It’s probably not news to you that food prices have risen a lot over the past year or so.
Compared to early- to -mid-2020, you’re now paying 18.7% more for seafood. There has been a 7.5% increase for fruit, 5.1% for fresh meat, 3.1% for vegetables, 2.4% for cheese and 1.1% for eggs.
Unfortunately, the USDA expects those prices to keep going up – meat by another 2.5%, fresh fruit by 4.5%, and eggs by 1.5%. More unfortunately, cost is the leading barrier to healthful eating, according to a recent consumer survey.
But healthy eating – meals made at home mainly from whole foods, low in refined grains, starches, and sugars – doesn’t need to break the bank. It’s certainly your best option for getting the nutrition you need for optimal mouth/body health in delicious and satisfying ways, which itself can save you money in the long run by lowering your risk of dental and medical problems down the road.
So in light of all this, the time seemed ripe for a repeat of our top 10 tips for eating healthfully on a budget…
- Plant a garden! Probably the cheapest way to have organic food is to grow your own. Mother Earth News has a great guide on growing organic food by crop. And if you rent or don’t have the space to garden, there are community gardens that offer space across the country.
- If you do grow a garden, consider using heritage seeds – seeds collected from harvested foods and saved for the next growing season. Doing so maintains trusted plant varieties and encourages diversity in our gardens.
- Prioritize and buy organics selectively. The Environmental Working Group provides a handy list of what it calls the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 – respectively, foods to buy only in organic form due to their tendency to retain pesticide residues and foods that are acceptable whether conventionally or organically grown.
- Buy whole foods – unprocessed grains, vegetables, fruits and meats. Whole foods have the most nutrition and give you more bang for your buck.
- Buy food in season. Seasonal food is usually cheaper and always better than off-season. There is greater nutrition per dollar than in the same product during the off-season.
- Stock up when there’s a sale. If the food is perishable, consider canning or freezing it for later use.
- Buy in bulk – not Sam’s Club bulk but things like grains, dried beans, seeds and nuts. Because you’re not paying for fancy labeling, packaging or marketing, you save money. And you also reduce your environmental footprint by using less disposable packaging. Many natural food stores allow you to bring in pre-weighed containers for shopping their bulk aisles, and they may even offer a discount at the register for bringing your own.
- Buy local. Support your local economy, help save the environment and get better and cheaper food by doing business with your friendly, neighborhood farmer. If the produce at the farmer’s market food isn’t marked as certified organic, it still may be organic, so don’t be afraid to ask! Remember that cost of certification is prohibitive, so some farmers may forgo certification. If these reasons don’t convince you, here are 10 more reasons to enjoy shopping locally.
- Sign up with a CSA, or community supported agriculture. You get local, seasonal food delivered to you or you can pick it up each month. This may not be significantly cheaper per product, but the vegetables are much fresher than you’ll find in a grocery store, which makes the actual nutrition far cheaper.
- Shop online. Is there an organic product you like, such as a sunflower seed butter? Try comparison shopping at your computer to see if you can get cheaper through the mail.
New to cooking for yourself or just kind of unsure of yourself in the kitchen? You’ll find some great advice for improving your skills and making home-cooked meals a thing here and here and here.
Image by greggavedon.com