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Healthy Food on a Modest Budget

Many people think it is impossible to eat healthy food on a modest budget. They have been led to believe that it is a luxury reserved for people with higher incomes.

Those who are struggling financially find it hard to justify spending $20 on fresh produce from the local Farmer’s Market or on grass-fed beef when they can feed the entire family on the bargain menu at the local fast-food drive through for the same amount.

A good case can be made for why making the “fast food” choice is not actually a savings when you factor in your family’s health, medical bills resulting from poor health, and environmental issues related to unhealthy food choices.

However, powerful arguments can lose their strength when addressing families that are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, just trying to get by.

The point of this posting is to assure you that it is possible to change to a healthier diet without destroying your budget.

Below are a few steps that can help you move in that direction.

1.     Eat Less Meat

Protein is important in your diet. We have heard that for decades. We are also traditionally a meat and potatoes society. For many families, meat is served at practically every meal – and always at dinner.

A simple change that can give you breathing room in your budget is to serve meat three or four times a week for the dinner meal rather than every evening.

The money you save can be used to buy quality grass-fed beef, pork, or cage-free/pastured chicken – preferably from a local source, if available.

Seek out a local herdshare program in your area to save even more money. Buy a quarter or half-cow when you have some bulk cash and store in the freezer (Field to Freezer).

If you shop around, it is possible to get good quality meat for a low price-per-pound and have enough meat for an entire year. Of course, this is assuming you have a large enough stand-alone freezer (which may require an up-front investment.)

2.     Join a Co-op

Most major metropolitan areas have co-ops. There are a large groups that cover several states, plus smaller local ones.

Search Google for those available in your area. You should be able to find some excellent options. They typically offer bulk organics, produce, spices, grains, nuts, and seeds for close to wholesale prices. This means that you can stock-up on the items that may have been too pricey to purchase in regular stores.

3.     Trade Dollars with Yourself

Start tracking how you spend your food dollars. For the next month, write down everything you spend on unhealthy items:  fast food, take-out, junk food, sodas, sweet snacks, energy drinks, cigarettes, alcohol, buying lunch, etc.

At the end of the month – total the cost of unhealthy foods and unnecessary food expenditures. Make a commitment to spend those dollars on healthier foods that you can prepare at home.

For example, if you find you are spending $40/month on energy drinks, make a commitment to stop drinking them. (They are exorbitantly expensive and dangerous to your health.) Put the $40 in a food kitty for purchasing local raw milk.

4.     Buy Locally

I have talked about CSAs (Community Support Agriculture) programs before, and encourage you to check them out. They are similar to herdshares for produce.

You invest a specific amount annually, which helps cover the operational costs of a local farm. In exchange, you receive a box of produce at regular times – usually once a week.

This is a great deal. You get locally grown, farm-fresh produce for about the same amount you pay at the grocery store and also reap the benefits.

  • It is much healthier for you.
  • It is much better for the environment.

You should also be able to find a local delivery service that offers reasonable prices for delivering locally-grown foods. You can set up a standing order for fresh raw milk and cream, pastured eggs, and seasonal vegetables.

You can help pay for such a service with the money you save by not having to drive to the grocery store as often.

Another option is your local Farmer’s Market.

My city has one that is open every Saturday, year round.  There was also one in Manhattan that I enjoyed tremendously when I live in NYC.  It is a good bet that there is one in your area, as well.

5.     Shop at Sprouts Farmer’s Market

Finally, at least, shop at “SPROUTS.” This a grocery store that is more like a Farmer’s Market than a supermarket.  I hope there is one in your area, because it is a good default if none of the other options are available.

It has been my experience that produce (much of it organic) along with bulk nuts, grains and spices are far less expensive that the regular grocery store chains.

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It may take some diligent research to find what is available in your area, but I promise, it is worth the time and energy.

You may be surprised at what you discover about how to include healthier foods in your families’ diet even though you are on a tight budget.

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