" I want to buy good quality food, but on a low budget. What tips do you have & what exactly should I be buying?"
This question has been plaguing my inbox, so I thought it would be a good time to address it. Eating healthy does NOT mean eating expensive and gourmet. It's quite the opposite. The type of diet I advocate is a pure vegetarian diet made of whole foods. Some call it Vegan, but I prefer to call it pure vegetarian (more on that another time).
A pure vegetarian, whole-food diet consists entirely of whole grains, beans, vegetables, seaweeds, nuts, seeds, and fruits. You can include high quality plant oils, but a very small amount. Eating this way does take more time, but you will save your money and your health.
Now, if you're going to be buying organic prepackaged soups, organic microwaveable meals, organic frozen pizzas, organic cereals, organic nut milks, organic cheeses, organic meats, and organic desserts you are going to spend a considerable amount more than the unprocessed foods I mentioned before.
There's a good reason for this: there's more energy in the box! Any company that wishes to be certified organic must spend much more money than a conventional food company for testing, evaluations, and any fines or penalties they may come across in the certification process. Organic, bulk products are the most inexpensive ways to eat healthy.
Organic oats in bulk are $1.79 per pound, while organic packaged oats are $4.49 per pound. One can (3 cups) of black beans is $2.79, while organic dried black beans are $2.49 per pound. If you take both of these figures into consideration, also realizing that 1 cup of black beans yields 3 cups cooked and there's nearly 3 cups of black beans in one pound bulk, you'll spend 4 times the amount on oatmeal and almost 3 times the amount on beans.
If you make grains and beans your staple, a single person would spend around $5 each week on just the grain and bean portion of each meal. This is not an ideally balanced diet, but it's a great start! Moving onto vegetables and fruits, there are certainly some that go a long way nutritionally, while still saving you money.
Potatoes (sweet and white)
At Sunflower Natural Foods in Woodstock, NY Broccoli is $3.49 for two bunches, sweet potatoes are $1.79 per pound, and apples are $1.69 per pound. If you figure you get 5 servings or more from the broccoli, and that one sweet potato is 1 pound and yields 2 servings you can see that a meal made of rice and beans with broccoli and potatoes costs less than $4.00. If steaming is too bland, you can even add 1 tbsp. of coconut oil ($10.99 per jar, 30 servings), and use one thin slice of an onion ($1.59 per 1 pound onion) and you're talking rice and beans with stir-fried vegetables for $4.69!
Broccoli is known to be one of the most cancer-preventing foods around. For 69 cents a serving, you can literally be cutting down your risk for cancer and many other degenerative conditions. For $1 per apple, you can take in heavy metal absorbing pectin and fiber that will help cleanse your bowels daily of industrial toxins and pollution. For 90 cents a serving (sweet potato), you can obtain your day's worth of Vitamin A which helps to rebuild your skin, cleanse your blood, and build your immune system. Unlike inorganic, "cheaper" produce you're getting nutrients that rebuild your body and immune system, rather than deplete it with pesticides, GMOs, and other chemicals that hurt your body when you're trying to eat healthy. It's really not saving you money to go to the doctor's office when you're sick from the cheap food you're eating. When you look at food this way and see it's true worth, you can see how inexpensive organic really is.
My partner and I mostly eat like this and we spend $50 a week or less on groceries. Eating this way is simple, healthy, and completely inexpensive. If you don't indulge, you can even spend the extra penny on almond butter, coconut oil, and a $6 pint of blueberries. The almond butter at $10.99 will last two weeks if you eat it in moderation, coming out to 78 cents per serving. The blueberries, well, those ARE expensive! But they're not too much more than a pint of ice cream. The difference is that the blueberries can help lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and lower your risk of cancers and strokes.
Organic food is a slower process. It involves growing foods in accordance to nature's laws and rhythms. This is exceptionally true for biodynamic farming. I like that organic food is more expensive than conventional food. It teaches us to value our Earth and her abundance over other things that may be draining our money and our Earth. Things like computers, endless Smartphone renditions, and tons of plastic packaging.
One can easily spend $500 per month on cable, smart phones, and health insurance alone. I say throw them all out, have more time with your own thoughts, do more creative things with your friends, and use your money to buy healthy food that may actually prevent you from ever needing to consider insurance. Still, you don't have to change your life that drastically. Simply eat oatmeal for breakfast, and rice and beans with vegetables for lunch or dinner. Watch how much money you save and how much better your feel!
Buying organic also helps you take a stand against destructive methods of making food. When you consider that a burger that comes from a cow raised in whatwas the rainforest, then shipped across the world by boats and planes, put between a bun that's full of genetically modified corn, which was processed in a lab by manipulating its genetic code to make it withstand tons of chemical fertilizers that were also made in a lab, then flown over hundreds of acres to be dropped over a large mono-crop of corn, soy, or wheat that pollutes all the drinking water in the area, then is harvested and packaged with preservatives, more chemicals, and endorsed by cartoon characters can be cheaper than something raised on water and sunshine. One of two things must be true: whoever is in charge of this system is either mad with greed or simply mad from all the genetically modified food they've been eating.
In any case, the consumer is really who is in charge. It is up to us to decide what to spend our money on and what we find to be most important and changing our systems in life. If you can't buy all organic, at least go to your local farm stand or farmer's market and get food that may not be organic but may be better than organic: local, home-grown, and chemical free! The best thing you can do is grow as much food yourself and truly gain control of your life and health.
I will be adding recipes on here that are inexpensive to make from bulk, organic ingredients. The recipe below is anti-viral, lymph activating, detoxifying, warming, and nourishing for the winter. You can add any additional green vegetables to this if you desire. Its also delicious with squash instead of sweet potatoes.
Coconut-Curried Cabbage Soup
1 red cabbage (2-3 cups chopped)
1 onion (diced)
1 can coconut milk - full fat
2 small, or 1 large, sweet potato
2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tbsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. rosemary or thyme
1 pinch of sea salt
4-6 cups of water
1) Add oil, salt, curry, and onions to the bottom of a pot and fry for 3 minutes.
2) Add cabbage and sauté for an additional 4 minutes.
3) Add the entire can of coconut milk, diced sweet potato, and 4-6 cups of water depending on how rich you want the stock to be.
4) Bring to a boil, then simmer for 35- 45 minutes.
5) Serve with millet and sauerkraut.