If you’re contemplating the nutrient-dense lifestyle, one of the first things that has probably crossed your mind is how are we going to afford this??? At first glance, it can seem very overwhelming, trying to figure out what to buy and how to best fit it in the budget. It’s definitely a perspective shift and one worth the planning.
Here are 16 tips to help you get real food on a budget:
1. Start with a budget.
First things first: start with a budget. It’s very easy to get carried away when buying foods in bulk or heading out to the farmers’ market. Pray as a family, and budget for the month, knowing exactly what you can allocate for food. Then, keep track of the budget throughout the month to make sure you’re staying on track. We use an envelope system, and we pull it out by the week to make sure we don’t overspend early in the month. This allows us to save the excess for larger purchases at the beginning of the next month.
Consider how much money you spend eating out at restaurants and fast-food chains or on unnecessary luxuries like cable or video games. If you can cut these expenses by 50-75% and use this money toward healthier food options, you will increase the value of the foods you eat and not require additional money to do this.
3. Avoid junk food.
Stay away from processed foods. In any grocery store, the most expensive foods will be the packaged “foods.” Now at first glance, they may be cheap in price, but just how much will you need to buy to truly get the nutrition you’re looking for? The more you can prepare on your own, the better it will be on your pocket and your health.
4. Eat less.
Keep in mind that nutrient-dense foods have more vitamins and minerals than their counterparts. Because of this, you will not have to eat as much. This was one of the first mistakes we made. We kept trying to eat the same size portions when we actually just needed a bit less to be satisfied. We also added bone broths to many of the meals, which packed an extra dose of nutrition and required less meat per serving.
5. Join a Co-op
Find co-ops in your area to purchase in bulk. By coordinating different buying opportunities, you can save on shipping and many times up to 10-15% off retail pricing. Don’t have a co-op in your area? Consider starting one, and check out Azure Standard. With just a few like-minded individuals, you can split the costs and begin saving big!
6. Buy directly from the farmer.
The cost of grass-fed beef from your local farmer will be significantly cheaper than the same cut in the grocery store. Many farmers also give significant discounts for purchasing in bulk. If you have freezer space and some cash saved up, this might work for you. Otherwise, consider splitting the bulk buy with others. If the bulk price requires a 50 lb. purchase, then find someone to take 25 lbs. or so to make it more manageable.
7. Shop sales.
Stock up when you find a great deal. If you have a grocery budget, it helps to “splurge” when you get a great deal–especially on items you will end up buying anyway. This is why I try to save up throughout the month as much as possible It allows me to take advantage of great sales when they come along, saving us extra grocery trips, gas, . . . and of course, money. You’ll just want to make sure to stay on budget and cut back on a few other things in order to stay on track.
8. Find Storage Solutions
Learn how to prepare and store foods. When buying in bulk, I have found it necessary to learn storage techniques for keeping foods fresh and lasting over time. The easiest thing to do? Freeze it. This, however, may require a secondary freezer unit if yours tends to stay full. Another option that I’ve really taken advantage of is dehydrating. When excess fruits start to wilt, I slice them up and dehydrate them overnight for yummy on-the-go snacks. I keep these in the pantry for a week or two or in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Finally, fermenting fruits and veggies will not only preserve your goodies but also add enzymes and probiotics that will increase the nutrition of the food. (Check out Putting Food By: Fifth Edition for canning and other food-preservation techniques.)
9. Stick to “The Clean Fifteen”
Can’t always buy organic? Consider “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen.” The Dirty Dozen includes produce with the most herbicide and pesticide residue–even after washing/rinsing. It will be well worth your effort to purchase these organic either fresh or frozen. The Clean Fifteen has the least residues and may be a viable option when purchasing conventional fruits and vegetables.
10. Play Your Meals
I cannot say enough good things about meal planning. It is well worth the effort. Assign a theme for each day, such as: Meat & Veggie Monday, Taco Tuesdays, Pasta Wednesdays, Crock Pot Thursdays, Fishy Fridays, Fast-food Saturdays (home-cooked hot dogs and hamburgers, of course!) and Soup & Salad Saturdays. Use your themes to plan a weekly or monthly menu and check inventory for the ingredients already in your kitchen. Take note of the items you need and keep to the list when shopping. Planning ensures that you eat a variety of foods and helps you only buy what you will eat during the week or month.
11. Use It All
Be resourceful, and eat what you buy. Our ancestors didn’t have the luxury of only eating one body part of an animal and discarding the rest. There were no boneless, skinless chicken breasts! They ate all of the chicken meat and healthy organs, including the skin, which is full of healthy fat for better assimilation of fat-soluble vitamins. They then took the bones and any leftover giblets, covered them with water and a bit of vinegar, and prepared highly-nutritious bone stock/broth for future dishes (Click here for my recipes!) The softened bones could then be given to the family dog. Do your best to incorporate what you would normally discard into creative and nutrient-dense dishes.
12. Eat What You Buy
Soak and clean fresh fruits and veggies immediately when you get home from the market or store. How many times have you found rotten or molded produce at the back of the fridge? Let’s be honest. If it’s not rinsed and ready to eat, it probably will not get eaten, and that could mean hundreds of dollars getting thrown in the compost pile or garbage bin. Prepare a large bowl of water and a tablespoon of vinegar and soak, rinse, and dry. Clean apples, berries, lettuce, carrots, etc. will be easier to pick up as snacks or can easily be thrown into a dish.
13. Shop the Bulk Bins
Buy from the bulk bins whenever possible. I especially enjoy saving money when I buy spices from the canisters. I can fill a whole bottle with organic spices for less than two bucks! Save your jars for easy packaging, and just pay for the food, not the plastic and wrapping. It’s better for the environment, too!
14. Grow Your Own Food
Begin with some organic, nutrient-rich soil and throw in a few seeds. It’s amazing how God’s little miracles flourish with just a bit of water, sunlight, and love. Don’t want to spend money on seeds? Just take out the seeds from your organic produce, dry on a plate in the sun, and plant!
15. Shop Online
Many times you can buy many of your favorite whole-food supplements, flours, oils, sweeteners, homeopathic remedies, etc. at a much lower cost than the store. IHerb.com and Vitacost.com offer $10 off your first order and free shipping (with a minimum purchase).
16. Make Small Changes
And last but not least, take baby steps. Maybe start with all-natural cuts, adjust the budget, then switch over to grass-fed cuts. Making a lifestyle change is a process, so allow yourself the opportunity to start small and work toward your goals slowly.
At the end of the day, it really is about priorities. You might have to increase the budget a bit, you might have to give up certain junk foods or fast-food stops. You will definitely have to cook more. If eating well is your priority, however, it will definitely pay for itself in the end. It will very likely mean fewer or no medications, more energy, and better health for you and your family. What exactly is that worth to you? What is your price?
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