When I talk to people about The Eat Well Program I often hear, "but I can't afford eating this way, how can I feed my family healthy foods on a budget?" My first response is usually, "I think of food as my health insurance." By eating healthy now and supplementing appropriately I am preventing disease, the use of medication and medical intervention in the future. For kids it is especially important to feed them right during their developmental years. These years are crucial not only for their future disease prevention, but also for current mood, energy, happiness and immune health.
Here's where to start
When you have a tight budget, a waste of money, time or food will make or break it.
1. Meal planning. Create a menu getting as detailed as you need. Some people do great with breakfast and lunch, but struggle with the dinner and snacks. Others need help with it all. Create a menu that meets your needs. Check out the recipes page for dish ideas. Choose ingredient, not products. What do I mean by this? Make your own jerky, (healthy) chips or paleo protein bars instead of buying them pre-made. Avoid "kid food" like crackers, prepared baby food or kid sized snack packs, marketed to make you think it is something special, it isn't. Make them yourself! I never said eating on a budget is always time saving, it takes preparation. The more money you need to save, the more time you will need to invest. Don't be afraid to buy items in bulk. Usually when buying things in bulk, from Costco or Sam's Club you can save many pretty pennies. So plan your menus to utilize one ingredient in several dishes. Also cook in bulk. Make extra at dinner so you have left overs for lunch or breakfast the next day. To save money on ingredients buy what is in season and local. Avoid those foreign star fruits and expensive filet mignon's. Choose the fattier and cheaper cuts of meat like roasts and 80% ground beef. Need help getting started? See The Eat Well Sample Menu for help.
2. Create a shopping list. I like to categorize my produce in once section, meats in another and dry goods in another. This makes my time in the grocery store as efficient as possible. When you plan ahead every food is eaten and every dollar is wisely spent. Avoid adding those food items that rack up the grocery bill. Can you do without the bottles water, packaged or prepared foods, speciality sauce or spice? Can you cut out or cut down on that daily latte, lunch out several times a week or weekly sometimes daily bottle of wine? Evaluating your spending and making cuts wherever possible to put towards your food is a pretty good idea.
3. Shop wisely. Shopping locally and in season will help with cost, provide you with more nutritious food and will give you a sense of community. Find your local farmers market and begin there. Local Farmer CSA's and Co-OPs can be very cost effective if you can put the money down up front. Some companies like Door to Door Organics and Mile High Organics offer monthly payment options. If you have a deep freezer, purchasing whole chickens, a whole, half or quarter cow, pig or game is the most economical way to get these awesome proteins. Find a friend or another family to share in the cost can also help. Of course growing your own garden or joining a local garden community like DUG will provide you will a wealth of nutrient dense vegetables and will save you money. If you have children this is a great way to get them involved with their food, create a respect and appreciation around food and help ward off picky eaters.
One thing the Eat Well Program emphasizes is quality of food, with that being said pick your battles. Organic vs. Conventional foods are not much different in nutrient value. Organic is slightly superior, but with the pathetic state of our nutrient depleted soil, food is significantly lower in nutrients then they were 100, 70, 50 years ago. Follow the Dirty Dozen list when possible or wash all conventional (and organic-Doesn't hurt!) fruits and vegetables in Grapefruit Seed Extract to remove residue, bacteria, virus, pesticides and even waxes. Really toxins are the things we need to be concerned with. The Eat Well Program puts a lot of focus on reduction of toxins and food toxins contribute in a huge way.
4. Buy in bulk and cook in bulk. As simple as that. As mentioned before, buying foods in bulk is going to save money and cooking in bulk will save time in the long run. If you can take 1 day a month or every couple months and cook several dishes and freeze them, then you really have no excuse for eating healthy at any time. You have a reserve and go to good food for those "I don't want to cook" days.
Eating healthy on a budget might take some leg work in the beginning, but once you find your families favorite dishes and your favorite grocery store or farmer it will be a breeze.
Turn the Whole into parts
Example: Chicken = Shredded chicken, chicken stock, liver pate
Beef = Meat, beef stock, cooking fat (tallow)
Whole Raw Almonds = Almonds, almond flour, almond butter, almond milk
Coconut Flakes = Coconut, coconut flour, coconut butter, coconut milk
Buy straight from the farmer - by cutting out the middle man (grocery stores) you can get items as lower prices, that are more fresh and more nutritious. Try meat, eggs, raw milk and cheese, oils.
Buy Online - This will definitely save you time, since you can do this in your pjs while lying in bed. You can find bargains for buying in bulk and can often order directly from farmers.
Choose Frozen over Fresh - Now days most manufacturers freezer produce during peak season. So many of nutrients are saved. Look to Costco or Sam's for this, much cheaper and often organic.
Grow your own food.
Keep your menu simple.
Eat less - hmm that's a concept.
Best bang for your buck - Spend your money wisely. These items are worth the extra pennies (look for these in bulk). Unrefined sea salt , grass-fed butter or ghee, shellfish, fatty cuts of grass-fed/finished meats, get familiar with the dirty dozen.