least $1 per pound on most foods. Buying in bulk is definitely more cost effective than buying otherwise. Inform yourself of the discounts available by buying in bulk at the farmers market, the health food store, or even your local grocery store. You will only know if you ask. And there are always bulk stores like Costco or BJs, or local co-ops that already offer great bulk pricing.
7. Consider Joining a CSA or Co-Op
Check to see if there is a CSA farm or co-op in your area and consider joining them to get even better value out of the food you and your family eats. If there aren't any affordable co-ops near by, you might consider starting one of your own. If you do start your own, you could even divide up those bulk items if your pantry space is limited.
Mostly, make it fun! Mealtime can be marvelous once again.