You probably know all about the benefits of clean living and the dangers of food additives, high fructose corn syrup and vegetables treated with pesticides. You want to eat clean.
There’s just one problem: Clean eating can be expensive. Can you really afford to spend money on organic, fresh foods when you can buy processed foods at discount prices? After all, you have other expenses too.
Should you be buying organic whole grain bread when processed white bread is on sale — two loaves for the price of one? Do your children really need organic strawberries in their packed lunches? Can’t they do with cheaper processed fruit snacks instead? I mean, you have a coupon.
Is eating fresh, wholesome, unprocessed food a luxury you can’t afford? It doesn’t have to be.
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Here are some ways for you and your family to enjoy healthy, fresh, clean foods without overspending.
1. Follow the seasons
Nowadays, we’re used to eating whatever we want, whenever we want it. That means buying food exported from around the globe. We eat grapes from Chile, bananas from Costa Rica, asparagus from Peru, oranges from Israel and lamb from New Zealand.
Shipping food around the world wasn’t always so simple. When transportation and food storage methods were less advanced, people had to eat whatever was available locally. That mean they could only eat certain foods at certain times of year.
Seasonal eating from local producers saves you money, because you don’t have to pay for transportation and storage costs.
It can also be healthier. Food may lose nutrients when it has been in transit for a long time. Local, seasonal food is not just nutrient rich; it tastes better. In addition, food produced for export may contain extra preservatives to ensure that it survives the trip from the farm to the supermarket shelf.
2. Buy from small, local markets
When you purchase packaged items made by large food manufacturers, even those labeled organic, you pay for the packaging as well as the company’s profits. You could even be helping support company activities you find unethical, such as the use of low-paid labor subject to poor working conditions.
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If you buy fruit from your local greengrocer or meat from your local butcher, you will only be given enough packaging to carry your food home, and you will know where your money is going.
3. Buy less
An advantage of buying food that’s not prepackaged is that you can choose how much you want to purchase. You don’t have to buy large packages of food that you have to force yourself to finish.
In fact, you may think you need to buy more food than you do. Nowadays, people eat much larger portions than they used to, and it hasn’t done anything for their health. Larger portions have been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.
Training yourself to buy less and eat less can improve the health of your body, as well as your wallet.
4. Cut down on meat
Once, eating meat was a luxury. Being able to have meat with your dinner at least once a week was a sign that you were comfortable financially.
Today, modern factory farming methods have made meat production much cheaper. Because of this, meat consumption is rapidly increasing. Meat does provide essential nutrients, such as iron, zinc and B vitamins. However, livestock are often raised in overcrowded conditions, making them more susceptible to disease. Most of the beef we eat today comes from grain-fed cows that may have been given growth hormones.
Excessive meat consumption can be unhealthy. It is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.
You don’t have to stop eating meat altogether. However, you can reduce your shopping budget and improve your health by treating meat eating as the luxury it once was. Instead of buying the cheapest cuts when you do your regular shopping at your local supermarket, save your meat purchases for special occasions. Look for organic, free-range products and grass-fed beef.
5. Be creative with cooking
You can save money by buying in bulk without wasting food or overeating, if you know how to store and cook leftovers. Learn how to safely freeze and refrigerate foods. Experiment with different spices and different methods of food preparation.
If you have decided to cut down on meat, this is an opportunity to try vegetarian cooking. Perhaps you can try recipes from cultures where meat is not such an integral part of the diet.
Cooking has emotional benefits as well. The smell of exotic spices or of a tasty meal bubbling on the stove can enhance your mood. Knowing you can create new, delicious recipes can increase your self-confidence. You can even take a cooking class and enjoy the emotional rewards of making new friends.