Some people think that Roland and I only work with people who can afford to pay a lot to eat well. They have fridges stocked with grass fed you-name-it, they have personal chefs, they carry their food in cute glass containers and they work out all the time. They start their day with a smoothie made in a Vitamix and end it at a french restaurant. Riiiighttt…
The truth is we work with students, pregnant moms, busy dads, and even your grandma. We work with people who eat out 3 times a day and people who have no time to cook. We also help the stay at home mom who needs to plan nutritious meals for the whole family. For the sake of their health, their weight and their energy, all these people seek our help because they would like to eat better or move well. Most of them are surprised to discover that eating a nutritious and delicious diet does not involve an investment, in fact it can save you some money at the end of the day.
Once you commit to eating a real food diet you will save quite a bit of money, since you will be buying hardly any of these: store-bought cookies, cakes, crackers and pies, chips and dips, juice, soda, fast food shakes and fries, boxed cereals, ready to eat frozen meals. At restaurants, you will no longer order a salad, an entree and a dessert, many of those will be condensed to one reasonable meal and a drink. And the 8 beers you used to have will most likely look like 1 or 2. Not too shabby!
Since you will be eating well, you will enjoy more energy and make fewer trips to the coffee shop, save on fancy coffee drinks and the brownie that used to accompany them every afternoon. You will also need fewer pain killers, fewer trips to the doctor, fewer supplements, fewer visits to the chiropractor. See where I am going with this? By removing what is unnecessary in your diet, and by getting rid of what is causing your lack of energy and health in the first place you are already saving quite a bit.
Eating real food won’t just happen for you. There will be a period of transition between your lifestyle now and your real food and natural movement lifestyle, but one habit at a time, one meal at a time, things will start looking different, you will start feeling better and looking great, enjoying renewed energy and great spirits. In the meantime, as you transition from the way you used to shop to the way you will be shopping, we have some tips for you; tips that will make your diet healthy for you, but also for your budget.
WRITE DOWN HOW MUCH YOU SPEND ON FOOD NEXT WEEK
This includes every trip to the grocery store, farmers market, restaurants, fast food chains, coffee shops, even the food at Disneyland. Beers at the bar? Count those too. A simple way to do this is to take a photo of every receipt and then just throw it away. At the end of the week you can make a collage of the photos from your phone and just sum it all up. If you find a place that drains your credit card, such as that meat market that is selling you grass-fed beef for $29 a lb, ask yourself, is there an alternative? (Unlike Roland, who asked is this grass-fed unicorn meat?) See that you spent 30 dollars at the coffee shop at work this week? C’mon, really? You can make a difference just by knowing where your money goes. Once you start using the tips below, calculate your expenses again and drop us a line to let us know how much you saved.
ALWAYS SHOP WITH A PLAN
I know I know, it was in the plan to buy the $9 single serving coconut kefir at Whole Foods. Just this once. Next week it will be Goji berry blast super accelerator juice. There will always be something that is interesting. If it’s also interesting to see your credit card statement, please go ahead and let us know how those expensive non-food items taste. Other than entertaining you, they do little for your health and put a hole in your budget. Make a plan for what you need from the store and then go buy it. It helps if you sit down with a list of all the recipes you will prepare that week, or all the food you will take to work or all the lunches you need for the kids. This way, you are not buying random perishable items you have no idea how to cook (such as the rhubarb and chayote that were on sale), you are not reaching for ‘’interesting’’ new foods that cost more than you can afford right now, and you don’t waste valuable time roaming the store trying to come up with a plan. You can look at our reviews of healthy packaged items we have found at various stores here, in case you are in a hurry and really don’t know what to do.
HOW MANY CALORIES PER DOLLAR?
When you are eating real food your main goal is to maximize nutrient density – that is will food A give you more nutrients and calories than food B. In the world of money this sounds like ‘’how many calories, vitamin A, D, B, etc per dollar? I often see my dear husband reading a label and looking at me going: ‘’ Can you believe this jerky is 5 dollars for 60 calories, you can get that from an egg!’’. While I highly value the work that goes into making jerky (no offense to the chickens who also push hard), I will be the last person to tell you that this should be your source of protein on a budget. Ground beef? Yes. Jerky – no.
NEVER SHOP HUNGRY
This also means never shop stressed out or tired, but since a lot of us don’t go shopping first thing in the morning after a meditation class, and you are not chanting ‘’Om!’’ between the isles I will assume you are at least a bit stressed or tired. This makes you impulsive. When impulsive and also hungry you tend to make poor judgement (just think back to college days and all those smart things you did). Before going in the store, have a protein rich snack, it can be a couple of hard boiled eggs, some meat, why not a bunless burger from the nearby fast food chain? Just don’t shop hungry. When we shop hungry, Roland and I usually end up paying for 3-4 protein bar wrappers, an empty bottle of coconut water and we go home with sausages, beer, and a box of cooked eggplant parmesan. Your brain wants instant satisfaction, you get foods that deliver it, and ones you don’t need to cook. While cooking is great, it’s not instant and the more stressed, tired or wired or hungry you are the more likely you are to spend money on something you don’t need.
BUY WHAT YOU CAN IN BULK
Those 3 oz packages of feta cheese at the store? 5 dollars. 1 lb of amazing Bulgarian feta cheese at the Persian market – 3 dollars. 3 oz of almonds at the store – 6 dollars. 1 lbs of nuts at Trader Joes – 4 dollars. If you eat rice, beans, chickpeas, quinoa– those are a lot cheaper in bulk than packaged. Whey protein? Always cheaper online in bulk, than packaged at the store. Yogurt? Get the biggest container you can find, it often halves the price. While it’s cute to pull out a single serving of Greek yogurt at work, it’s not cute that it’s taking away from your hard earned money and honestly, choosing more packaging is not a very green way to show how you take care of our planet. If you aren’t feeling quite that green, at least think of the green in your wallet.
STRETCH YOUR MEAT
I grew up in a house where every chicken was first boiled, then separated, then cooked into two different meals. The bones were saved for broth and cooked again. Out of a chicken we got 4-5 meals, not just the meat but also a ton of healthy veggies and fats. While I love steak, I realize that it’s a lot more budget friendly to get a $6 package of grass-fed frozen beef, defrost it, and make spaghetti squash topped with tomato sauce and meatballs, or make moussaka, or tacos, or meatball soup. There are a lot of purists out there who want to see a lean cut of meat every time they eat – the truth is that cheaper cuts of meat are great for your budget, often much better for your health and introduce you to new ways of enjoying meat – such as osso bucco, or stews, or goulashes. Meat on the bone is a lot better for you than a piece of loin, and if you’ve been living under a rock, organ meats – often the cheapest at the store, are also one of the best things you can eat!
DEFAULT TO FAVORITE RECIPES
This weekend, sit down and write 5-6 favorite recipes that are both healthy and don’t cost a ton. We love making crust-less pizza, it’s about 6 dollars for a whole one. We also love beef stew, less than 10 dollars with all the meat and veggies. Tacos? Chicken tortilla soup? Slow roasted root veggies? Polenta pie? Write down your favorites that aren’t all wild caught salmon with baby broccoli and see how you can incorporate 2-3 of those every week.
MAKE YOUR OWN
Some of the foods that you may be incorporating into your real food diet seem expensive at first: more organic full fat yogurt, kombucha, fermented vegetables, kefir, ghee. You can make all of these yourself and save a lot. Kombucha, once you buy the culture, is practically free. Yogurt is equal to the amount and price of milk, so is kefir. Fermented pickles you make at home – less than a dollar a jar – from the store, you are looking at 6-8 dollars. Having those at home will also save you hundreds you may be spending on probiotics, since fresh made versions of probiotic drinks and foods have hundreds of times more living strands of bacteria than the ones you buy at the store.
EAT AT HOME
I know, I know, they say fast food is cheaper, but is it? Roland and I will go to In and Out and get a few bunless burgers if we are very hungry, or we’ll stop at Chipotle. Our bill is rarely less than 18 dollars, even though we keep our orders very simple. For 8 dollars, I can get two lbs of grassfed ground beef or 2 pieces of wild caught salmon and some veggies. More calories, more nutrient density, better flavors, better ingredients. Score. You don’t eat at fast food places to save money or eat well, it’s only because it’s convenient.
We teach our clients that frozen foods can be even more nutritious than fresh ones. By the time the poor piece of broccoli makes it to your table, it may have lost a significant amount of its nutrition. Buying imported fruits and vegetables is even less sensible, since you are doing the planet and your body damage at the same time. Go seasonal when you can, and when you can’t – buy frozen. Getting frozen is not only cheaper, but oftentimes the better choice in terms of health. 1 lb frozen organic berries – 3 dollars. 1 lbs fresh – 12 dollars. You do the math.
FIND A FARMERS MARKET
Oftentimes fresh fruits and veggies seem expensive, but if you walk around you can find some really good bargains. You can also go to the market toward the end of the day, when some of the prices are lower. In many parts of the country you can pick your own apples, grapes, or cherries, or buy local avocados or mangoes right on the side of the road. Keep your eyes open for those and shop on!
To give you an even more honest look into our lives, here is where we get our food on a budget:
Trader Joes – frozen and fresh meat, frozen fish, frozen fruits and veggies, canned fish, eggs, raw cheese, milk, sweet potatoes, avocados, nuts, olive oil
Sprouts – supplements, fresh produce, butter and milk, yogurt, fresh coconuts
Persian Market – cucumbers, parsley, Bulgarian cheese, labneh, olives
Farmer’s market – seasonal produce
Tropical Traditions – all coconut products
We keep things pretty simple, cook at least one meal a week in the slow cooker, and have at least one pot of broth for soups. The rest of the time we swing a quick dinner of raw and cooked veggies, with a side of meat or a hot bowl of soup with some seriously nutritious toppings! We are not big on dessert but do enjoy some seasonal or frozen fruit with yogurt when we are up for it! The last time I checked, the piggy bank was not broken, so we must be doing well!
Let us know how you are managing your budget and let’s make real food eating possible for everyone! If you have any questions or need specific ideas for your household, drop us a line on our Facebook page, we will be happy to help you!