It’s so common for a person in front of our goodMix market stall to say ‘whoa – it’s a bit expensive’, & walk off munching on their giant hotdog. These same people are often wearing expensive clothing / shoes / jewellery…seemingly happy to spend plenty of $ on external appearance, but apparently not ok with investing a few $ into health (which ironically has a massive impact on external appearance!)
Times Are Tough?
I understand that times are kinda tough for many – (well tough by modern western world standards – most can still seem to afford smart phones, flat screen TV’s & new cars). BUT, let’s compare the real expenses of eating ‘cheaply’ & compromising on nutrition, to eating with nutrition as the primary goal (which by the way IS the main actual reason to eat)…& find a balance with some tips that allow us to eat really well on a budget!
For a start, it’s a bit of a false economy if you are eating ‘cheap’ food & expecting to save yourself money in the long term
Sure your weekly grocery bill might seem like it’s less than a typical ‘health freak’ shopping bill – but when you factor in the following as well – you may be surprised at how things end up over the long term…
Sick days + cost of Drs
Medications & treatments (both for yourself & kids if you have them). This includes both acute illnesses (i.e. colds & flus) & major, chronic diseases…like diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc – these are all directly linked to the food you are eating, they might seem to just ‘happen’ – but you can definitely lower your chances of them ‘happening’ to you by making smarter food choices each week!
General lack of energy
Motivation & productivity – your food affects your mood, mental clarity & your ‘get-up & go’! Eating well helps you to get more done, & feel happier doing it (which equals more $$). Buying good food is investing in productivity.
Time wasted on excessive sleeping
Recovering, feeling tired & ’low’ (try it & see – eat & drink garbage food for a month, then give yourself a week buffer on ‘average foods’, then a month on super good stuff – record your feelings, moods, sleep needs & productivity). You’ll be amazed at the impact.
Cost of processed foods
Processing generally requires more labour & more packaging (cheap processed foods are so low in nutrients & high in sugar, salt & msg that they will actually make you hungrier, instead of nourishing you & filling you up. That is the plan – big food companies spend billions trying to figure out ways they can get you to buy more of their ‘products masquerading as food’. They add addictive substances, cheap, empty ‘filler’ ingredients & even try to incorporate more ‘air & water’ into their products to cut production costs….You know when ‘high fibre white bread’ first came out – the added ingredient was (until then) a waste product which was generally fed to pigs, very cheap & not considered useable for human food production. But wow did it save the big bread company some serious $ when they could incorporate it into their loaves – & they were even able to charge more for the product because of the new health benefits – brilliant! This is just one example of many, many similar stories from the big food giants – you just can’t trust them with your health – sales & profit come too far in front of nutrition. (This is easily hidden by the huge marketing budget!)
Specific ways you can eat well on a budget!
1. Organic fruit, veg & herbs you’ve grown yourself (or swapped / traded with another grower). Get to know someone who has chooks too! Some things are best left to the farmers – but you can save heaps on easy-grow things like lettuce / salad greens / herbs / kale / cherry tomatoes / capsicum / snow peas / beans…& planting some fruit trees now will pay off for many years down the track.
2. Fruit & veg etc that you’ve picked up at a market when the farmer / seller just wants to sell out to get home at the end of the long day. A tip for smoothie lovers – buy in bulk to get great deals, then chop up your haul & freeze! OCD types can even have smoothie ingredients combined & ready to go in small containers / bags! Works great for bananas, berries, pineapple, mango, spinach, kale, cucumber etc. If herbs are selling out cheap, buy up & turn them into a pesto, sauce, or blend with coconut oil / butter / macadamia oil & freeze in ice cube trays for cooking flavoursome dinners later on.
3. Dried beans / pulses. These are sooo cheap (much cheaper than the cooked & canned varieties), & come without added preservatives, salt etc. You just need to soak them well before boiling. Then you can whip up awesome hommous, dahl, mexican & indian dishes….the beans are great nutritionally & super cheap. Easy to prep once you have done it a few times too. Also fine to soak, cook & then freeze for later use.
4. Homemade spice blends / sauces, instead of bottled / packet mixes & sauces from the supermarket (some of these are just disgraceful when you read what is in them – a tonne of sugar, salt, msg, artificial colours, flavours, thickeners, preservatives, emulsifiers…& designed to go with a meal made with your nice meat & veg….you might as well just head to Macca’s!) Check the ingredients list on the back, not the marketing hype on the front! Support brands that use real ingredients, not the companies who just pump out ‘products’ masquerading as food! And remember to even check the labels of brands you know & love – or have been using for years, as they do reformulate to cut costs, often without letting on!
5. Learn how to ‘use the bits that most people don’t buy’ i.e. bones! Super mineral-rich, & great to cook up in soups & make your own stock with. There are many cuts of meat that are really cheap – but most people don’t know how to cook them – ask your grandparents / an older neighbour – or google it!
6. Look for cheap but healthy items in supermarkets (yes, there are a few gems in there!). Tinned sardines (in spring water) are one of my faves – very cheap, easy to store & prepare & super healthy (clean, small fish omega 3’s, edible bones & great protein). Ok, they stink & are a bit gross to handle – but you can use spices, garlic, chilli, ginger etc to flavour. Use them broken up into a rice dish, or to make fishcakes – add a few sesame seeds / pepitas & you won’t even notice the mineral-rich bones crunching!
7. Shop for fresh food bargains, then figure out your meals (with google guidance) based on what you’ve got – instead of shopping with a list of ingredients for planned meals. It will work out much cheaper & you’ll have more variety. It will also mean you automatically eat what’s in season!
8. Before you go food shopping, check the fridge & pantry, do a quick reorganise. Make something from any fruit / veg that might be looking a bit sad (i.e. apple / pear / stone fruit crumbles or muffins with fruit that is past its prime but still useable, make a soup / stock with older veg, cook or freeze meat that is close to use by, use the last of the yoghurt / fruit to make a big smoothie – then pour into kids ice block moulds for later. Prepare a big feed for ‘a lazy / busy night’ that will happen someday in the future – be one ahead & avoid restocking the fridge up when you still have useable food left – it will end up neglected at the back as you go for the new stock!
9. Eat for nutrient density, you’ll get full after a small feed, & stay satisfied much longer! That is why a nutrient-dense breakfast or snack – like Blend11 or Blend13 with natural yoghurt or a smoothie may actually end up saving you money in the long-term – you won’t be snacking all morning like you do after a carb-based breakfast of toast or cereal!
There are countless other ways to save $ on food, but buying pre-packaged, processed ‘cheap’ foods is not a true money saver – you will pay for it down the track with your health, your kid’s health & the health of the planet!
Love to hear everyone else’s tips – so please share with me!