16 Tips For Eating Healthfully on a Budget

When people think of healthful food, they often think it costs more. Yet, during the Great Depression, some people actually got healthier because they could no longer afford the frills of processed foods, which were made of refined wheat and sugar. With a bit of planning and armed with the following tips, you can actually get healthier and at the same time spend less!

1. Go to your local farmer’s market at the last half hour. Buying at the local farmer’s market assures you that you are not buying irradiated food (which is full of toxic free radicals), whereas if you buy from the supermarket, even produce labeled organic might be irradiated! Also, talk to the farmers: often they use organic methods, but cannot afford to go through the process that it takes to be able to label their food as “organic.” Go when the market is about to close, when the farmers will often give drastic reductions. I have seen fruit go from $ 4 a pound down to $ 5 for everything that fits in a bag.

2. Ask the farmer to bring you a box of weeds next time. Offer $ 20 for a box of weeds to a farmer using organic or sustainable (nontoxic) methods. Weeds are usually discarded, but are more nutritious (alkaline and mineral-rich) than the foods growing around them! Use them in salads and smoothies. Dandelions are an example, and are very detoxifying to the liver.

3. Go vegetarian or reduce meat consumption. Meat is expensive; nuts and especially seeds as a source of protein are much cheaper. If you feel you must eat meat, cut back to no more than the size of a deck of cards or your palm, 3 times a week. Buy only meat from the healthiest animals, from reputable markets where you know the animals are free range and organically fed (grass, not grain). Eating a little of healthful food is better, much better, than a lot of toxic food. Other good sources of protein are eggs from flaxseed-fed chickens, greens, hemp seed powder, sprouted beans and grains, and kiefer (raw if possible).

4. Eat in, not out. Forgoing even cheap, fast food restaurants will save you money. Learn some simple fast recipes that are packed with nutrients, such as steamed vegetables topped with grated walnuts or flaxseeds, smoothies made with fruit and greens, and raw soups.

5. Eat raw. Eat as many raw foods as you can. 84% of the vitamins are destroyed by cooking. 100% of the enzymes are killed when you heat food over 118 F. Minerals are coagulated and difficult to assimilate. In cooked food, because of coagulation, the protein is 50% less assimilable, as research showed at the Max Planck Institute for National Research in Germany. This means that a person needs to eat twice as much protein if it is cooked as opposed to raw.

6. Sprout organic seeds, grains, & lentils. Sprouting is an inexpensive way to get a nutrient-intense superfood. Simply buy some organic lentils and grains and a sprouting jar at your local food co-op, then order some organic seeds online. Soak the seeds, grains or lentils overnight, rinse with pure water, and let the jar sit by a window. Rinse two to three times a day. By the third day, most sprouts are ready to eat and should be refrigerated if not eaten immediately. (You can get sick if eating moldy sprouts.) Go online to learn more. Anne Wigmore, a pioneer in the raw food movement, went to India and taught beggars to sprout their beans and rice. The difference in their nutritional gain was enough to get them off the streets, no longer needing to beg!

7. Grow your own food. During the Great Depression, this is how many people fed themselves. For those without a yard, hydroponics make it possible to grow food inside your home!

8. Go into the wild! Learn from a local forager how you can safely pick wild berries and greens. Find a book that tells how to choose wild edibles. (Just be sure to read the details so you don’t make the same mistake made by “Into the Wild” Christopher McCandless, who died from eating wild food that was toxic.) Wild foods are actually much richer in minerals than conventional hybrid foods are. Don’t forage in the city, unless you are certain the weeds or greens have not been sprayed with toxic chemicals. Avoid wild mushrooms, which are too risky and potentially deadly. I know people who ate some, thinking they matched the definitions of edible mushrooms in the book, but got very sick and took a long time to recover.

9. Ask local farmers if you can trade something for food. Trade labor, or services or goods. Bartering is the wave of the future, though the IRS may not like it.

10. Make everything from scratch. Processed, prepackaged foods are not good for you anyway. Learn to love whole foods, and you will not only save money, but be healthier.

11. Eat less! Studies have shown that we live much longer if we gradually reduce our caloric intake by 30%, yet consume food very rich in nutrients. You can live on a lot less food than what you think, and eating healthful food actually decreases your appetite. When you eat cooked, processed and/or junk food, your body is starving for nutrients and you are never really satisfied.

12. Go to the supermarkets and ask them to give you what they throw out. I know some people who dumpster dive at grocery store, preferring to eat fresh produce that has reached its expiration date and is tossed in a trash bin than to eat cheap cooked food. I don’t blame them, but there is an easier way. Many of the stores routinely toss perfectly good produce because it has bruises or is somehow not picture-perfect. Ask when you could pick these items up before they get tossed.

13. Join co-ops. Local food co-ops offer quality food at lower prices than supermarkets. You can buy organic and sustainable foods, foods in bulk,

14. Buy in bulk. Buying in large quantities is almost always cheaper. Nuts, seeds, and fruits can be bought in bulk and stored in the freezer. Grains, lentils and beans last a long time in sealed containers. Ask you grocer for discounts for buying food by the case, then split it with your friends or neighbors.

15. Join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Go to www.biodynamics.com to find where your local CSA is. On their site they explain, “CSA is about community. CSAs are frequently formed by farmers, but a number have been formed by consumers. CSAs offer opportunities for people to meet in a different way and address important community issues. Some CSAs make sure that the CSA initiative does not exclude low-income families through its pricing policies. For example, several CSAs are organized as part of regional food banks, and at least one CSA offers employment for homeless individuals. Another CSA, formed by a church group, links suburban and inner-city residents. Many CSAs take on the task of helping to re-educate us all in how to shift our diets to include more fresh produce when it is in season and how to store or preserve for winter months. Some CSAs also take on composting shareholders’ food scraps.”

16. Don’t throw any food away! When fruits or vegetables look like they aren’t being eaten in time, dehydrate them till they are perfectly dry and they will last much longer in an airtight container. The dried fruits can be used in trail mix, while the dried vegetables can garnish a salad or be used in a soup. If you get a temperature-controlled dehydrator, you can maintain the enzymes and nutrients by not going above 118 F. Also don’t discard carrot tops, beet tops, weeds, and greens from the bottom of cauliflower. All of these are rich in minerals and can be used in soups, salads or smoothies. Pulp from juiced fruits and vegetables can be mixed with seeds to make crackers in a dehydrator. Anything inedible, such as a banana peel, can be composted in a small bin to enrich the soil used for growing food.

Susan Schenck, LAc, MTOM, is a raw food coach, lecturer, and author of The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, known as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet. Go to http://www.livefoodfactor.com to get a free chapter from her book.

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