5 Ways to Afford Whole Foods on a Budget

budget whole foodWhole food -- that is to say, unprocessed and unrefined food -- has the reputation of being expensive. But there are many ways to add whole food to your diet while sticking to your budget. Seattle PI suggests a few:

  1. Buy seasonal: Fruits and vegetables are both cheaper and tastier when purchased in season.
  2. Use the bulk bins: You won't pay for packaging, labeling and advertising.
  3. Grow your own: A sunny yard or even a window box can add cheap, fresh food to your plate.
  4. Use your freezer: Stock up and freeze when whole food is on sale.
  5. Reduce waste: Don't let leftovers go to waste.

To read more about their suggestions, you can click on the link below.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Purchasing healthy whole foods to feed your family is one of the best investments you can make. The nutrients wholesome food provides will allow your family members to maintain their good health, and even in some cases heal from disease, and this is a gift that is truly priceless.

So while you may be able to get a hamburger for $1 at a fast-food drive through – and this may seem like a budget-savvy option – that money is being essentially wasted because the food is doing absolutely nothing beneficial for your health. You're better off spending that dollar on a pound of string beans or zucchini, or putting it toward a pound of grass-fed meat, than you are throwing it away on processed junk food.

Still, readers have regularly posted that one of the leading obstacles to achieving health is having too limited a budget to maintain a healthy lifestyle ... so I want to share some practical tips you can use to help you save money on groceries and still get healthy food.

First, Trim Your Food Waste

Seattle PI has listed five starter tips above, which are well worth noting, but I want to expand on #5: reducing food waste. Any food you purchase and throw away is, quite literally, akin to throwing your money in the trash. This is actually a major problem, as one-third of the food produced in the world is lost or wasted, according to a new report commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This massive number equates to 1.3 billion tons of food annually.

In 2008, the New York Times featured a graphic that shows one U.S. family's share of food waste for one month, which is really eye opening. Using statistics from a 1995 federal study that found over 96 billion edible pounds of food were wasted by U.S. retailers, food service businesses and consumers that year, they figured that a family of four throws out about 122 pounds of food each month.

This adds up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year wasted, which is why it's so important to be sure your family is eating all of the food you purchase.

The solution to waste is NOT to load up on more processed or canned foods simply because you can store them until the end of time. Their extreme shelf life comes at a high price, as they are often loaded with chemical preservatives. Remember, the fresher your foods are to start with, the longer they'll be safe to eat, so choose small amounts of the freshest foods you can find and eat them as soon as possible.

Recently I detailed more tips to prevent food waste in your home. For instance, if you have a refrigerator drawer full of veggies that are starting to wilt, making vegetable juice is an easy, and incredibly nutritious, way to use them up.

Should You Bother Buying Organic?

Once you've nixed food waste, the next step is to learn how to stretch your food budget to the max without sacrificing quality. One of the simplest ways to do this is to prioritize your spending on higher priced foods, such as organics (these tend to be pricier than conventionally grown foods, but this is not always the case). If you're on a tight budget but want to improve your diet by shopping organic, animal products like meat, raw dairy, poultry and eggs is the place to start.

Since animal products tend to bioaccumulate toxins from their pesticide-laced feed, concentrating them to far higher concentrations than are typically present in vegetables, I strongly recommend you buy only organically raised animal foods.

When it comes to produce, if you can't find the best of both worlds, which is locally grown organics, then buying fresh, vibrant locally grown conventional produce may actually be better than wilted organics. However, it can be tricky, since some conventionally grown produce simply LOOKS fresher due to all the chemicals they've been treated with. Perhaps your best bet, if you can't find locally grown organics, is to opt for USDA certified organic, but not imported organic, over the conventionally grown variety.

For more specifics, here are 10 organic foods that are worth the money.

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

When planning out a healthy, price-conscious grocery list, be sure you are not throwing money away on processed foods. These tend to be among the most costly items in the grocery store, and they are virtually always close to worthless for your health, as they consist mainly of fillers and additives, and very few actual nutrients.

A classic example of this is breakfast cereal, most of which are very expensive yet frightfully high in sugar, and any nutrients they boast are in the form of suboptimal synthetic additives, or worse.

For example, iron-fortified cereals can contain actual iron filings, which is a far cry from the bioavailable iron you get from iron-rich vegetables like spinach. If you haven't seen this eye-opening demonstration of what's really in that fortified breakfast cereal, take a look now—you'll probably never buy another box of cereal again, and rightfully so.

So ditch the old processed standbys and instead set your grocery radar on finding the foods that will give you the most "health bang for your buck." With a little creative use of your dollar, you can enjoy nutrient-packed food choices that are around $1 per serving, such as:

  • Cage-free organic eggs
  • Raw organic milk
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Coconut milk
  • Spinach

15 Cost-Saving Grocery Tips

When it comes to the price of food, it's extremely important to remember that a food cannot be judged by its sticker price alone. Believe me, a diet consisting of daily $1.99 hamburgers and other fast foods, while appearing to be frugal, is far from it when you consider what these foods are doing—or not doing—to your health.

With that in mind, here are 15 tips that are the best of the best to get high-quality food on a limited budget:

  1. Choose local foods over organic foods. Often, locally grown foods are raised according to organic standards at a more affordable price.
  2. If all that's available or affordable is fresh, conventionally grown produce, buy it, wash it well at home, and eat it.
  3. Look for local farms, farmer's markets and food coops offering raw dairy products, eggs, produce, and grass-fed meat. This will allow you to cut out the middleman and save money. Buying in large quantities, such as a side of grass-fed beef, can also save you money in the long run as long as you have room to freeze it (and you consume it before it goes bad).
  4. Skip ready-made meals and prepared or pre-cut foods, which can cost up to double the amount as the unprepared versions.
  5. Plan your meals ahead of time (including cooking large batches and freezing some for later) so you don't splurge on expensive, unhealthy fast-food at the last minute.
  6. Pass on processed junk foods like potato chips, soda, cookies, candy, and other snacks. These are a complete waste of money, even if they're "organic."
  7. Buy plenty of fresh veggies, they're usually less expensive than canned versions (just make sure you use them before they go bad).
  8. Only buy what you need. Keep track of what's in your pantry so you don't double-up on foods unnecessarily.
  9. Clip coupons and use them when you can (but don't buy something unhealthy just because it's on sale).
  10. Watch the register when you check out of the grocery store. They often ring up wrong prices, at your expense.
  11. Shop with a calculator so you can determine if it's really a better deal to buy something in bulk or in a larger size.
  12. Watch weekly specials, and be aware of what's really a good price. You can often find organic produce on sale for less than conventional produce if you know what prices to watch for.
  13. If you have the space, consider starting your own vegetable garden. When factoring in startup and maintenance costs, a well-maintained food garden yields a $500 average return each year compared to the market price of produce, according to the National Gardening Association (NGA). So there is a definite financial incentive there.
  14. Remember this rule of thumb: Fresh food is always better than frozen, but frozen is better than canned.
  15. Make the most of your food purchases by focusing on those that are right for your nutritional type. The nutritional typing assessment is now absolutely free, and will give you an idea of which foods you should eat for optimal health and nutrition.

+ Sources and References
  • Seattle PI June 14, 2011