Anyone who hasn’t been living under a proverbial rock these days is well aware of the economic doom and gloom painted by the media. While it’s true that we’re in the midst of an uncertain financial future that’s spinning many of us into conservation mode, shouldn’t we already be mindful of our food spending? The raw food lifestyle and particularly organics has a reputation of carrying a loftier price tag than conventional counterparts. Or does it have to?
Are you concerned about how this current economic crisis has affected or may affect your food budget? Or perhaps those little trips to Whole Foods to pick up “just a few things” always leave you scratching your head over how you just blew a hundred bucks, again?
Here’s 12 tips that may help with the conundrum of maintaining your health-conscious lifestyle and maintain a sensible budget, no matter what you eat.
1. Organic vs. conventional: the compromise. Fortunately, there are foods that carry little or no risk of toxic chemical consumption. Learning which are best to buy organic or non-organic can save you a good chunk of change. Take asparagus, for example. Little bugs and critters don’t find it too appealing and therefore doesn’t warrant a need for pesticides. But paying $3.99 for a conventional bunch versus $6.99 for organic is a very warranted savings! Same goes for conventional avocados, bananas, cashews, garlic, and onions. On the other hand, strawberries are notorious for being laden with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. As are almonds, apples, cucumbers, figs, and swiss chard. There’s a lot of great references available to help guide in choosing, such as this slideshow at WebMD, or the book, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic by Cindy Burke.
2. Buy in bulk, the freezer is your friend! When produce is in its peak season, prices will be at their lowest. This is a great time to take advantage of bulk shopping to store an extra supply in the freezer to enjoy for months to come. Vacuum sealing machines are a great investment because they prolong your frozen goods even longer by keeping out the freezer burn. If spending $50 to $200 on a machine isn’t in your budget, The Reynold’s Handy Vac is a great inexpensive alternative you can find at the grocery store, plus the bags are reusable!
3. But buy only what you need, even in bulk. Buying 5 pounds of almonds won’t get your dollar’s savings worth if you’ll only be able to use 3 pounds before they go rancid. Plan ahead, and buy only what you need to avoid wasting food and money. Which brings us to #4.
4. Waste not, want not. Have you ever marched into Whole Foods, feeling ambitious to execute an entire week’s menu as you browse all the pretty pickings? Or life comes calling and raw lasagna you’ve planned for Tuesday turns to Wednesday, and before you know it, it’s Sunday? You get the picture, and we’ve all done it. Regardless of any seemingly legitimate reason, it makes me cringe to have to throw away food that’s gone to rot, needlessly! Planning ahead and list-making helps, but more importantly, practice buying just enough instead of too much. Even if this means going to the market every other day, if possible. How about all that extra pulp that’s extracted by your juicer? Does it go straight to the compost or garbage can? Dhrumil from We Like It Raw recently posted a great video demonstrating a creative way to use leftover green pulp. And pulp left from making nut milks can be dehydrated and used as pastry or cookie flour!
5. Never grocery shop hungry! This is a pretty common and general rule for the reasons mentioned in #4. And anyone who’s ever been on a weight loss diet has probably recited this mantra a few hundred times. Well, the same holds true for holding on to your money. You’ll be much less likely to buy more food that could go to waste if you make sure your stomach is happy first.
6. Less is more: Eat slowly, and with consciousness. There’s a best-selling book called French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, President and CEO of Champagne Veuve Clicquot. While the title in itself may ring exaggerated and a tinge elitist, the truth of it stems from the long instilled traditions and guidelines of how the French view and treat their food. The rituals of meal times are something to be savored to the fullest beyond a means of merely feeding the gut. Food is honored and slowly engaged with every bite (lunches are 2 hour affairs, even during the business week). Consuming with care, chewing thoroughly, and allowing digestion to begin in our mouths as it should gives our stomachs ample time to tell our brains that it’s happily satisfied. With conscious and present eating, we enjoy companion conversation and the ambiance of our environment while filling up, eating less, and making us automatically more gratuitous.
7. Join a co-op! Not only do food co-ops typically support local farmers, they provide the highest quality and value for produce. Even better, members are often eligible for discounts. Local Harvest is a great resource and can assist with finding co-op in your area via their search function.
8. Be your own farmer. It’s easy and inexpensive to grow your own potted herbs. Even the green-thumb challenged like me can wing that. Best of all, you can grow them indoors all year round. You’ll save between .99 cents and $4 a pop for each bundle you’d otherwise buy in the produce department. Aerogardens have proven to be a fantastic investment (from $99.95 to $229.95), especially handy for winter harvesting. Not only does this hydroponic dynamo grow a full spectrum of herbs, you can harvest salad greens, tomatoes, strawberries, chili peppers, and petunias – just to name a few! And they’re perfect for apartments and condos. If you’ve got the outdoor ground space, create a garden and harvest whatever vegetables you can manage within your climate and seasonal allowance. Kitazawa Seed Company has a fantastic catalogue along with thorough instructions, guidelines, and tips on their products.
9. The 2 for 1 special: food for skincare. This is a big bonus! Ever used a honey and sugar scrub mask? Or used coconut butter as body lotion or lip balm? Not only are many pricey creams, exfoliants, and other skin care products a needless expense, they’re typically full of chemicals that we slather all over the largest (and breathing) organ on our bodies. Wouldn’t it make sense to feed our skin the same thing we put in our bodies? Create your own spa “salt-glo” by mixing coarse sea salt with olive oil and massaging all over for baby soft skin. Have an avocado that’s getting a little too soft? Mash it up and use it as a super moisturizing mask. Pure Skin – Organic Beauty Basics by Barbara Close is an excellent book that dispels spa and skin care myths and provides 40 recipes for natural beauty treatments.
10. Cut back on excessive supplements. E3 Live or spirulina? Probiotics or bee pollen? It’s easy to get overzealous in purchasing products that will support our health-driven missions. But these items, even singularly, are not cheap. Of course, bulk deals and frequency of use could factor into the pricing equation. If you’re sticking to a budget, consider compromising one for another that works best for your body and regimen, rather than having them all.
11. Clip those coupons! Good old-fashioned coupon clipping isn’t just a newspaper activity anymore. There’s all kinds of printable deals to be found on the internet, Googling keywords like, “Whole Foods coupons” or “organic coupons”. Grocery stores also often have in-store deals available right at the door, just pick up a flyer!
12. Don’t discount the discount stores. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d actually recommend checking out a Wal-Mart or a Costco for deals, on of all things, organic food products. It was a chance trip to BJ’s Wholesale Club a couple of weeks ago that jolted me out of the “discount monster retailers = all things industrial evil” mindset. Beyond the mammoth isles and palettes of junk food hell, past tables of 5 pound blocks of cheese and green bananas in crates, I saw an entire produce area labeled, “organics”! And the products looked quite vibrant! Yes, you can get some great deals at wholesale clubs on organics, but again, this is bulk shopping so if you don’t need a 10 pound bag of apples, refrain! The other downside to these major discount retailers is that there is little or no purchasing from local farmers. But if getting the best price and staying within your budget is the goal, shopping these stores could be worth it.
Do you have any tips for saving on your food bills that were not mentioned here? I’d love to hear about them! Please feel free to contribute your food budgeting methods via the comment section.