As I mentioned earlier this week, I found out that I need to change my eating habits for the sake of my health. Because I am used to eating badly on a budget (“$1 for pasta meal mixes, and all I have to do is add milk? SOLD!”), N and I upped our grocery budget to accommodate for our learning curve. Instead of $200 per month, we are allowing ourselves approximately $300 for a month’s worth of groceries.
Before you jump on me for spending so much, remember a few things: I live in one of the most expensive areas of the USA; fruit and vegetables are not in season, and therefore more expensive; and that this is a trial period in which we first change our tastes, then learn to be more frugal in our shopping.
Because I have an endocrine disorder I want to eliminate any products that might have hormone-altering pesticides and additives. In order to stay within our grocery budget, I have to follow a few guidelines that you might find helpful when you are learning to eat healthy and still trying to stay within a reasonable budget.
Eating all organic food can be very, very expensive. It doesn’t always have to be, but where I live in the US I find that buying organic food can more than double my total at the checkout counter. Doing your research about where your favorite foods fall on the pesticide list can be helpful (check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables).
My husband and I also have different diets: I am a vegetarian, and he is not. Luckily, this lowers the cost of our meat purchases — I am comfortable buying him organic, free-range, happy meat because, even though it is very expensive, it is worth the extra money and we only eat half as much as a normal dual-omnivore family.
There were a lot of items I thought I needed even as early as the beginning of this year, before my diagnosis. We have completely eliminated soda from our shopping list — in fact, it is banned from the house. Coffee creamer is also banished, because it is much more cost efficient to use my almond milk for multiple purposes. These items only made up about $5 of our weekly shopping list, but now I have another $5 to spend on organic spinach.
In the not-so-distant past, N and I would head to the store for a few items, and end up doing a large shopping trip of mismatched items. We could make a meal or two from these things, but we would often head back to the store a day or two later to complete a meal. That was just silly.
Now, I decide what we are eating for the week and try to use some of the same ingredients across the board. For example, we will be having spinach in our tacos and with our pasta dish later this week. I can also make spinach as a fantastic side, or use it as a salad base. The avocados I purchased will make an appearance in the tacos as well, in addition to our sushi tonight and some lunch sandwiches. The cucumbers and carrots I will be using as snacks throughout the week are also guest staring in my vegetarian sushi rolls.
As I said earlier, I do not want to consume any hormone-altering products. Many pre-made packets (my $1 pasta meals, for example) and canned goods contain ingredients that are unhealthy for you, or are packed in BPA-laden containers. Instead of stocking up on canned goods, I have begun purchasing dried, bagged goods such as beans and lentils, and plain boxed pasta — whole wheat, of course! These are hearty foods that can be a great side, or even make up a whole dish. The dried beans are slightly inconvenient in comparison to their canned counterparts, but this is something that I will learn to handle.
What tips do you have for eating healthy foods and living within a reasonable budget?