Making the decision to eat a clean, healthy diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but it can be daunting at first. One of the reasons people shy away from positive diet changes is cost.
While strolling the isles of the health food store can give you sticker shock (and that’s not the only place to buy healthy foods by the way), there are ways to eat a clean nutritious diet without going bankrupt.
Purchase food items when they are in Season.
Produce is more costly when purchased out of season because of the decreased availability and the cost to have food imported from farther locations. Buying your fruits and veggies when there is an abundance of them can save you some cash. While it’s not necessary to be a purist on this principle (I’ve been known to buy fresh blueberries out of season… all year round), you will notice a smaller grocery bill when you’re mindful of it. You can find out when things are generally in season in the US here. This may vary based on your specific location. Winter is a great time for buying citrus fruit and winter squashes such as butternut and acorn (who knew?).
Allow yourself to buy conventional sometimes.
While most of us would love to eat 100% organic, it’s not always feasible, and luckily it’s not always necessary. There are some foods you should attempt to buy organic every time (strawberries for example hold onto a large amount of pesticide residue that is not easily removed) and there are some that are not as important (like avocados). The guideline I have found useful for years pertaining to this is The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Do you very best to buy organic only from the dirty list and give yourself the permission to buy conventional produce from the clean list. Your wallet will thank you.
I know it’s tough sometimes to not be a brand snob, but name brand doesn’t always equate to better. Once you get used to the very important clean eating skill of reading ingredient lists, you will find that a lot of the store brands offer options that are just as good, if not better than the name brands. Many store brands these days have organic options as well. Some items I have found to save me money without compromising quality and healthfulness are canned tuna, canned tomato items, and organic butter.
When it comes to foods, not assets of course (badump chhh). Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is a smart, frugal move because these foods are flash frozen at their peak ripeness while in season. This allows for optimum nutrient retention and less waste due to spoilage which is more cost efficient and nutrient efficient for you. A favorite frozen food of mine is wild blueberries which I put into my morning smoothies (they also happen to be store brand). Now don’t confuse this with buying frozen pre-packaged foods. There are many healthy options these days (again you find this in the ingredient list), but for the most part these are loaded with preservatives and fillers that in the long run deteriorate your health. Stick to produce for the most part.
Buying large quantities of non-perishables like rice, flours, and legumes can save you money due to bulk pricing. Be sure that you have ample space and proper storage containers to do this, however. Otherwise you could inconvenience yourself, compromise the quality of the food you’re storing for long periods of time, and clutter up your pantry. It’s also important to be mindful of the shelf life of foods you plan to buy in bulk. Nuts and nut flours for example would not be a good choice because the oils in them go rancid fairly quickly.
A lesson can be learned from some of America’s most innovative chefs such as Dan Barber. Use… it… all. Manage your kitchen like you’re managing a restaurant. Carrot/potato peels? Onion tops? Bell pepper nubs? Things you would normally toss out (or compost if you’re environmentally conscious, which we should all strive to be) can be made into something useful, like veggie stock! Think of every product you make out of something that would normally be thrown out as pure profit to your “establishment”. Make it fun! Find creative ways to use scraps and reuse leftovers. Less waste equals more dough (the spending kind).
Amanda Spiller is a classically trained cook and aspiring nutrition coach. She has a love of health and wellness and a passion for helping others live healthy, happy, and abundant lives. Stay up to date with what she’s up to here.